Doing it Wrong

In a move that surprised no one except for the fact that it took longer than we expected, French writers and satirists were shot and killed this morning in apparent revenge for publishing … Unflattering images of the Prophet Muhammad. I do not believe the PBUH is, in this case, warranted.

The idea behind the ban on depictions of the Prophet Muhammad are from lines stating that no graven image shall be created, out of a theological fear that the image would become more worshiped than God (or, in this case, Allah–though that is only an Arabic word for God in any case). Ironically, this has created a cult of Muhammad where I would argue that as a result of the ban on worshiping him, he has become worshiped more than God Himself. I mean, how does one even draw God?

Actually, to make it even more clear, one can draw Allah without inviting murder upon yourself. I think this article, which I will preface by saying has a piece of artwork that is INCREDIBLY NOT SAFE FOR WORK and WILDLY OFFENSIVE generated displeasure, but exactly zero murders. (Link to said article, provided after DISCLAIMER OF OFFENSIVE NSFW ART was provided. Here you go.)

The point is this; killing people who make fun of your religion of peace is not a good way to go about your life. Worshiping Muhammad more than you would worship God is in direct contravention of so many of your own religious tenets. I realize depictions of Muhammad go against religious tradition, but I don’t know of a direct rule of the Qur’an saying death to anyone who even draws Muhammad (my knowledge of the Qur’an is, at best, sketchy. I will admit to great ignorance of the book, in any case.).

I am not sure why or how people justify this kind of thing. I do not know why “Spreading peace via the sword” doesn’t raise more eyebrows in Islamic extremists. I just don’t understand the world of people who are willing to do these things.

If these killings were not done by Islamic extremists, I apologize for the misplaced indignation… But given the evidence, it is difficult to guess at other possible motivations.

Do not let this act of violence change you. France, don’t let it change you.

A Personal Kind of Excuse

Edit: Happy 100th post everyone!!!

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians — they are so unlike your Christ.” -Mahatma Ghandi

“With or without [religion] you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, you need religion.” -Steven Weinberg

“I’d like to think that, thanks to my intelligence, I make very few mistakes… But when I do make mistakes, they tend to be legendary.” -Me

The above three quotes tie together so well that it almost seems some kind of magic, even some kind of miracle. I don’t think that is an accident; the quote I gave from myself is one I tend to use as a talisman to ensure I retain some level of humbleness; it is when I think I am right most often that I make the worst mistakes (I once made a mistake so legendary it made the news, though thankfully my name was removed from the story). This is not anything to do with religion, this is to do with being a human, but it ties back so often to religion and to war that I felt it important to include it as a counterbalance to the Weinberg and Ghandi quotes.

Carl Jung, a great psychiatrist and psychoanalyst of the early 20th century, has been quoted (and the quote slightly varies, but the idea is always the same) as having said “I do not need to believe [in God], I know [God exists]!” This is the type of knowledge that leads to mistakes that can end up being legendary. “In the fullness of time,” writes Sam Harris, “One side of this debate will really win and one side will really lose.” It is in this vein that I try, as best as I am able, to never make an absolute statement with regards to religion.

I will fully admit, of course, that my own brand of intelligence has led me to lose my belief in God, but I would never say “there is no God.” That being said, I am comfortable saying the following: “There is probably no God, and if there is, he/she/it is probably not of the Christian variety.” If I am wrong, and both of those statements turn out wrong (and I am comfortable saying I cannot know the truth until I die), then I am comfortable admitting that I have made a mistake that was, in fact, more grand in scope than I could ever imagine in this life. Perhaps, I am open to thinking, there is something to the Christian religion, and to the fact that I may burn in hell for the things I have come to believe about the world and nature.

That being said, many of my beliefs in nature align with Christian beliefs, though that word was chosen carefully and advisedly. Belief and practice are often two very different things, as any public atheist tends to learn in the fullness of time. It is very few, the number of atheists that have not been told they will burn in hell, or that they should die, or that they are (quoting a letter sent to Richard Dawkins) “Only alive because my God commands me not to kill.”

Perhaps it is my naive reading of the Bible that has made me come to this conclusion, but I would think that wishing a person dead is in direct breach of Matthew 5:27-28, which states that, in part, “Any man who has looked at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” It is in my own naivete that I believe this is a broader commandment, one that charges Christians to keep a pure mind, not only with respect to adultery but with respect to all of the core commandments. This is, again in my mind, bore out by the fact that one of the core commandments states that thou shalt not covet thy neighbors goods; this is not just saying “thou shalt not steal,” but is further saying “thou shalt not think about stealing.”

I think the Golden Rule really needs to be more prominently on display in the Bible, and in the hearts of its readers. I really think that sending hate mail, no matter how justified you feel, is in breach of this rule. I think hating, or in any way persecuting homosexuals, is in direct breach of this rule. I think there are greater moral teachings than the Golden Rule, though it is very good, but like an artist with a block of clay, I work with what I am given. Much in the same way, now that I think about it, an apologist or Christian works with their own block of clay. There are parts of the Bible that no person can say are moral (or if you do, you are looking through some heavily tinted sunglasses), but they are there, so we work through them, all of us, even non-Christians.

Oh, but how do non-Christians deal with the Bible? I would ask the “witches” of Salem, whose belief or nonbelief in God did not matter. I would ask the “heretics” in the middle east for the hundreds of years that the Crusades lasted. I would ask the hundreds of thousands, or perhaps millions, whose delicate flesh got in the way of the Inquisitor’s hammer (That’s how that worked, right? The Inquisitors were Godly men, and thus never meant to hurt anyone, these people just happened to get in the way. By accident.).

If these examples are too archaic, then how about the Scopes trial of 1925, where science was denied in the very name of God? Or the more recent Vashti McCollum trial of 1948, where her family was ostracized, her children bullied, her name sullied for years. Is that recent enough?

I am not here to bash religion, but I am certainly not above bashing things that are done in the name of Christianity.

If we want to go even more recent, even today Teach the Controversy is being forced (or, at the very least pushed) upon a barely aware populace. The numbers from Gallup and Pew as to the scientific literacy of the United States of America are almost stunning to those outside of the country, and they seem to correlate with increasingy fundamental beliefs in certain areas of the country, rather than more progressive beliefs and education.

There is no “controversy” among the scientific populace, except perhaps between proponents of kin selection versus proponents of group selection, but even then it is a debate that is being solved by evidence and ideas.

The Scopes Trial, or the Vashti McCollum incident could have been gentle non issues; if you would treat an atheist like you would treat any other brother or sister in Christ, history would barely remember her. She would be referenced in court cases, and would certainly have a place in constitutional history, but who remembers the names of the people who pressed for constitutional amendments? No, I doubt seriously that I would be accutely familiar with (or even have heard) the name Vashti McCollum in a truly Christian world, where people practiced truly Christian beliefs.

But in a human world? Perhaps, perhaps I would have, and indeed, I have.

This is the point where you may say “AHA! You admit that being human is the problem! Well, Christianity allows us to transcend our baser instincts!” I am sorry for using a Straw Man in this case; very few people will speak to me of religion face-to-face, so I am forced to use hypothetical readers. I would like to think I am not an obnoxious atheist, but I am passionate where it comes to eliminating human suffering, so I may get more heated than I would like whenever someone defends their bigotry with the Bible… That being said, I must reiterate, I am not here to take religion away, I am here to take away the evil/bad parts of religion, and I will stay the course to that end. Worded another way, I do not want to debate, I want to discuss.

Now, off of that tangent, we are back to speaking about humans and their base instincts. I do not think it is a prevalent belief that women should be murdered wholesale, but why do you think the people of Salem held the witch trials? I do not believe they were evil people, I believe they were good people who did evil things out of fear and superstition–and they used their Bible as the justification.

It is not humanity that is evil, and it is not Christianity that is evil, but this is a case of chemistry taking two things, putting them together in a beaker, and the result is often ugly. To parallel that with something in the real world, I like mentos, and I like Diet Coke (get off my lawn, it still tastes good!!!), but I know that taking a mentos followed by a shot of diet coke is going to end poorly.

This goes back to a point I’ve made before; if we separate religion from our personal image of ourselves, we can transcend this negative interaction. If I say to you “The Bible preaches many evil things, among the good things,” your first reaction should not be one of indignation or hurt; that is a sure sign that the chemical reaction of religion/humanity is curdling your soul. If you ever defend bigotry using the Bible, that is a sure sign that the chemical reaction of religion/humanity is curdling your soul.

If, however, you admit that the Bible has a dark side, and that we can transcend it, but that religion is ultimately a force that allows you to surpass your own baser nature? I will be on your side. I will help you find Bible verses that support you. I will celebrate and trumpet your religion, but you have your humanity in one beaker and your religion in another, and you understand that they can compliment each other, but should perhaps not be directly mixed.

A moralist who takes the good of the Bible and throws out the bad has an incredibly sturdy foundation. That being said, a moralist is perfectly capable of being moral without using the Bible as their foundation, and that should be recognized, too.

We all have different ways of transcending our own personal flaws. Some use religion, though many in different ways. Some use the love of Jesus as a guide to loving thy neighbor; some use the fear of hell. These are two very different things, and I should hope that even the most die-hard Christian can see that. Some do not use religion; for me, it is my empathy. I do not believe in your God, but even so I believe in being moral and loving to those around us. I believe this should extend to the planet we live on, to those who do not share our beliefs, to those who do not share our opinions, to the animals around us. An issue I have taken with many Christians is that their Bible (and their personal beliefs) often do not extend to the protection of animals–but that, I will admit, is only a minor complaint in the big picture.

To summarize, perhaps, using the same example I’ve used before of the pastor who said he’d be a murderer if not for Jesus… You know what? If that is what it takes for you to be moral, ok, I’ll accept. The issue I take with that pastor is that he takes the Bible wholesale; he has the superiority complex that comes of one of the Chosen, he believes all people must be Christian, he believes that Muslims are the height of evil. Those are not moral beliefs, and I have a problem with his religion. His personal religion.

Do I have a problem with all Christians? Certainly not. I have a problem with the immoral Christians.

If you are Christian, I am going to ask you to take a look into yourself and ask not “What does the Bible tell me,” but “Am I doing unto others as I would have them do unto me?”

To bring out a tired example, if homosexuality were the norm and being heterosexual were punishable by ostracism (in progressive places) or death (in less progressive places), would you think anyone should have the right to decide what you do in the privacy of your own home when both parties are completely consenting? No one is harmed by your heterosexuality, you reason, and yea; no one even needs to know you are heterosexual. It has no bearing on anything outside of your love of your husband or your love of your wife.

“Hey Jim, have you finished your homosexual accounting?”

“No, Charles, I did heterosexual accounting.”

“Why’d you tell me that? Now we have to fire you.”

I should hope we all find the above conversation, regardless of our religious views, ridiculous. And that’s the whole point.

So, to beat home what I have said many times on this blog, let’s all be moral, regardless of our background. If only 10% of us would choose to live that way, the world would be a better place within the week.

Everything You Ever Wanted

I know I’ve spoken about morality and religion frequently, but each time my understanding moves forward a notch, I feel like I should post something that helps me consolidate my own knowledge.

The Old Testament is a moral mess, almost no one will argue against that. Whether you are a literalist or a moderate, the apologia you must construct for the Old Testament is a mine field of carefully constructed defense and the slightest misstep can end with your argument blown up and out. “Well, the book of Leviticus is just a set of rules for the Levites, so we can ignore that part.” That kind of thing.

But Exodus! That is a good book; it contains the Ten Commandments, and a wonderful story of redemption from slavery and a kind God who saves His people–but that’s the whole point; He saves His people. He goes out of his way to torture an entire nation (as I’ve written about before). His rules for morality and being Good in the eyes of God are a bit of a mess, too; there is specification of when it is OK to kill, there are commandments directly from God to steal from people, and the real ten commandments are odd to the modern reader, to say the least.

But let’s go back even further, to Genesis, and take an internal look at the beginning of the three Abrahamic faiths. Abraham, after whom the faiths were named.

What you have to remember about the story of Abraham is that there was no religion of God before him, whether God interacted with others; it was never formal.

So now we have a guy who heard a voice in his head that he attributed to God telling him to kill his first born son. Whether you believe that having faith in God is the highest calling, you have to admit; if your closest relative, your mother or father, son or daughter, brother or sister, came up to you and said “I’m sorry, the voice in my head that claims to be Jesus said I have to kill you,” your first reaction would generally not be “This is a reasonable statement, and I support you.”

But even then, God stopped him! To steal an example that Richard Dawkins has used in the past, what of the Judge of the people, Jephthah? He vowed to God that if he won in an upcoming battle, he would “sacrifice whatever first came out of his door when he arrived home.” That just seems to be a wildly unintelligent thing, though, because what did he expect would come out of his door? Probably not a cow or a sheep, unless he had pets of that kind, so he was left with only two options… Either it would be his wife or his only child. In the fullness of time, his own daughter comes out, and he rents his shirt in despair–but “Did to her as he vowed to do.” The whole story is recounted in the Book of Judges (11:31-39).

Whether you believe this literally happened or did not, a general Christian will accept that it is in the Bible for a reason. I am no scholar of theology, I could not tell you why this is in the Bible, but to me it indicates that “the God of Life” does not shy from death. A man sacrificed his daughter as the price for having killed hundreds of people, maybe thousands! And yet, as per the Arithmetic of Souls, we are not allowed to experiment on Blastocysts, as they may have souls? Jephthah killed without any reason to believe he was protecting lives; yea, the war he was fighting was to protect God, not people. The scientists who perform stem cell research have strong reason to believe that this may be the biggest medical breakthrough of a generation, of several generations.

To quote Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation, “A blastocyst is a collection of some 150 cells. To contrast, the brain of a fly has roughly 100,000 cells… But the rights of this blastocyst has the same rights as a seven year old girl with third degree burns over 80% of her body?”

That seven year old girl will likely die, but not before spending days or months in excruciating pain. Obviously, as per Christianity, we cannot just let her die, perhaps even if we know she has no chance of surviving. But stem cells? There is promising research to show we could regrow her skin. There is promising research that we could give quadriplegics the use of their arms and legs back, the horizon for the benefits of stem cell research is so far off we cannot even begin to imagine what this medical breakthrough could do for the good of the world–and all it would cost is a bundle of cells so small a fly would not even notice them.

One would think, as per the morality (if you can call it that) of the God of the Old Testament, we should be in full support of the death of the blastocysts to improve the lives of His acolytes. Using blastocysts to save lives and reduce suffering surely must count as a lesser evil than Moses’ slaughter of the Jews (Exodus 32:25-29), or the countless slaughters and rapes in the book of Numbers or Judges, that God is a direct party to?

How about God’s own chosen righteous? Lot, who said “Oh, you want to rape my guests? No, they’re men. Rape my daughters instead.” (Genesis 19:6-9) Or the Levite priest who was visiting Gibeah. An old man took him and his concubine in (Oh yes, the priest had a concubine), and people came to the house; “Send out your guest so we can have sex with him!”

The owner shouts back “No, this man is a guest, but my daughter is a virgin, do what you want with her. Also, he has a concubine, go nuts with that too.”

So the daughter and concubine are sent out. On the morning, the priest gets up and prepares to leave. When he opens the door to his host’s house, his concubine is laying on the doorstep. “Get up, time to go.” She does not move, for she was dead.

For good measure, the Levite cuts her body into 12 pieces and sends the parts to the 12 tribes of Israel because… Wait, what the hell? What the ACTUAL F***?! What is going on here? What am I supposed to learn?! (Judges 19:22-29) I think, at least in context, that they are supposed to be angry that the woman was killed by the rapists (that, it should be said, had full permission) when they receive the body parts… But killing someone by accident is not really grounds for serious punishment according to God, for He lets accidental killings happen (Exodus 21:12-13).

Now, all of this has been working up to a point. Most people say we can safely ignore the Old Testament, or take from it symbolic lessons — but the thing is, I do not know what I am supposed to learn. What do I learn from God wrestling Joshua, losing, then dislocating Joshua’s hip? (Genesis 32:22-30)

I think I know why Christians are so bitter towards Muslims. Muslims have had the good sense to call the Bible a holy book, but not make it binding, per se. Muhammad (PBUH, for the purposes of cultural sensitivity) cites the Bible frequently in the Qur’an and Hadith, but cites it as lessons–not as binding. I think Christians are bitter that the Muslims had foresight, and the ability to designate canonical readings of their holy books. The Hadith is a sort of magnifying glass through which you are to read the Qur’an.

I think everything the Christian has ever wanted is the ability to feel superior (something that comes directly from the Old Testament) while not opening themselves to moral criticism. So maybe take a page (ehehehehe) from Islam and designate the Old Testament a book of great origin, but which is not part of the True Gospel. Make the Bible contain only the New Testament, then designate the entirety of the Old Testament as the Tanakh; important reading, but nonbinding. Then you could cherry pick to your heart’s content, and close those gaping holes in your theology that let people like me read through the Old Testament and think with pure horror that people believe the Bible is a book of morality. BAM! So many problems solved.

It would seriously be everything you ever wanted.

The Personality of Gods

The height of moral perfection, the leaders of our lives, omnipresent for as long as we have had language, gods (or God) have ruled over the lives of humans. Now that we are able to look back into our storied past at what we now call mythology, but what for hundreds or thousands of years was called religion, we have the ability to uniquely criticize our own roots. It is an odd exercise, and one which paints a very interesting picture of religions even today.

Greek mythology was recently summarized thus.

Zeus, created by man, written to be the god of the gods, could have been a paragon of virtue. Instead, he was pictured as a drunken, chauvinistic, lecherous mess of a being. From the infinite set of human traits, the highest of all beings in Greek mythology bore some of the worst that could be given him.

The funny thing is that this religion was considered so solid, it was picked up by the Romans. They had to integrate the names, of course, but even so, the god of gods, Jupiter, maintained his lecherous, hedonistic lifestyle.

He was a mythological celebrity, and the tales of his excesses would hardly be out of place in a modern day tabloid (Pictures of Zeus exiting a limo and flashing his junk? I’d imagine those would be so frequent that even tabloids would just pass them up).

I could mention Norse mythology, of course, as its gods were lovers of war and violence. Odin is an interesting case study, taking on so many personality traits that it is often said his personality is unknowable, as knowing his true personality, it was said further, is to know his true weakness. That out of the way, he is tied to madness, to battle, but also to knowledge, prophecy, mystery…. He was also the god of wandering, which would be a chief belief among such a nomadic people as the vikings.

There is something odd here, often overlooked, in that deities (while taking on some of the worst traits of humankind) often take on so many traits that their personalities are a mess that doesn’t make sense. I am far less knowledgeable in Egyptian mythology, but I know early mythology and late mythology are at odds with each other in strange ways. They simply merged gods together, and the same event was credited to many gods or goddesses independently (rather than cooperatively).

That is a very short summary of the oddness of gods in mythology, but let us pass through the veil into the modern world of religion, and see if we can find any odd personality quirks.

I’ll try to do this chronologically, but for those who have studied religious history, you will understand that this is difficult to do. That being said, my focus will be on the God of Abraham and His three sects; Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

In the Beginning, as the book of Genesis famously begins, God created the heavens and the earth.

Among such things as are attributed to God is omniscience; he knows what was, what is, and what will be; ignoring the questions this raises as to the nature of free will, we can see something odd from the very beginning.

Not too long after the creation of Adam and Eve (which itself is more complicated than many Christians would have you believe), Eve ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil. Further, she convinced Adam to do the same. By this act of treason, this act of defiance, Sin and Death entered the world. Regardless of which of the three primary Abrahamic traditions you follow, you believe that this original sin has condemned (to varying degrees) all humans to the Pit. This was, if you are Christian, a temporary condition remedied by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. If you are Jewish or Muslim, there is atonement in the hereafter before you enter into the light of Heaven and the presence of God. Forgive me for preaching a history lesson, this is all very important to the overall point, and I would like to make clear where I am coming from.

Of course, as has become rather public lately, martyrdom is one way for Muslims to queue-jump, and enter directly from this life into the presence of God (Though there is a passage in the Qur’an that says you should not destroy yourself, so it may be that suicide bombers have inadvertently made a mistake for which they will pay for all eternity).

Ok, so we have Adam and Eve, original Sin, and untold generations of humans condemned to the Pit. Why?

Because Adam and Eve defied God.

This story is odd to me, since God knew the heart and soul of Adam and Eve before they even existed, and by knowing all things to come, He knew they would eat of the tree. Since He knew they would do this, He knew that they would go to the Pit.

He created the Pit, mind. That is important, too. Not only did he create Adam and Eve knowing they would suffer for an eternity for defying him, he created HUMANKIND knowing that ALL people would suffer the pit, before ever creating Adam and Eve.

Is that not odd to you? “I love this dog more than all others, but before he has even been trained, I have to let you know that I will kill him if he ever pees on my carpet. Oh, he peed on my carpet. Well, I will breed this dog, allow him to die, then take his puppies, breed them, then spend the rest of eternity torturing them. BOY I LOVE DOGS SO MUCH!”

That is only the beginning, though. Our God is a Jealous God (a more famous line would be difficult to find), he is wrathful, quick to anger. He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, millions of people gone, millions of his own beloved creations, because he didn’t like the way they acted. He saved but one, though for good measure He killed Lot’s wife. Lot, the man who was righteous in the eyes of God, then became drunk off his ass repeatedly, and had sex with his daughters. We have here, friends, a God who is a great judge of character. Nevermind that when the people of Sodom wanted to rape a pair of angels living temporarily in the city, Lot said “No, don’t rape the angels. Here’s my daughter. She’s a virgin. Go nuts.”

This is the only man God found to be righteous in all of Sodom.

Let’s move on, out of the book of Genesis. In Exodus, of course, God killed a huge number of people, but he was really only getting started. “I don’t like the Pharaoh,” God tells Moses, “So I will strike down the first born male of all of Egypt.”

The God who knows the hearts and minds of all men saved the Jewish people from bondage, but killed the first born male of every family in Egypt. Were they a social justice warrior of their day? Did they fight against the cruel conditions put upon the salves of Egypt? Doesn’t matter; your ruler, whom you have no control over, made God mad, and now we have killing to do.

We now, from this saga, gain the ten commandments. The fifth commandment is thou shalt not kill.

Reading the Old Testament, we find that God kills an estimated 2,476,633 people EXPLICITLY. This does not count the populations of Sodom and Gomorrah, nor does it count Noah’s Flood. The God who knows the hearts and minds of all of the people saved only eight from His wrath, and four were related by blood.

This is the God of deepest love.

This also does not fully account for the fact that in the book of Judges, God orders (on more than one occasion) the murder of countless people. Not just people in the general sense, he is pretty explicit; He orders the murder of the men, the women, and the children; and their oxen, and their crops, and their belongings (except the gold and silver; you should keep the gold and silver), so that no trace of them ever having BEEN remains here. The book of Judges, please recall, takes place AFTER God thought that Thou Shalt Not Kill was worth a place in his list of SIX moral tenets. SIX! That is the total number of things you aren’t allowed to do. “But Chad, there were TEN commandments. Duh.”

Right. The top four were “No carven images, worship me and no other, don’t use my name as a swearword, and don’t work on the Sabbath day.” At best, those can be said to be good in keeping with his Word, but they certainly do not count as moral teachings. They have nothing to do with morals. So we have six rules God created for morality. And, as many a historian has made note, the Ten Commandments are the ONLY words that are supposed to have been written by God Himself. The rest are by divine inspiration.

Do we have a picture of God’s personality, yet? I think we have a vague outline, but let’s move forward a little.

I will gloss over the rest of the Old Testament and many other pieces of weirdness. (Okokok, I have to mention one. A man of God went to the Philistines and proposed to his girlfriend using an engagement gift of…

Wait for it…

Two hundred foreskins. Yup, that deserves a place in the Bible, friends. I am not sure what I am supposed to learn here, but men inspired of God thought it an important enough story to include. The funny thing? SHE ONLY ASKED FOR 100 FORESKINS! Don’t believe me? Read 1 Samuel, Chapter 18. That story always makes me chuckle.)

So we move from purely Jewish words now, into the age of Christianity. It is important to note that even in its current form, Christianity decided that the God of the Old Testament was definitely worth believing in. But now we have Jesus, the pacifist, the moral teacher, the Rabbi, the Son of God.

To recall a famous quote “I must punish you for the Sin I knew you would commit, then I will redeem that sin by sacrificing myself to myself, because I could forgive you no other way.”

But even then, it would hardly have been believable that the God of the Old Testament would be one to preach love and tolerance of all, so we have introduced a new character. To this point, I would recommend you read the book “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” by Reza Aslan. He can say more than me, and much better. Long story short, Jesus may not have been what we recall in the Bible. At the very least, there are certainly parts of the Bible we can disprove factually.

But now we have a God who loves and tolerates all people. How odd, from the God of the Old Testament, who periodically purged just about anything or anyone who looked at him funny. He purged everyone in the whole world at one point, condemning billions (I am using YEC numbers, since they are generally the only group who takes the story literally, and puts serious thought into it) to HELL. He created them, and he sent them to hell, and that’s ok, because it is ok for a creator to judge his creation (seriously, they say that). By that logic, should it be ok for me to beat my dogs? My cats? My children? Certainly, in the Old Testament, beating your children was considered not just justified, but actually important for their upbringing. It is the book of Proverbs, a book of the Old Testament, that made famous “Spare the rod and spoil the child.”

Do we have a clear picture of God’s personality, yet? To me, it looks like the canvas was half finished, erased sloppily, then repainted. The picture is actually less clear than it was about a thousand words ago.

Also, is it not odd that even the people closest to the heart of Christianity had no idea what the religion was about when it was first created? I can’t really blame them, with a God who appears dangerously bipolar. I am comfortable saying it; this is the God who commanded the killing of women and children and animals, but ALSO commands that we are to treat all equally, help the poor, and love all.

In any case, Paul (I am going to say he did more for Christianity than Jesus did, and those who look deeply into religious history will likely agree) disagreed with James the brother of Jesus (I’ve talked about it before, but it deserves a place here). Was God here to save all people, or just save those who already worshipped God? Paul will say all should be converted, James would say Jesus came to call the flock (read: the Jewish people) back to the God of their ancestors.

Again, we have two directly conflicting opinions on the personality of our God.

Let’s move forward again, and we end up in the palace of Islam. While they certainly are an Abrahamic religion (One cannot read the Qur’an without having first read the Bible. I do mean that literally; the Qur’an frequently references the Bible), they have many core disagreements with Christianity. In fact, the God of Islam is very much reminiscent of the God of the Book of Judges. The interesting thing, of course, is that this God still recalls his flock; Muslims are commanded, both by the Qur’an and Hadith, as well as by a scrip dictated by the Prophet himself (Muhammed), to protect the Christians and Jews wherever they find them. Not tolerate, not kill, not wipe, but to protect and cherish. But what about those not of the flock (People of the Book, as they are called in the Qur’an)?

They are to be cut down, wherever you may find them. Killed, converted, or wiped out. Apostates (those who were Muslim but have renounced their faith) are to be killed quickly, without thought or mercy. Now we are talking Old Testament! Now we have a God that we recognize from a previous age!

But now the canvas is all muddied again. A God who is jealous, wrathful, loving, kind, merciful (THAT FLOOD WAS SO MERCIFUL, GUYS!), peaceful, but quick to war.

This, the height of morality and love, the greatest of all Gods (certainly, more worship this God, between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, than any other God that came before)… The God we look to for true justice, for help in tough times, is a dangerously bipolar sociopath?

If we look back on the gods of history, and compare them to the prevalent God of today, we find many common themes. We can’t decide on His personality. We can’t decide what He wants.

Perhaps God, the God of the Bible is real. I don’t know, He could be. But if He isn’t, what does that say about humankind?

It says that we WANT to worship a God who is unstable, bipolar, hedonistic, misogynistic, hateful, jealous, wrathful, vengeful… So if we step outside of religion, what do most people worship today? Well, that is clear enough; celebrities. Today, celebrities are often all of these things. When a celebrity has a meltdown, everyone is totally on board. Everyone loves it (even if they don’t love *it*).

That’s right. When society creates something PERFECT to worship, they just take whatever their current celebrities look like, turn the dial up to 12, and there we have it.

We never wanted a moral compass. We wanted someone to tell us what to do, and we wanted someone to tell us what we are doing already is ok. In our gods, in our God, I think we have always had that. In our gods, we have created that, and told ourselves this is what is perfect.

And this dangerous thought… I think it really should make you think.

But that’s just me.