I used to love this sort of thing. Love it. Boom, slam dunk, take that stupid Christians kind of loved it. Debate over.
But now I look at it and just shake my head and the sheer straw-man-ing. I believe in evolution. I don’t believe that a billion Indians are going to hell. I don’t think that people die young because God needs another angel.
I don’t believe in the God that is represented there at all. And I’m fairly sure that I’m not alone in that.
But this is the way that many people understand Christianity and I really can’t blame them. We do tend to understand the world in simplistic and unsophisticated sound bites because it’s easier, right? Why bother trying to understand something more deeply when you’ve already nailed it. That’s not meant to sound snarky at all even though it might sound like it. If you think that you understand something fully and you’re not particularly interested in it anyway, then why on earth would you seek further clarification?
Recently Stephen Fry (isn’t he fantastic? I was heart broken last month when he announced his marriage. He may be gay but I’ve long held out hope that he and I would end up together. Dreams shattered. I’ll content myself with memorising the script of Peter’s Friends instead) was asked what he would say to God and his resulting feelings about the problem of suffering apparently annihilated God, according to some corners of the internet. As if these problems have never been thought of and agonised over and dissected by people for hundreds of years. I’m not criticising him at all but the problem of evil= no God because we can’t conceptualise the answer is problematic for me.
I liked this article by John Dickson. This sentence sums up (for me, although I don’t think it was its aim) why arguing about these things is ultimately unproductive
“…if you find yourself stuck with the intellectual conviction that there must be a Powerful Mind, you will puzzle through both the beauty and the pain, unable to accept Dawkins’s universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication”
And vice-versa. You will find evidence to suit your world view. I don’t do apologetics and have no interest in arguing the case for God, as such. When someone says that God is as real as Star Wars (which happened last week) then I go ‘OK, that’s fine, your choice’.
As I see it, ‘God’ isn’t a being, or a thing and most definitely isn’t a ‘he’. The personification that we all fall back on doesn’t help us understand the complexity. This book helped me enormously in understanding this, because a life time of stereotypical thoughts (as in the above meme) can be hugely hard to break away from, even if you’re consciously trying to do so.
I think that the use of the word ‘he’ when referring to god and the father imagery associated with it has done more harm than good, with many people finding this triggering rather than comforting and reassuring. I know that the writers of the Bible needed to make connections that we can relate to and it’s certainly easier to personify instead of trying to wrap our minds around what God may actually be, but I wonder how many people have been put off the whole thing because of their inability to conceptualise a ‘Father in heaven’ who is unconditional, all loving, non judgmental and who we aren’t constantly feeling disapproval from.
Meanwhile, I had an unproductive week last week dipping into some Hebrew to try and find out whether ‘father’ was what the Bible is actually referring to with all the God talk. Didn’t get far but I’m really good at pronouncing ‘ruach Elohim’ now so that’s a win.
I suppose that, given God’s concentration with helping the powerless, the needy and the at risk, it makes sense to have a ‘man’ in charge because patriarchy and all that but still. It’s not necessarily an intuitive bond for everyone.
So, no solutions here tonight! I’m learning that ‘doubt’ and ‘uncertainty’ can operate in very different spheres. I don’t doubt to any large degree that God exists now days; I suppose that you could say that I’m fairly firm in my faith. But within that there is still a huge amount of uncertainty and questioning and eyebrow furrowed puzzling.
And I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing. It’s just the way things are.