Monday, March 17, 2014

God As Psychotic

This past weekend Bill "Religulous" Maher let loose with a rant aimed at the upcoming Noah movie starring Russell Crowe:
It’s about a psychotic mass murderer who gets away with it, and his name is God. Genesis says God was so angry with himself for screwing up when he made mankind so flawed, that he sent the flood to kill everyone, everyone – men, women, children, babies. What kind of tyrant punishes everyone just to get back at the few he’s mad at? I mean, besides Chris Christie.
After beginning by lamenting that this a "stupid country" because 60 percent of American think of Noah's Ark as "literally true," he goes on to treat the story as if indeed it were history. (And along the way he takes a few liberties with the way the Bible describes it.)
I think the problem is not so much stupidity as it is a slavish devotion to the Bible as God's literal Word to humankind, coupled with an appallingly weak grasp of science.
Of course there are some real logical problems in trying to take Noah's story literally. Those who think of the Bible as God's inerrant revelation to man will ignore these away by alluding to God's "miraculous" power.
The rest of us will continue to think it illogical as history but perhaps meaningful as myth.
Still, for those of us who don't the view the Bible as the fundamentalist or evangelical Christian does, the way the Old Testament often includes innocent creatures (babies and animals) in the total destruction of sinful nations and their property does not float well into our Western ears and way of thinking about individual rights.
It should not.
We can only read the Bible with its historical setting in mind. As with other matters such as slavery and treating women as chattel, we know these things are wrong now and always were wrong.
Enlightened minds read these things with shame. We look back on the Old Testament animal sacrificial system, realizing it is only a step above human sacrifice to appease an offended deity, and feel shame that so many of our ancestors stumbled so badly along the road to enlightenment.
Yet it is only fair to acknowledge that women as a whole have only been allowed to vote in our country for less than a century.  Black citizens were enslaved a century and a half ago and still disenfranchised and only slowly being allowed into the full rights of U.S. citizenship in my lifetime.
Moreover, sadly, war is still waged by nations - including ours - claiming to be in the will of God - just as bloody, cruel, and violent, as it was in ancient times. 

The God I'm coming to believe in is not psychotic. But we humans are still stumbling and often still making God in our image as we do. Not at all a compliment to the concept of God. 


  1. I think a lot of christians miss that there is significant development in understanding within the Bible - from the Law to the Prophets, and from the Old to the New Testament. So trying to believe it all equally requires a lot of juggling (and a little fooling oneself). I think the truth is that a christian starts with Jesus and holds onto what fits with that, and accepts as superseded what doesn't. I don't believe Jesus was psychotic, therefore .....

    1. I think we must - believer and unbeliever alike - take the Bible with consideration of its setting. Some atheists want to (for greater effect, as with Maher) read it in the light of modernity. I don't think that's fair at all.

  2. I think Bill is here to shake up the religious right. Personally, I don't care for him, but am strangely drawn to many things he says. At times, those things make me go, "Hmmmm".

    1. Sometimes his arrogance grates on my nerves.