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Not the Voice of God You’re Hearing? Sound Check!

If the voice speaking within your head and heart is telling you that it's OK to harm other people by denying them food, healthcare and basic civil rights, If the "Voice of Truth" you're hearing says there is some justification for treating people with cruelty, callousness, prejudice and contempt... here's a hint.  That's not the voice of God you're hearing.
A friend who participates in a Facebook group called the “Christian Left” shared this image with me the other day. I wonder if my friend has read the Bible lately. Consider the acts of God and the commands by the voice of God in these books of the Bible:

Genesis
Exodus
Leviticus
Numbers
Deuteronomy
Joshua
Samuel
Revelation

Mass killing. Sexual assault. Mutilation. Infanticide. Torture. Slavery. Prejudice. Callousness. Contempt. Cruelty. Starvation. Disenfranchisement. Plagues. That’s what God inflicts on people and asks people to inflict on other people.

This image meant to be affirming of my friend’s politics. I get that. I understand that this image is meant to be a way for my friend to say that she doesn’t like denying people food, healthcare and basic civil rights, that she doesn’t think it’s nice to people with cruelty, callousness, prejudice and contempt. I just wish she would come out and say that when she says “God,” she means “me.” I wish she would come out and say that when she says “Devil,” she means “people I strongly abhor.” I wish she wouldn’t use an appeal to Biblical authority to justify her otherwise admirable values. The authoritative standard “for the Bible tells me so” has been used so many, many times in our history to justify atrocity. The best defense against this is critical thinking, not more appeals to the same wretched authority.

14 comments to Not the Voice of God You’re Hearing? Sound Check!

  • Bill

    You point out one of the most persistently difficult (and interesting) conundrums of Judeo-Christianity, namely: WTF is wrong with God, anyway? Particularly in the Old Testament, he (or she, it, or whatever) demonstrates, and frequently brags about, being cruel, angry, jealous, fickle, vindictive, violent, arbitrary, hateful, unforgiving, petty, a frequent liar, a misogynist, and a xenophobe. Hard words, I know, but anyone who can seriously disagree with them simply hasn’t been reading his Bible much or, if he has, then hasn’t been taking it seriously. If that God was a person, I sure as hell wouldn’t want to know him. And yet, with the obvious exception of fear-mongering evangelicals, most Christians of my acquaintance hold theirs to be a God of Love. This is a pretty damn big problem that any thinking Christian simply must face up to.

    A very interesting approach to getting one’s arms around this pretty obvious problem was offered by Jack Miles, an ex-Jesuit, back in the 1990s, with his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, God: A Biography. Rather fearlessly, and with quite clear eyes, Miles analyzes the character and (most importantly) the character development of the protagonist of that important biographical novel, the Hebrew Bible. It’s a long, involved analysis that I can’t do justice to here, but for me, anyway, it was a big help in putting this fascinating problem into some kind of a perspective I could deal with. Miles’ analysis ends with the last book of the Old Testament, so Jesus-as-God-of-Love isn’t addressed at all…but nonetheless it left me clear how God, Part Deux is the logical sequel to God Version 1.0.

    It’s a great read, for believers and disbelievers alike, provided your thinking and your heart aren’t too ossified yet. Highly recommended.

    • Jim Cook

      A thoughtful comment, Bill. One of the most entertaining courses I took as a college student was a rise of christianity course that was half exegesis, a quarter history and a quarter archeology. I haven’t read the book you mention, but a theme of the readings I’ve made since then is similar, I think: to (heresy) imagine this “God” as fictional and recognize that there’s not one “God” character in the Bible, but two or maybe three, each with a distinct personality.

      I don’t think you can consider God of the NT to exemplary. Revelation is kinda assholic, and look how the guy treated his kid.

      • Bill

        “Kinda assholic?” That’s like saying cancer is “kinda annoying.” And the Pauline epistles? Don’t get me started.

        Fortunately there’s a lot less, perhaps even nothing, to apologize for in the teachings of Christ himself…which, for me, constitutes 100% of what being a Christian is about. And yes, certainly God the Father seems on the surface of things to have given God the Son a mighty raw deal. But, for me, that’s the essential mystery and lesson. God in Man. Man in God. Tat tvam asi. It ain’t easy. In the immortal words of Kurt Vonnegut, “Lucky me, lucky mud.”

  • Dave

    Jim, if the college course you took didn’t differntiate between the old Covenant and the prophesied (which prophecy is found within the old Covenant) new Covenant then you paid too much. Old Covenant eye for an eye is judgement, new Covenant mercy is redemption. I think people have a problem with what the old Covenant claims to be sin, therefore see little need for the redemption offered in the new Covenant, but these are not different Gods any more than the mortgage on your first house and the mortgage on your second house mean that you are two different people.

    • Hi, Dave. By noting that there are activities we’d call atrocious if we saw them on Earth in both the OT and NT of the Bible, I didn’t mean to claim that the course I took didn’t cover the many different historical authors of the Bible. It did, and that was just a starting point for me.

  • Dave

    Also, I think your friend’s appeal to higher authority to justify her political beliefs is nothing new and you are right to call her on it. Under the old system, healthcare for instance, was denied at times by private insurers for a variety of reasons, under the new system healthcare will be denied at times by government for a variety of reasons. Different reasons, but variety nonetheless. So God approves of the public sector but damns the private sector. Sigh.

  • Bill

    under the new system healthcare will be denied at times by government

    Gotta call BS on that one, Dave. Chapter and verse, please? Specifics? Or did you just pick this up on a Fox fly-by?

  • Dave

    Bill, if by BS you mean Baffling Sophism, let me turn it to Blinding Subordinacy to reason. Government will no longer limit healthcare to actuarial considerations, but will still find it necessary to limit benefits to monetary considerations. In order to spread the available health care to those who have not paid premiums, health care benefits for those who have paid into the system will necessarily have maximum payout. A certain Alaskan ex-governor called the coming government Utilization Review Boards “death panels” but I wouldn’t go that far, though it will be necessary to limit care for terminal cancer patients, for example, to paliative care rather than heroic and expensive treatments.

    • Bill

      Dave, those of us who lack your sure-sighted certain vision of the otherwise unknowable future can only point out that the ACA has banned the nasty old insurance practice of ‘lifetime caps’ on medical insurance payouts…precisely the opposite of what you’re asserting. You see a dreadful future while completely ignoring the well-documented dreadful past. Way to go, dude. And you guys continue to wonder why no one takes ACA deniers seriously. Sheesh.

      As regards your utterly predictable raising of the specter of non-existent ‘death panels’ (while assuring us, sotto voce, that of course you wouldn’t go so far as to raise that specter, like some kind of motley fool’s aside in a Shakespearean farce)…well, shame on you. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt by assuming you aren’t familiar with how these things have been done for many, many years. Since 1965 the government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have been doing precisely what the proposed Utilization Review Boards would do, only more so: CMS decides what classes of medical treatments Medicare and Medicaid will and will not pay for. So tell me, since 1965, how many terminal cancer patients have you seen being restricted to palliative care only by a heartless Big Gummint? (Spoiler alert: none). And private insurers have always been more than happy to follow CMS’s lead, but with the little twist of piling on additional services they refuse to pay for, lifetime caps, bans on pre-existing conditions, and much more. So here too, the truth is precisely the opposite of the nonsense you insist on spinning.

      Here’s a tip: when the most authoritative source you can cite is Sarah Palin, that’s always a pretty reliable sign that you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. I know your distaste for doing “homework,” but if you’re going to spout your opinions in public it really is morally incumbent upon you to, you know, learn at least a few facts first. Either that, or restrict your commenting to Breitbart, where no one expects factuality or rationality.

  • Dave

    Bill, no need to be angry, Dude. You’re doing some serious spouting yourself. I am admittedly not as trusting of government as you are, but it seems that most fans of the ACA, yourself included, are oblivious to any downside at all. Group and individual health insurance was my business for years and I am well aware of private sector shortcomings, but more to my original point, the gal who wrote above that she’s got the voice of truth is as naive as you are being. I am cautious about ending up with something like the Brits (something you should look closely at) and so I am “cruel, calloused, prejudiced, etc.” Right. This is a woman who no doubt thinks as you do that the government is going to give you “free” and unlimited medical care as long as you live. Dream on.

    • Bill

      Dave, of course you have every right to feel “cautious about [whatever].” I’m not arguing with you about that. I’m taking exception to you spouting complete nonsense as facts. If health insurance was your business for years then you can’t hide behind a claim of ignorance. You simply don’t get to just pull stuff out of your posterior. You’re pretty good at deflecting the conversation when you’re challenged on your facts…maybe five on a scale of ten…but not good enough. Either stand by your claims with facts, or abandon them, or don’t make them in the first place.

  • Dave

    Bill, I originally said in so many words that the woman above seems to think that anyone not rushing to replace a flawed care system with another flawed care system is listening to the devil. The ACA was secondary to the point. But when discussing the ACA I make my comments from the belief that we are heading toward a single payer system, and I for one believe it would be best to address the flaws in the system we already have rather than replace it. I can tell you about Harry Reid on PBS “Nevada Week in review” last August saying that the ACA is a step toward a government-run single payer system”, or Pres. Obama saying he wants to see a single payer system in place (Youtube-Obama On Single Payer Health Insurance) or Nancy Pelosi telling Ed Shultz on MSNBC last June that the ACA is “a victory moving the nation closer to that [single payer] goal, or I can send you to the Kaiser Family Foundation, National Review, The Nation, Mark Steyn and on and on. My concerns with single payer are based on looking at the experience of GB, Canada, Europe. Scott Atlas, writing in Forbes (7/5/2013) tells of access and quality of care in Britain is scandalous – “Access to medical care is so poor in the NHS that the government was compelled to issue England’s 2010 ‘NHS Constitution’ in which it was declared that no patient should wait beyond 18 weeks for treatment after GP referral.” Eighteen weeks! Are you so enamoured of American exeptionalism that you really believe we aren’t headed for long lines in the future? Once the government owns it, they will ration it. Name something that they own that they don’t. Will superior 5 year cancer survival rates in the U.S. continue once we have scrapped our former way of doing things? I don’t have a crystal ball and neither do you, but is there no safe assumption that they may not?

  • Dave

    Bill. “Restrict your commenting to Britbart, where no one expects factuality or rationality.” Maybe it’s time for you to restrict your commenting to Youtube, where nasty rules.

  • Dave

    “Since 1965 how many terminal cancer patients have you seen being restricted to palliative care?” Plenty. I got my introduction to government claim operations in a state Medicaid office in the mid 70’s before working for Big Insurance. CLU, LOMA, HIAA. UReview at Medicaid routinely limited expenditures, often on an individual basis, and the available sums we are talking about were paltry in those days. The program has been expanded many times and the ACA depends heavily on the Medicaid/Medicare infrastructure and to some extent their funding mechanisms. I can’t for the life of me comprehend how you think my certainty that ACA will limit certain med procedures is a fact pulled out of my ass or that I need to hand you a bibliography in order to back it up. What do you think claim examiners do all day regardless of whether they work for a company or for the government? You said yourself that “CMS decides what classes of medical treatments M/M will and will not pay for.” What strikes me as unreasonable is when Bill wigs out if I say the same thing, but in other words. You are coming off like the lady above, i.e.the old system is of the devil. I think this should be one of those things about which reasonable people can disagree, but your caustic remarks make it sound like you take disagreement personally. I have no TV, so your FOX News ad hominem is not relevant.

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