Goodness and Godlessness: An Inner Conflict, An Obvious Conundrum.

Why do we sometimes choose to avoid open dialogue with people who believe that God is necessary to be good?  Does this position deserve enough respect to go unquestioned?  I argue that it most certainly does not.  So the reason might be cordiality, I presume.  Personally, I find this position rather insulting, and see much value in questioning any person who believes that their position, and only their position, is necessary for goodness.  I’ll explain why.  Keep in mind, I do not assume that every single Christian has come to rest in this position.  However, for the Christian individuals that do not reside in this position, I argue that this is because they have not given it much thought at all.  I do not claim to know why they haven’t thought about it.  Perhaps they have, and have become conflicted enough to avoid further inward probing.  Perhaps they simply enjoy the idea of being a Christian, without question, and the privileged aura that comes with it.  Either way, because of this, I must recognize that this exact notion is implied in the book of rules to which their religion adheres.  It would seem to be an unavoidable conundrum, when given any more than a fleeting thought, that any person claiming christianity must, at once, realize that their God is in some way connected with goodness, and that without that particular God, others, perhaps even close friends and family who don’t share the same beliefs, remain in a void.  Why else would the religion even be necessary?  To be evil?  To be benign, simply holding the middle ground?  Well, no, these just do not bode well for popularity, and in order for Christianity to thrive, we all realize that it must, at the very least, gain the popular vote.  It must be that any thinking Christian needs to hold to the fact, even if they can not openly admit their self-righteousness, that belief in their God is necessary to be good.

In addition, I do not assume that each and every person knows someone who does not believe in their particular God, but I can safely assume that each adult, with some exposure to advanced society, does know that there exist on this earth people who do not believe in any God at all.  Do these believers have any right whatsoever to assert that there is no good to be found in these admittedly godless people?  By what avenue of thinking are we arriving at the conclusion that there is not even any reason for these atheistic people to do good?  Is it not the epitome of arrogance to suggest that these are necessary conclusions to come to?

Alas, how critical it must be for the believer to maintain this position.  For what feat of mental gymnastics must be accomplished in order to cling to the notion of the necessity of God for goodness, once a believer accepts that any of their godless friends and family may in fact be able to be good without one?  Short of sheer denial, believers observe and know full well, that objective goodness (a thing that we can all, as humans, agree is beneficial to all other humans) is attained on each and every side of this multi-dimensional coin of religious belief (or lack thereof), and is not always credited to their particular version of God.  I think that at least part of the reason for this compartmentalization is that, at the moment that any do-goodery by believers becomes detached from the idea that God is necessary to be capable of these actions, all good deeds, in the context of Christianity, are rendered selfish acts.  They become, simply, a means of attaining a personal ticket to eternal bliss, in lieu of eternal torture.  In short:  Do good, or burn.  I would assume that believers do not wish to refer to themselves or be referred to as fearful pawns, obeyers of commands (for what atrocities have been committed under those conditions!), but rather as clear-minded soldiers, strongly inspired to action by their righteous commander.  Here’s the rub, if I’m not mistaken:  If your commander is the righteous one, then what of the other peoples’ commanders?  What of the people who claim to have no commander?  Is the opposition just as right to claim that they are doing good by operating under their commander’s rule?  And the people who claim to operate under no commander, are they just as right to claim goodness, or are they not?

Some final thinking points:  If you are a Christian reading this, do you believe that God is necessary to be good?  Do you think that believers in God lead better lives than that of others?  If not, why do you advocate for this religion that relies on it’s God to inspire goodness if you realize that God is not necessary to be good, or at least better?  And if you do not hold this position, or advocate for it, why are you a Christian?

Trucks, A Pocket Bible, and Jesus: Why Believers Must Twist Words

It’s become tradition for some of my friends and I to attend the local GDS Fair for an entertaining evening of watching the diesel truck pull.  Trucks of all makes and models, all stages of modification, rip down a dirt track towing a weighted plow.  Engines growling and bellowing, turbos spooling, exhausts belching out that dark, dense, and beautiful black smog the way only a diesel can.  Knobby tires, in a futile attempt to grip the machine-raked and steam-rolled lane are likely to be stripped of their confidence, throwing back dirt, dust, mud and any other debris into the air and onto the metal beast in tow, sometimes leaving the whole scene barely visible, and (when the dust settles) the plow partially buried, and the truck entrenched.  Cheers from the crowd are heard regardless of the distance of the pull, as every run is a success to the audience.  It’s quite an event!

While walking from the fair entry to the grandstands, my girlfriend Lindsey and I were kindly asked by a man sitting at a table if we were interested in taking a pocket-sized bible.  Lindsey politely declined, as did I at first.  Quickly rethinking my decision, I turned around and accepted.  I was greatly disappointed to see that this particular version only included the new testament, and I asked the man if he had any similar sized old testaments.  No such luck.  With mutual smiles and a thank you, we parted ways, and off went Linds and I to find our friends, me with my one new bible, the man left to distribute his many.

I’ve read the bible in the past, however, while reading through the account of the gospel as told by Matthew, now, after some research into the veracity of claims involving the bible, I’m compelled to relate several of the verses, and while the learned christian may know them well, I presume that many people, even those who may label themselves christian, or at least those who automatically grant some amount of rectitude to the character of Jesus, are not familiar with some of the words that Jesus was supposed to have said.  Before we approach these verses, let it be known that these words are the words that are written in the bible in the new testament.  If your intention is to refute the unsavory nature of these passages on the grounds that they are taken out of context, which is a common misdirection trick amongst christian apologists, I assure you that I have read the whole chapters in which they are found, I am familiar with the context, and I am not removing them from said context.  Or if your preference is to suggest that these passages are, conveniently, not meant to be taken literally, then I ask you:  How do you or any other human personally decide which verses to take literally and which to not?  If you can simply cherry pick through the bible, and if it needs being done out of necessity, deciding for yourself which verses sound good verbatim and which need to be adjusted for justifiable consumption or teaching, then I suggest strongly (and it is my own current position) that every word in the bible necessarily loses its credibility, and you should look not to the bible for advice on how to live your life or to tell others how to live theirs, but instead, rely on the same brain processes that allowed you to question the original written words that in turn resulted in your need to adjust those words to suit you in the first place.  This need to twist words is evidence that you are, in fact, more morally centered than the bible.  That being said, we press on.  These two sections in particular I find noteworthy:

Matthew 5:17 and 18 — “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

In the old testament, god laid down some undeniably wicked rules for the suggested treatment and persecution of certain groups of humans.  Many moderate christians tend to disregard these rules on the grounds that Jesus did away with them with his coming.  Enter these verses.  This is particularly troublesome for the reconciliation of the moderate christians’ new testament all-loving, wholly-accepting god, and the fundamentalist old testament homosexual-condemning, slavery-advocating, child-killing, virgin-raping, woman-hating god.  Hence, the refutation that these verses only pertain to this law or that, or that “law” conveniently adopts a different meaning when Jesus says it, etc.  Whatever the case, would it not have made more sense, for clarity’s sake and for some shred of moral assurance, for Jesus to have said at any point that it was not right for god to condemn homosexuals?  Perhaps an apology for any confusion on the slavery issue?  Any comforting words of reasoning at all in reference to all the genocide, infanticide, misogyny, and rape reined down on humans at the command of god or by god himself?  This exact spot on the timeline of the life of Christ would have been just as great as any for him to clear some things up, and he apparently chose to say this instead.   Does anyone else feel that Jesus kind of dropped the ball on this one?  Is it even worth noting that Jesus is god’s son, or that in some opinions, Jesus is actually god in the flesh? How any reasonable, rational person can psychologically sweep this glaring contradiction under the rug is beyond my skill to attempt to answer.  Denial, perhaps.

My girlfriend earns the credit for bringing to my attention the target audience this pocket-sized bible is aimed at.  I suppose that an argument could be made that lockers like these can be found in any building that requires them – gyms, police barracks, etc –  but I do not think that I would be at odds with most opinions when suggesting their resemblance to my locker in middle school, sans jesus-inspired graffiti, of course.  Keeping this target audience in mind (the bible is meant for children, too, right?) allow me to relate the second verse.

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Matthew 10:34-39 —  “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.  Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”

What effect might this have on an impressionable child?  An adolescent?  A mother or father devoted to their faith?  What word-twisting need be done to make these verses useful to anyone, save Jesus himself?  If his message is conceit, it is well delivered and ill received (by me, anyway).  Specifically aimed at the relationships between family members, this passage embodies two things that I personally despise about religion in general: the giving up of one’s actual, real, physical relationships in exchange for a relationship void of any measurable substance whatsoever, and the idea of sacrificing one’s physical life for their supposed metaphysical life.   Matthew insists Jesus is quoted as saying that, humans, when in realizing that this life is all they have and acting as such, will be worse off for it, and further, that martyring oneself secures your place in the afterlife.  So children, not only is it demanded of you that you give up your most important family relationships, but it is also implied that dying for your replacement relationship, the one you must have with your god, yields a benefit.  Jesus christ, Jesus.  Reflecting on this passage is particularly frustrating for me.  Aside from it being obviously destructive and offensive in it’s wording, I have experienced in my life, loved ones subject to the real consequences of this belief set put to use, manifested as psychological degradation, a tool for divisiveness, a means of justifying unfairness, lack of emotional support, and general mistreatment.

I may be inclined to elaborate on this further in the future, but for now, if this is the best we have to go on, as far as wholesome morality in the bible, I am exceedingly unimpressed, and increasingly convinced that there is nothing in this particular ancient text that is even worth putting up on a pedestal, let alone labeling “divine”.  It seems to me that as far as teaching of morality goes, whenever religion enters the picture, the word-twisting and cherry picking becomes imperative to make the ancient writings of any use.  But I can see no reason as to why we must necessarily use the bible for anything at all, save to secure us in our delusions.  Our teachings of right and wrong, suggestions of good and bad, can be, and have been, found elsewhere, far removed from religion.

Thank you for reading.