When Do People Lose God?

To respond to my comment on the genesis of the monotheistic religions, Charles sent a link to a talk radio program that discussed what nearly all religious people would characterize as gravely sinful material, namely the enslavement of others.

Do the activities of rapists and slavers somehow nullify the perspective of Abraham the patriarch as the ancestor of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam? The radio hosts discussed the enslavement of non-Muslim women. Does that show that the God of Islam and the Father of Jesus are not one and the same? One might also ask if the sexual enslavement of children by Christian leaders likewise shows that all Christianity is divorced from the One God. Pile on misogyny, discrimination, and movements against women religious and it seems like a slam dunk: the Christian God espouses oppression, injustice, and even gossip.

For his part, Max is concerned that the details of the various Scriptures are divergent enough to suggest separate gods, none of which he takes seriously. Except as objects of derision and insult.

I think we have to look carefully, and with the eyes of discernment, on all of the possible situations when people of good faith find themselves in deep conflict. What is of God? What is merely human?

God permits great leeway to human beings in their lives. Some would say too much. There should be some divine retribution for offenders in this life. Some sign should be given, it is argued, that the unjust should not be given free rein to flourish while the righteous suffer in comparison. That protest is certainly part of the Jewish tradition, and we Christians still sing of it in the Psalter.

Saint Paul also taught that all, everyone, even the self-styled just fall short of the virtue to which we aspire. Then what is the best limit for a person before she or he is cast off into false godliness? Is murder bad enough? Rape, enslavement, and domination? Jesus also condemned these offenses when they were coddled in our innermost thoughts.

If you’re looking to this essay for answers, take a number. I have as little clue as anyone else. But I’m suspicious of the easy answer. It is easy to suggest that all Muslims have rejected the God of Abraham and somehow in the last fourteen centuries have substituted some red-skinned, head-horned idol with a pointy tail. It is easy to suggest that the institutional Church has headed down the road lined with episcopal skulls since 1965 or 1958 or 1903 or 1870 or even 1570.

It is a great convenience to suggest people who don’t think, look, or act like us have lost God, and therefore are deserving of some advance consideration like a Judgment Day anticipated like some 4pm Mass on a Saturday afternoon.

I don’t buy it.

As uncomfortable as it may seem, IS rapists and predator clergy follow the same God. If one is an advocate for early Judgment, it is easier to deny it. But the truth is that human beings can go very, very far off the rails of justice and virtue, denying the grace of God by making a dark pilgrimage in a completely opposite direction of the Lord of Light. And if we’re convinced their god is not our God, perhaps we might look more carefully at our own lives. If others knew what we knew, would they be as ready to disavow us?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to When Do People Lose God?

  1. Atheist Max says:

    “IS rapists and predator clergy follow the same God… human beings can go very, very far off the rails of justice and virtue, denying the grace of God by making a dark pilgrimage in a completely opposite direction of the Lord of Light.”

    1. You are saying the “Lord of Light” is not their God.
    2. And with ‘dark pilgrimage’ You are insulting the God ISIS is choosing to follow (I had thought insulting believers and their gods were against your rules).

    I understand your often stated claim of a chain of mythology which ties Allah to Yahweh – it is the claim of Judaism, Christianity and Islam that the God of Abraham is the same God of each religion and if you read all the texts in succession (Torah, Bible and Q’uran) one can see the faint thread of continuity on the most superficial level. But the ‘key to heaven’ is in direct opposition for each religion – so they are violently pitted against each other in the pursuit of pleasing the God.

    So:

    1. There are Three different Heavens and Hells.
    2. There are Three different Gods.
    3. There is only one true God but he wants you to guess which one is him.
    4. None of the above.

    Is it really so crazy to find this unbelievable? I suspect the answer is 4. I can’t prove it. But I notice most non-believers like to get together and have fun. The mind-wrestling ends the minute gods disappear.

  2. Atheist Max says:

    You asked me what I had hoped to accomplish by making comments at Catholic Sensibility these past several months. I have a very specific answer:

    My primary objective is to teach people that the claims in a religion must be fair game for debate and discussion. To argue against a religious claim is not bigoted, is not insulting and it must not be considered offensive. People need to grow up about this. Religions are just ideas like any other ideas – and we know this because millions of people change their religions as often as they change other ideas.

    Religion is a human right! I strongly defend a person’s right to religion and they must not be denied a job because of their religion.

    But the the religious in turn must answer for it when they try to force it on other people’s children or other members of society through laws and propaganda. If it is not bigoted for a Christian to approach a Hindu and try to preach how Jesus is a BETTER GOD THAN VISHNU – then it cannot be bigoted to argue against Jesus to that same preacher.

    If pushing a religious claim onto believers of other faiths is bigoted then CLOSE THE MISSIONS because that is what Christian missionaries have done to indigenous religions all over the world for centuries. You cannot be permitted to say it is not bigoted in your case – but it is bigoted when I do it. It isn’t fair.

    Bigotry is about treating people unfairly – it is about those things which people cannot change: ethnicity, nationality, eye color, skin color, foot size, hair color – that sort of thing.
    But a person’s ideas, especially those he is forcing on other people – must be fair game!

    It cannot be bigoted to preach against Jesus if it is not bigoted preach in favor of Jesus.
    To be angry about a prison is not to be angry at the prisoners.
    To hate bowling is not to hate bowlers.
    To hate smoking is not to hate smokers.
    To hate eating liver is not to hate those who eat liver.
    To hate golf is not to hate golfers.
    To hate conspiracy theories is not to hate the person who has been suckered into believing one.
    To hate Italian food is not to hate Italians.
    To hate a religion is NOT to hate the believers.

    That is what I had hoped to communicate. Because humans will blow this world up someday over religious nonsense unless we learn to treat religion for what it is – a bunch of ideas which must be discussed fearlessly. A religion which cannot stand up to questions should be abandoned.

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