Wednesday, 5 September 2012

So What's This God Thing Like Then?

It is very strange. The Bible is very clear on the matter. Man was created in God's image.

Well, to be pedantic, in the image of the other gods as well, after Yahweh proposed the motion: "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" (Genesis 1:26) and yet Christians are forever telling us that this was only allegorical or metaphorical or any -al but literal, because obviously both men and women can't be in the likeness of any one person what with the problem of genitalia, squidgy bits, etc, not to mention the problem of explaining what a god would need genitalia, or indeed a body at all, for, and above all, not to mention a navel. (Oh! I just did!).

But how does that claim stand up to scrutiny, and especially with what the Bible (i.e., God) has to say about God - if you believe all that stuff? What exactly does God think he's like? How does God see God?

This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created. And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, and after his image; and called his name Seth:

Genesis 5:1-3

So, unless you think Seth was only metaphorically in the image of Adam, you have to concede that the author of this meant that Adam was literally in the image of God. So, that just leaves the problem of the genitalia, chest, digestive system, hands, legs, respiratory system, etc...

Anyway, let's leave that to one side for a while - something to laugh about when thinking about the mentality of Bible literalists, creationist, etc.

What else has the Bible to say on God's body?

Well, he has a face, hands and back:

And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.

And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.

Exodus 33:20-23.

He also has fingers (Exodus 31:18) and feet (Exodus 24:10), a nose for smelling or at least olfactory organs of some sort (Genesis 8:21).

God also needs to rest (Genesis 2:2), to go places to find out things and to check reports (Genesis 11:5-7), to test people to discover their thinking (Genesis 22:1-24, 2 Chronicles 32:31). He is also forced to take action for fear of what people might do (Genesis 11:5-7). God also has limited powers, being unable to defeat people with iron chariots (Judges 1:19), seems not to have any self-control (Exodus 33:20) and needs the assistance of people (Judges 5:23).

Also, for some unfathomable reason if the claims that this god wrote the Bible and that it is the literal, inerrant truth are to be believed, it speaks in the local Bronze-Age dialect of a small, Middle-Eastern tribe of nomadic pastoralists, even when there was no one else who spoke that language and no one to speak to (Genesis 1:1-31).

And, although it tried to give the impression it believes itself to be eternal and immortal, the god of the Bible let slip in an unguarded moment, that it believes it not only had a beginning in time and will also have an end but that gods are 'formed'.

Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.

Isaiah 43:10

So much for the idea of an eternal god whose creation doesn't need to be explained! Oops!

From a simple reading of the Bible, it is very clear, if you believe the god described in it wrote or inspired it, that that god saw itself very much in human terms, with an anthropomorphic body and human mortality.

So, how did this god see the world? For an omniscient creator god, you would expect it to see the world exactly as it is. If it gets any of it wrong, it clearly isn't omniscient and at best doesn't understand its own creation. Let's see how it describes the world in the Bible - remember we are still pretending we believe the god described in it actually wrote it.

Well, Yahweh's world is very much a Bronze-Age world in which the entire universe is a kingdom ruled over by a powerful king who sits on a throne in a palace somewhere up above earth.

Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.

Daniel 6:25-26

The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord's throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men.

Psalms 11:4

Eyes and eyelids, too, eh? I expect that's to stop flies and grit and to shut the light out when God sleeps.

Just like any other Bronze-Age chief, the god of the Bible rides about in a chariot and his army uses swords. No doubt if it had been written about for the first time today, it would use a modern vehicle and its army would have modern weapons complete with nukes but this one has to make do with the weapons of choice of a Bronze-Age chief.

Weird how it seems to be so fixed in time and how these 'eternal, universal truths' in the Bible seem so transient and local and based on the local perceptions of a small Middle-Eastern semi-desert tribe some 3,500 years ago.

When in his palace in the sky the god of the Bible likes listening to music played on a ram's horn and the people there eat bread and wear white linen clothes (Psalms 78:24, Ezekiel 9:2, Daniel 10:5), just like the rulers of Middle-Eastern Bronze-Age tribes, in fact. And when something needs to be written down, apart from tablets of stone, the medium of choice is a scroll, and he has a Book of Life, just like an Egyptian god 3,500 years ago! (Psalms 69:28).

So, the god of the Bible is a Bronze-Age humanoid tribal chief. What then of how it thinks? Surely we'll find evidence of thinking on a different level; of an intelligence way above that of a mere Bronze-Age human, won't we?

Don't hold your breath.

When Yahweh speaks in the first person in the texts of the Old Testament, the deity is often depicted as making statements that include references to historical, cosmographical, geographical, biological, and other types of phenomena that we today know are not factual. What betrays the all-too human origin of the divine mind is the simple fact that the ideas Yahweh entertains about reality are hardly better than the superstitions and misconceptions in the indigenous knowledge systems of the people who worshipped him.

Dr Jaco Gericke (2011-10-20). The End of Christianity (Ed. John W.Loftus) p. 131. Prometheus Books. Kindle Edition.

We find a god who believes the universe was created in six days, that rainwater comes from a 'firmament' above the stars (Genesis 1:6, Job 38:34), that the land floats on water (Deuteronomy 5:8) and the dead 'live' in a place below the ground (Ezekiel 26:19-20). This god believes in mythical creatures like unicorns, Leviathan, Behemoth, sea monsters, dragons, and evil spirits and thinks emotions are felt in the heart.

Dr Jaco Gericke again:

But there is more about the divine mind that seems rather absurd. It is not just Yahweh's beliefs about the world that sometimes seem all too human. The deity also exhibits all-too-human needs or desires that drive him obsessively in pursuit of their fulfilment. Thus few people ever stop to wonder why God, aka Yahweh, must have a people to rule over (Exodus 19:6; Deuteronomy 4:19; Deuteronomy 32:8–9) and is quite anxious to maintain a formidable reputation based on ancient Near Eastern conceptions of the values of honor and shame (Deuteronomy 32:26–27; Malachi 1:1 – Malachi 3:18). Yahweh is very concerned about keeping his name secret (Genesis 32:1-32; Exodus 6:1-30; Judges 16:1-31; etc.) and like some cosmic upper-class aristocrat prefers to have his abode far away and high above human society so as not to be disturbed by mortals (Genesis 11:1-32; Genesis 18:1-33; Exodus 24:1-18; etc.). Yahweh needs to limit his direct and personal contact with the general population and, for the most part, prefers to act through intermediaries, agents, messengers, and armies. He enjoys and demands being feared (Exodus 20:19–20; Job 38:1 – Job 41:34). More than anything, Yahweh yearns to be worshipped and to have constant reminders of how wonderful, powerful, and great he is (Isaiah 6:2–3; etc.). Take this last example: Yahweh's desire to be worshipped. Many people take this need of God for granted but never bother to ask why God wants — no, demands — to be worshipped. It is one thing if creatures, in awe of their creator, erupt spontaneously in praise. It is quite another if the creator should be thought of as having premeditated the formation of creatures who exist solely for the purpose of perpetually reminding him how exalted and powerful and benign he is (Isaiah 6:1-13). I mean, is it really credible to believe that the ultimate reality is a person who is so narcissistic and egotistic that he has to prescribe in minute detail exactly how he wants to be worshipped?

Op.Cit p.141-142

So, in the Bible this god supposedly wrote, we find something with an uncanny resemblance to a Middle-Eastern Bronze-Age despotic tribal chief, complete with a Bronze-Age Middle-Eastern mindset, Bronze-Age Middle-Eastern beliefs about the world, a human body with human psychology and human emotions which is even aware of its own transient mortality.

It looks for all the world as though Middle-Eastern, semi-desert, Bronze-Age people made up this god and projected their own psychology, technology, social customs and traditions, cultural assumptions and even their own physical form onto it. And of course, being misogynistic males, the god they created was misogynistic and male too.

No wonder, by the time the New Testament came to be written, people were turning their back on this preposterously out-dated and absurdly primitive deity and had become, for all practical purposes, Yahwistic atheists, and the rulers were casting about for other gods and other religions out of which to create a new superstition with which to maintain their control over the people. No wonder modern Christians try to distance themselves from this primitive god and claim their own god cleared up its mistakes, only saving the useful bits from the myth to incorporate into the new superstition.

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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. And here we sit in 2012, surrounded by idiots who [say they] believe this nonsense. How sad is that!

  3. This is one of the most ridiculous blog posts I've read so far from you Rosa! Anthropomorphism is used in the Bible to project human characteristics to God in order to better relate between the two (man and God). You are taking a fundamentalist approach to Scripture here and this is why you are confused.

    Anthropomorphism is used daily in communicating ideas. Ships, nations, even cars are referred to in the feminine sense "she." Does this mean these objects are female? Scripture uses the same form of communication. For example: "Hand of God" means God's power or His activity in the affairs of men.

    I suggest you do research before posting silly uneducated posts that show you're aloof to Biblical studies, Communication and the English language.

    1. >This is one of the most ridiculous blog posts I've read so far from you Rosa! <

      Given you recent hilarious exposure as a dishonest fraud and Internet troll, that can only be flattery.

      Bit of a sod that I quoted the Bible verbatim and that you couldn't refute a single word of it. Ever the sore loser, eh?

      I'd be grateful if you would desist rehearsing your techniques of dishonest sophistry here. Perhaps you should confine them to your own barely-read little blog where I'm sure you can arrange for your various alter egos to post approving comments to help you fool simpletons into thinking you have something worthwhile to say.

  4. The Torah alone contains evidence of at *least* 4 different systems of religious beliefs, probably far more, most of which were dead by the time of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel:
    - the polytheistic belief system containing "YHWH"
    - the monolatric belief system featuring the god whose name is "Jealous", of which only fragments survive
    - the monotheistic belief system featuring the god who is "All The Gods", or "Elohim", which involves massive retconning of the previous stories and was probably applied later by modification of older texts;
    - the further "P" variant, which features variant versions of all the stories and subtly different rituals;

    Key to all of these belief systems was unquenchable hostility to farming. These were clearly the religions of a herding culture, and the hostility to farming is the moral of many stories, including Cain & Abel. The 'chosen people' are even ordered to wander and to worship God only in tents, never ever in permanent buildings.

    These religions are all dead or irretrievably modified already by the time of the stories about King David and the Temple. (The Temple is a gross heresy, by the way, a direct violation of God's Commandments in the Torah.) I find them deeply interesting and tantalizing with the little information we have about them -- we know so little about indigenous pre-modern religions of *nomadic herding* cultures, which left remarkably few records.

    But by the time you're into Kings, we have a whole 'nother set of belief systems, this time conveniently ignoring the prohibitions against farming and making permanent buildings. This leads into a long series of war stories. And yet the belief system is still clearly polytheistic / monolatric. This continues through even more alterations in belief systems through the Prophets and it's *still* polytheistic/monolatric. Finally, in the late Prophets, it starts looking monotheistic...

    ...and I haven't even gotten to the New Testament.

    The Bible cannot coherently be treated as one story or even as one book. But it's very interesting if you look at it as the historical artifact it is, describing multiple different concepts of gods. It's a pity the most interesting ones are obscured by later historical revisionism.

  5. I also find the overall history and parallels of all the religions fascinating, and how this has influenced the bible and its revisions as its writers came into contact with other peoples and systems of belief. Its just awful that so many people believe it to be real???, which is wild. So instead of dissecting our mutual histories and evolution into half civilized societies, we are stuck pointing out the obvious inconsistencies and impossibility of it all.

    Sadly, I think there is a group of people that do not have the capacity to acknowledge or accept the truth, no matter how it was presented or even their willingness to evaluate it.


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