Month: August 2014

Why is Gods ultimate goal merely the seeking of self worship?

Recently Victoria Osteen brought on intense criticism for saying “when you worship God, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy.”

Thousands of evangelical leaders and bloggers immediately responded saying it was sad, humanistic, and in error because worship is all about God.

But why?

  • Why does (our version of) God even desire to be worshiped in the first place?
  • Why should that be his ultimate goal and purpose?
  • Why should that be so important that God would rather force people to burn in hell forever than allow them to avoid worshiping him?

Since the Bible often gives us parables of God being a father (Luke 11;11-14), imagine, what kind of human father would torture and burn his children (or anyone at all) for not respecting him?

Life expectancy changes over the last 200 years

Did you know that you are severely lucky to be living today? With the advent of (medical, sanitation, logistical, agricultural) technology humans were able radically increase life expectancy over the last few centuries.

The average life expectancy two hundred years ago was below 40, today it’s in the high 70’s. Take a look at this very short video, it might just blow your mind.

Someone before Jesus was called ‘Son of God,’ and and carried the titles ‘Lord,’ ‘Redeemer,’ ‘Liberator,’ and ‘Saviour of the World’

“Imagine this question. There was a human being in the first century who was called ‘Divine,’ ‘Son of God,’ ‘God,’ and ‘God from God,’ whose titles were ‘Lord,’ ‘Redeemer,’ ‘Liberator,’ and ‘Saviour of the World.'” Who was that person? Most people who know the Western tradition would probably answer, unless alerted by thequestion’s too obviousness, Jesus of Nazareth.

And most Christians probably think that those titles were originally created and uniquely applied to Christ. But before Jesus ever existed, all those terms belonged to Caesar Augustus.”

-John Dominic Crossan (Prominent New Testament scholar/historian), God and Empire, 2007, p. 28

This is why some early Christians were persecuted, for they were seen as a political movement, as Marcus Borg puts it “In Paul’s world … Caesar was ‘Lord’ – and ‘Son of God,’ and the savior who had brought peace on earth. So when Paul and other early Christians proclaimed ‘Jesus is Lord’ (and the Son of God and the savior who brings true peace on earth), he and they were directly challenging Roman imperial theology and the imperial domination system that it legitimated.”

Lab experiements show that lower primates have an innate sense of justice and fairness

Are ideas of justice and equality only human traits? Do these rise out of a Platonic soul deep within our being? Or are these biological traits?

There is evidence that this is indeed dictated by our biology. In this experiment, two monkeys are taught a trade system, rock for food, and this trade works fine with a cucumber, until the second monkey receives a better trade (a grape) which causes the first to become upset about the injustice.

Click here to see the video (starts at 13 minute mark):

If people are suffering because of “God’s secret plan” then why should we stop that suffering?

The world is filled with so much terrible suffering, anguish, and pain that it’s very common to ask difficult questions about God and the problem of suffering, most important of these “if God can stop all suffering, why doesn’t he?”

The most common answer as to why God doesn’t stop the suffering is “because he has a very good reason for allowing it, we just don’t know this reason.” This is perhaps a good answer, but it brings a much more difficult question for us;

Why should we work hard to stop the suffering if God is specifically letting it happen for a very good reason?

Wouldn’t that be working against God’s plan?

FREE WILL?

Many think that simply saying “free will” solves this issue, or laying the blame on consequences of human actions.  But, even if we could (and there is not even one philosopher who does) conclude that (a) “all suffering is a result of human actions on the land, improper diet, etc” that would still not mean we should ignore the question (b) “if someone can instantly fix all the immense suffering our actions have caused, why doesnt he?”

As an analogy. If I get in a car accident and cause myself immense suffering, and Dr. Oz invented a magic button that cures everything at zero cost to himself, and yet Dr. Oz specifically chose to not use that button on me, it would be prudent to ask “why not?”

FURTHER DISCUSSION

The original question assumed two propositions (a/b) that the vast majority of people do affirm and asked a follow up question (c).

a. God can stop all pain/suffering.
b. God doesn’t do it for a good reason.
c. If he doesn’t stop it for a good reason, why should we go against his good reason?

Most people challenge A or B, completely ignoring the actual question, C. Some say God cannot because of free will (which is absurd when it comes to natural evils like earthquakes and ebola, which are not connected with freedom.) Some try to give excessive repetitions of various theodicies that justify B, or that God is justified in not helping. In most cases people have ignored C.

In a few discussion some people have tried to get at one possible answer to C, that God doesn’t stop suffering because he wants to give us the experience and task of stopping it. In other words the good reason he doesn’t act in B is precisely so that we would act, for our sake, and this answers C.

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It’s a good answer, and when I wrote this post I was wondering how long until someone thinks of it, however, it too has severe problems. If God does not alleviate suffering in order to give us the opportunity to alleviate suffering, here are the difficulties:

1. One person suffers intensely only for the sake of another to learn life lessons. This seems disproportionately unfair, as though one person’s involuntary suffering can be traded for another person’s gain. Would you intentionally allow one of your children to lose his legs in a fire to teach the other about charity and kindness? Is that fair to the child without legs that he only lost them for his brother to learn life lessons?

2. Most suffering is not ever alleviated. This theory would make sense if God alleviated the suffering that humans cannot, however, the majority of humans suffer excruciating pain and cannot be helped by others, nor God. If Gods point of allowing their suffering and not intervening was for us to help them, but we can’t or don’t, surely as the sole purpose of Gods non-intervention is now gone, and he would intervene, but we never see this. We see billions suffer and die with no intervention from God or persons. (And if we say, well for this subset of sufferers he has another good reason besides our intervention, we’re back to question C, so why should we interrupt?)

3. The temporal and geographical localization of suffering. If suffering exists for us to have the experience of alleviating it, then it seems unfair to different nations/epochs for suffering is not equally spread around. In the 15th century Europe millions died agonizing deaths from infections and no one could help them, in todays Europe immensely less people suffer pain, instead modern medicine/sanitation has taken away 95% of the potential cases of suffering through clean water, diet, medicine, and pain relievers. If suffering was a good experience created to give people the opportunity to learn good things by helping others, why are most of those opportunities being taken away by modern medicine? Isn’t it unfair that the average Australian has 1000x less opportunities to interact with the suffering than someone in tribal Africa?

4. The unavailability of suffering alleviation for most of history is another problem. For most of human history we did not have the ability to actually help suffering. In fact there are two sides to the suffering divide. (a) most of human history filled with excruciating suffering but no means of helping people avoid it and (b) recent advances in medicine which instantly alleviate suffering on a wide scale without personal involvement (for example water fluoridation has caused dramatic reduction of tooth decay for billions of people in our century, but it’s not a personal emotional learning experience). So it seems strange that 98% of human history was filled with immense suffering and humans had no ability to help, and 2% of history has seen a drastic decrease of suffering much of it because of massive projects and technological advances created by a tiny minority of humans that affect a large majority. If suffering is good because it gives us the experience of alleviating it, then for 98% of human history they could not alleviate it, and for 2% they can alleviate many types of it, but that simply makes it go away and future generations won’t have the experience of alleviating it. Once someone had discovered a vaccine for Polio future generations were robbed of the experience of alleviating suffering from Polio it simply went away.

Many African Christians are are religiously motivated to abuse, torture, or kill children for “witchcraft”

Some of the African converts to Christianity, whom you may see on television during a large evangelistic crusade go back to their local towns and practice very dangerous version of Christianity.

According to numerous human rights agencies, there have been tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of children who were abused, tortured, or killed, by a strange kind of Pentecostal/Charismatic “Christians” for the accusations of witchcraft.

art.nigeria.children.giFor example, “the officials in one northern Angolan town identified 432 street children who had been abandoned or abused after being called witches. A report last year by the government’s National Institute for the Child and the United Nations Children’s Fund described the number of children said to be witches as “massive.”(1, 2, 3, 4, 5

The perpetrators of this abuse, who consider themselves Christians, pastors, prophets often mix in Old Testament theology, which commands the murder of witches (Exodus 22:18), with local African superstition. The moral of the story is that certain kinds of theology can be very dangerous.