Saturday, March 27, 2010

Why Some People Need A God: Fear

In this, the first post in a three-part miniseries exploring some of the common responses from theists to the question, why do you need a god?

Help Me...Someone?
Many of those responses include, at least in part, a desire to be safe and secure.  We all need a Superman every now and then; someone who can "take the wheel" as it were.  Even those of us who have no illusions of magical beings that interact with or even guide our day-to-day activities occasionally yearn for a break.

At the heart of it all lies fear -- generally of the unknown.  People are afraid of death, afraid of not knowing what tomorrow will bring, afraid of being helpless in any given situation.  To a lot of these people, their deities come to the rescue.

As with most of the reasons theists give for being theists, however seemingly innocuous, this reason hinges on the idea that you cannot help yourself.  How many of you (theist or otherwise) have heard phrases like, "put it in God's hands", or "God has it all planned out"?  It is true that there are certain situations in which we all find ourselves unable to cope or do something to better are predicament.  Those helpless situations reveal two distinct types of people: those who resort to fanciful ideas and talk of magic, and those who find comfort and strength in themselves and their fellow humans.  While it may not be easy to be the latter, it is certainly more honest and, I think, ultimately better than wishful thinking. 

Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying nobody should ever hope for anything.  I'm saying stop lying to yourself and saying that you can't get out of bed without Jesus, or you could have never ran that obstacle course without the strength of the Lord.  Start doing things for yourself.  Find self-confidence and throw away these primitive notions of doom and antiquated doctrines that tell you you're worthless and undeserving of happiness.  You don't need that bullshit, and you don't need a God to find help, happiness, love, peace, or an end to your fear.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Divine Slang, or How "Soon" Means "A Really Long Time"

You Better Watch Out...
When I was a Christian, I was swept up into the idea that I was living in the "end times".  The Son of Man would be flying in on clouds of glory, probably in just a couple years.  This was back before Y2K, and so we all thought that sounded like a date Jesus would pick.  So we all got ready, prayed, and stayed awake, fearing and waiting.  And waiting.

And waiting...

Okay, so not the turn of the century.  That's fine -- but it will be soon!  Just look at all the wars, earthquakes, death, pestilence, and hardships around the world!  Kids are listening to heavy metal and cutting themselves!  You can't leave your front door unlocked anymore!  The world is turning to shit!  The end is neigh!!!!!!!!

It wasn't until I escaped Christianity that I realized this was an ongoing thing.  Really.  Since the dawn of Christianity, believers have been claiming the end of the world was just around the corner.  I love browsing the website "A Brief History of the Apocalypse" whenever I hear a doomsday preacher on TV or read an end-times blog post.  The phenomenon of predicting the end of the world is almost as old as the world itself.

Back In 5 Mins  --J.C.
Examining the bible without my Jesus goggles, I started to understand things a little clearer.  Things like Jesus's quotes in Matthew.  "Immediately after the distress of those days 'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken'... Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door...I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened...I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes...For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."

That's a pretty clear indication that Jesus expected to return within his follower's lifetime.  I find it both amusing and startling how every generation thinks of itself as the quoted "this generation".  I guess it makes since to want to be "the generation" that gets to see Glory coming.

Even the apostles of Christ felt similar sentiments. James (5:8) instructs his fellow believers to "be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near."  In fact, a lot of the New Testament is full of this sort of "be ready to go" language.

"For in just a little while, 'He who is coming will come and will not delay'." -Hebrews 10:37

"The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed." -Romans 13:11

"...time is short...For this world in its present form is passing away." -1 Corinthians 7:29

"The end of all things is near." -1 Peter 4:7

Dude, You are Soooooooo Fuggin' Late!
The looming threat of Judgment Day is held over believers by one another and by themselves.  The other day I drove past a peeling, weather-worn church sign and I though, It never crosses a Christian's mind when they have to pay for a brand new billboard that says, "Jesus is coming SOON!" when the old one is decrepit and broken and has been sitting there for the past 20 years.  Let's face the facts, people: Jesus promised to return soon and very soon, and that was nearly 2,000 years ago.  I'm not really sure why Christians need to keep that sense of urgency, though it may have something to do with the fact that their god died 2000 years ago (if he ever really existed in the first place).  Otherwise, it's a moot and unostentatious ending.