REPLY #80 TO
are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.
My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text
and are prefaced by my initials (MB)
(R) I love to "tune in" to your site after it's been updated and Religion reply #78 blew me away. This is one of the best entries on your site. I'm a fan of good sarcasm and no letter deserved your particular brand of satirical commentary than this.
(MB) Thank you! Every time there's some tragedy somewhere, we always see the interviews with survivors who are praising God for something or other. It's getting so stomach-wrenchingly commonplace that I start making jokes about it even before the first interview gets aired or printed.
(R) I'm so tired of fundamentalists rationalizing every negative aspect of life into positive examples of God's will. Your responses point out their erroneous tendency to do this most excellently.
(MB) You're absolutely right about the approach of the fundies. If everything in life was good, they would praise God for that. If anything goes bad, they still find reason to praise God. Well, if God is to be praised for everything that happens -- good, bad, or neutral -- then one has to wonder what the real purpose of such praise is supposed to be? Besides, if God is omnipotent and perfect, then, by definition, everything he does (or does not do) must be right. What sense does it make to give praise to a being who can never do anything that is not absolutely right? Certainly, such a being won't get any satisfaction or joy from that praise since he would already know that he was perfect.
(R) Studying your site is having a very bad effect on me, though. I've been met with much scorn and consternation by some of the more conservative, religious people I talk to. They find my questions and some of the "hard passages" from the Bible (many of which I've gotten from your site) that I may bring up very difficult to swallow and the conversation usually ends not with any logical answers, but by them shaking their head at me and telling me I don't understand.
(MB) Which, of course, just means "you don't believe as *we* do". The best retort to such statements is to tell them that if "understanding" leads to behavior such as theirs, then, you know that you will be happy in your ignorance. Then, keep driving home the tough questions. Tell them that if God is all-powerful, there shouldn't be any questions that his devout followers can't answer conclusively. Then, give them the URL for my web site...*grin*
(R) I still can't give up my belief in God. But my ideas of what God may be have surely changed since my younger days. I think Taoism has a better grasp on the nature of God: "The Tao (or the way) that can be described is not the Tao" i.e. all these people telling us who God is, what "He" wants, what he thinks, how he works, what his will is, etc., are not talking about God. They're talking about the conditioned concepts that have been pounded into their brains by whatever religious culture they may subscribe to.
(MB) That's the indoctrination aspect of religion. Most believers don't state any reasoned beliefs. They just repeat their programming as if they were robots. This is why they are largely incapable of defending their claims. All they know how to do is utter them. Going beyond that point is to venture into intellectual No Man's Land.
(R) I still believe in some sort of intelligence or force in the universe which I call God, but my agnostic leanings are expanding and I no longer have a problem admitting that whatever God is, is so far beyond me that I (or anyone else) cannot begin to tell others what God thinks.
(MB) That is a very reasonable point of view. My agnosticism leans more towards full-blown atheism, but we have similar reasons for it. In my case, I can't dismiss the possibility that some sort of deity or "god" exists. However, I reject the notion that any of Man's myriad of myths and legends represents the truth.
(R) Ah, but the fundamentalists say, "The Word (select passages only, mind you) tells us what God thinks." My response to this reasoning comes from my own experience:
(MB) I'm going to print your story in its entirety without any interjection of comments. I find it to be very well written and it should be a powerful testimony against what the fundies like to preach.
(R) I had a friend who had lymphoma. I was at the height of my Christian faith at the time and I daily read John 14 which states that "whatsoever you ask in my name (Jesus Christ's), and believeth with all your heart, so shall you receive." I prayed daily for my friend to become well. My prayers were specific (as I was instructed by many fundamentalist preachers). And I didn't ask for just God's will to be done, but reminded the Lord of his promise from John 14 that whatsoever, WHATSOEVER you ask for will be given to you. I reminded the Lord that if Jesus meant something different he would've said so. If he meant that only God's will would be done than he would have said, "ask for nothing because it doesn't matter what you ask for, if it's not God's will you won't get it, your requests are meaningless to God, He does only what He wants and your petty desires are of no concern to him." But he didn't say that. He said, "Whatsoever you ask."
So I asked that my friend have complete remission, no suffering, that she live more healthy than she ever did before - that she might be a living testament to and glorify the grace of the almighty, loving, merciful God ("Amen!"). I had no doubt that my friend would be fine! I read the parts of the Bible that told how the strength of one's faith was the determining factor of any given outcome. I was so sure of my faith, my God, and my friend's soon to be restored health that I went around crying praise to the Lord for my friend's recovery while she was in the hospital. I even found out that up to 200 people in prayer groups were praying the same prayers for her - I thought that was nice, but it didn't really matter - the mere strength of my faith alone ("If you had faith no larger than a mustard seed, you could tell this mountain to move from here to there. And it would. Everything would be possible for you.") was more than enough.
My friend suffered with long and torturous agony and then she died. At her funeral we were preached to on the will of God and how her death brought so many together in faith.
Needless to say, I felt betrayed. I followed the instructions, I was positive of the outcome, I did everything the Word asked and still the promise was broken - the Word was a lie. At first I thought maybe it's because I'm an unworthy sinner, but then, what about those 200 other faithful people - did not one of them have enough righteousness to coax God to fulfill his own vow? If God's will is the only thing that can be done, then why did his son (God himself) tell us something different? Why did he instruct us that God's will can be determined by our faith and prayers if it can't?
Okay, so that's my story. That was my proof. So many questions left unanswered. And yet the fundamentalists continue to make promises on behalf of God. Promises of protection, of health, of life, of prosperity, of justice for the faithful, and then when it doesn't happen they reinterpret the very definition of the words to try to make their version of God look good and save face. Perhaps it is the old testament Hebrews who had God pegged correctly with terms like; Jealous, Angry, Wrathful, Vengeful, etc. Maybe the God we think we're worshipping is just an angry little child in the grip of a temper tantrum.
Thank you for your time.
(MB) Thank you for your story. If I get a response to this from any fundie, I will post it since it should make for rather interesting reading. I would have to predict, however, that no fundie will dare attempt to touch it. That's too bad, since I see your story as a damning and devastating refutation of everything they try to shove down the throats of whoever will listen to them. Well done!