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The Mystery of God

By WizenedSage --

Recently, in one of the Exchristian.net forums, ColorMixer raised the question of how to deal with believers who fall back on the “Mystery of God” defense. That defense is being used when the believer says something like,
“That aspect of god is beyond our human reasoning, how can we expect to know the mind of god?” Or, he might say, “…well it seems illogical to us humans, but we are only humans, he is god.”

It seems to me that believers who use this defense are mocking their god without even realizing it. What they are suggesting is that god is too stupid to know that if he wants to convince us of something, to teach us something, then his message must make sense to us. Any third-rate sales person understands that to sell me something, he must speak my language and have a pitch that makes sense to me. He can’t just talk inane gibberish and expect me to accept his argument. Is god dumber than a third-rate sales person? One might ask the believer, “If god made us in his image, then shouldn’t his thinking processes make sense to us?”

There are a number of passages in the Bible which claim that god doesn’t like the wise, that people should be as credulous as children, that they should just believe without questioning. These passages are telling us we should be stupid when it comes to our religion. But who really wants us to be stupid? Is it god or the Bible authors and preachers?

If god wanted males without foreskins, why didn’t he make them that way in the first place? We cannot avoid the use of reason. Humans do not function on instinct alone. We think. Believers in the Bible accept it because, somehow, it makes sense to them. Perhaps the Gospels sound believable to them. Perhaps Paul’s claim that 500 people saw the risen Christ clinches it for them (ignoring that only one person said it). Somehow, they came to the conclusion that the god of the Bible is real and that the Christian message is true. Their reasoning may be completely wrong, but they have used reason to come to these conclusions. Perhaps they believe largely because they’ve been told this stuff over and over their whole lives and nearly everyone else they know also believes it. But they could not avoid reasoning about it on some level. Thus, if using reason is unavoidable, then it cannot be wrong to subject the Bible and Christian dogma to reason. It’s like eating; if eating is unavoidable if we are to live, then eating cannot be wrong in our eyes or in any reasonable god’s eyes.

Let me recapitulate a bit. We humans cannot help but reason about things. We do it all the time. If a god made us, then he surely understands this. He would have to be incredibly stupid not to realize that he needs to make sense to us in order to gain our belief, our worship. Since the story of the Christian god comes initially from the Bible, then the Bible must make sense to us or we must reject it. And therein lays a major problem.

A god who loves us so much he gave his only son, etc., is not consistent with a god who caused a flood to murder every person on the earth except for one family. Something has to be wrong with one story or the other – or both. (But those people were all “evil,” you say? Even the toddlers and babies? And did god never hear of retraining?) Is the flood story just metaphor? How would this change anything? The moral would still be, “Do as I say or I’ll kill you and all your children too.”

The Bible does not offer a coherent, consistent description of a god who loves humans, yet this is the bottom-line message of the Christian philosophy. Something is wrong, and it likely is the assumption that the Bible consists of revelation from a god.

Clearly, much of the “moral” teaching of the Bible makes no sense to people of today. One who tells me that it would somehow be a good thing for me to hate my family and my life (in order to follow him) has a very troubling sense of values, and I am not about to accept him as a legitimate voice for morality. Then there are the commands to kill homosexuals, blasphemers, disobedient sons, adulterers, etc. These should undermine anyone’s belief that the Bible is the revealed word of god. How could any of these be justified in any sensible, moral “plan?” If the words don’t sound like those of a god, but rather the words of ancient, ignorant, brutal men, perhaps it’s because that’s what they are. Isn’t that the simplest, most likely solution?

Because we cannot avoid using reason, then we will always harbor some suspicion that what we’re told god wants might not be totally accurate. If someone says god wants us to cut off the foreskins from our baby boys, shouldn’t we be suspicious? Could this be some human's idea, and not gods? If god wanted males without foreskins, why didn’t he make them that way in the first place? Don’t we have to use reason in puzzling through this? Should we really just obey what some man or book tells us is god’s will - even if it’s bizarre?

It’s only reasonable that a god should make sense to us before we accept him, and, at the end of the day, I can make no sense of a god who drowns children. Worshiping such a killer should be considered immoral. How could there possibly be a “plan we don’t understand” in such senseless brutality? The “Mystery of God” defense is just a red herring, a diversion. In a word, it’s nonsense - nonsense used to cover up more nonsense.

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