English, Jesus and Mo explained

Hijab and Atheism

From Jesus and Mo, License CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

The complain in this comic is obviously that Muslim women have to cover up with hijabs or even burqas, so (Muslim) men’s lust was not provoked. Before all I want to point out that I am not at all interested in whether Muslims do claim so or whether it would be a right claim or not. This is not what this post is about.

This post is about the image Atheists, at least certain ones, have of Muslims and spread about them in comics as the above and whether or not one could call this hypocritical.

So this blog post is not against Muslims or Islam, it actually has nothing to do with it, it’s about atheist criticism of religion and in how far this criticism touches atheist demands as well.

One example of an atheist demand can be seen on my old blog. There’s a German article dealing with a picture I found on the internet. You can see the picture on the article page. On the picture there is a woman holding up a sign which reads:

Restraining Order: Your religious beliefs must stay 500 yards away from my constitutional rights at all times.

Other examples include but are not reduced to: No church bells as they disturb atheists, no public praying etc etc. Generally many atheist demands aim at pushing religion out of public space.

So while Muslim men are said being disturbed by viewing female hair, Atheists are disturbed by hearing churchbells, seeing and hearing religious people pray, seeing crosses and crucifixes in the public space etc etc etc.

As Muslim men are said to not tolerante their wives and daughters being „uncovered“ and visible in public, Atheists do not tolerate religion being „uncovered“ and visible in the public space.

Of course, the claim is that Muslims would suppress their women by making them cover up, and of course religious people are said to indoctrinate others with their religion by speaking about it openly and making it visible in the public. Suppressors are always the others!

No (new) Atheist I ever met even considered in how far their ideology of a „clean“ public would suppress others. The sign on the mentioned picture speaks of „constitutional rights“, isn’t the right to follow and practise a religion as much a constitutional right as having no religion is?

Muslims and other religious people are pictured as oppressors and indoctrinators, while atheists are the bringers of freedom, one could start thinking. But really Atheists just have their own brand of „oppression“ they seem to be blind to. They are asking not to be provoked by noticeable religion as they claim Muslim men are asking not to be provoked by female hair.

And this is either, if they know it, hypocracy, or it is thoughtless, unconsidered, which would mean that those people who claim to be sticking to reason could maybe do some more reasoning…

English, Theologie

Unconditional Love

It’s been a couple of days since I came across Bruce Gerencser’s Blog „The Way Forward“. From all what I have understood, Bruce used to be a minister for years, before he became atheist. On his blog, there is a „start here“ series with posts to understand his journey. In order to understand – why woud I be reading anything at all if not to gain further understanding on God knows what – I started reading those posts (I haven’t come far yet, but I shall).

Below the first of those posts, in the comments, Bruce claimed the christian God would not love unconditionally. I questioned that, we exchanged some points and he pointed me to another post of his called Unconditional Love.

I don’t know Bruce very well and I dislike categorizing people (though I do it  – and I hate that fact), so I want to make clear that this post here is neither to question his decision to leave the church or anything else that has to do with his person. I just want to answer to this very post about unconditional love. Not more, not less.

I know that Bruce knows the bible much better than I do. Somewhere I read, he had been studying the bible for 50 years (Bruce, if you read this, corretc me if I’m wrong) and I am far from even being 50 years old. Nonetheless I have at least some knowledge of the bible and theology, so I dare to throw a big No at the said pot of Bruce’s. And I invite you all, no, I ask you, I beg you to point me to the flaws in what I write. After all, I could only win from being shown my mistakes. Finally: English is not my mother tungue, so you might find that I use some starnge or unclear language. I still hope it’s good enough for you to follow. If not, tell me and I’l try to explain what I meant.

Now to Bruce’s post:

He starts with examples for non-unconditional love in our daly life. He writes that even though we might say we love our wives unconditionally, we would quickly stop doing so once they started to behave in a way we could not bear. He claims we would then stop loving them.

This seems pretty right. And really, many people do stop loving their spouses when they cheat on them and such (Bruce also mentions child molestation). But does the love stop because of unmet conditions? I wouldn’t say so. I even would question love stopping the very moment we hear such things about our spouses. Why else would we suffer from the cheating, if there was no more love there at that very point? I’d say we suffer, because we love and because we realize that the person in question does not meet the conditios we set up for them to deserve our love. Sometimes we stop loving quickly after such a crisis, sometimes the love does not stop at all though we would under no condition want to meet that person again.

Let’s look at the thing from a different perspective: Not from the en of love, but from the beginning. Do we set certain conditions that have to be met in order to love someone. Did you ever walk down the street and decide all of a sudden to love a certain person? I’d say, and I’d be interested in people with a different experience to tell me about it, that love i something that happens to us, without us putting up conditions. So from that point of view I’d say: Yes, love is unconditional. That doesn’t mean it will last forever or anything, but we do not control it. As well as we don’t control the end of love, as much as we sometimes would like to be able to just cease loving some persons who just hurt us.

For me as a Christian, love is a gift from God that He gives and takes as He pleases. I cannot do anything about it. Neither can my wife.

I also want to say something about love relationships. Becaue Bruce writes that there are conditions when we enter such relationships. Yes, there are, I agree absolutely. But there are love relationships without love (but a whole big lot of lust and desire eihter for the body or for the money or… you name it) and plenty of love that does not end in a love relationship.

So I would say: Love is basically unconditional, even between humans, because whenever it is not unconditional, it makes the other one an object and is not love anymore, but desire or whatever you will call it.

So do we love unconditionally? I’d say seldomly if ever. We are human, so we fail. And yes, this is a religous conviction, but I am religious. Your convictions might differ, but they are convictions nonetheless, just as mine.

Now to God. Bruce writes:

God drowned millions of people in the flood. Men, Women, children, the unborn.  His love was not unconditional.

I’d be hesitant to connect the Flood with love. But I’d also be as hesitant to connect it with the lack of love. I am deeply convinced that you can love a person and still harm them. I’d agree if Bruce wrote: God’s present of life, and of good life even more, is not unconditional. God takes lives. And as I believe He has his reasons to do so, it is conditional. But I do believe God can take lives and still love. God was, according to the bible, in strong detest of how the people were living in Noah’s times. So there is a reason why he took lives. But then again, He’ll take all of our lives one day or another. So this way of thinking would lead to us saying God would not love any person at all, because all die. If we look at the live of the saints and martyrs, there is death and suffering everywhere. But no Christian in his right mind would say God didn’t love them.

Finally Bruce writes about the condition that we have to believe in order for God to love us and safe us from eternal hell. I know this kind of teaching well, and yes, it is a form of christian teaching. In the United States this might even be the majority opinion among Christians. But there is more to Christianity than the United States, and there are more denominations than the fundamentalist ones. Saying the Christian God wouldn’t love unconditionally is only true for a very small group of Christians. So you’d have to call quite some Christians not „true“ Christians in order to make that sentence, that the Christian God wouldn’t love unconditionally, true. You might know that this is the „no true scotsmen“ argument basically.

Yes, I might be classified as close to universalism. I think it’s the closest to what I read in the bible, but I also know that there are problems. Actually I don’t mind too much, because even in Calvinism as a believer, I’d be going to heaven anyway. And I am not Roman Catholic or Evangelical enogh to think works (including the work of faith) gets me there. That’s the problem with all those theologies that focus too much on hell: They have to say who’s gonna go there, so in order to find somebody to put there, they put up all kind of rules what you have to do or not.

So as close to universalism (though I wouldn’t deny hell, but I’m not sure if it is eternal or just something like the Roman Catholic purgatory, that only cleanses people from their sins) I would say: Yes, God loves unconditionally and in the end we’ll all go to heaven. And yes, all would mean: Including Mao, Hitler and all the other people that could be considered evil. But all of them will be cleansed. The Hitler of heaven would have repented, would have seen the evil of his ways ad would have changed. He‘ be abe to love Jews like anybody else. And heaven’s Stalin woud be friends with them as they’d be friends with anybody else in heaven. And the lion wil lie with the lamb and the child will play with the snake.

One word on Calvinism: The Problem with Calvinists is, they don’t read Calvin. He wasn’t too focused on those who are lost, he was only interested to point out that those with faith in God ar saved no matter what. Unconditionally, because of the (unconditional) love of God. And as for Arminians: I don’t know. There are hardly any here in Germany. Seems they all go either burned or they went to the New World. You deal with them 😉

Commenting Media, English

Honda Prius

I ran across a video by darkmatter2525 again, and this time neither God nor this little angel whose name I forgot have an appearance. But just look yourself.

So shortly said, the video is about a woman who wants to buy a car. But the seller never shows her the car. All he does is present „evidence“ in the form of manual and other paper work, and the fact that he the seller himself is in the office although he lives 7 miles away. He claims he could not be present if he hadn’t come there by this car.

He also claims to have a personal relationship to the car, as do his collegues, but they cannot agree on the type and colour of the car. The woman who liked to buy the car then also finds out that the manual seems to be put together by excerpts of manuals of different cars.

Nonetheless, the seller demands $15,000 from the woman to sell her the car, without showing it to her. He speaks of a chance that the car might reveal itself to her.

In the end of the video, darkmatter put the folowing lines:

Theists:if you can understand why I wouldn’t buy a car from these people, you can also understand why I won’t buy God from you.

Well, I am a theist and I understand very well. In fact, I wouldn’t buy God from these people either. While I understand all the points he is trying to make with this video, he’s getting close to fighting strawmen. I say „close to“, because there are indeed Christians who would behave just like the car sellers there. (If you, dear reader, are one of those Christians: Please, stop doing it.) But it is naive to think and misleading to claim that all Christians were like this.

My first point against the whole plot of the story is: You can’t sell God. God is not a thing you posess in any way or can sell to other people at certain prices. He’s not  thing at all. This is a really hard nut or us to crack, because for us humans, most if not everything around us can or will be seen and treated as things that can be controlled. Sadly we tend to think so even of fellow humans.

While we can treat humans that way – we can make them slaves and use them, if we have the means (i.e. power) to do so, this doesn’t work with God. He won’t follow any of our attempts to control Him – ever! So we won’t sell Him. Sometimes people „sell“ certain moral codes or codes of behaving or whatever you will call it, and connect the whole thing to God. This is a whole different thing (and would also need some further discussion, because there’s enough to critisise there, but this is not the issue we deal with here).

My second point would be very close to the first point: You cannot use God. Ever! He is not a tool (so why buy Him in the first place?). The analogy with the car just doesn’t work. Because a car is a thing we can own and which we can use. It’s the whole purpose of a car to be used, if it was useless, there wouldn’t be any cars. Try to say the same about people, and you might understand the problem here: You cannot (or rather should not) speak thus abut people. People are not to be classified by their possible uses, this would be inhumane (and I think atheists would agree on that). The same applies to God. He is not our slave, is no tool is not just a thing.

So if you tried to sell me a tool that was useless or even nonexistant, I wouldnt buy it. And rightly so. Keep your invisible cars to yourself, whatever the colour.

But, as said, with God it is a whole different thing. He is not a thing, He is a counterpart. I don’t try to sell Him anyone. But I do tell people about my relationship to Him, because yes, as He is a counterpart as any human, I can also have a relationship with Him as with any human. The relationship part appears in that video, too, and just appears to be ridiculous. How can you have a relationship to a thing such as a car? (and how would a thing such as a car reveal itself, anyway?)

Relationships make only sense if we speak of counterparts. There is no way I can prove God to any of you. And this is not my job to do so. It is also not my job to tell you you’d go to hel if you did not believe in God. How can you believe in someone you don’t believe in? So yes, I have my fair share of critizism for those fellow Christians who do so (or try to). Don’t get me wrong here, I will still tell of the joy I have from my faith, but it’s not my job to make you have this faith too. It’s God’s job to reveal Himself to you.

While I critisise Christians for trying to sell God, I also critisise people who misrepresent Christianity or even theism as a whole, by claiming that we’d all be like one certin group. We are not, and if you are really open to reason and scientific thinking, you already know that.

Commenting Media, English

Do you believe in Yahwe?

This is a bit unhandy, as embedding was disabled, but you can look at the video I want to speak about here.

The story is told relatively quick, supposingly more quickly than watching the video:

Person A asks person B about his or her belief in a variety of godhead names: Vishnu, Baal, Shemosh, Thor, you name it. person B keeps saying „no“, to all the questions.

Person A does not react to these answers in any way, just keeps on throwing names of godheads at person B. This goes on for a while until person B answers the same „no“ to the belief in Yahwe.

All of a sudden person A starts cussing and yelling at person B all kind of things, basically saying that person B was very very evil not believing in Yahwe.

The video has a point. In some way. That is insofar as it critizises condemnation of people who do not believe in God (or any other godhead). As for christianity, I wish my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ would rather approach people of different or no faith with love then with condemnation, cussing and the like. It should not play a role, what a person believes for how we treat her or him. Christ commanded us to love. Period.

But on the other side, the video also speaks of someone having gotten into a trap. The trap of mixing up god and God. This is why I write „godhead“ above.

The wrong presumption is that there was no real difference between Yahwe, Vishnu or Thor and disbelief in the one was the same as disbelief in the other or any of them or all together. It is not.

And I am not going to tell you that the difference was that Yahwe exists and Baal does not. While I do believe this myself, of course, being a christian, this is not what I am talking about here.

What I am talking about is the difference between a polytheistic godhead and the monotheistic God, like Yahwe, or even Allah, if you like. Even the Flying Spaghetti Monster should qualify, f anybody really believed in it, which I do question.

Anyway, what is the difference between God and the godheads. The first way to recognise this would be to see that people did (and do) believe in Thor and Odin at the same time, or Zeus and Poseidon, or Vishnu and Ganesha, but hardly in Yahwe and Mars, or Allah and Baal.

Historical sidenote: Historically seen, there was most supposingly a time when people did indeed believe in Yahwe and Astarte or other godheads. I know this, you don’t need to point this out to me. And while the same name Yahwe is used, the concept behind it is different. The Yahwe besides Astarte, El or Shemesh is not more than a godhead, while the other Yahwe, God Yahwe, is a monotheistic God. Many scholars believe that there was an evolution from polytheism over henotheism to monotheism. What I am referring here to is monotheism, none of its supposed prior forms, whether or not they have existed before (I just don’t want to go into that discussion here).

So what is the difference between monotheism and polytheism? The difference is that polytheistic godheads are weak enough that there can be other godheads beside them, while a monotheistic God does not and will not make it even possible to have other godheads besides Him (or Her if you like).

Understood correctly, this would render the first commandment superfluous, because there would just not b the possibility to have other godheads beside a truly monotheistic God. And from that point of view it would not make a big difference whether you call Him (or Her) Yahwe, Allah or Hank. (the problem is that people do not always keep a strict monotheism, that’s why the first commandment still makes sense).

Monotheism means that there is one God who created everything (I’d like to hear about monotheistic Gods who are not also thought of as creators) and is beyond everything else, not only above. There is a qualitative difference between a monotheistic God and all that belongs to creation. On the other hand are the polytheistic godheads, each one having their own affairs to deal with, none of them is really superior to all the others, fights are possible and we have stories about that. Basically they are closer to modern superheros like Spiderman or Superman, than to a monotheistic God. They are powerful, but not unable to be overcome, be it by some other godhead or some (human) trickster.

So person A would be more sensible asking person B whether he (or she) believed in any system of godheads (pantheon) or whether she (or he) believed in a monotheistic God. Of which there are also many, besides Yahwe also Allah or the FSM and others. So it’s not that all monotheisms would be the same. They have very different ideas of their God.

And one final note: I am not too deep into modern Hindu theology, but I think I heard about all Hindu godheads being only appearances of the same one God. Yes, God, capital letter, because I guess this would then be a monotheism as well.