Saturday, March 27, 2010

The illusion based on suffering

Paul in Philippians 1: 28-29 wrote:
Don't be frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him

One of the powerful connections that religion glommed on to was identification of suffering with religious suffering. It took advantage of such a low level, hard wired experience and parasitically attached itself to it. Real pain and suffering all humans experience. Religion stepped in and created the illusion that it was all due to God or Satan or something invisible and woo like.

The book of Job in the Bible is an unusual book. It definitely seems set a part, an argumentive dissertation. It tries to explain human suffering especially for and to "good" people. It opens with Job, how rich and righteous he is. Satan comes before God and says that Job only worships Him because he has got it so good. Therefore, God permits Satan to destroy everything Job has except take his life. All his children were killed, all his wealth removed and his health destroyed. His nagging wife remains and the worst friends possible come and seeing the horror said he should curse God and die. But what was Job's response?

Job 1:20-22
Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.
In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.

Job is honored that he saw himself as completely vile and God as the most magnificent, glorious being. His suffering was his due despite his aforementioned righteousness. He is worthless and God is not responsible for his suffering. Me thinks the Bible protests too much. God always right. Man is always wrong. That is a sick relationship but it is the basis for all monotheist religions. Suck it up. Religion has tied itself to human fear and experience. It is very powerful and basic. The story of Job goes on for 40 chapters and at the end of course God rewards Job with even more than he had before.

Pain and suffering are part of life. Religion has tried to explain it but it simply distorted it. It doesn't numb people out but causes them to use their normal life suffering as justification for all kinds of crazy behavior such as flying into the Twin Towers or killing an abortion doctor or denying global warning or evolution. They are simply right regardless of any fact put before them. How do they know? Well look they are suffering. It might even be as little as simple challenge to their beliefs, a cartoon, a question. They delude themselves they are suffering for their God or Messiah when they are just being assholes.


  1. I think suffering just happens as a natural part of life. I would never want to ascribe suffering to punishment of God. How can one know if it is of God or just happening? To me the God of the old testament is mystifying and I find I have a problem with a fair amount of it. I prefer the New Testament as it is about the 'new covenant' which is Jesus Christ. I see a much more loving, gentler God in the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ...though there are some hard things too in the New Testament.

    Job is a hard book to understand, but what I get from it is that it's up to me how I handle suffering in my life. Not unlike Zen Buddhist's embrace the suffering and then it will pass, maybe. But somehow I do trust and believe in God. Ironically, perhaps to you, but the thought of God having everything in his hands, as the song says, is comforting to me. Why?? Somehow it explains the evil that does occur in this world, and I've seen it, I've experienced some evil done by others first hand. I believe there is a force, a power, in this Universe, whom I call God, and that He loves me and cares for me and for the whole world, and I believe he is saddened by the evil that does occur in this world. Kind of how a parent would feel here on earth about their own human child. That we want the best for our kids, but a lot of things are out of our control....they make decisions and choices that we may not agree with and they may even be harmful and destructive choices to themselves and/or others. If they do we may be grieved, but we still love them and want what's best for them.

  2. The problem with the parent analogy is what would the law say to a parent who stands by while his child is raped or killed and doesn't respond? It is very troubling to think there is a perfect Parent above who watches all this abuse and does nothing except to tell the world how bad they are and how he is going to send the plagues or destruction or in the case of Jesus show them to HELL, a burning everlasting place of torment. The OT does not have that view of Hell. That was Jesus' contribution. Of course once you realize how bad you really are, then God will tell you he loves you. The whole repent and be saved.

    I suppose you can get comfort internally, but I don't think it is from this Hebrew/Christian concept of God which I hear you saying. Even the Jesus version is not far off the OT mark. You might enjoy reading the Sermon on Mount where Jesus tells people to pluck out their eye or cut off their hand to avoid HELL. I think Christianity for the most part has sanitized Jesus. But the Bible says he is the God of the Old Testament and that he is one with the Father. To believe differently you cannot take the Bible literally and accept is as an early attempt to explain life and unfortunately it was psychologically quite harmful.

    I find life is simple without the concept of God. It doesn't require dividing people up into two groups or show that I am right because I have God on my side. The most important lesson a human can learn is that he cannot speak for God. Few Christians believe that. The Bible encourages them to do otherwise.

  3. I agree whole-heartedly that I cannot speak for God and believe that Christians should not speak for God. The Bible does say who can know the mind/thougts of God. It's in Isaiah I believe. It says his thoughts are higher than our thoughts, his ways higher than ours.

    I don't know. I like the parent analogy a lot. And I tend to think of God as giving us free will, which is why he doesn't intervene.


    I don't know...Like letting our kids make their own mistakes. Though yes, it's true, I would not stand idly by while my children were being abused or harmed if I were present and it was in my power to stop it (If I wasn't tied and bound or something). (Though some parents do, sadly, stand idly by).

    This whole concept of free-will is important to me. I don't feel that God wants 'robots'. He could run the whole universe if He is who he says he is...which I choose to believe. So if he is omniscient, omnipresent, omni-poweful (forget the word for that one ;-)....then he could intervene. He could orchestrate every last detail but then would we, his children, be LIVING or merely puppets??

    Personally, I don't spend a lot of time worrying about hell. I don't know why, but it has NEVER been tied to my faith or my reason for coming to God, never....

    I came to God out of a need for unconditional love that I was not finding in the world...out of needing to make sense of the world and the evil does exist. For me it's the opposite of what you say...I see that evil and thinking there is good and evil in the makes sense of the evil and makes it bearable to me...not to bear the evil personally.

    Hearing of the evil (like the priests abusing kids) still grieves me and angers me and everything!!!!! But to me the answer is that we, as humans, must work out stuff here on earth. I feel God gave us a mind to use, a will, and that we are to work towards love and living that out here on earth. Not an easy task. And how do we solve the world's problems...I don't know...One little thing at a we are able, in our own lives and perhaps it will ripple out to others.

    There are people who do great things for the world, like, I just try to focus on myself and then if it ripples out at all that would be great.

    So somehow I do believe in evil forces...somehow....and yet I believe God is good.

    As for hell, hmmm....the bible says that one day every knee will bow. I guess I put my hope in that every day we will all be united with God...I guess that's not totally biblical.

    First of all I do not take the bible completely literally...which I guess makes me a bad Christian, but I don't. I've been told to, but I don't....

    And I guess I'm more like Billy Graham in his thinking in later life when he said he thought all people would go to heaven, that he felt God's grace, mercy and love would trump/triumph over the 'punishment' deal. I'm paraphrasing here....I read that article long ago...

    The division thing you mention is huge...and it sucks! I think God/Jesus may be really sad at that...but I can't speak for him...I'm guessing.

    I guess I take what I like and leave the rest and work out my, own, personal theology.

    Back to the suffering etc....what do buddhists say? Don't they say it is a natural part of life? I just DO NOT see it as punishment and I don't blame God for it either...not yet, I suppose I may yet still.....I know lots of people who are mad at God, for not protecting them, intervening, etc.....I can understand that.

  4. tried to sign my name at the bottom but it pushed it up to the middle. ;-P

  5. okay, so here is a link....I have not read this article in a very long time so cannot say whether I agree with it or disagree....

    what I can say is that I do think we try to put God and people in boxes...or some folks do....

    I am not a bible scholar. I don't have all the answers, but I read God's word sometimes and have read the bible. Some of it I find bizarre, honestly, and other parts incredibly comforting.

    I choose to believe in God. I cannot explain it all, but somehow it works for me.

    As for heaven or hell, I tend to think that's between each person and God, but don't really think a whole lot about hell, which probably makes me a 'bad' christian. I think more about life on earth and how my faith helps me in my life here and now...and as for after death...I can't say that I know. Maybe I'll die and go into nothingness, maybe I'll die and go to heaven, maybe I'll got to hell...but I tend to think of heaven as my 'home' and I am thinking there is going to be a lot of people/souls there. :-) How can we truly KNOW until we die??? And for me it is a matter of 'FAITH', faith as in a trust, faith in something we can't 'see'...

    Here's the link for the Billy Graham interview that apparently got him into a lot of trouble with a lot of 'evangelicals':

    hope the link works....must go back and re-read this article.

  6. Here is an excerpt from the article:

    A unifying theme of Graham's new thinking is humility. He is sure and certain of his faith in Jesus as the way to salvation. When asked whether he believes heaven will be closed to good Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or secular people, though, Graham says: "Those are decisions only the Lord will make. It would be foolish for me to speculate on who will be there and who won't ... I don't want to speculate about all that. I believe the love of God is absolute. He said he gave his son for the whole world, and I think he loves everybody regardless of what label they have." Such an ecumenical spirit may upset some Christian hard-liners, but in Graham's view, only God knows who is going to be saved: "As an evangelist for more than six decades, Mr. Graham has faithfully proclaimed the Bible's Gospel message that Jesus is the only way to Heaven," says Graham spokesman A. Larry Ross. "However, salvation is the work of Almighty God, and only he knows what is in each human heart."


  7. Oh ya, and for me, silly maybe, but I find comfort in the word stated in the bible that God will have justice in the end...kind of relieves me of needing to be bitter and revengeful (which really only hurts me)...I guess sort of like Karma or something...that in the end they'll get what's coming to them somehow or some way. But I don't actually wish ill on them either. weird, huh? I mean I do like the concept of forgiveness...and I know I'm not perfect and no human is and I figure even the ones that do awful stuff which I guess could/should be considered 'unforgivable' are just hurting, messed up, mentally ill, something...evil maybe?? But just screwed up and they need help and mercy and love like all of us...perhaps?

    So, even though I may hate, be pissed, whatever, indignant and grieved and furious... I feel like they need a break too....Not to say they should not be dealt with in this life and stopped from hurting ohters. I DO THINK justice should be done...they should be sent to prison, whatever, receive the justice that the law and that our legal branch of government imposes in order to punish those who commit crimes and to simultaneously protect those who are in danger....the public...children etc...I'm NOT saying let a menace to society continue on their path and turn a blind eye.

    I'm saying in my personal experience that I believe forgiving is freedom. While I'm holding a grudge, and being bitter and resentful I am in bondage myself, in a prison of my own making of misery...NOW that is different from ANGER which I think is a good thing! Anger.... Actually all human emotion is a good thing...and God-given in my opinion...natural....something we must go through...and by that I mean through and perhaps eventually out to the other side...when I am ready.

    Back to the parent analogy...

    You are right...horrible in a sense that God watches as atrocities are committed. But if he prevented it all? If he CONTROLLED us?...what then...would we be living our lives or would he?

    Like a parent, do we want to LIVE our children's lives for them or let them LIVE their own lives, even if they choose to hurt themselves or others? I guess it's different as we don't have the 'power' that God does.

    We let our babies learn to walk, and fall down and scrape their knees...oh blah, blah, blah...I guess I've already said all of this. This blogging can be fun and maybe even a little addictive.;-)


  8. It is a shame literalist Christians have to guilt more liberal Christians. I think it is their fear.

    I have heard that God is letting the world play out so everyone knows that how evil is really bad. After all this who is left to convince?

    I am working on an Free Will post. It should appear in a day or two. It is not easy to express what I feel about it. Perhaps it only matters to religious people. When I think of it from my atheist point of view it seems meaningless. That I need to think about some more.