Tag Archive | Jesus

Jesus, The Fickle Tyrant

The “Great Quake of 2011” has given a new reason for some theists to issue dire warnings about their god’s supposed wrath at the world. Never mind that we know why earthquakes happen, that they happen frequently across the globe, or that no one was killed in this one. This quake was a sure sign that Jesus is mad at America. Why is he mad? Well, of course, it is because of the gays.

When I hear these warnings and threats from theists about natural disasters being part of their god’s wrath, I am stupefied by what the warnings imply. For example, given that the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan killed thousands and the “Great Quake of 2011” has killed no one, does that mean that Jesus was somehow angrier at Japan for some perceived wrong-doing than he was at the United States? And if the reason for his anger at the United States really is because of gay marriage, given that the quake killed no one, does that mean he’s not really all that angry about it? Whatever the answer, the message is clear. Jesus is angry at us and will punish the nation for our iniquities.

I am reminded of another side of Jesus that all of these warnings imply. That side of Jesus, according to his followers, who will also kill the righteous for doing the right thing. I’ve written about this idea before regarding this same message in The Room. The idea of Jesus-as-killer of the righteous is a pervasive idea that is supposed to bring some comfort to those who have lost a loved one. It’s not usually framed in this way; normally, god does the killing and Jesus does the saving. But since the two are one and the same, according to the theology, let’s not mince words.

For example, in our area there was a recent tragic death of a young girl in an automobile accident. She was active in her church, wanted to raise money for clean water instead of receiving gifts for her birthday, and by all accounts was highly regarded as a kind, thoughtful person. A number of people were injured in the accident, but she was the only fatality. The pastor of her church was later quoted as saying something like, “let her life serve as a lesson to other young people.” And what a lesson! Be kind, active in your church, think of others before yourself and Jesus just might kill you while you are young, rip you from your family, end the promise that you represent, all in accordance with his supposedly benevolent “plan.”

When we take what believers say about Jesus in sum, we get a wholly twisted picture. Jesus’ wrath is reserved for the wicked on one day and meted out to the righteous on the next. I cannot help but be reminded of the grotesque stories of Roman emperors who killed on a whim, adversaries and loyalists alike. The picture is of Jesus-as-Tyrant, cruel in his fickleness and perverse in his morality. And somehow, throughout all of this, he is supposed to be our savior. No, thank you.

Copyright © 2011 JP Laughlin

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Judith Marie: Jesus’ Divine Injustice and Malevolence

Contra “Believe it or Not” by David B. Hart…part 3 (part 1) (part 2)

I return to David Hart’s lamentation of the “utterly inconsequential” to address his flippant dismissal of the problem of theodicy. Theodicy, in short, is an examination of an omni-god’s benevolence in the face of the existence of evil. In other words, it’s an attempt to get a god “off the hook.” According to Hart, noting the incompatibility between the god of Abraham’s omnipotence and his omnibenevolence given that evil exists is an “incorrigibly impressionistic” recycling of an old argument. He’d like us to believe that this issue is somehow resolved despite the fact that it is eminently problematic to many people. This belief matters and it impacts the live of atheists and believers alike. Bad things being explained as happening in accordance with the god of Abraham’s will, for example, is an often heard platitude intended to comfort the suffering: “It’s all according to God’s plan” and “God has a special plan for you” are consolations offered to those who suffer. However, a consequence of this explanation is that it betrays an unflattering concept of this god; namely, his eternal cruelty and injustice. Assuming that this god does exist, let’s examine the “comfort” provided for in his plan and what this idea says about his understanding of justice.

For a contemporary, pop-culture illustration of the problem, I offer the song “Judith,” by A Perfect Circle. Watch the video and pay careful attention to the lyrics that follow. (This is an official video on YouTube. Therefore they require that you watch it only on the YouTube page and sometimes after a commercial. If you don’t wish to do this you can refer to the lyrics for the rest of the discussion).

You’re such an inspiration
For the ways that I will
Never, ever choose to be
Oh so many ways for me to show you
How your savior has abandoned you

FUCK your god, your lord, your Christ
He did this, took all you had and
Left you this way, still you pray, never stray, never
Taste of the fruit, never thought to question “Why?”

It’s not like you killed someone
It’s not like you drove a hateful spear into his side
Praise the one who left you broken down and paralyzed

He did it all for you…

Oh so many ways for me to show you
How your dogma has abandoned you

Pray to your Christ, to your god
Never taste of the fruit, never stray, never break, never
Choke on a lie even though he’s the one who
Did this to you, you never thought to question “Why?”

It’s not like you killed someone
It’s not like you drove a spiteful spear into his side
Talk to Jesus Christ as if he knows the reasons why

He did it all for you

It might be tempting to dismiss this as a simple rebellion for its own sake.  But there is something much more serious here. It is a revolt against the so-called “justice” of Jesus, a revolt against the idea of divine justice.  “FUCK your god, your lord, your Christ” Maynard James Keenan sings with an intensity loaded with visceral emotion and venom. His rejection of god and Jesus is contextual and deeply personal. Judith, for whom the song is titled, is Keenan’s mother who was paralyzed by a stroke when he was a young boy. We can infer from the song the manner in which Judith comforted herself for this affliction: she accepted it as being part of Jesus’ plan for her or as a punishment for some unspecified sing (“He did this, took all you had and left you this way…He did it all for you”).

The inherent cruelty of intentionally crippling someone as part of a plan is nearly self-evident and would cause a significant problem for anyone to use as a defense of Jesus’ sense of justice. Let’s assume then that this intentional crippling wasn’t just part of a plan but was a punishment for some sin. What was the sin? According to Keenan, she did nothing…certainly nothing worthy of this kind of punishment. What crime is great enough that a just punishment would be an intentional crippling? By almost any measure, intentionally inflicting upon a person permanent paralysis – and the cognitive handicaps that can coincide with a stroke – as a measure of punishment for any crime is unjust. Keenan’s mother is not the only person to experience such a tragedy and equate its cause to Jesus. Every one of them who do so implies a conception of god and Jesus whose justice is indefensible, whose justice is inherently malevolent.

One of the common defenses used as a solution to the problem of theodicy is human free will. Very simply stated, the free will argument proposes that an omnipotent, omnibenevolent god cannot interfere in the commission of evil acts because that interference would negate human free will. The problem with this solution is that it does not address the existence of “natural evil,” the harm and suffering caused by natural means such as hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and medical conditions like the stroke in question. Free will has no part in this equation.

If we are to believe that Jesus is god, and we are told that he is, then we know from the biblical texts that he is responsible for natural evil. He makes lands desolate, sends floods, sends plagues, and lays waste to entire cities. We are also told in the biblical accounts that he is responsible for a distorted sense of justice. Punishing children for their parents’ sins (Isaiah 14) and killing children and fetuses because parents worship other gods (Hosea 13) are just two examples of the god of Abraham’s repugnant sense of law and justice, fulfilled through Jesus (Matthew 5). We are also told that those who do not believe in him are destined for eternal suffering (eternal evil) solely for the commission of a thought crime. If this were true, then I can think of few examples of a greater injustice than this. It is a colossal misfit between punishment and crime.

The problem of theodicy has been a convincing argument against the existence of a god for many people. It seems odd then that Hart, as a theologian, would dismiss this issue so easily. Those who are convinced by this argument are in good company. Noted biblical scholar Bart Erhman cites it as the reason for his agnosticism as does Lutheran pastor-turned-atheist Larry Cartford. If Hart has somehow discovered the enigmatic solution to the problem of theodicy then he should, perhaps, make greater efforts to relay that solution to more people so that they are not swayed into disbelief because of it. Dismissing its importance and its power to sway others betrays Hart as being incorrigibly naive.

(part 1) (part 2)

Copyright © 2011 JP Laughlin

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