Monday, November 26, 2007

Divinity Drive-By

I was posting a response to a friend, and it turned into a diatribe-y thing, so here it is. Please understand, I am not trying to steal anything that works for any reader. I am indeed responding to offensive ideas that somehow, merely by existing, I need "forgiveness". Anyway, without further ado, here 'tis:

I've read the Bible so many times. I believe I understand it fairly well.

I cannot speak for another's truth. For myself, I reject as untrue and evil a belief that I am nothing more than some entity's plaything, that my sole purpose in existence is for the amusement of some interuniversal dilettante.

It cannot be logical for something that fulfills its design function to be malfunctioning. Therefore, if humanity behaves as it does- and humanity has been created by a being that designed humanity to behave as it does- humanity needs makes no apologies nor beg forgiveness for doing exactly what it has been designed to do.

I do not mean to take away the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a powerful thing.

I ask no forgiveness for being me. I ask no forgiveness for living my life. I ask no forgiveness for believing things that help me be a whole person. And I sure as hell wouldn't feel the need to ask forgiveness from the creator of evil, if I wanted to believe the mythos. I believe I have some understanding of cause and effect, and I completely understand the impossibility of a personal deity-in this reality- who is both omnipotent and omnibenevolent.

Some people play with rats and mazes, to test hypotheses. Gods wouldn't need the rats or the mazes. Then again, true gods would be okay with isolation instead of adulation. Ultimately, we have made god in our image- and he doesn't get to criticize our humanity.


Jenny said...

Woo! Driveby back atcha! I be typin' ma cheez all up in yo hood, G. :)

I do apologize if I've given offense, but um.. I don't think you're responding to what I actually said. If that's what you heard, I'm terribly sorry, because it wasn't the meaning I meant to convey with my words.

A couple things then -

1. Where does the idea that you are a "plaything" come from? We are described as children, as beloved, as a bride (no offense to the gentlemen out there).. but not as playthings - quite the reverse.

2. You're right, it wouldn't be logical to say if you fulfill your "design function" that you are malfunctioning. The question then hinges on - what is your design function?

That's not a rhetorical question.

That's one of the foundational truths we have to ascertain in this life.

My answer later, after some sleep.
Take care my friend.


PS... just so you know, I've often described you as the most tender, loving man I have ever met. Truly.

J.R.Shirley said...

Jennifer, you haven't given any offense. At the same time, the thought of needing redemption because my humanity "misses the mark" in comparison to God's, er, godliness, is distasteful. (I ain't railin' at you, darlin', I'm just ranting.)
Understand that I don't actually believe in a personal god, but I'm going to write the following using the Bible as a reference.

We have been created for the glory of god. That's it. Full stop. We exist for his pleasure and to act as little mirrors reflecting his awesomeness.

It seems a little pathetic to believe an all-powerful being had the need to create subservients, and then put an "attractive nuisance" in front of them, knowing the choice they would make, and then judge them for the choice he knew they would make before he created them. This same being will then send an aspect of himself to live in a manner similar to these lesser beings, and that aspect will suffer horribly before rejoining the rest of himself. The lesser beings then have the choice to beg forgiveness for existing or burn horribly for eternity with monsters. But hey, it's free choice, right? (Only some scripture indicates it's *not* free choice, since God can make people assume feelings.)

What I believe my design function is, and what Christians believe are probably not the same thing. Here's a semi-rhetorical (since it can truly only have one answer) question: can anything happen that's not the will of God? Of course not. We must then ask why God wills evil.

(...but you're right, he's a pretty awesome guy.)

There have been times when I have allowed myself to feel what I might describe as godly love. In that state, even the most horrible things any person could commit are as nothing compared to the immense love felt. There would be no need to even ask forgiveness- it would be inherent and automatic. That would be the true experience of a "Heavenly Father", not one who had nothing better to do than dream up elaborate schemes to put people in eternal fryers.

But he's god, right? So he can do what he wants. He can choose who he's going to be nice to (Exodus 33:19), which automatically means that he can choose who he's really going to F up.

I don't need a god like this, and I would dare such a god to look me in the eye.
Why are we here? (I realized the answer once, but forgot it before I could get back to my paper, and write it down.) I have often felt we are here to love each other, but that's a partial answer. Ultimately, we exist to exist. Religions are just the logical extension of the evolutionary drive, an attempt to improve the intangible in us.

Jenny said...

I wasn't asking why *we* were here, I was asking why *you* were here. You, personally.. John. the sweetest man I ever met.

What's *your* purpose?

Let me answer some doctrine points first, then come back to the main thrust here.

First, I think you miss the distinction between wills evil and allows evil. And really, what are the alternatives? Take away our will and turn us into puppets? Strike down everyone who falls short of perfection?

So many of us want to pick some arbitrary point of "good enough" whereby those dastardly by our standards get the Pit, and we and our buddies clouds and harps.

But that's looking at things from a human standard of good and evil - where the effects of the desires of our heart are constrained by physical reality. Which brings us to the point of forgiveness.

Trust me, I understand you when you take umbrage at the idea of redemption, or of needing it. Trust me, I get that. I've said it myself. But it's not about good or bad by human standards -- it's about the futility of trying to survive as a branch cut from the vine.

Think of it less as being redressed by an angry drill sergeant, and more as a hand offered to a drowning man. That hand out can be everything... but only if we choose to grab it.

So that's the doctrine bit, for what it's worth. As many brilliant minds on all sides of the issue here have written over the centuries I doubt we can add much to the debate, but there ya go. :)

But back to the point -
Who is John Shirley?

Why are you?

With all your many gifts, with your tender heart and your sharp mind, your brave warrior's soul and your artist's hands, what are you for?

I'll just say this - you are too rare, too powerful, and too precious to be an accident.

So.. why are you?

take care feller -


PS - "I don't need a god like this, and I would dare such a god to look me in the eye."

Then do it.

Dare God, should He exist, to look you in the eye.

Just be willing to look back. :)

Tam said...

Not meaning to intrude...

To me, the whole concept of "redemption" is the underlying fatal flaw of Christianity; they make the disease and sell you the cure.

Jesus saves.

From what?


Who made Hell?


Who is God?

Same guy as Jesus.

So... Jesus... if I love him... will save me from... himself?

After 33 years of feeling the Presence of God and kneeling in tears at prayer meetings and feeling the Love and going on missionary trips, the argumentum ad baculum of "salvation" was the rock that it all foundered on.

Admitting to myself that I didn't believe was the SINGLE. SCARIEST. THING. I. HAVE. EVER. DONE.
But once done, it was like a scab coming off; I have never before felt so free and at peace with the universe around me.

J.R.Shirley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J.R.Shirley said...


You're certainly doing pretty well on the love part. Despite my believing Christianity is a religion of fear and domination, I have seen some few people for whom it seems to work well. (I usually conclude that these people must not take the Bible literally.)
Wills vs. allows? That appears to be a meaningless distinction, since the Bible clearly relates numerous times when God changed someone's attitude or mind (Pharaoh, for instance). I've actually already answered the last part of this question. We are as we have been made to be (according to the Bible). We must therefore be perfect.

I don't believe in The Pit, and I don't have those arbitrary standards you mention. From the perspective of what I might call Godmind- described in my first comment for this post- perfect love automatically forgives perfectly.

The thing is, I understand (I believe) what you are saying about a "helping hand", but it's more like being saved from a trap than from drowning. (I was already going to write this, so Tam didn't influence me, here.) When one realizes the person doing the saving is the same person that built the trap, it's rather hard to feel so greatful.

I don't know why I am, other than the obvious. I feel a need to procreate, like almost every other animal. Is that a source of frustration? Eh. Not usually. My need to overcompartmentalize, classify, and control my universe was a result of a fear-based mentality. It's okay for me not to know everything, and I most certainly cannot control everything or one around me.

Why, sweetheart, would you ever assume I hadn't spent years searching for God? Days spent communicating more with the ether than with other people? I opened the door, I "searched with all my heart", I "asked", "seeked", and "knocked". I wasn't looking for a sign, I was looking for God. In the absence of anything that appeared to be evidence, in the lack of any return on years of searching, I suddenly realized I was an atheist.

Like Tamara, the moment I realized I no longer believe in what had previously always been a "fact", was my salvation experience. In general, I've been considerably healthier and happier since.

To all the superstitious that urge me to act as those I believe "just in case" while trying to frighten me with tales of the horrifying potential of the afterlife (not speaking necessarily to you, sweetie), I can say, if there is something out there, I'm fine with that, too. I have no aversion to truth.

I believe truth can set you free.
And if the truth shall set you free...well, you know the rest.

Jenny said...

Hey y'all. Tams - glad you could join us. :)

Regarding "salvation from what?" - indeed that's the question of the age, isn't it? Christ came into a culture full of blood sacrifice this and cereal sacrifice that, where the notion of sin was thick on the ground. The message of redemption from sin, of one sacrifice to end all sacrifices made sense in that culture.

But it doesn't make any sense at all in our culture, where our very national being is a result of you ain't da boss o'me rebellion. And as well intentioned as it might be, all the Phariseeical rulebook-pounding in the world won't make it make sense to many. Might as well preach in Aramaic for all that it will be understood anymore.

None of which changes the fact that we turn from God to our own ultimate despair. I'm not saying "mouth the right words or you're headed for the Pit" or "follow those bits of Leviticus I like or you'll sizzle like a twinkie at the state fair."

I'm saying that the "God-shaped void" is real, and though it may take decades, any mortal substitute will fail in time. Maybe decades before a beloved spouse dies, maybe twenty minutes for the new-and-shiny to rub off my latest toy from the Big Brown Truck of Happiness. Sooner or later it all fails.

John, I can't tell you why you didn't hear the answer you were looking for while I've been literally driven to my knees by the barest glimpse of God's immensity - I am undone indeed. Just as I can't say why the same person may at some times weep in devotion and at other times stare empty and frustrated at the ceiling. I don't have those answers, other than to say a constant awareness of God's presence would be literally unendurable. And that nonetheless the message is there -

please come home.

phlegmfatale said...

Hell is other people. (Sartre)

What sends me 'round the bend with all this is that I hear "good Christians" say that in order to be redeemed [i.e., deemed by the community to be a "good Christian" (although they would say God is the judge - they assume that role)} I have to purge myself of my very essence and everything that makes me unique. I have to stop wearing wild shoes and act like the other submissive wives and sublimate my own common sense to my spouse's--even in areas in which I'm the more practical thinker. Oh-- and clearly, something is wrong with me-- it must have been sin in my life that prevented me from bearing children - what other purpose could I have on the planet than as brood-mare?

I get it already: I'm a bad person. I suck.

Yeah, like I needed a bunch of other people to tell me that. All I know is that if there indeed is a Satan, he does his best work in church.

If I'm so terrible, I'm going to blaze my own trail and be terrible in my own unique, noisly desperate fashion.

Unknown said...

I've got a problem. Even if Christianity is the unvarnished truth and is revealed to me undeniably as such...I'm going to Hell anyway.

What I did, I meant to do, I do not repent of it, and I do not ask forgiveness for doing it. And, most of the things I've done, I'll do again if given the chance.