Monday, April 26, 2010

233: I Love You, Now Fear Me!

Jeremiah 32-34
"I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me." - Jeremiah 32:39-40

Chapter 32 starts with Jerusalem under siege and Jeremiah imprisoned. Jeremiah is now confined in the royal courtyard for saying that king Zedekiah would be defeated by the Babylonians. Apparently while he's still confined in the courtyard, God tells him to buy a field from his cousin. Sure enough, Jeremiah's cousin comes around and asks Jeremiah to buy the land. Jeremiah buys the land and says that this is God's sign that people will buy and sell things in Israel again. That's the most convoluted sign I've ever heard.

For the rest of the chapter God describes his new "everlasting covenant". This everlasting covenant isn't to be confused with the other everlasting covenants that were broken (I guess they weren't very everlasting after all). God goes on to say how this new covenant will make everyone love God, and more importantly fear God. God even says that he will always do "good" to the Israelites under this covenant. I wonder if this good involves killing them if they're naughty.

Chapter 33 is more of the bible being repetitive. God spends a whole chapter describing how he's going to restore Israel eventually to it's old ways. First of all, I'm not sure why he has to keep repeating this, as if it's going to make anyone feel any better about being torn from their homes. Second, I don't know why he's telling these people at all. Earlier in the chapter Jeremiah said that it would be 70 years before the Israelites were led back to the promised land. This means that pretty much everyone God is telling right now won't live to see the day the Israelites return.

The first part of chapter 34 is God telling Zedekiah (through Jeremiah) that he will be taken by Nebuchadnezzar. However, God says that Zedekiah will not be killed by the sword, but die peacefully. So much for God's terrible wrath. I guess the common Israelites are the only ones that get killed for their sins. As a side note, Jeremiah better shut up before he gets locked in the courtyard again.

The second part of the chapter is about God telling the Israelites to free their slaves. Wow, has God finally gotten his moral compass straightened out about slavery? No, God just wants the Israelites to free their fellow Hebrews from slavery. The rest of their slaves are perfectly fine. So God is racist and pro-slavery.

Is it time to quit believing in God? That's the question Deepak Chopra answered in the San Francisco Chronicle today. Needless to say, I disagree with this answer.

He starts by talking about science being able to detect the effects of "God". For example, when people pray specific parts of the brain become active. He says that atheists are using this to relegate God to a "chemical reaction". I don't know if I'd call God a chemical reaction, more like an imaginary friend (I wonder if imaginary friends trigger similar activities in the brains of children, I'll save that one for another blog post).

He goes on to talk about a 19th century Harvard scientist:
James found a way for science to lead to God instead of defeating God. Let me give the revelation a context. James thought that people had a right, perhaps even a drive, to say that God existed, and even though they couldn't offer evidence for their religious beliefs, it sustained them with comfort, hope, and so on.

Atheists scoff at this rationale, claiming that it's childish to fall back on fairy tales about God just because they make you feel better. Far better to grow up and see what's before your eyes: the material world operating through random chance without the slightest sign of a higher intelligence, moral authority, afterlife, and all the other trappings of religion.
I largely agree with that second paragraph, though I wouldn't call the urge to find God "childish". Sure, a belief in God can give you a "meaning" or a "purpose", and I can understand why even adults would want that. But is it a good purpose? Not from what I've read in the bible. Does giving someone's life meaning in any way provide evidence for that "meaning"? Certainly not.

Chopra then goes on to support one of my least favorite arguments (it really annoys me) "You will only see it if you believe it." He then tells me what I should think about that argument:
To a non-believer, this sounds like self-hypnosis. Being materialists, they cling to the old formulation, "I'll believe it when I see it." But no one ever claimed that God or higher intelligence or the creative principle in the universe was tangible, like a rock or a tree. Gravity isn't tangible, either, but once the human mind decided to look for it, gravity became evident. God is subtler than gravity but just as evident, and just as dependent on knowing what to look for.
Ahem. Actually, God seems pretty damn tangible in the Old Testament. People lay eyes on him, and they see him. We are "created in God's image", and as far as I know humans are tangible. This is the biggest (and most common) cop-out I hear from theists. God is intangible, therefore he is tangible to me and he exists; checkmate. There are an infinite number of other things that are intangible, that I could probably "experience" in some way if I tried hard enough. Wait... Yes, I think I just tasted green tea from Russell's teapot. You can only taste it if you believe!

(via The San Francisco Chronicle)


  1. supermanlives1973April 26, 2010 at 8:04 PM

    Um, sorry...Russell's Teapot contains Earl Grey!



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