Do you speak for god?

16 Feb

While conducting research on my senior thesis in history, I came across this speech given by Emperor Wilhelm to his troops in 1914:

“Remember that you are the chosen people! The spirit of the Lord has descended upon me, because I am Emperor of the Germans! I am the instrument of the Most High. I am His sword, His representative….May all the enemies of the German people perish! God demands their destruction, God, who through my mouth, commands you to execute His will!”

Why is it god always speaks through man, and never directly?

One of the milestones on my road to deconversion was when I realized that everything I had been told about religion, god, Jesus, etc, was told to me by another human being.

I thought to myself:  “Now wait a second….human beings are fallible. They make mistakes. They lie. They have agendas, sometimes hidden ones. They care about power. They are not perfect. So why would an all perfect god always use such biased, self interested agents as humans to spread his word? Those people claim to speak for god, and we have only their word. We just have to trust them. These people often lie and take advantage of that blind trust… What if they are not speaking for god? What if they are just claiming to speak for god? Or what if they think they are speaking for god but it is just all in their head? We have no way of knowing…. But why would someone pretend to be talking for god? Simple. Power, money, prestige….”

Look at these two big examples. Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell. Both of them made millions of dollars claiming to speak for god. Both of them set up “schools” where they make even more money telling people they speak for god. Televangelists have been doing this for ages.

But ok, those are big examples. What about your average pastor/priest/imam/rabbi? Well, I would argue that most of them are just spouting the old stuff that someone else once claimed was god’s word. They read from the bible/koran/torah and say “this is god’s word!” They don’t have too much to gain (if their operation is still small) accept the prestige (among believers) of knowing the god’s will. The people who wrote what they’re saying, however, had a lot to gain.

These “holy texts” ordered entire cultures! The people who wrote them, claiming themselves (men) as the holy instruments of god crafted these texts to secure their power. “Women should be subservient” is an excellent example. If you read or watch “Misquoting Jesus” you can see how early Christian scribes altered the bible to secure contemporary power bases throughout the middle ages.

You can have a lot of power over someone who believes that you and you alone know the path to salvation. Just look around at modern and ancient cults! People commit suicide for their cult leaders! The only thing that is different between a cult and organized religion is size. The smaller it is, the more intense control you can exercise over your followers. (It’s easier to brainwash 30 people who you see every day than it is to brainwash 30 million that you speak to once a week, though there are those among the 30 million that will be fanatically devoted to you or the cause)

Imagine for a second there was a mad man on the corner claiming to know the will of the stop sign. Say he was shouting at people that they must live their lives according to a book written by those divinely inspired by the stop sign. Imagine he asked for contributions or a tithe to help fun the work of the holy stop sign. Imagine if he had millions of followers who likewise believed the will of the stop sign was known through a book. Imagine if he made lots of money and lived lavish lifestyles off of the contribution on stop sign believers.Now imagine if those millions of stop sign believers tried to change the laws in your country to favor those who accept the stop sign. They want to affect how you live your life and what freedoms you have based off of what somebody claims is the will of the stop sign, and you have only their word. There is no way to see if they are actually right. You just have to take it on faith.

I bed you’d be pretty pissed off. I bet you’d try and point out that the guy on the corner is mad, and he does not really speak for the stop sign. I bet you’d try to get proof that he spoke for the stop sign, or that the stop sign even had a will in the first place! I bet you’d fight to stop them from telling you how to live your life, what freedoms you had, all because of what they think a stop sign is telling them. Sounds pretty insane right?

That is how Atheists feel about you. (You being if you are in fact a believer in a higher power who also believes that the will of said power can be known, and that it is your duty to tell others how to live and enact laws if need be)

8 Responses to “Do you speak for god?”

  1. bencrayton February 16, 2010 at 11:23 pm #

    Even as a self-identifying Christian, I agree with your last statements. It is not my duty to tell you or others how to live. The closest my life should approach this is in counseling friends.

    The Christian “Great Commission” is to “go and make disciples of all nations.” While this may include atheists, I do not believe that atheists are always the most willing to pick up their cross and follow Christ. And there is als a distinct difference between a ‘disciple’ and a ‘convert’.

    While the notion of God is probably the most abused belief that man has held, that does not preclude the existence of a handful of people who may indeed have spoken for/from God.

    Of course, I would suggest starting at the most agreed upon sources of divine revelation (the Bible) before wading through every word of every imam, evangelist, and kaiser.

  2. godlesspaladin February 17, 2010 at 9:11 am #

    But the bible is not the most agreed uppon source of divine revelation, there are over 100+ versions of it, some books are left in, some are taken out, words are changed, etc. ( http://www.tyndalearchive.com/Scriptures/index.htm ) That “misquoting jesus” book I mentioned chronicles the development of the bible over thousands of years. And while yes, Christianity is the largest current religion at 2.1 bn, Islam is catching up at 1.5 bn, then those who have no religion at 1.1bn, that still leaves 1.3 bn who believe in religions other than Christianity, so out of the 6 bn people on the planet, 3.9 bn do not recognize the bible as the word of god.

  3. bencrayton February 17, 2010 at 10:03 am #

    Oh, I certainly understand that Christianity is not in the majority, and that on top of that a significant number of Christians do not treat the Bible as revelation.

    My point was that more people consider the Bible to be divine revelation than they consider Pat Robertson or even the Pope to be mouthpieces of God.

    You may not want to begin basing your theology on Third Isaiah, the book of the Maccabees, or the disappearing/reappearing chapter of Mark; but the majority of the Bible is consistent across translations.

    I thought about the stop sign preacher a little bit more and realize that my reaction would be consistent with my reaction to Krishnas, Mormons, and fire-and-brimstone preachers here on campus. Often I will just tune them out because I am content with using the Bible as God’s primary method of revelation.

    For you I cannot say, “oh just use the Bible and people will stop pestering you.” That would be stupid. But I can say that you can seek contentment in the current form of revelation you have. I don’t know if contentment is possible with NO revelation, but I know people have successfully tried.

    The last bit is whether or not I should convince the stop sign preacher he is wrong? I should be able to point to the reason that I have hope. And I should actively make disciples. But unless the stop sign preacher and I have a deep relationship, I am barking up the wrong tree with that.

    In most heated arguments I have seen, no side wins. Both just go home angry. Arguments filled with love, on the other hand (and it is difficult to distinguish from strangers, like us here online, between love and charismatic manipulation), are what cause people to re-evaluate their beliefs.

  4. Mr Hot Pants March 1, 2010 at 11:31 pm #

    “These people often lie and take advantage of that blind trust… What if they are not speaking for god . . . We have no way of knowing….”

    I’ll spare you the full list of scripture quotes about “false prophets” on the assumption that your Google works as well as mine. Sufficed to say, Biblically-speaking, Pat Robertson is anathema. When Robertson announced that the end of the world was nigh . . . twice . . . and it didn’t happen either time, he qualified for the gold medal. Do people still trust in him even though much of what he does directly contradicts scripture? Absolutely.

    “I realized that everything I had been told about religion, god, Jesus, etc, was told to me by another human being.”

    Unlike college, where we hop aboard the time machine for a first-hand view of history, where the secrets of the human genome are unraveled before our very eyes, and William Shakespeare takes the podium to explain the significance of the second act of Hamlet? At no point do we take for granted the teachings of supposed authorities, or better yet:

    “If you read or watch “Misquoting Jesus” you can see how . . . [everything I had been told about religion, god, Jesus, etc, was told to me by another human being.]”

    ZING!
    I’m not sure I could have learned English without listening to other human beings. The trick is developing an effective filter through which to process information. Adding to that, our attitudes and outlooks change — or certainly should — as we assimilate more data. That holds true for spiritual beliefs as well, which is why new converts uber fail with their ultra passionate, but ultimately superficial, arguments for God (I certainly wouldn’t want someone who just got their GED to sell me on quantum physics).

    “What about your average pastor/priest/imam/rabbi? ”

    What about them? A lot of your points on this site are covered first year in seminary. You’d probably get a lot of mileage out of a discussion with a Lutheran or Presbyterian minister, or a Jewish rabbi — as opposed to the charismatic faiths, which do not emphasize formal education, or your average evangelical (see above). The traditional undergraduate for a pastor is in history, they are required to learn Greek (and often know Hebrew and/or Latin), and they know the Bible in its historical context.

    “These “holy texts” ordered entire cultures! ”

    And then there were cultures like Stalinist Russia and Post-Revolution France that didn’t rely on a holy text. Regardless, isn’t Emperor Wilhelm’s speech merely a throwback to the pre-Enlightenment divine right of kings? Are you seriously going to take a religion like Christianity, which espouses meekness and humility, and then look to kings and emperors for your examples of people following their faith? That’s like calling the the Fourth Crusade an example of Christian expansionism.

  5. godlesspaladin March 2, 2010 at 1:21 am #

    Ok, so as long as people fit your notion of “prophet” based on how you interpret the bible they speak for god, but the moment they don’t fit your notion or make a prediction that does not come true they’re no longer speaking for god…

    “Unlike college, where we hop aboard the time machine for a first-hand view of history, where the secrets of the human genome are unraveled before our very eyes, and William Shakespeare takes the podium to explain the significance of the second act of Hamlet?”

    I was going to comment on how college provides you more data, and then teaches you how to think critically about that data, rather than just relying on authorities like religion, but then you seem to provide your own answer:

    “The trick is developing an effective filter through which to process information. Adding to that, our attitudes and outlooks change — or certainly should — as we assimilate more data. That holds true for spiritual beliefs as well”

    Yes, and my filter has filtered out the bullshit that is religion.

    “What about them? A lot of your points on this site are covered first year in seminary.” And? I’ve seen their apologetics that they try to rationalize, and they’re flimsy and hollow at best.

    “Are you seriously going to take a religion like Christianity, which espouses meekness and humility, and then look to kings and emperors for your examples of people following their faith?”

    If only every christian followed the meekness and humility espoused by their faith. But I need not point to grand examples like kings. I can simply just point to the power of the christian right in American politics. They get their power from devoted followers that spend their time and money strengthening their christian power.

  6. BenCrayton March 2, 2010 at 11:05 am #

    Whether talking about the Crusades or the “chrisian right,” you are talking about the (ab)use of the church by politicians.

    Power corrupts. Jesus said it himself; the Israelites were warned against installing a king. This is the phenomenon you are responding to. It is not the natural outcome of Christian morality but rather unabashed selfishness.

    Also, depending on your background, many Christians do not believe in post-pentecostal prophets (in the OT sense) and they interpret the “gift of prophecy” as a supernatural ability to discern right from wrong.

  7. J March 28, 2010 at 5:54 am #

    “Are you seriously going to take a religion like Christianity, which espouses meekness and humility, and then look to kings and emperors for your examples of people following their faith? That’s like calling the the Fourth Crusade an example of Christian expansionism.”

    I haven’t seen one example of a Christian in this country that represents the supposed Christian virtues of meekness and humility. Christianity doesn’t even really bother pretending to be about meekness and humility. It’s really all about indulging an arrogant self-righteous belief of one’s own predestined salvation and then blathering about how darn special that must make you.

    I really appreciate the arguments you make in your blog entries, Godless. The unfortunate thing is that they cannot be argued publicly without being excreted upon by snarky, ignorant, erratic, illogical and even the occasionally threatening techniques of intimidation that Christians employ. You have said it before here, and I do agree: quoting bible passages is not an adequate rebuttal to a logical argument based on sound and correlating propositions, such an argument which should be addressed directly and not evaded by thumbing through an irrelevant book of fiction. If God truly existed, he should be divinely pissed off at how sloppy and dismissive his followers are when it comes to arguing his being.

  8. godlesspaladin March 28, 2010 at 9:52 am #

    Hey, thanks J, you made my day 🙂 Most of the comments I get are hate mail over flowing with “meekness” and “humility”

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