July 2, 2009

"If there's no God other than Him, then why is He jealous?"

Male Student starts the dialogue with the Jesus Peddler. 

Afterwards:
...I went up to Jesus Guy when I had to leave (which was before he left) and told him that I admired his courage for standing up in front of everyone all by himself and telling us what he believed. He thanked me and said: I don't think I'll forget you.

I didn't know how to take that, so I said: Rock on. (Poignant, right?)

He mentioned his wife, so I was glad to know he wasn't a lonely person. Being a born-again fundamentalist can't be easy if you're alone. Plus, I felt bad about the people who were reacting so angrily toward him and ridiculing him. Sure, I find his beliefs nonsensical, and I didn't appreciate that he was telling me I was "wrong" in an area as abstract as spirituality, but he did something good for us students on campus....

52 comments:

Salamandyr said...

I didn't appreciate that he was telling me I was "wrong" in an area as abstract as spirituality

I can't help but feel that this is profoundly missing the point of religious belief, but bless her for being polite.

jag said...

This post illustrates the difficulty of entering into meaninful dialogue with the smugly non religious. "Jesus Peddler" "Being a born again fundamentalist can't be easy if you're alone" "Maybe God needs therapy"

Could we be more condescending?

I am not a fundamentalist but, to be fair, their argument is more sophisticated than Male Student will allow.

former law student said...

this is profoundly missing the point of religious belief

Which is what, to cram your beliefs down others' throats?

One of the things I found delightful about going to college was the large number of people who were content with their faiths (Judaism, Hinduism, even Lutherans) who had no desire to convert you.

BibleGreg has an insuperable problem here: trying to identify the cranky Yahweh of the OT with the turn-the-other-cheek Jesus of the NT. (Jesus got pissed off only twice as I recall.) He didn't get Paul's message that most of our Jewish heritage was best left ignored.

Quayle said...

Sorry for the Jesus guy, but "the inerrant Bible" is an impossible foundation on which to attempt to stand.

And a good case in point is the passage in Exodus where the Jehovah declares Himself to be a jealous God.

The Hebrew word rendered jealous in the English KJV is actually qannah,, meaning "possessing sensitive and deep feelings."

So, rendering a rough, bloggy translation (if I may): God is sensitive and has deep feelings about the relationships he forms with people.

And he wants the people of that time to know that He is wounded when he saves them with miracles and blesses them with his favor, and they repay the relationship by ignoring Him and wishing they could be like other people and serve other gods.

Salamandyr said...

Which is what, to cram your beliefs down others' throats?

No, the point of religious belief is that it's not abstract, it's not spiritual. It's as rock solid a reality as the ground upon which you stand, even if it is as invisible as the air you breathe.

It is a common mistake the non-religious make that says that those beliefs are merely abstract ways of looking at the world, and thus subjective. They aren't, no more than believing in the reality of gravity or strong nuclear forces are.

This student should be no more offended by a Christian telling him he's wrong than he would be by a professor correcting him on a math test.

elHombre said...

From the link: Being a born-again fundamentalist can't be easy if you're alone.

There is insufficient information in the "Jesus Guy's" belief statement on his website to brand him as a fundamentalist. Her characterization is a stark reminder of the smug ignorance characteristic of the "new atheists", whether she falls into that category or not.

BTW, "Jesus Guy" has a name. It's Greg.
------------------------

fls wrote: Which is what, to cram your beliefs down others' throats?

Another mischaracterization of most evangelists, who share the gospel out of love and concern and seek voluntary acceptance of Jesus, quite unlike the way lefties share their ideology/faith.

You're projecting, fls.

former law student said...

This student should be no more offended by a Christian telling him he's wrong than he would be by a professor correcting him on a math test.

People who think they possess the One True Faith will be surprised when they wake up burning in Hell for all eternity, that's all I've got to say.

"BibleGreg" is a Biblidolator, thus a heretic. A thousand years ago he would have been burned at the stake, and quite rightly so: If a murderer deserves the death penalty for ending your earthly life, so much more does a heretic deserve death for imperiling others' immortal souls.

Maguro said...

If a murderer deserves the death penalty for ending your earthly life, so much more does a heretic deserve death for imperiling others' immortal souls.

Are you joking again? It's so hard to tell these days.

Quayle said...


People who think they possess the One True Faith will be surprised when they wake up burning in Hell for all eternity, that's all I've got to say.


And thus does FLS declare and possess his own version of a one true faith.

But he's wrong.

rhhardin said...

There was an encounter between Billy Graham and Woody Allen in the 60s (Ed Sullivan?) that sounded similar.

Here's what YouTube comes up with link.

Kirk Parker said...

Quayle,

"And he wants the people of that time to know that He is wounded when he saves them ... and blesses them ... and they repay the relationship by ignoring Him..."

What's "of that time" got to do with that? Are you asserting that by now God is so over us?

Joan said...

I cracks me up that they harp on "jealous" and then pick on BibleGreg for only reading the Bible in English, having already harped on the faults of translations.

But they were well-mannered in their condescension, so they get props for that.

Pogo said...

He was working with a chosen people of a certain time. Their beliefs about God were amongst others who believed in many gods. This is no longer true.

And no, He is not over us, even as much as we profess to being over Him.

Ann Althouse said...

"I cracks me up that they harp on "jealous" and then pick on BibleGreg for only reading the Bible in English, having already harped on the faults of translations."

It makes perfect sense to me. First, they questioned what he asserted as it didn't seem right. Then, they talked about checking the quality of the translation, which if they had been able to do instantly, would have presented them with the terrific answer that Quayle gives us here. BibleGreg deserves to be picked on for not doing that background work before riffing on a Bible quote that was subject to attack in English.

Salamandyr said...

People who think they possess the One True Faith will be surprised when they wake up burning in Hell for all eternity, that's all I've got to say.

So the "real" One True Faith is a determined ignorance about what it is?

If you were to say that play who falsely proclaim they have the One True Faith would wake up in hell, that might make sense. But people who believe they know the truth, and go out and try to share it, are engaged in an act of love and compassion for their fellow man.

It seems to me, to be in possession of the "One True Faith" and to hide it from others would be the greater sin.

Joan said...

Ann, I know, it makes sense to me, too -- it also just cracked me up.

It seems to me that BibleGreg could use a good course in apologetics.

LarsPorsena said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bagoh20 said...

I rarely read or hear nonbelievers arguing with formidable believers. To make the argument for religion takes a strong intellect. There are those who can do it, but this guy was not one.

The nonbeliever side is much easier, especially today. I really wish the condescending attitude would be left at home. It's just bullying.

In reversed situations, believers seem to be much more respectful and attempt to persuade rather than ridicule.

I'm not religious, but generally find religious people today to be nicer people as a broad generality. I often get the impression that nonbelievers want to hurt the religious - to punish them. The 20th century has been a case study in how far this can go.

The only thing scarier than religious fanaticism is the non religious kind.

Pogo said...

well said, bagoh20

elHombre said...

It makes perfect sense to me. First, they questioned what he asserted as it didn't seem right....

Well sure, and even if Bible Greg is right, when they knock on the gates of that great academy in the sky, maybe God will give them special dispensation for being smarter than he was and let them in anyway.

After all, it's just a conversation like any other. Right? lol

chuck said...

Isn't it "you shall have no other Gods *before* me?" That isn't nearly the same as "there is no God other than him." The student needs a bit of brushing up on religious matters, history in particular.

former law student said...

generally find religious people today to be nicer people as a broad generality.

The nicest people I know have not shared their religious beliefs with me.

So the "real" One True Faith is a determined ignorance about what it is?

It's not too late to follow the One True Faith. He who has ears, let him hear.

Quayle said...

What's "of that time" got to do with that? Are you asserting that by now God is so over us?

My point was to highlight the truth that God often speaks specific things to particular generations or circumstances that he doesn’t speak to later people.

As for God being over us, I of all people certainly don't believe that.

However, to a non-believer or skeptic, if you are an Evangelical or Protestant Christian, you have the burden to prove that He isn't over us, given that (according to your beliefs) He is not talking to any earthly representative as He did prior to the first century AD.

Salamandyr said...

It's not too late to follow the One True Faith. He who has ears, let him hear.

Sounds more like "Let he who has ears, shut them".

Pastafarian said...

These sorts of confrontations make me cringe. When I was in college, I probably would have started arguing with a proseletyzing Christian, too; but now it seems pointless and mean-spirited.

Of course, in choosing not to confront this man, I suppose I could be called condescending, and with good cause. I'd choose not to confront him because I might shake his faith, and some people need faith. I'd still argue with people here in this comments section, because you're all fully capable of defending yourselves, but I'm not going to pick on some goofball shouting a sermon in the middle of the campus mall.

So we atheists are either trouble-making pricks, or condescending, or both. I guess we're damned if we do and damned if we don't.

I agree with bagoh -- the atheist's argument is much more easily made than the theist's argument. Being on the correct side of a debate topic is a pretty big advantage.

I also agree that most nice people that I know are religious, and most atheists that I know are dickheads. I think that this is more a result of the correlation between liberalism and atheism, and conservatism and religiosity, than a direct cause-and-effect. We conservative atheists are real sweethearts.

bagoh20 said...

"The nicest people I know have not shared their religious beliefs with me."

Isn't that kinda selfish, or at least insecure.

I mean if you have the truth and don't share it...?

elHombre said...

fls wrote: "It's not too late to follow the One True Faith. He who has ears, let him hear." (Link mine.)

Was there ever a doubt?

bagoh20 said...

To me there are two main groups: Agnostic and all the rest.

SteveR said...

My view is that I can influence a lot more people with my actions, and specifically how I treat others, than any words that come out of my mouth.

In any case, I agree with Quayle about the inerrant Bible. To me its an unneccessary position.

elHombre said...

I agree with bagoh -- the atheist's argument is much more easily made than the theist's argument. Being on the correct side of a debate topic is a pretty big advantage.

I'm pretty sure that having an argument "much more easily made" doesn't correlate with "being on the correct side of a debate."

I don't think bagoh meant to say quite that.

traditionalguy said...

The great mystery to man is why God would chose to create the archangel Lucifer and allow him to rebel and become the person who is evil itself called Satan opposing God and hating his covenant peoples here on earth today. There must be some need for that, but it also creates this Jealousy angle whenever we chose Satan or his occult religious powers willingly, or in deception at first, and then stubbornly chose to run away from the Words coming from the God who loves us.

bagoh20 said...

I said:
"The nonbeliever side is much easier, especially today.

It was once just the opposite. I doubt the truth has changed.

bagoh20 said...

Also: Nonbeliever does not equal atheist.

Synova said...

I dislike the sorts of arguments or debates that presume to decide who is right by who wins. The two things have little or nothing to do with each other. Like several other people here I looked at the post title and immediately realized the essential error of assuming the modern meaning of "jealous". And maybe Althouse is right and people shouldn't argue if they aren't sufficiently prepared, but presenting a poor, uninformed, and unprepared argument does not prove a person is wrong any more than the winner of judicial combat proves who was right or wrong.

"To me there are two main groups: Agnostic and all the rest."

I've made note of the same distinction, but I'd include a whole lot of people who are a bit more sure than an agnostic would be just so long as they are open to the possibility of error.

The attitude of "I'm absolutely right and everyone else is stupid and wrong" exists on both ends and at all the mushy points between... which may seem odd but I've certainly had issues with mushy absolutists who are as utterly sure that their particular 'inclusive' outlook is the proper one as any monotheist fundamentalist.

Quayle said...

So we atheists are either trouble-making pricks, or condescending, or both. I guess we're damned if we do and damned if we don't.

An interesting parable that Christ taught: One guy says he’ll go work in the field and doesn’t. One guy says he won’t go work in the field, but later does. Christ holds up the second.

I often think of that when I encounter atheist and agnostics that treat others with great kindness, that are loving to their friends, and are helpful and compassionate to the less fortunate or downtrodden.

I also think of that when I encounter a politician that outwardly espouses his discipleship to Christ, and then cheats on his wife.

The great mystery to man is why God would chose to create the archangel Lucifer and allow him to rebel

Let’s suppose that God never created something out of nothing, that good (and therefore evil) co-exist with God, and that Satan chose of his own free will to do evil.

It might make sense that God allows Satan to continue on for now in order to establish our present condition in which we are suspended between the two sides and are fully free to choose.

Perhaps the objective is for us to learn about good and evil by our direct experience, and to allow us to affirmatively express, by our choices, what we love and want.

It is a compelling question: do we love anger, aggression, hate, and violence? Or do we love kindness, meekness, love, and nurturing?

And sorry for the preach-i-ness.

Aaron said...

fwiw, i don't believe god is jealous in the conventional way the term is understood. i don't think God wants us to worship him just for his ego. to him faith is a means to an end, that we be good people.

there are many christians who would disagree with that, but that is how i feel. fwiw.

Father Martin Fox said...

Re: "The Lord God is a jealous God"...I think it's clear enough that the motive of God's "jealousy" is the well being of his people. I.e., when they stray, as they are prone to do, they harm themselves and one another.

I suspect--but do not know--that many of those who raise questions such as these have never actually read the Bible in long stretches, but rather read--or heard--bits and pieces.

And many people, I am certain, think of the Bible as a collection of sayings or a patchwork of stories, rather than as what it is: a collection of works that individually have strong cohesion in their own composition, and a collection that has a remarkable cohesion as a collection. I.e., it's not that hard to see the themes that run through the entire Old Testament, even though its works were composed by many authors, over many centuries, in at least two languages.

Former Law Student: "BibleGreg has an insuperable problem here: trying to identify the cranky Yahweh of the OT with the turn-the-other-cheek Jesus of the NT. (Jesus got pissed off only twice as I recall.) He didn't get Paul's message that most of our Jewish heritage was best left ignored."

An argument so poor it's almost self-parodying.

Methadras said...

The non-religious always have this sneering, condescending way of boxing people of faith into a tiny little corner as if their high academic thought is a tonic against what they believe to be fantasy or foolish thought. Then they try to smear what they don't understand by pretending to know what a "born again fundamentalist" or a "Jesus peddler" is and treat them as one of the downtrodden unwashed masses. The arrogance and conceit of these people reeks and oozes from their pores. And little do they realize that the abject disgust they mask as a contrite sense of feeling pity on the poor souls they deride as unintelligent God-mongers only shows the rest of the world what repugnant people they really are.

They pretend to know about the bible, but really know nothing. They see it on TV, but have no understanding of religion or faith altogether. They don't know even know the structure of the bible at all and if they do, they still don't understand it because 99.9% of the time they've never read it.

Lem said...

The Jesus Peddler reiterates that God is a jealous god, without giving us new information.

lol.

traditionalguy said...

Quayle... That must be the answer. It sure keeps us on our toes (or knees). And seeing humble people, as simple minded and weak as most sons of men are, becoming the chosen ones to recieve God's sacrifice and passionate loving inheritance really teaches a lesson to all of the rebellious persons in the heavens and on the earth.

Synova said...

traditionalguy...

I stopped getting so frustrated over it all when I realized that the fact that God loves and saves the simple-minded, weak and stupid, truly was an inspirational example of his tremendous and undeserved Grace toward us.

The answer to 'why are so many Christians so stupid' is simply that a loving God does not cast us out if we're not good enough.

Praise His name.

former law student said...

An argument so poor it's almost self-parodying.

A man of god so smug, inconsiderate, and lazy he proves the truth of my assertion: The nicest people I know have not shared their religious beliefs with me.

Smug enough to tell me I was wrong, but too lazy to show me how. Inconsiderate of me, a sinner, who hungers and thirsts for truth.

Luckily, our jealous god has given Father Fox millenia in Purgatory to ponder how he could have acted differently.

sarah said...

Okay, FLS, I don't know what's up with you today, but I'm loving you on this thread.

Synova, that was beautiful, thank you.

Father Martin Fox said...

Oh boo hoo FLS.

It's pretty funny you accuse me of being "lazy" because I won't jump through lots of hoops to show how absurd your collection of caricatures are--whereas if you made even a small exertion, you'd see that for yourself.

Now--for the sake of others:

Your caricature of God in the OT as "cranky" is counterpoised by an equally invalid caricature of Jesus as nicey-nice, setting up a convenient strawman. Too bad both OT and NT provide an abundance of examples to show it's wrong.

Now, if you want to pursue this further, simply start reading the Bible with the help of good commentaries. That's right; that'll take time and effort--which invalidates your snark, doesn't it?

And if you want to discuss this without the attitude--you could have done that in the first place, right?

former law student said...

Let's take one tiny example:

1 Chronicle 21: David takes a census of Israel (supposedly at Satan's request) God gets pissed off and gives David a choice of three punishments -- for Israel, not him. David says, punish me, not them, but God sends a plague which destroys 70,000 Israelites. Then God sends an angel to destroy Jerusalem, but this is too much even for God, so he calls off the angel.

And these are the people God liked. He really smites the non-Israelites.

rhhardin said...

I have found that a simple ``get lost'' works with Jehovah's Witnesses.

Anything more polite meets an argument.

traditionalguy said...

Rh...Remember that the Jehovah's witnesses are not Christians. You may need to slam the door in their faces prety quickly, and call the police too if they will not leave.

TMink said...

fls wrote: "Which is what, to cram your beliefs down others' throats?"

Crammed?

I don't think that word means what you think it does.

Trey

TMink said...

pasta wrote: " I guess we're damned if we do and damned if we don't."

Funny line, but I hope not.

Trey

TMink said...

synova wrote: "The attitude of "I'm absolutely right and everyone else is stupid and wrong" exists on both ends and at all the mushy points between..."

Agreed.

My approach to Christianity is that Holy Scripture says these things. I can ignore it or accept and obey it.


I am not interested in following a God who cannot communicate with us. My God is alive, and He has communicated with us through the Bible, as well as occasionally other ways.

Given that, now it is up to me, and us, what we DO about it. That is the Message to share from my perspective.

Trey

Father Martin Fox said...

FLS:

You never bothered to read much Biblical commentary, did you?

I'll help you out on the one example, then you do your own work.

About 1 Chronicle 21, and the parallel story in 1 Kings, about David taking a census.

The problem with taking the census was it indicated a lack of trust in God, which given David's relationship with God (which you can read all about prior to this account), is pretty sinful. You may note--either in the 1 C or 1 K account, that his top general is worried about it. Is the king preparing for war?

Yes, God gives David a choice of three punishments -- "for Israel, not him.
David says, punish me, not them, but God sends a plague which destroys 70,000 Israelites."

No; here you are ignoring or distorting the text.

"Go, tell David: Thus says the LORD: I offer you three alternatives; choose one of them, and I will inflict it on you" (1 Chr 21:10)

Two of the punishments were aimed at Israel, but one was aimed at David himself (note the second one below):

"will it be three years of famine; or three months of fleeing your enemies, with the sword of your foes ever at your back; or three days of the LORD'S own sword, a pestilence in the land, with the LORD'S destroying angel in every part of Israel? Therefore choose: What answer am I to give him who sent me?"

David chose to direct the punishment on Israel, not on himself. That's a key to this narrative.

Father Martin Fox said...

...The point of the rest of the narrative is to show David further realizes this flaw in himself--indeed, self-regard is a huge flaw in David's character, it runs throughout the parallel narratives (of Samuel-Kings and Chronicles) about him. How frequently we read, "So-and-so loved David"--far less often do we read that David loved So-and-so.

Notice the narrative you cite climaxes with David praying, "'Was it not I who ordered the census of the people? I am the one who sinned, I did this wicked thing. But these sheep, what have they done? O LORD, my God, strike me and my father's family, but do not afflict your people with this plague!'

"Then the angel of the LORD commanded Gad to tell David to go up and erect an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite."

Now, the choice about reading texts such as this is to act as if those who wrote them, and those who first received them, were morons or moral misfits who couldn't see what you see and say, "hmm, why does God act this way, here, and this way, here"...

Or you can step back a little and ask, is there more going on here? Is this story told for another reason, since it makes no sense to show God swinging wildly from bloodthirstiness to compassion.

The same point can be made about the entire Bible: how can you reconcile your accusation that the OT paints God as so mean with the book of Jonah? It is the prophet who wants vengeance and God who wants mercy.

So consider that perhaps this story is not really about slaughter, but about David. And this dialogue with God is about illustrating growth in moral insight--just as we see dialogues with Moses, in which God threatens destruction, and Moses pleads for the people. Really now, does God need Moses to remind him of why he delivered his people? Only a very simple person would read the story on that face value!

It's much clearer and more logical as a way the author chooses to teach something about mercy; moreover, by having Moses (in Exodus) and David, here, come to this conclusion, is a way Moses and David achieve an epiphany. It's rather like what any good teacher would do, and it's also better narrative.

Of course, you can stick to your caricatures and straw men, but then they are the ones who create the contradictions you delight to mock; the Sacred Text--taken seriously as the literature it is, and read according to sound principles of literature, respecting the genre, looking for themes, respecting the author as someone serious who had something serious to say, and maybe you work a bit at discovering it--the Sacred Text reads far better than your cramped thinking will allow.

And if you think I'm treating you as hostile, why you're very perceptive! You've gone out of your way to demonstrate your contempt, so I take note. If, however, you want to be friendly, I'm all for that. But start behaving in a friendly fashion, not with contempt.