In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy writes: “Trials are proofs of God’s care.” (p. 66) A recent post in a Facebook group of former Christian Scientists inspires this post. The person started with this quote, and asked what our thoughts were on the sort of universally Christian idea (as I see it) that suffering brings us closer to God, and if we still accepted that belief. Answers amongst the group varied, but a general consensus of us who responded do not really accept this belief anymore, whether we be atheist, agnostic, or of other belief. However, most of us agreed that we do experience positive personal growth from rough experiences, and I certainly agree. As I thought about all of this, I considered my own relationship to the “Abrahamic ‘God'”, especially as it stands now.
My response was pointed and not kind to the Abrahamic God, and I’ll put it as the theme of this post: “I have found that I cannot in any way accept the notion of the Abrahamic God as presented in the Bible. In short, this “god” is a petty, insecure, abusive, passive aggressive, sadistic asshole. ‘Trials are proofs of God’s care’ is one of the ultimate loads of BS ever stated. It is one more excuse for needless human suffering.”
As a Christian Scientist, and especially as a class-taught Christian Scientist, I read the Bible extensively, starting at a very early age. Even as a child, while I often enjoyed the fanciful stories in the Bible, I remember wondering about some of the more unsavoury parts of it. I thought about all of the first-born children in Egypt who were killed by “God” when Moses sought to free the Israelites–what did those kids ever do wrong? Or, did everyone in Sodom and Gomorrah deserve to die? Were they all terrible people?
The ultimate one for me was always the conquest of Canaan, and how the Canaanites (the indigenous population) were somehow some scourge that had to be eliminated or moved out of the way. I feel strongly that it is the pernicious influence of many of these “Biblical teachings” that have dictated the historically horrific treatment of conquered indigenous peoples worldwide. I need look no farther than the genocidal treatment of the First Nations people here in my own country of Canada to see what evil this attitude has wrought. The pattern has been repeated throughout the world as Christian Europeans colonized Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the United States. The indigenous populations suffered unimaginable horrors, and some were brought to near extinction.
I always wondered too about what kind of deity would demand such fealty from lowly humans as to command a humble, and by all accounts decent and nice guy to murder his own son in cold blood in order to demonstrate said person’s devotion to what is obviously to me now a wildly insecure being. Fortunately at the last minute, God told Abraham, “PSYCHE! Oh, just kidding, I really didn’t want you to kill Isaac, I was jus’ messin’ with ya…we’s all good, right?” If you think that was bad, look no further than how God ultimately treated his own son, Jesus, to a lovely slow and painful death on the cross. “Oh, well I just need to teach these stupid humans to love me more, and quit doing this bad stuff I seemed to have made them able to do, so I’m gonna let ’em mutilate you on that there cross.” What a load of crap!
Throughout the Bible, I now see a God that is first and foremost massively insecure–what supposedly supreme being, capable of anything, creator of the universe, needs the unconditional fealty of a bunch of evolved simians on a small blue planet in the outer rim of an average galaxy? Yet this “God” goes to some pretty extreme and violent ends to secure that unconditional worship. Sounds like some massive insecurity to me.
I also see a God that is bigoted and racist. I think of the Canaanites, the Edomites, the Philistines, all portrayed as terrible and evil people, and from what I can see, their only mistake was being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and oh gosh, they must be evil if they’re willing to fight against a bunch of invaders (the “chosen people” of Israel). I guess if you’re not an Israelite, you’re crap! Many a colonizer/settler referred to native North Americans as “savages”, same with colonizers in other parts of the world. This bullshit superiority complex comes straight from the Bible, me thinks.
I see a God that is excessively violent, demanding of gruesomely violent acts to demonstrate human fealty to stoke his massive and insecure ego. Just go and give Genesis and Exodus a read, then continue on into Samuel, Judges, et al. Lots of blood and gore. All in the name of God, and all with God’s sanction, oh and don’t forget that rape is sanctioned several times in the good holy book. That’s all I’ll say on that subject here. God’s sadism can be summed up in the stories of Abraham and his near killing of Isaac, Jesus on the cross, and the story of Job. If I was Job, I’d have told God to go fuck himself. I remember when I was younger and I first read the story, that’s pretty much what I thought. My opinion has never changed.
I have always had a lot of trouble reconciling this stuff in the Bible. In the teachings of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy gave an anesthesia of sorts that quelled my doubts and questions with this little gem from the Tenets of Christian Science: “As adherents of Truth, we take the inspired Word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal Life.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures p. 497) It’s kind of like a “get out of jail free” card for an otherwise very distasteful being known as God. Well, that no longer works for me. The God of the Bible, the God of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic Abrahamic tradition is not the version of God that I accept. It is a God of extreme violence, passive aggressiveness, bigotry, and misogyny.
I’m honestly not 100% sure what I believe, or if I believe there is such a thing as “God”. I consider myself to be agnostic now, and I think deep in my heart I always have been. I have just finally come to terms with it, and am being fully honest with myself and living my life honestly. I believe there is a “higher power” of some sort. I think it is perhaps a more collective intelligence of which all of us, and everything around us (plants, animals, the universe itself) is an integral part. I don’t believe it is some sort of “man in the sky” or some separate sentient intelligence that is at times benevolent, or malevolent. That is my path, and that is my belief, based on what I feel to be a logical assessment of my own experience and how I see the world around me. By no means to I think I’m right and everyone else is wrong. This is my truth. Is Christian Science wrong? I think it is, but that doesn’t necessarily make it so. However, I believe it is wrong until someone proves to me that it isn’t.
Everyone has their own faith path, and I am strongly of the belief that everyone is fully entitled to their belief or non-belief. Just do not force it upon me or anyone else, and do not use it to oppress anyone else. Keep it to yourself, and if you think I’m going to hell, so be it–I’ll save you a seat when I get there. As you harm none, do as you will. One of my favourite quotes goes like this: “Religion is like a penis; it’s fine to have one; it’s fine to be proud of it; however, please do not whip it out in public, and do not shove it down mine or anyone else’s throat.”
To me, trials are not proofs of anything except life itself. They are part of life, and they teach us valuable lessons, and help us to grow. They are not to be meant as a way to justify human suffering because it brings one closer to ‘God’. I have grown tremendously from the most trying experiences in my life, but to find pleasure in misery as Christianity seems to preach, that’s not only illogical, it’s straight up crazy.