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9 years ago  ::  Jun 18, 2009 - 5:04PM #1
Posts: 3,013

The following was written by a friend, Dennis Dean Carpenter, on another internet forum.


Dennis Dean Carpenter

Wrote about an hour ago I might be winding down on my book, as I read this... The "ends" might be "converging." This is similar to how it started, 250 pages ago.

When it comes to Christian doctrine and dogma, perhaps the most archaic notion is that of theism, or of a supernatural god revealed to humanity who takes an active role in the lives of humans. Far from being an innocuous "scratch," this belief is a pus-filled cankered inflammation of the cerebral cortex, rendering the believer incapable of rational thought.

I. Definitions

The scholar Paul Alan Laughlin defines "theism" as "the theological model that holds that God is transcendent in the strong, ontological sense (that is, that God's essence is fundamentally different from that of the universe and its content) and immanent in the weaker sense of being its Creator and active in its history in an ongoing way." He goes on to define the second definition of "theology" as "more strictly, a formal intellectual discipline that engages such matters as the existence of God, the nature of God, and God's relevance to humanity in some kind of deep, intentional, and perhaps even systematic, philosophically-grounded way." That would mean to me that theism is pre-modern superstitious belief in the supernatural. It is based in the baseless, the absurd.

Christianity claims to be "monotheistic," that is, one god. It really isn't, having a "god of evil," Satan and a split personality trinity, as did many other archaic religions, but that isn't the purpose of this short essay. Let's examine the claim that god is "creator and active in its history in an ongoing way." This definition of god created cancer and a myriad of pestilence, just to kill humans and other animals. This "god of love" is also the "god of destruction." This incredibly simplistic "daddy god" is the product of a four year older's imagination, not someone who actually is potty trained!

There are actually a minimum of four "theisms" out there. The first two, deism and theism, place god apart from the universe. Both see god as the creator of the universe.

Theism, probably the most archaic and more superstitious of the two, sees god creating the universe and an active participant in the events of the world. Christianity carries the burden of theism, praying to this entity, thanking "him" for things that go right and finding some alternate delusion to keep from blaming "him" for things that go wrong. They talk (pray) to this imaginary entity and believe he chopped off one third of himself to send down as a savior of humanity. The theistic model thrives on "sin" and "salvation," a rather neurotic way to envision one's relationship to the world. It leads to such nonsense as blaming natural disasters on "sin." Empirical logic and science really have no place in a theistic world.

Deism supports the existence of god as a rational explanation for the creation of the universe, but sees god as only a creator, not as an active participant in the "goings on" of the world. The deist would excise the supernatural from the Bible. Indeed, Thomas Jefferson did exactly this in his "Bible," reasoning that the moral codes found in, for instance the moral codes aphorisms and Sermon on the Mount were part of the "creation," of the inherent traits humans possessed from birth. It was indeed and improvement and a more realistic way to look at humanity and its relationship to the world.

Pantheism sees god as being infused into everything in the universe. This god is inextricably within the universe and is not a reality separate from the universe. (One of the statements attributed to Jesus, Luke 17:21b summarizes this: "God's imperial rule is right there in your presence," or the Thomas 113 parallel, "the Father's imperial rule is spread out upon the earth, and people don't see it.") God is the spiritual essence of the universe. This eastern view of "god" is, again, more developed than theism or deism. Panentheism is similar to pantheism, but in panentheism part of god is also transcendent, untouched by the universe.

II. Theism's squeaky machinery

Those are the "theisms" proper. Moving back to "theism," is there any compelling reason for this to still exist in the world? It is a model that is based on supernatural explanations for natural phenomena. Used as part of the construct of a religion is similar to explaining the way a computer works as magic. It may make one all warm and fuzzy to say, when a friend dies, "God took him," but the same reasoning would lead one to believe that god killed him or has kidnapped him, when in actuality, he died and will rot into the earth. The pre-modern rationalizations are not normal.

In ancient plays, the protagonists sometimes got themselves in predicaments that were, to mortals, hopeless. In order to extract them from their predicaments, the Greeks created a device called "theos ek mekhanes," or "god from machinery." (Latin = deus ex machina) This was an actual piece of machinery in which a god or gods were suspended and rolled into place when needed. This is one of the prime purposes, unfortunately, even today, of a theistic god. The adherent of the theistic Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) prays to his or her god in order for help out of the situation. Prayer is exhortation to the deus ex machina for help. In being such, it releases completely from the individual any personal responsibility for getting into the pickle or for swimming out of the brine. All one does is have "faith." As the author of the so-called "Letter of James" (2:20)wrote, "faith apart from acts is sloth" (My translation, based on UBS third edition, Greek New Testament).

A good friend of mine (actually a Baptist pastor with a doctorate from an SBC university) spoke of this theistic image of god as being a "cosmic servant" or "cosmic doorman." It is a wheelchair that disables the healthy. When one can walk, if one relies on a wheelchair, one sooner or later loses the ability of the muscles to work.

III. Spiritual Laziness

A theistic god such as that found in the Christian Testament leads to a spiritual laziness, in which one bases one's life on the words of pre-modern theology steeped in political commentary, anti-Jewish polemic, and stuff anyone over the age of twelve knows is ridiculous! The Christian mantra (at least of the largest denominations, the Catholics and Catholic "wannabees," the Southern Baptists) seems to be "god sent his son to save the sins of humanity and if you believe this after you die you'll end up in 'heaven'") There is absolutely no reason, if one accepts this Greek Mystery Religion scenario, for one to actually think. It's mindless. It's also an invitation to a form of academic laziness that doesn't allow the adherent to enhance one's spiritual growth. It is a stultifying cerebral activity, one that doesn't even take into account the total difference between the Johannine/Pauline "Christianity" and the sapiential sayings found in the synoptics... Never mind the wisdom of the other world religions - Christianity can't get past the foolishness of "John" and "Paul," the ancient Near East notion of a special envoy sent by the gods to bring justice and divine retribution to the world. There was nothing unique about it, and certainly nothing of any relevance to the presence.

Of course, when one goes to the sapiential sayings found in the synoptics, one also encounters a wisdom that is common to the ancient Near East, to Rome, to Greece. Hidden within the eschatological and apocalyptic, one finds Cynic-like and intertestament Jewish wisdom that works fine if no one really reads it - sayings that call for non-retaliation toward enemies, giving all of one's money to the poor, all of those un-American and even socialist sayings that make American Christians retreat behind their John 3:16-17 umbrella, free to support war, curse "welfare," kill doctors who perform abortions and genuflect to capital punishment.

IV. Spiritual Inbreeding

As one can see, "Accepting Jesus as one's lord and savior" promotes a theistic laziness that is unconscionable... It also comes with serious consequence, a spiritual inbreeding. It breeds intolerance toward those of a different religion or even, in many instances, those whose view of the Bible or of "god" is different than theirs, because it gives lip service to "evangelizing" the world, when all that actually means is conniving and cajoling others to accept a pre-modern mentality at the risk of exclusion. What the statement really means is, "You are damned if you don't do what I tell you to do because god is on my side." It is a cult-like mentality, a money making enterprise that preys on the insecurity of those who are afraid to die.

The theism of Christianity is also a spiritually inbreeding association, taking the absolute worst of the Christian Testament (that they, in their anti-Semitic way call the "New" Testament) and making the orphic "salvation" guilt ridden passages the center of the religion. Nothing good comes of that. All it does is beget more and more of the same old guilt and catharsis, a pitiful "humanity is depraved" theology of the Catholic Augustine and his ilk. It is psychologically crippling, especially to those who are not that stable in the beginning.

V. What's left?

Reliance on the cosmic door man (or door mat) to explain humanity and its place in the world is certainly dead. The pantheon (in the clouds) of the three tier universe is completely archaic. Earth isn't flat, demons don't live under the ground nor gods on high. We must rely, not on the creator god, but the creator of god, humanity to solve our problems and to explain the mysteries of life and death. The Bible was not "the inspired word of god," but the compilation of both inspired and uninspired writings over centuries. Reliance on the whole book as a unified "voice" of one god is erroneous. It contradicts itself a myriad of times in large and small issues, just as did the humans who wrote the "winners," the books that made the respected canons.

Luckily, in most of the Christian world, humans have been smart enough to contradict the Bible and give up slavery. Some sects even go against the edicts of the Bible in the pastorals and Paulines, allowing women to serve as pastors, elders and so on. Some even recognize homosexuals as real humans and Jews as religious equals, not the negative stereotype portrayed by Christianity from the beginning. A few, just a few, understand the Sermon on the Mount exhortation to love one's enemies doesn't have an "unless they do something horrible" clause attached to it and that this and the directive to turn the cheek extends to governments. "Loving one's neighbor" is ungodly... In other words, one doesn't need a theistic daddy god to obey this.

Morality has been defined by humans since pre-historic days. It hasn't taken a god with a club in its hand to regulate it. It hasn't taken a god to zap Moses a few directives on some mountain... That, incidentally came from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Negative Confessions, so it has roots further back than the mythical Moses. In other words, the Decalogue came not from the finger of god but from the scribes of the Egyptians! The sayings of Jesus? Most are attested in one form or another in the literature of the Greeks and the ancient Near East writings. No theistic god was needed.


Robert J. McElwain

"The strongest reason for people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." (Supposedly)Thomas Jefferson

"He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral."
St. Thomas Aquinas

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. Plato
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9 years ago  ::  Jun 19, 2009 - 1:03PM #2
Posts: 1,670

Perhaps it's believing in something greater than self.

The I am, that I am. 

There's two on the one horse, the divine I Am and the ever-fallable redeemable self.  They both make the one journey together.

From a lyric: "I'm tired of hearing, It's the end! It's the end!  Making everybody pay again and again.  Well, let's get one thing straigt my friend, I didn't come just to die, I kinda doubt you did either, for this call be a believer!" 

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7 years ago  ::  Apr 28, 2011 - 9:41PM #3
Posts: 1,795

IMO there is no need to end theism, just the unsubstatiated claims about what God is.  We really do not need a "supernatural" creator as the universe and the natural laws that operate in it are enough to explain phenomena, but there is our sense of something that ties all things together - which is the source of our religious / spiritual awe.  We rightfully call that "God".  Where we stray epistemologically IMO is when we try to specify exactly what that is.  In fact God may not be one thing, but many things.

I experience God as a person, when I think of Christ, or am moved by the graceousness of another person.  I experience God as love, when I encounter God in another person.  Yet I am reluctant to infer more about God from these experiences.  I do not believe it is necessary, and it can also be problematic.

I am also reluctant to petition God for myself, but will pray for another person - especially in communal worship.  I do not know why but it seems more appropriate to pray, as in sharing in the struggle / challenge of the individual we are praying for.

I know this is an old thread, but the subject is very relevant for me now.

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