Why the World Needs Religious Hypocrites. ~ James Dziezynski

Via on Mar 31, 2013

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Love offsets the distress of our own fragile mortality.

Imagine the baffled reactions of ancient individuals upon hearing the passage of Leviticus where they are firmly instructed to eat their own children should they disobey God:

“If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over. You will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters.” (Lev. 26:27 – 30).

In a sparsely literate world, even the highly superstitious may have wondered, “Did I hear that right? Eat my children? Are you sure you’re reading that the right way?”

It is a daunting threat, no less mitigated by the fact that people didn’t have a cheat sheet citing the enormous list of actions that would displease an already angry God (if they did, they probably couldn’t read it).

The direct promise that “I myself will punish you for your sins” is the Hebraic version of “Don’t make me come down there and make you eat your children! I mean it!”

Early Jews and Christians were quick to shun their child-eating responsibilities for good reason—it’s a fully absurd and challenging command to follow.

There were plenty of other rules to piously abide by to please God. Plus there’s a good chance if you have full-grown children, they might be resistant to lopping off a parcel of their hide for dinner.

All major Abrahamic faiths purport their scriptures to be perfect holy books that are the unchallengeable word of God (or Yahweh, or Allah or Bahá’u’lláh). Yet, even those Swedish masterminds at IKEA couldn’t have crafted a more confusing instruction manual.

Biblical scholar Professor Bart Ehrman notes that there are more organized sects of the Christian faith than there are words in the Bible (roughly 774,746, give or take a few depending on your translation). The obvious lack of clarity has lent itself to countless interpretations, ranging from the viciously cruel to the sincerely charitable.

With apologies to IKEA, getting into arguments with persons of faith over these more offensive passages is beating a dead horse. It is a tiresome exercise to ask why, for example, those who declare themselves followers of a biblical faith ignore the child eating dictum but proudly cite (accurately) the many passages where God decrees homosexuality to be an especially heinous sin (Lev. 18:22, Lev. 20:13, 1 Cor. 6:9-10, Rom. 1:26-28 if you’d like some extracurricular reading from both Old and New Testaments).

I’d rather people don’t eat their children.

Likewise, I’d rather homosexual people be treated with full equality and respect, with the same legal rights as heterosexual individuals.

As a secular atheist I can do this without any nagging echoes that I may be displeasing some cosmic being in the sky. I’m glad that people ignore the child-eating command, much like they blow off biblical orders to avoid tattoos, to not wear mixed fiber clothing, not eat shellfish or in many cases, be a woman.

I encourage this brand of progressive religious thinking and wish that it would widen out to a larger, more compassionate circle when human equality and dignity are concerned.

Being human is hard work. We need to nourish and sustain our bodies, we need to find productive means to sustain our expenses and we are subject to a complicated world whose mechanics we barely understand.

In the mix of all this, we have to learn to tolerate and evaluate our differences. Being able to bond freely with whomever we wish (be it a man or woman, a dog, a knitting group, whatever) is not just a coping mechanism; it is a necessary expression of love that connects us in intimate ways.

Like the baffling reality of our own existence, the laws of affection are equally as mystifying. Love offsets the distress of our own fragile mortality, redefining this unknown chemistry as a place of comfort and security.

And this is why I encourage religious hypocrisy, especially when it eases the burden of human existence for any oppressed individual or group.

Nearly all people of any given faith do not uncover their religion through deep study or personal revelation. Most are branded with religion from a young age from elders who otherwise supply a steady dose of love, encouragement and support.

It is unfair to expect a child to doubt those who shape their young world. The fearful hatred blended within a message of hope and redemption is an ugly seed that is easily pruned in adulthood.

Over thousands of years, it may be noted that God has done very little to follow up on his bluff to punish those who don’t eat their children. In fact, it looks like he’s been laying low for at least 20 centuries now, which really doesn’t do much for his credibility. Maybe he’s just busy doing other things.

The numerous divisions of religious groups gives plenty of wiggle room to be a decent human being and still retain a religious identity.

There will always be some people who simply cannot be reached, and this is an unfortunate effect of the potency of faith. However, many religious folks are very good people with good hearts and kind values—and I suspect, reluctant oppressors.

Biological evolution and religious doctrine both have proven that change for the best is a good thing, as evidenced by the fact the majority of human parents opt not to eat their progeny.

Removing oneself as an obstacle to human dignity is a bold and compassionate gesture. Like so many directives in scripture deemed unworthy of a loving deity (such as feasting on your children), defiance of cruel and unjust directives ennobles the individual and elevates the faith—all while easing the burden of another.

 

James-DziezynskiJames Dziezynski is a professional author and writer from Boulder, Colorado. You can follow him on Twitter (James_DZ), Facebook (www.facebook.com/jamesdziezynski) and on his own website at www.mountainouswords.com/mountain-air.

 

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Ed: Stephanie V. & Brianna B.

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One Response to “Why the World Needs Religious Hypocrites. ~ James Dziezynski”

  1. Rob Lagerstrom says:

    I totally agree with you, mostly. Many people see the God of the Old Testament as a God of wrath and the God of the New testament (as viewed through the persona of Jesus) as a God of Love. The contrast between the two sends many people into confusion, therefore rejection of Christianity as a legitimate spiritual pursuit.

    The Bible is meant to be a complete book but made up of many books written by many authors over a hundreds if not thousands of years. The beauty of it is if taken as a complete set of work it has amazing continuity of message and purpose. Taken out of context, it is a lot of conflicting gibberish.

    I think you have a good grasp of the context and meaning of the entire Bible. You have obviously spent more time than most to learn about it in an effort to discern whether it has meaning and relevance to people’s live’s today or not. Yet, like most people (including myself) you will pick out a passage to pick on or hold fast to (like someone will pick up a rock from a mountain and call it the mountain). It is especially easy to find passages in the Old Testament to hold up for critical examination (just look at the current conflict about same sex marriage passages)

    Even thought the two Testaments are wed as one (no, don’t get going on the homo-marriage thing again) , the New Testament (I believe) is meant to start a new chapter in God’s relationship to man. As mankind grew up and evolved spiritually and mentally, so did God’s relationship and communication with man. You don’t talk to a 5 year old like you do a 40 year old. So, I take the Old Testament’s weird and archaic rights and rituals with a grain of salt. God does not change. He is still the loving Father with semi-infinite patience. But even God has a limit.

    So when He got to the point of telling the Israeilites that even after delivering them from Egypt, guiding them (like corralling a herd of cats) for 40 years across the desert, listening to them complain even as he fed and protected them until they finally stumbled unto the promised land, that He was sick and tired of them dissing Him that he would actually get angry enough to allow their enemies to besiege them to the point where they would get so desperate and hungry they would eat their own children. Well, I kinda understand why God would need to instill some “fear of God” into those bratty, ungrateful snotty nosed kids.

    As mankind grew and evolved spiritually and mentally God decided we were ready for a new way of relating to Him and He with us so the era of Jesus came into being. You don’t talk to a 5 yr. old the same as a 25 yr. old.

    Jesus lived His life as an example of how we could live a joyful life ourselves. He preached the same. Jesus was not a voice in the sky. He was a real man who loved and laughed and cried and suffered just like all of us do. His words and actions 2,000 years ago are just as relevant today. Joy is not luxury and happiness. Joy is living in harmony with the Earth and each other (even if many others want to force us eat our own children)

    God’s anger at the Israelites in Leviticus was not to force them to eat their own children if the turned their backs on Him. It was more a prediction of what desperate measures they would inflict upon themselves out of desperation by choosing to reject His love, blessings and very importantly, His protection.

    A few days ago one of the very few Christian pastor’s I agree with made an interesting quote that seems to sum up what I think about Jesus and what James D. does too.
    This is in the article:
    http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/10-challenges-facing-us-next-decade

    Even though I do not agree with many of the pastor’s quoted, I think Shane’s answer to #6 is right on the money. Here is a sentence from the answer:

    6. We’ll need to push beyond conventional categories to engage the rise of the “nones.”

    Shane Hipps- “They will see the life and teachings of Jesus not as religious or even spiritual in nature, but rather as fundamentally human.

    10 Challenges Facing Us in the Next Decade
    http://www.relevantmagazine.com

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