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Spirituality for the Skeptic




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GOD'S EVIL PASSAGES IN SCRIPTURE:

IS GOD GOOD OR EVIL? 

Those intimately acquainted with the Hebrew ("Old") Testament continually run into a perplexing problem.  If God is supposed to be all good, why do we find passages where God commands and performs heinous acts, often mass slaughter, of  human beings? 
 
God's commands like the following are quite common: "Now go and attack Amalek and utterly destroy all they have and do not spare them. Kill both man and women, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey."(1 Sam. 15:3)   (See also: Deut.2:30-35, 7:1-2, 7:16;  Josh.6:21;  1Sam.6:19;  Jer.13:14)   God would even go so far as to "harden the hearts or souls" of the intended victims to provoke a reason to attack them. (Exod.4:21;  Deut.30:31)
 
If such savage aggression to others is not bad enough, God would also turn on his own people if they disobeyed, or sometimes on pure whim!  Exodus 4: 24-25 has God lurking in the desert waiting to kill Moses for no known reason!  Moses' wife's circumcising his son then pacifies  God.(??!!)  I believe this was the botched remnant of a myth depicting the first practice of circumcision among the Hebrews.
 
But how do we explain away God's commanding his people to stone to death their dearest friends, their brothers, even their own children if they show curiosity about other gods? (Deut 13:6-11)   How about:"So says the Lord: 'Behold, I frame evil against you and divise against you...'"(Jer 18:11)  How can this dark side of God be explained?
 
THE SOURCE OF DIVINE EVIL:
 
The earliest Hebrew writings depicted no Devil or Demon of evil.  ("the Satan" then was just God's errand boy.)  Once polytheism was routed, God remained the sole Deity who was above good and evil, and the enactor of both. "No evil in this city is without God's will. "(Amos 3:6)  " I make peace and I create evil. I the Lord do all these things."(Is. 45:7)  "Out of the most high precedes both evil and good."(Lam. 3:38)   How do we reconcile a God who is supposed all good with being the enactor of evil as well?
 
First of all we must stop envisioning God literally as some Super Person in the sky with a mind like our own.  We must periodically remind ourselves that the Bible is written in verse complete with all the imagery, metaphor and literary license poetry commands.  The Bible itself periodically does that for us in the following passages:
 
To even attempt to look upon  the tremendous power of YWYH could mean instant death. (Exod. 33:20)  Isaiah 42:8 states God will not share glory with images.  Isaiah 44:20-40 and Psalms 115:4-8 state any images of God created by man are falsehoods.  John 1:18 states human eyes have never seen God.  John 5: 37 states you have never heard the voice or seen the shape of God.  1John 5:21 says to guard yourself from idols.  1Timothy 6:16 states no man has seen or can see God.
 
So what we are dealing with in Scripture is an ancient human depiction of an all mighty power the writers themselves could not understand, and from which they tried to reconcile good and evil.  The Kabbalah depicts the primordial Godhead as containing both good and evil, which separated out as this horrendous creative power unfolded into creation and finally into humankind.
 
We now know the universe contains both law and chaos.  From  unspeakable devastation and chaos creation occurred.  Our earth was finally formed as a sphere of molten lava, lightning streaked poison gasses, and exploding meteorites. Nothing indeed could gaze upon such power and live.  But the power subdued itself to form life.  And it then impartially rained and shined on the good and bad alike.  The only emerging creatures who could willfully sin were human beings. They then through religion paid homage to the power that created them.
 
Writers of Scripture were often inspired by seeking their source of creation in the profoundest depths of their being.  In so doing some tapped into that source to find magnanimous love and compassion for their fellow beings.  Hence we have the universal Golden Rule expounded by saints and sages of all great religions.  However,  some instead tapped into the dark side of humanity wherein lurks vengeance, power-lust, jealously, and greed.  All this - the good and the bad - they projected onto the Power that created them. 
 
Those of us who adopt the dark side of Scripture to justify our own paranoia, bigotry, and hate only hasten the route to the Armageddon of man's collective evil in this shrinking world. Those who tap into the Scriptural strain revealing love and benevolence beyond the bounds of clan, tribe, and nation are now the only hope for humankind.  The all mighty power will not interject.  It now seems entirely up to us.  So let us instead tap into the profounder source of benevolence beneath the humanly conceived specters of evil.

SOURCE OF BENEVOLENCE IN HEBREW BIBLE:

Lest we think the Hebrew Bible contains mostly malevolent acts of God, we should understand it is also the original source of benevolent passages in the New Testament.  Loving your neighbor as yourself originated in Exodus 23:9 and Deuteronomy 6:4. Mercy on your enemy is first found in Proverbs 24:17 and 25:21-22.  Blessed be the meek originates in Proverbs 29:23.  So as stated in Psalms 34:14: "Depart form evil and do good.  Seek ye peace and pursue it...."

 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

THE PROBLEM OF EVIL

THE BOOK OF THOMAS THE DOUBTER


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