Tag Archives: forgiveness

My Problem with Your God 4 – Sin

Sin is a very peculiar notion when you really examine it. Sin is often considered to be the infraction, or breaking, of moral code of the Abrahamic faiths. This is not entirely correct, because, as we have seen in previous chapters, faith is not a precondition for, or guarantor of, good moral conduct, and also because sin is not really about morality. Sin, in the religions descendant from the would-be filicide, is the denial of the god-head or the commandments ascribed to it; to ‘sin’ is to break the ‘law of God’. Sin was not conceived as a moral concept but a legal term. Almost all established religions see their adherents as being legally bound to believing in their peculiar brand of fantasy, and to break their rules is to be sinful. So, everyone in the world lives in sin, according to the doctrines of someone else, and has done for thousands of years, not because they are immoral, but because they do not accept the rules of a given, opposing, religious organisation. So only those who believe can be without sin, but everyone lives in sin according to someone else. But then the Christian faith masterfully tricks its own adherents into making them sinful too, providing a reason for, and perpetuating the necessity of, its own existence. The unfaithful live in sin, the faithful are born into sin, and the Church alone can absolve sin. It has managed to screw over its own believers and make them thankful for it. Which is, you must admit, a wicked stroke of genius.

Where did sin come from? Apparently, from eating a fruit.Adam and Eve The fable of the Garden of Eden is, aside from never having actually happened, a strange and exceptionally unfair event. Adam and Eve were told not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge by God. As I understand it, Adam and Eve were complete innocents; they had no knowledge of Good or Evil, Right or Wrong, and would therefore have no concept of punishment. God gives them one rule not to break, doesn’t tell them why, or what the consequences would be if they did break it. This God character made Man, or so I’m told. I’ve noticed that humans tend to be very curious, and their children are even more so, which is an important point to make considering Adam and Eve’s unique purity of personality. God tells these curious creatures to do anything they want except for one thing, and he doesn’t even put up a sign, or a fence, around the forbidden tree. I mean, that fruit was begging to plucked, and God seems to have stacked the odds in favour of this happening. Maybe if he had explained, if he’d shown them how awful the outside world was they might not have eaten the fruit. And sure, you could blame the snake, but God, in his infinite wisdom, made that too, right? Either the entire situation is all part of God’s sick and twisted plan, or whoever made this story up either never heard of ‘plot-holes’, or had a pretty gullible audience. Later this God fellow wrote down some rules for a tiny minority of the people he populated the world with. He wrote them on two stone tablets, according to Moses who was alone at the top of a mountain with no-one else around, who then smashed them, but these were conveniently replaced later by God, not unlike the tale of a certain Joseph Smith… Anyway… Breaking these rules was ‘sinful’. Christianity later put a unique twist on this whole ‘sin’ thing, possibly because Jesus died on the cross, as some kind of ultimate blood-sacrifice to a vengeful God. The carpenter died for the sins of all mankind, but only the faithful can take advantage of this delightful gift, because if you don’t believe you get to go to hell instead. So, the burden of a Christian is not really the guilt of sin, but the guilt of letting somebody else suffer for it, and the fact that you let this wood-cutting saviour down every day by being weak, and by committing the sins he saved you from. And if you atone for your sins you get to go to Disneyland. Or Heaven. I’m not entirely sure which; while they are both magical places of fantasy, one is an exclusive resort for a small minority of people, an illusory island of ephemeral dreams which the huddled masses of a cold, harsh world aspire to visit, and the other is Disneyland. Either way, everyone else gets to burn and suffer in Hell for all time. For all time. Wouldn’t that make Heaven suck? What if you got to go, but someone you knew or loved didn’t. Or even people you didn’t know? Burning for all eternity, while you eat ice-cream with the angles. Unless you didn’t have a conscience, or any sense of ethics, which would make you a soulless bastard, in which case you wouldn’t be in Heaven anyway. Is part of the deal that you forget about everyone else, or are you to be so content in Heaven that you don’t care? Or was it designed to appeal to sadists who want people to be tortured for eternity? Heaven must be a very lonely place, or full of lobotomised saints. Yes, this is a perfectly reasonable doctrine to believe in. Absolutely. One hundred and ten per cent.

So if Jesus died for the sins of Man, aren’t Christians, or even all humanity, off the hook for all the sins they have or will commit? And since Jesus was a Jew, and his big idea was, basically, “forgiveness; for anyone, all the time, any time”, and when he was dying on the cross he asked God to forgive his crucifiers, wouldn’t he forgive all the Jews and Gentiles who didn’t believe in his Revelation and allow them into Heaven too? And speaking of the New Revelation, why do Christians even bother with the Old Testament as much as they do, surely they should focus on the teachings of their so-called ‘Saviour’? Why do they cling to Ten Commandments when he distilled them into two? Better marketing? Was it maybe because most Christians for the first few hundred years of the existence of the new faith were actually still Jews, members of a radical new cult, a new law within an ancient faith? Christians didn’t really have any good framework for sin until Augustine in the fifth century, but his writings could prove whatever you wanted depending on how you read it, so the Church had to wait for the theological master that was Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century to clarify matters. The Catholic idea of sin, and that of its descendants, is not really based on the teachings of its superhero, but on the notions of a monk writing in an age of failed crusades and terrible setbacks for his faith. It was also the age of the genesis of the Renaissance, the very first steps were being taken towards a new paradigm.

Sins are a set of proscriptions devised by religions, the rules of the club. The privileged position Christianity in the history of the Western World has allowed for these rules to be misconstrued with morality, and immorality with sin. It might be both immoral and sinful to be a glutton when so many of the planet’s children go hungry, but it is only sinful to be gay, it is not immoral. It is immoral to kill people based on their faith, but strangely, not sinful; it is even seen as holy by some. Many faiths have denounced as sinful eating certain foods, drinking specific beverages, wearing stylish clothes, and even not growing your hair a certain way. Yes, that is right, the all-loving, all-knowing, all-merciful God, who made everyone in his image, will condemn you to Hell if you eat pork, and wear short skirts (especially if you are a man), but will love you more if you have a beard or curls. This makes perfect sense. An all-loving God damned you to be born in sin, damned you to live in sin, and if you don’t stop being sinful, and, well let’s face it, being human, you will go to Hell to be punished, because you broke a set of rules set down by an omnipotent God. Surely he would have known in advance that someone would commit these sins, and that maybe, since it is a loving and compassionate deity, try to stop them? Does he want people to go to hell? Did he fix the game in advance so his pawns can’t help but lose? And why make a world where it was so easy to sin in the first place? How do the faithful not look at the world, and wonder about what they have been taught? They make claims that God is testing their faith. Surely he’d know how faithful you were, what with him being omnipotent and stuff? Is faith the greatest mass hysteria ever? You can’t pick and choose what your delusion did and didn’t do; either the spirit in the sky is all-powerful and created everything, or it didn’t. If the former is true, what kind of perverse fantasy is that? It must have created sin too, and so, in some fashion, must know what it is to sin. To know ‘sin’ one must have sinned. Is God a sinner? A voyeur watching every decadent breath humans make, ever gleeful at each sexual desire which condemns another soul to Hell? Can God go to Hell? Of course he can; something that doesn’t exist can go anywhere that also doesn’t exist. God is Hell, an answer based on ignorance, designed to instill and propagate ignorance.

If we return to the fable of the Garden, we find an instrumental piece ofAdam and Eve Expelled evidence as to why religions are so determined to be powerful and dogmatic. The tree the fruit comes from is the Tree of Knowledge. What was this knowledge they were not allowed to know? Good and Evil. What a weird thing not to tell your creations about. Adam could have been going around the garden beating bunnies to a mushy pulp, and pissing on ants, while Eve ran with scissors and played with matches (luckily they hadn’t invented sex yet, or Adam might have done worse things). Without any concept of Good or Evil any, and every, deed or thought is legitimate. Had God asked Adam to commit genocide before the fruit debacle he may well have happily complied, and slaughtered anyone who he laid eyes on.  But that is the kind of blind obedience that God (and all religion) wants, just ask Abraham, or better yet, Isaac. God wanted a docile servant, a gardener – “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it,” Genesis 2:15. And he forbade his gardener to Know, because in knowing stuff the gardener might want a better life, he might want to be rewarded for his labours. Maybe Eve was the first Marxist, throwing off the shackles of God’s imperialist tyranny in favour of the down-trodden worker. Two things which religions hate; socialism and knowledge. People working together for the greater good without any need or desire for the babblings of a closeted, self-proclaimed elite, and information that is not controlled or diluted by that same self-aggrandising fetid swamp of intellectual abortion. Knowing is a sin, this is what we learn from the Bible. Religion would have us be ignorant slaves of God, happy with whatever the great sky-god gives us. What an abhorrent ideology. Of course most believers will say that they don’t believe in this part of their religion, just like how they think that homosexuals are not actually sinful. But they support their religion, most implicitly by simply ticking boxes, not speaking out, allowing the madness to continue. The Catholic Church, among many other religions, condemns homosexuality, among many, many other perfectly reasonable and normal things. Others deny evolution. Others think that blowing yourself, and innocents, up is a fabulous idea. These are all symptoms of the same delusion. Sin plays a large role in all faiths, it is what motivates them. Their adherents seek redemption, some through prayer, others through explosives.

What is sacred? Human life, its dignity and freedom, and the pursuit of knowledge for the improvement of human life. What, then, is sin? Impeding individual freedom and education, proscribing forms of healthcare and scientific advancement, and wilfully ignoring justice for the benefit of an institution too big to fail, with far too much invested in the promise of an afterlife. Religion is, then, the greatest single sin humanity has ever committed. The faithful must repent, and change their ways, and we must forgive them so we can all move on to better things. They must leave the delusion and join the real world. Our dogma is truth, innovation and reason, not lies, tradition and blind faith. We believe in the responsibility of Man, not in the will of a fantasy. We must purge the world of this sin, and its immoral perpetuators, and consign religion to a brief, and cautionary, chapter in the history of humanity.

Ceterum autem censeo, religionem esse delendam

My Problem with Your God 3 – Responsibility and Forgiveness

God said unto Abraham, “Go, and kill your son, your only son, whom IAbraham and Isaac know you love dearly. Cut his throat and burn his body. I want you to prove that you are absolutely terrified of me, and will obey me no matter what.” Abraham went and did as the Lord said, and just as he was about to strike, an angel appeared and said “God is happy that you are willing to sacrifice everything for him, because, oddly for a supreme being who can do anything and knows everything, he wasn’t really sure if you were truly serious about worshiping him, so you don’t have to kill your son.” Abraham, wracked with guilt for almost murdering his son to satisfy the voices in the sky, but still too afraid to disobey said, “Thanks.” God was so happy about this little episode that he told Abraham, “Since you are so completely loyal to me I will reward you. Your children will be many and they will conquer the whole world in my name. Which isn’t really much of a reward for you, but a great service to me. Oh, and you’ll have two sons, who will each become figureheads for different religions, the most fervent members of which will kill each other mercilessly for centuries in my name. Isn’t that great?” Abraham, really hoping that attempted filicide would not damage his young son’s fragile mind, said nothing and went home.[1]

A complete submission to the will of god or gods is usually an article of faith in most religions. This particular episode is the basis for complete obedience to God in the religions which claim Abraham as their ancestors. Jesus developed on this notion when he told his followers to abandon, to hate, their families and friends, and listen to his interpretation of the will of God alone.[2] Which is not at all similar to what cult leaders tell their followers nowadays. The word ‘Islam’ literally means ‘submission’. Faith in the ineffable plan of a supreme divinity, submission to its will over that of personal common sense and reason, and the belief that all events occur by its sole design leads, inevitably, to the relinquishing of free will and individual responsibility. If a person sincerely believes in ‘God’ and that ‘He’ guides their lives in every minute detail, their actions are not their own; they bear no responsibility for their deeds or misdeeds. It is all part of ‘God’s plan’. This has had many very interesting consequences. Many who are wealthy (often American evangelicals) believe that their prosperity is a reward for their absolute faith in God. Consequently, those who are poor are being punished by the very same God – which is ironic considering their personal saviour’s views on such things – and are therefore not really worthy of being helped, and should ‘help themselves’.

Many Catholics will say that they are more rational than these more extreme brands of Christians, that they do not believe that their deity involves itself in the incidental details of their lives. It merely offers guidance and solace, encourages its adherents to do good things and refrain from doing ill. But it still knows what everyone does and will do.[3] Your fate is always in its hands. Individual freedom and responsibility is transferred to the god-head which can do no wrong. Yet the faithful continuously implore their deity to change its plan in human vanity and arrogance. They sit in churches and beg it to improve their lives, or to thank it for its benefice and mercy. Any events that transpire, for their benefit or misfortune, are due to its will, not theirs. Cries of “Deus volt” (God wills it) inspired the CrusadesPope Urban II, and victory confirmed His divine consent for their actions. To attack these people is unfair; religion and faith physically shaped their world in a fashion it no longer does, and they had no alternative explanation, such as science. Faith was their only choice, but they do provide an interesting example of blind faith in God’s hand. This was not an isolated incident. Watch interviews with soldiers returning from the Middle East and it can often be found that they believe that they are doing God’s work, that God protected them, and that their actions are sanctioned by God and country (an interesting development of the American belief in a divinely ordained Manifest Destiny).

There is no real need for the faithful to act responsibly; everything is in the hands of their god. Global warming is not their problem as they drive to mass to save their souls, and damn the planet. They will happily give money to charity when a disaster strikes some part of the world, but long-term aid efforts, the enforcing of democracy, ensuring the rights and education of women, children and minorities in disadvantaged parts of their own and others’ nations are not their problem. Intermittent and fleeting charity is useless charity. Religious aid is often contingent on accepting the faith of the would-be doers-of-good. Conditional charity is not charity. Charity is responsibility neglected. It is a piecemeal placation to assuage feelings of guilt. The Faithful and the Reasonable alike are culpable for the misfortunes of the World, but the Reasonable have no deity to hide behind, they accept their faults as their own. The Faithful say change will come with the help of God, which is no help at all. Change will come when all humanity takes responsibility for individual, national and global actions, no longer seeking the comfort and concessions of a figment of the imagination. God will always forgive His flock, how could he not? He is their tool, their conceit, their delusion.

The forgiveness of sins by God has to be one of the greatest, if often overlooked, innovations of Christianity.[4] Other faiths do demand that the faithful seek the forgiveness of others for their infractions, at which point the supreme judge will confirm the act and offer its concession. This requires the offending party to approach the offended. This is a perfectly reasonable and laudable practice, co-opted as a tenet of faith, clearly evolved form the practicalities of living in small communities which needed peace and cooperation to survive. An injury, physical, emotional or verbal, incurred by a person would demand, in a world without the facility to forgive, either a very high degree of forgetfulness or perpetual cycles of revenge. Christianity made a bold and brilliant adjustment to this custom. A Christian only has to repent and seek the forgiveness of God. They do not in fact need to approach whomever they have transgressed. The need only forgive, and assume they are forgiven by, others to receive the consent of their personal illusion. By seeking forgiveness from the arbiter rather than the affronted Christians have surrendered the responsibility for absolution in one dazzling move. They do not have to embarrass or humble themselves, make others aware of their failings and misdeeds, to wipe their slate clean of sin. The forgiveness of their imagination is good enough.

Lets us examine for a moment, in a simplified fashion, the rules, so to speak, of forgiveness. A reasonable person might assume the following: Some action has occurred which breaks the social or personal contract between two individuals. Forgiveness is sought by the offender for the restoration of trust in the hope of repairing and continuing the relationship. The offended must believe that the offender is truly repentant for trust to be restored. If they do believe the sincerity of the offender, forgiveness is delivered, the transgression is forgotten, and the contract is restored. This is clearly not a unilateral affair, and requires the assent of both parties to repent and forgive. Forgiveness cannot be given unless it is sought. Christianity has corrupted this process such that an individual need not seek the forgiveness of the offended, and is required by faith to forgive others, even if they do not seek forgiveness. This bizarre situation leads to everyone forever seeking forgiveness from their deity while at the same time forgiving everyone else to please that same voice in the sky. Everyone is free from blame and responsibility. To make up for this imbalance penitence was invented, punishment for the sins committed, almost as if the faithful do not believe that the forgiveness of their personal saviour is good enough. Sycophantic self-flagellation is preferred to responsible admittance of culpability. Of course only God can forgive an individual’s transgression against His laws, which has the same effect as saying sorry to Santa for being a naughty child, but Christians use this very same formula for all sins and misdeeds.

Between people, forgiveness is the forsaken of the right to avenge injustice and injury. Forgiveness is a gift which allows us to move forward in life without regret (or at least a lesser regret), or fear of reprisal. In this fashion it is a very important and entirely gratuitous gift. Institutional forgiveness, the ability to forgive accorded to the Christian Churches by God, is not such a gift. Indeed the ritual and sacrament which involves the removal of sin may not necessarily be called ‘forgiveness’, and may only be ‘leniency’ due to a failing of understanding and misuse of language. In any event, the penitent believe, and are taught, that they are receiving the forgiveness of God for their actions. Belief is of course fundamental to religion, and they hold true what they believe. In their minds, God does forgive them personally. And so they submit to a certain degree of punishment, penance for their sins, to show they accept their fault in the wrongdoing, to learn not to repeat it in future, and to illustrate their faith. Religious forgiveness is thus inherently bound to some form of punishment, however severe or gentle, while forgiveness between people takes an alternative path and forgives without punishing. An offender seeks forgiveness from the offended so that their relationship will continue, but the offended may also seek ‘forgiveness’ from the Church and God so that they may continue to enjoy the services and benefits of the institution and the spiritual renewal of being redeemed before the eyes of her Lord.

Responsibility is the burden of an adult. It is a consequence of freedom and reason, two ideals which people have fought and died in the defence of for several centuries. They are arguably humanity’s greatest intellectual achievements. And the faithful would surrender them to fantasy. Forgiveness and repentance are the sole property and right of responsible people and should not be entrusted to a fiction.

“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”

-George Bernard Shaw

Ceterum autem censeo, religionem esse delendam

[1] Genesis 22:1-19. This is a summary of what occurred in plain English.

[2] Luke 14:25-33.

[3] Jeremiah 10:23; “O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps”, and Acts 1:7; “And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.”

[4] Matthew 6:14-15; For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.