Thursday, April 16, 2009

Be Grillin' Tonight!

The word Sacrifice occurs 166 times in 157 verses in the Bible (NIV) and I'm sure the word was used in a handful of ways but mainly as animal sacrifice to God. As my professor, Rabbi Rami once said, "God sure loves the smell of barbecue." I think, or at least I hope, God is a vegetarian now, although he wasn't always. At one point he had his priests grill for him from sunrise to sunset, until he got sick of it. But why does God need sacrifice before he can forgive us? Is it just a symbolic gesture that reminds us of our sinful nature? Is sin so powerful that we can not approach God without bringing a plate of barbecue (OT animal sacrifice/NT human sacrifice)?

[Brazen Altar, Published about 1904 for author Rev. Hurlbut.]

So let's take this one step at a time.
  1. Adam and Eve screwed up big time by eating from God's tree (The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil).
  2. This screw up was so big that all of their descendants were damned to mortality.
  3. To rectify this problem God said that our sins will be forgiven but we have to give Him something in return: blood (there were other things offered along with animal sacrifice).
  4. After centuries of animal sacrifice God got his fill of barbecue, but still required one last life to be taken as the perfect sacrifice: Himself (that is if you believe in the Trinity).
  5. Through this last and perfect sacrifice all humanity is brought back to God and will return us, in a sense, to the Edenic state.
But why sacrifice? Well because of sin (disobeying God) something HAS to die, including damnation of the soul. There is no direct link to God, at least in Christianity, without going through an intermediary, Jesus. It is through this perfect sacrifice that we can reconnect with God, but there remains the issue of Death. Something has to die for us to even approach God, but my burning question is why can't we approach God on our own? No intermediary, no death, no barbecue, just the sinner approaching the Judge's bench. Some would say that God is too holy to be approached directly. Sure, why not. But why can't God forgive us without sacrifice? Is it because it goes against the rules God set up so His hands are tied?

God: "Sorry, but this is a BYOB (Bring Your Own Barbecue) Party. If you don't bring the Meat, you're gonna feel the Heat."

The whole idea of offering a sacrifice to the gods was THE way to appease the gods. It was a lower consciousness form of worship that is directly related to how they understood the world around them. To us it may seem primitive, and I hesitate to us such a negative word, but I think sacrifice was an intriguing tool in an attempt to appease the gods during their time. When something happened in the weather or nature they believed it was guided by a particular god, and if the gods are happy they will make you prosperous. This is how most, if not all, cultures including the ancient Israelites interacted with the Divine.

If mankind has outgrown offering sacrifice to the gods does that mean that God has outgrown it as well? Yes, because I believe that our perception of God and our perception of the world around us are linked. Karen Armstrong's A History of God describes the evolution of our perception of our monotheistic God which also parallels mankind's progress. As humanity progressed our ideas and concepts of God changed, grew, and evolved. Some have even stated that we don't need God anymore because we have evolved to a point where we have the knowledge, technology, and the global interconnectedness to bring an end to, or at least drastically reduce, some forms of suffering. In a sense this is true, but I don't think humanity is ready to let go of God's hand and might never be ready. The relationship between man and the Divine might always be necessary but may also continue to change in form and practice has humanity progresses.

Personally I don't believe that the image of the bloodthirsty God of the Bible properly describes God's true nature. The Old Testament, Fire and Brimstone God was molded into a reflection of man's own violent image. I believe that the true image of God, the Loving, Compassionate, and Just God can be found scattered throughout the Bible and indeed other holy texts. If God is truly Loving, Compassionate, and Just, and if He wants the same from us, then we must let go of our image of the old bloodthirsty God, shut off the grill, and become living embodiments of these Godly traits. This is extremely difficult for many people as it was for me. Our individual perception of reality (including our perception of God) is tied to our ego, and any attempts to change or remove it is difficult depending on the belief. If you believe that the Bible is the inerrant infallible word of God and you read most, if not all, verses as literal then the attempt to change how you view God would be extremely difficult.

I believe leaving behind an image of a God that demands sacrifice is needed to becoming Loving, Merciful, and Just people. This is what works for me and may not work for you, but if our different beliefs help us to become better people then let us continue down our individual paths while always seeking brotherhood. Our differences should not matter if our goal is truly the same, and beneath the layers of tribalism and ego is a universal force that is constantly reminding us of our shared humanity.

3 comments:

Ben said...

Eruesso,

As always it is a pleasure to stop by & read your blog. In your last few posts, you have expressed your disbelief in God as presented in the Bible. I understand & totally respect your views, but at the same time I am a little confused by them.

For example: You talk about how religion should make us better towards our fellow man, and I agree 100%. But by what standard do we say what is right and what is wrong? If we use man's standard, how can we know "man" is right? If there is no God, there are no absolute rights or absolute wrongs. Everything is subjective. If a God exists, however, logic would dictate that God's rules should be followed over man's, if God indeed has contacted man in history to dictate these moral laws (which the main monothestic religions of the world indicate). I see in the Bible that God says exactly what you say, we should be good because it is right, and the laws given in the bible give us a clear standard of what "right" means, and also let us know what happens if we choose evil. Jesus taught the 2 most important commands are to "love God" and to "love thy neighbor."

This is similar to laws in our government. We shouldn't drive the speed limit because we are punished for it if we don't, we should do it because it is the safe thing to do. But there must be a punishiment if we choose to disobey this law, to ensure that the law is enforced. Like this, God wants us to be good because it is right not because he enjoys punishing us, but he enforces laws to ensure the world stays this way for the greater good (and so it doesn't end up like Hitler or Stalin would like).

You keep using a lot of atheists arguments that I hear all the time, "God is a killer, God is evil, the sacrifice thing, etc." I feel like all of these arguments are taken a little out of context, because, for example, we see that many verses indicate sacrifice has never pleased God, and that he doesn't even require it in so many instances in the bible (like with Jonah). It was more of a symbolic way to show an outward expression of your "repentence." Even in Judaism, if you couldn't afford a sacrifice, God didn't care & you could use flour instead of a ram, etc. It isn't about blood & guts, it is about showing that you repent, and making a public or outward declaration to God. Instead of just saying "sorry," they would "SHOW" they were sorry.

And you also said that the bible is an honest attempt by man to explain God. I somewhat disagree with this. If the bible/religious texts are not really God's laws, and it was a bunch of men making this up-- thinking in their heads God was talking (and he really wasn't), then it is nothing short of complete & utter insanity. Yet the character & intelligence of the men as presented (Moses, Jesus, the Prophets, etc) reveal not insanity but very intelligent & honest individuals with exceptional moral character & a deep belief in God. Like CS Lewis said, thinking these people were "good people" or "good moral teachers" is NOT an option. Either we can believe these men are psychopaths who were crazy & heard voices, they were liars who used "God" to deceive people, or they told the absolute truth. Saying they are "good teachers" isn't really an option they left open to us.

Also, you quote Jesus as being a person who influences you. But Jesus didn't teach us to be good people for the heck of it. He told us God himself loves us & is compassionate, and we should be the same towards others because it is the right thing to do, and God dictates this. He wasn't here to teach us to JUST be better people. He was here to reveal God, and he believed in the God of the Bible as presented by the bible, and made some pretty hefty claims. Again, either he is a lunatic, liar, or he told the truth. There is no in-between here. You could maybe say he was a nice psychopath, but he was a psychopath nonetheless.

Also, I really like your analogy about the puzzle pieces of God. I agree that we should all take a critical look at God, religious texts, different theological views, etc. and not be spoonfed a belief system. But the major world religions all believe in the God of the Abraham (Islam, Chrisitanity, Judaism). There are a massive following of 1 of these 3 religions, and without a doubt the God of the bible has the most archeological evidence, eye witness accounts, miracles, and followers than any other God in history. The world population that believes in the God of Abraham is nearly 60%, which equates to almost 4 billion people. The other main religions are Hinduism (which actually believes much of what the monothestic religions teach), and Buddhism which really doesn't emphasize a god.

Not only that but Islam, Christianity, and Judaism all agree on the "Main" theological points (there is a God, he has communicated with man, the 10 commandments, moral law, the prophets, etc). On these topics they almost agree 100%. It is on very small issues they disagree on.

I guess my point is this: If you reject God as presented in the Bible so strongly, and say that God is something different, then what consequence does that have, and how can your God ever be defined? The way I see it, your God at this point has apparently never communicated with us, may be nothing more than a "first cause" or "energy source" who cares nothing about us or does not know us personally, makes no promise of eternal life, makes no promise of a fair judgement of all evil, and has no future consequence if we disobey or reject him, etc.

If that is the true nature of God, why follow any laws at all? It won't save us, not will we likely be resurrected or live an eternal life. Why not just be a "moral" atheist? Or a "moral" agnostic? Or create a new religion altogether & re-define God.

I guess what I am trying to say is that if you reject the God of the bible as man just making stuff up about what they "believe," and God is unknowable/unknown in reality, then that God means nothing at all really. Why worship it, follow it, or believe in it? Why not just be a "good" person, and do what you want in life, so long as it doesn't hurt another person? Why not watch child porn, or have sex with parents, siblings, animals, cheat on taxes, lie when necessary, etc. if they all consent or seem to enjoy it and/or no one ever finds out? You see what I mean, and this is the exact problem I am talking about?

Again, the only problem that comes up is what is "good." Society changes what is "right" and "wrong" every year. You made the point that people shouldn't concern themselves with homosexual marriage, and should instead focus on helping others. I agree 100%. We should all be focusing on feeding the hungry, etc. Not this nonsense about allowing gays to call themselves married. I have nothing against homosexuality, if that is what they want, do it. But don't change the laws to redine a marriage.

But it is the homosexuals that push to have a marriage which is based on a religious definition historically. What follows then? Adopting young children? Having surrogates create them in test tubes so they can have children & getting donated sperm & eggs. And what about those poor children who grow up ridiculed that their parents are homosexuals (yes, kids in school are very cruel)? How can a child have a moral compass in life, when they are raised from youth being told one thing is okay by a mere human, when religious texts say otherwise? What happens when there is no longer a family unit in America & society has even more moral decay? Then the problem gets serious. Not only that, but religious extremists from Islam & other places get even more upset, and want to bomb us even more because they think all Americans behave that way, and all Americans are against God's laws.

But it isn't the religious people who make a stir to change laws, they only defend them, and they wouldn't do that if there wasn't pressure being placed to change the laws to allow homosexual marriage (which by the way descriminates agains bisexual marriage, polygamy marriage, close-kin marriages, and all other banned marriages--either suppor them all or only man & woman).

Conclusion: I love you brother, and I love your blog. I see that you are on a journey, and you are a great writer. The question I have is: Where is this journey for God going to end? The way I see it, you have 1 of 3 main endings:

1. Always believe there is a God or first cause, but reject all religious interpretation of God. Thus, you are sort of creating a new religion, or remaining somewhat atheistic or agnostic, but saying "I think there could be something there." This, in effect, changes nothing at all because you can be a good person without God anyways. To be good because there is a God, is nothing if that God can't be defined or directly quoted.

2. Reject that there is a God altogether, and join the dark side of the force (atheism). Again, this is very similar to the 1st option.

3. Conclude that if there is a God, the God of Abraham obviously has more evidence supporting him than another other "god" in history. Eventually you may accept the God with the most scientific evidence, prophecy, revelations, followers, etc (the God of Abraham), and then work our the theological doctrine which you think fits best & is supported by the most evidence (scripturally & otherwise).

Again, I totally respect your views, and I love reading your journey. But all journeys have a destination. The question is, which one will you end up choosing? The first two mean nothing, as we can all be "good people with or without God." The third one defines what "good" is, what God is, and ensures that if there is indeed a God, how to please him, what he says about us, what our future destiny is, etc.

Sorry for the tremendously long comment, lol. I would be intrigued to hear your views & thoughts.

Also, I just wonder if you have really considered other sides of many of the "atheists" agruments. Sometimes I get the impression that you really haven't seen or read a lot in the way of "apologetics," which provides a lot of scientific, archeological, and physical evidence which shows the bible to be extraordinarily accurate. Even stuff that seems silly at first glance (Noah's flood, Moses & the Red Sea, etc) actually have some pretty good explanations for them, as do almost any critical views of the bible I have ever come across.

Again, if a God created us for a reason, we would have to assume he cares about His creation, and would possibly communicate to it. Yet you seem to reject all communications as nothing more than man's own ideas.

So if God has never revealed himself, why care about God at all? If he doesn't care about us, why care about him? If he doesn't make an effort to tell us laws, why obey them? If he didn't seek us out in history, why seek him out now? He is either forever hidden & unknowable, or he has already revealed himself fully & completely. It has to be one or the other.

As always, love & peace to you friend!
Ben

Unknown said...

This is what I love about religious dialogue, so many questions! Unfortunately, when it comes to religious dialogue the best we can do is compare notes. We can both fully understand why the other believes what they believe but there is an invisible itch in humanity's soul that screams "BELIEVE LIKE ME, please?" I want to get beyond that itch and know with every ounce of my being why they believe.

I do want to answer all of these questions but I will probably get to them in the form of a series of posts over the week. I won't try to answer any in the comment section because I can go on for days but I will touch on one last thing. On apologetics, Christianity will always support Christianity and Islam will always support Islam. The individual religious systems and their supporters will never display or supply evidence for any other religious system. A Christian apologetic will never say "oh, I see, the Buddhist's are right," because then he wouldn't be a Christian apologetic anymore he'd might be a Buddhist. No preacher would say, "Muhammad was right when he said..." to his flock. Give me a few days (I've got finals coming up) and I'll get to your questions.

Peace and Blessing be upon you brother,

Eruesso

Ben said...

Thanks so much for the reply Eruesso! I completely understand about being short on time, and I wish you the best of luck during your finals.

I look forward to discussing & comparing views when you get the chance.

By the way, I completely agree with what you said about apologetics. I just wanted to clear up that I didn't mean individual theological doctrine of apologetics because, as you said, that will be subjective depending on the person you asked.

What I meant about apologetics was general apologetics to atheists arguments (regardless of which branch/denomination that provides them). For example, some try to criticize events such as Noah's ark, the Exodus, Miracles, etc. I just meant I wonder if you have really examined different views on these things to really have a completely objective view.

For example: there is a really great DVD called Exodus Decoded. You can watch on youtube as well:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-528811169418537170&ei=3yfrSYubHqTWrALRyNmNAg&q=exodus+decoded&hl=en

It offers a fresh look & new scientific evidence that supports the Exodus in Egypt. If you ever get a chance I would highly recommend it.

All I was saying is that in my own perspective, I don't really see a disconnect with science & the bible (or religion). I see them as interwoven, and neither disproves the other. I think science & archeological evidence will continue to support more biblical things in the future. And main atheists arguments should be looked at, but apologetics to those arguments should equally be examined.

Anyways, thanks so much for the follow-up, good luck on your finals, and I look forward to discussing some things soon. By the way, when we get a chance to answer some of those things, can you also discuss your views on death/afterlife. Do you believe in a consciousness after death, or only that we exist in the sense of our atoms still being here.

Thanks again, and peace & blessings upon you brother!

Ben

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