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God the Father

Father’s Day was recently and so I thought about the alleged “Holy Father” himself, God. Aside from other roles for their deity of choice, Christians also claim that their imaginary god holds the role of father.

It seems that society has changed the way we view the responsibilities of a father. It wasn’t long ago that the role of the father was to be a bread-winner and a strict disciplinarian. Fathers were expected to be distant and to provide the “tough love.” In some households those are still the roles that a father is expected to take. But in most of modern society both parents are the bread-winners and strict discipline and tough love has been replaced with nurturing understanding. While discipline is still in the household, parents no longer beat their children or whip them at the slightest sign of disobedience.

The image of God the Father on the other hand hasn’t changed. The Biblical view of God is still as the strict disciplinarian who we are all expected to obey without question or else! Or else what? Or else God will send us to Hell where we will be tortured for all eternity.

Cognitive linguist George Lakoff talks about how this very issue influences our politics in his books, “Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think” and “Don’t Think of an Elephant.”

In any case, while God is seen as the father, humans are seen as the children of God. In a strange way, I kind of like this metaphor because in the last 2000 years humans have grown up. We are no longer children and have become adults ourselves. When we were children, we looked at our parents with amazement and dogmatically believed that they were perfect. We saw our father as all powerful and capable of protecting us against any and all threats. But then as we grew up, we started to be able to protect ourselves and we started to think for ourselves. Sometime we would even disagree with our fathers. Sometimes we were wrong, but sometimes we were right.

As we grew up, it became clear to us that our father wasn’t all-powerful, nor was he all-knowing and he certainly wasn’t always right. So if we are to take the analogy of God the father to its logical conclusion, it becomes clear that the God of the Bible isn’t all those things either.

Besides, the idea that as a species we are growing up is a very liberating idea. It is an idea which we should really think about and consider. What kind of adult with humanity be? How can we as individuals shape our collective growth?

I think this metaphor of God the father is someway helps make the case against Christian belief and in favor of a more science oriented world-view. Even if we were to believe in the God of the Bible, it is clear from this metaphor that we can’t stay children forever and we must make our own way in the world. It is time to leave home and say good-bye to daddy.

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  • http://www.myspace.com/misstea43 Miss Tea

    Yes, I actually think we have grown up as a civilization. Or at least we’re moving beyond paternalism.

    “The Biblical view of God is still as the strict disciplinarian who we are all expected to obey without question or else!” The biblical view will not change much because the Bible has been canonized. There have been new translations, colloquializations – but it’s probably going to stay basically the same.

    To Fundamentalists, God is still the father and we are still the children, etc.

    But to Christians of the twentieth century and beyond, the Bible is but one part of our canon. You could envision the entire canon as like an inverted triangle. The Bible is the point at the base. My pastor’s sermon given last Sunday is on that large top layer and is part of my church’s canon.

    People have traveled in space now. They know God isn’t an old man who walks on top of the clouds out of our sight. We follow a model of evolution now – we know woman wasn’t literally created out of Adam’s rib.

    And so on.

    Educated people know the Bible isn’t the word of God and not always even “inspired by God.”

    Modern Christianity has moved beyond this. It wouldn’t have many educated adherents if it didn’t.

    Yes, there are fundamentalists who believe literally. But you know what – as long as they’re not forcing their views on me or my child I really don’t care what they believe.

    Yes, they do have big numbers now that they’ve emphasized the homophobic passages in the Bible and interpreted it as pro-life by their views. They’ve attracted all the homophobes and anti-abortionists. Have you ever talked to some of these people? They’re fanatical. If fundamentalism disappeared from the earth, these people would not turn around and accept gay marriage, etc. They would find some other way to band together. It has been this way from time immemorial.

    • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

      For starters, I would like to test your belief that without fundamentalist Christianity these people would find some other reason to hate gays. I don’t think that is true.

      I also challenge your view that one doesn’t need the Bible to be a Christian. How else would one even know anything about God if not through the Bible? While I know there are plenty of Christians who don’t take the Bible literally, I really don’t think they have thought about the consequences of that view. Either the Bible was “inspired” by God or it wasn’t. I talked about that in another blog post: http://www.dangeroustalk.net/?p=305

      • Mr. X

        From a more psychological perspective, I think humans have a basic drive to divide themselves into opposing groups. “Us” against “them.” Ethnicity is the most popular approach, but to reenforce that, we have the artificial division of made-up religions. And of course nationalism is still a popular approach to dividing people.

        In “The Political Brain,” Drew Westen observed that much of the religious anti-gay rhetoric was recycled from religious anti-interracial-marriage/pro-segregation rhetoric. The point is that people will always have a tendency to divide themselves into “us against them,” and to identify groups within their own populace to single out for discrimination. This tendency can be discouraged and weeded out, but we must always take pains to do that.

        As long as our culture places such emphasis on “sexual morality,” anyone identified as a “deviant” will be the target of discrimination, regardless of whether it’s religion that identifies them as such, or some other source.

        • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

          The logical alternative is to change our cultural emphasis away from “sexual morality.”

          While I agree that it is our human nature for us to divide ourselves into us vs. them, I don’t think that this will always be the case. Religion is one of the main propagators of this mentality and while without religion this mentality will still exist, it will be one step closer to no longer existing. We can evolve beyond that mentality over time and we can start now.

          • Mr. X

            It’s a “chicken-and-the-egg” question. Does religion drive our behavior, or is religion just a reflection of our ignorance and instincts?

            I think it’s ultimately a moot point. Either way, improvements in education could eventually curb our irrational instincts (instincts which may once have contributed to our survival, but no longer do so), and eventually push aside religion/superstition at the same time.

            Personally, I think that our tendency to behave and think irrationally is the root cause, with religion being mostly a symptom.

      • http://myspace.com/misstea43 Miss Tea

        You know perfectly well I can’t prove to you that in a world without religion there would be no anti-gay sentiment. But if you would venture out, you would see there are many religious people – clergy and parishioners alike – who have nothing whatsoever against gay people. But you seem bent on believing that getting rid of religion will get rid of homosexual discrimination. It has existed in societies in which religions was prohibited, such as the Soviet Union. Female homosexuality was welcomed, especially by the military. But male homosexuality was severely punished with banishment to Siberia, etc. Just one big example from modern times.

        I never said Christianity could exist without the Bible. I said it’s a part of Christianity, the base of it, but by only a part of it.

        It’s not the word of God. Read it. It’s obvious that it’s not. It’s our forefathers’ attempt to make sense out of our religous experiences. To understand the un-understandable.

        There are plenty of religions that have never even heard of the Bible. Many of them far older than Christianity and Judaism. They don’t need the bible and never did.

        You don’t think those of us who don’t take the Bible literally have not really thought about the consequences? I haven’t a clue what you’re talking about. Are you suggesting that we will go to hell? I thought you didn’t believe in heaven or hell.

        • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

          Miss Tea, while there are many Christians who are not anti-gay, there is no denying that the Bible is very clearly anti-gay and anti-women. Just ask any fundamentalist and they will point out the verses.

          The Soviet Union did not prohibit religion. It prohibited all religion except for the religion of the State. They turned Nationalism into a religion.

          I didn’t say that without religion there would be no anti-gay people, but it would definitely be much much less. When less people find some other reason to be anti-gay, then we can go after those reasons. But right now, the Bible and the Koran are the top anti-gay sources and that pretty much means that Christians and Muslims are the top offenders.

          You say that you don’t believe that the Bible is the word of God. I agree, but how can you call yourself a Christian if you don’t believe in God or the Bible? While I have met atheist Christians before, I always think that is nonsensical.

          Then you talk about other religions not needing the Bible. Well of course. What’s your point?

          If you don’t take the Bible literally, than the Bible just becomes another fictional book. While I support that thinking, I don’t see how someone can claim that a book is completely fictional except for the super magical main character (God/Jesus) who is completely real. If you admit that the Bible is fiction, than wouldn’t God/Jesus be fiction too? And if you don’t believe in God/Jesus than how can you honestly be a Christian? It is like saying that you are a Nazi, but disagree with Hitler on every issue. It’s all word games and redefining terms to mean the opposite of what they actually mean.

  • http://myspace.com/blackhawk089 Matt

    hmmmm, lol so typical of you to twist this metaphor into an atheistic argument. Clever…very clever….oh but what is that Bible verse? A fool is wise in his own eyes….oh sorry I shouldn’t go there. I simply mean that…since I obviously think God is real, all your worldly wisdom is nothing without spiritual wisdom. So, its sorta an insult I guess….but….not a bad one? Eh idk…anyways.

    Science, and the Bible. It seems as if there is this attitude that the two cannot co-exist together. Since the Bible is a spiritual book/history of Christianity, it really makes no scientific claims whatsoever. Science is merely our way or explaining our reality, how things work ect. ect., we all know what science is….the Bible is a book written by follower’s of Christ/prophets who wanted to preserve things they’d seen/researched and keep the word alive throughout history.

    ooooo to have more time….

    • Mr. X

      I didn’t find this blog particularly clever. The Freudian subtext of the God-concept is not a new observation.

      I can’t speak for Staks; but I don’t consider myself particularly “wise”; my own knowledge is just as lacking as any other human’s. But as an agnostic skeptic, I consider myself wiser than those who accept the unsupported “answers” of primitive mythology, Christian or otherwise. So “wisdom” is relative.

      I don’t think the Bible contains much more truth than any other mythology that’s come and gone; but that’s not a new discussion, either…

      • http://www.myspace.com/DD_NU4EVER Diana

        If the christian “god” is our father someone needs to call CPS…

        Maybe it’s not a clever point but rather a relevant point, on many levels. If “god” is our father what does that imply? That the nomadic Hebrews tribe of the middle east saw men as people deserving of rights and women as property…This was their culture so of course they would design their mythology around male supremacy, god is a man and a father. “god” made men and women were an afterthought, only created because men were bored and lonely and created out of men, making them weaker. Labeling their mythological god as a father and man only strengthen the argument against the religion. It shows the gender bias and thus cultural bias of the the culture that made-up that religion in the first place.

        I can’t see how any self-respecting women can believe in a mythology that makes them out to be second class.

        No, not terribly clever, but neither is the argument against torture. Not clever, but necessary, important, interesting, and there are many different views on the issue. This is just the feminist perspective.

        • Mr. X

          True, a point doesn’t have to be “clever” to be VALID. Please review my last comment, prior to the one Matt posted.

          Christianity is a homophobic, and also paternalistic (gynophobic) religion, associated with a homophobic and paternalistic culture (to name just a couple of things that cultural conservatives, with their fear-based non-philosophy, are afraid of).

          It goes back to the chicken-and-egg question: did the primitive religion create this ignorant culture, or did the crude culture create this primitive religion? Can the two really be separated, anyway?

          But now that I think about it, I guess it is kind of a clever point that Staks has brought up. If the imagine-ers of this mythology had had an ounce of common sense or reason, and not just a cultural agenda, they would have made The Creator of Everything a female, Goddess the Mother. So, I retract my previous statement…

  • http://www.myspace.com/DD_NU4EVER Diana

    You just made a feminist smile :)

    I agree with you 100%,

    “I think it’s ultimately a moot point. Either way, improvements in education could eventually curb our irrational instincts (instincts which may once have contributed to our survival, but no longer do so), and eventually push aside religion/superstition at the same time. Personally, I think that our tendency to behave and think irrationally is the root cause, with religion being mostly a symptom.”

    Education is key to a rational mind, self education or traditional. All the Atheist and Agnostic persons I know are incredibly intelligent and thoughtful. Is that a coincidence or is a critical mind a symptom of education?

    Also, you spoke of irrational instincts that may have once been needed for survival. I’ve noted that mythologies of all flavors seem to attract people in distressed that may not be thinking clearly; prisoner, those living in poverty, the neglected mentally ill…etc. As our society advances and these social maladies fall away will all mythology become extinct?

    Funny thought, when I lived in poverty with my many brothers and single mother we were constantly bombarded by jesus-knockers, however since moving from home and making the best of my life I haven’t had a single knocker in nearly six years…weird…You think they only hunt in the ghetto?

    • Mr. X

      I think the worse your circumstances in this life, the more susceptible you are to believing in “the next life”…as you already pointed out.

      I think they understand this, and as a result, they hunt MORE in the ghetto (and prisons, etc.) than in better-off areas…