2/01/2007                                                                                       View Comments

Ain't Love Grand

By DagoodS

We have all seen various arguments for/against theism. Many have fun, fancy names such as ontological, or teleological, or start with "Problem of" as in "Problem of Evil" or "Problem of Coherence." One I have not seen much action on, though, is the "Problem of Love."

Granted, it is only designed to address a God that allegedly loves humanity, and particular the Christian God. But when I have raised it to Christians, the end result is usually, “I have no answer to that. God is mysterious.” Which is not very satisfying.In simplest form, the problem is: If God loves me, why won’t He talk to me?

To unpack this further...

I am informed that the single greatest act of love ever exhibited in the entire history of humankind was a God, taking the form of a man, dying and separating Himself from God, so that humans could be saved from the wrath of God. Setting aside the huge non-monotheistic implications of this sentiment, not to mention the historical difficulties, we shall assume for our first premise that this was the greatest act of Love.

In fact, I am assured that due to our puny human minds, we cannot even conceive the awesomeness of this God, and our pitiful human language cannot encompass the length and breadth and depth of this love. "Love" is an inadequate word. We should differentiate it by calling it "Mega-Love." Or "Ultra-Love." Or "Super-duper-fantastic-mega-ultra love." Something to give us just a taste of how incomprehensible this super-duper-fantastic-mega-ultra love is.

I have been told that God had no obligation to perform this act. That if He chose, He was within his rights of justice, due to some other fellow blowing it, to pour out His wrath upon all of humanity, and forever damn them to eternal torture. He came close with Noah. That we would be frying in flames, recognizing the correctness of this action, and acknowledging that justice demands we be there. That God was well within His rights to do so, and arguably should have done so.

It has been preached to me that even if I were the only person on earth, God still would have sent God to do this act, because of this all-inclusive super-duper-fantastic-mega-ultra love. That it was, in fact, my immoral actions that would require this act, and still He would do it.

Understand I cannot use enough hyperbole to even give a hint of how great this act was. Dying so that my friend can live? Piffle. Giving my entire life in service to help others? Meaningless. It was ingrained that all of our greatest moral acts summed together were the equivalent of a used tampon in comparison to the holiness of this God. That all our acts of love were mere shadows of reflections of images of whispers of fog as compared to this single act of super-duper-fantastic-mega-ultra love.

There is no analogy strong enough, or story complete enough to fully portray this love. (Sit through a few sermons, though, and you will hear a few. Men who watch their sons die so that their son’s friend can live in overturned rowboats. That sort of thing.) So why won’t he talk to me?

The second premise is that this God created us. We can observe our fellow humans and one thing becomes astoundingly clear—we actively seek out interaction with others. We attempt to communicate to other humans, and attempt to socialize. Your reading this blog is proof enough.

There is a reason solitary confinement is a punishment—deprivation of socialization is painful to humans. (and other species as well. We are not unique in this regard. Leave a dog at home while you work. ‘Nuff said.) We talk on the telephone, in e-mails, in letters, in books, in person, in groups, one-on-one, in coffee shops. Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.

According to Christianity, we are actually designed to communicate with each other, and to communicate with a God. That, with the inability to communicate with God, there is some "emptiness" in our soul. Yet He can't initiate a conversation?

A third premise is that God has the ability to communicate with humans. We see that in the Tanakh by God actually appearing and talking. Not visions. Not dreams. Well, maybe a burning bush, but still and all, actual words to actual human ears. We see this in the New Testament, with a God appearing in human form, using human vocal cords, human hands and human facial expressions to discuss with human ears and eyes. There is absolutely, positively nothing preventing God from appearing today and talking with us face-to-face. Nothing.

Which brings us to the original question—why wouldn’t He?

Anyone with a child knows that you would do extraordinary things for that person, out of just the measly human variety of love. We worry over them, help them, bite our tongue, watch them fall (with our hearts in our throat), encourage them, etc. The simplest thing to do is talk to them. More and more commercials are hitting the airwaves exclaiming the easiest ways to prevent drug abuse is--what? Oh, that’s right, talking to your children.

If we saw a child begging for their parent to just talk to them, and the parent had the capability, yet refused, we would call that parent a monster. We certainly would not exclaim the overwhelming love the parent has!

To claim that God, because he loved humans, performed this act of super-duper-fantastic-mega-ultra love, but then refused to talk to humans for the next 2000 years is justifying the fact that no such God exists.

Its why he has been so "silent" It makes no sense.

Me: I just committed the greatest act of love ever done, past, present and future for my son.
Son: Thank you, dad, I greatly appreciate it. You are the best.

Me:

Son: Hey, I am up for a job interview, and you have connections with the company. The job sounds great. Can you give me a hand?

Me:

Son: Aw, I realize you didn’t help me get that job. It’s probably for the best. I am sure you had some great reasons for it.

Me:

Son: You know, I am dating this girl, Jane, and she seems really great. You have had more experience than any other person, is this the person I should pursue a commitment with? There are a few things that don’t match up, but she sure seems great, what do you think?

Me:

Son: Boy, I had a GREAT day today on the beach. The sun was shining, the water was perfect. It was like you were right beside me, talking to me. Sure, it was in my head, ‘cause you don’t talk out loud, but we sure were close today, weren’t we?

Me:

Son: Oh dear. Doc found a spot on my lung. Says he has to do a biopsy. Might be cancer. I’m really worried. Can you send me some of your encouragement? I know other people have been helpful, but that is other people. What about you?

Me:

Son: Well, the good news is that they think they got all the cancer. Thank you so much for the doctor removing the cancer. I know you must have helped in some way. I'm not excited about chemo, but I am sure you will be beside me, encouraging all the way.

Me:

Son: I have a real complication this Saturday. My son wants me to go to his game, the neighbor needs help (and you KNOW he doesn’t know you) and the church is having a prayer breakfast that could use my help. I can’t be at three places at once. Which one would you go to if you were me?

Me:

Son: Hey, dad, I am starting to have some questions. I know you are real, don't worry about that. But others say because you don’t ever say anything, and everything we do comes from human sources..... well...... don't be offended, but some don't think you exist. Silly, isn’t it? So if you could point me in a direction to get some good sources to show them how silly they are that would be helpful.

Me:

Son: I know you didn’t say anything explicitly, so I looked up some sources on my own. You know, they have some pretty valid points. In fact, I am starting to have concerns. Don’t worry, I know you are real and all, but can you point out some definitive examples that I can understand? You know me better than anybody, and you know what I need more than anyone else. I’m not so concerned about showing others, but I’m starting to need it myself, ‘kay?

Me:

Son: Dad, I am really, REALLY worried. The more I look, the more it is as if you aren’t there. My friends have pointed out that every conversation we have ever had is in my head. Again, I don’t need you to be here right this moment, but a timely word. A note, anything to point me where to look would be appreciated.

Me:

Son: Dad, I have talked to you for years. Looking back, I realize that every job I obtained, every girlfriend I dated, every opportunity I realized was by human effort. Every encouragement was through other humans. I realize that even if you didn’t exist, my life wouldn’t have changed. Not one bit. It is clear now that I am talking to myself. I am sorry, but your lack of communication, with a silly claim of love has been as convincing as all the other arguments. If you want people to believe you exist, you might want to work on your conversational skills.

Me:

Now, doesn't it start to appear ludicrous that a God that supposedly loves humans in this super-duper-fantastic-mega-ultra love, can't even figure out how to talk to those that want to talk to Him? As humans we have more consideration for others than what God shows.

I have seen two objections to this argument. First, "who are you to tell God what he should do?"

"Hello? McFly? McFly. Is anybody home?" Who am I? I'm the one he supposedly loves with this super-duper-fantastic-mega-ultra love, remember? In the first premise we established that. If he knows that I require (by His design) communication, isn’t the most loving thing to do is communicate?

Again, we can see this in mere human love:

Me: I love you so much, dear spouse.
Wife: Thank you. Look, I have had a rough day. Can you help out by setting the table?
Me: Who the heck are YOU to tell me what I am supposed to do? Now bring me my paper, and don’t bother me when I watch the game. Oh, and dear?
Wife: Yes?
Me: I love you.

The second objection is that God wants us to have faith. Excuse me? He loves me so much that He has to test me for 70 years or so, on a pass/fail so that he can communicate with me for the next trillion years? Didn’t he have to commit the ultimate act of love, because he already knew I was a failure? What is the surprise if I fail again? And if He REALLY wanted to test me, why not inhibit all communication, prevent the New Testament from being written and see how we do?

Let’s see this work with just our version of love:

Joe: Hey, isn't that your wife?
Me: Sh. Sh. Sh. I haven’t spoken to her in 15 years. I am testing how faithful she is to me.

I see the word "love" as being diluted. It makes no sense for a claim that God loves humanity to this indescribably amount, but then is unable to commit the simplest act of love thereafter. We would not accept it in humanity, why would one accept it in a human description of a God?

20 comments:

Bryan B said...

You hit the nail right on the head, man. I could not give a better description of prayer if I tried. I also had a laugh over the husband/wife analogy, it rang very true.
I would definitely like to see more writing from you. All the best,
-Bryan B

Anonymous said...

i loved this post! perfect analogy. definately hit home for me

Harlequin said...

Do you have any idea how many people think god does speak to them?

GH

Anonymous said...

I have been reading your brilliant posts for a while now on your and the Debunking Christianity websites. I am delighted to read them here as well. I look forward to reading your book ( there's a book in there somewhere, right?)

Anonymous said...

In the exchange between the dad and his son, just replace "dad" with "imaginary friend" and it all makes sense.

Andrea said...

That was simply....kickass. I too really enjoy and appreciate your writings. Keep it up.

Michelle said...

Great post Dagood! I remember not too long after my conversion I would go into a small room in my basement and pray so hard for god to communicate with me. I never actually heard god's voice, but I felt a sort of elated calm--most likely from the meditative quality of the praying and deep breathing. Because I never heard any voice, I thought god spoke to me through feelings. If I "felt" guilty about fooling around with my boyfriend, I thought that was god telling me I was sinning. Not once did I ever "hear" god speak to me; I just let my imagination fill in the blanks according to my current feeling.

What I realize now is that those feelings had nothing to do with god. I just happen to relate to people and situations through my intuition, or vibes. Now that I'm not a christian anymore, what would be prompting those feelings? Satan? Was it satan who told me that I had a great job interview today and I should take the job if its offered? No, just me talking to myself. That's just fine, because dealing with my own thoughts is hard enough without thinking there is someone else in there throwing in their two cents.

Your dialogue between the father and son shows how one-sided a relationship with god really is. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

god speaks to me thru his word when i read it, he speaks to me thru the ppl i meet, thru the events that happen to me and blah blah blah...subtle is the lord...

its funny when i ask my friend this, he says that if god speaks it somehow violates the faith thing cos faith is something you believe in, without evidence or proof. this is even more scary cos i can take this to another level and basically believe in anything without evidence or proof. why this might shake the very foundations of science and civilisation and may lead to the end of the world as we know it!!!!

ryan said...

We do not have a god who gets things done, we have religions that explain why he doesn't.

What we have heard is not the voice of a god. We have heard the voices of xians, a piss-poor substitute.

The churches have existed all this time because they have been propped up by their leaders; their teachers and theologians. The illusion is that god is present.

Check out a document called the westminster confession, a piece of work that Clarence Darrow called "depraved" (see his essay titled "The Sabbath Day Alliance at Infidels) It is a pious piece of shit, as cold as it is pious, and causes one to understand that xianity is just empty dogma with no god behind it.

nzc70 said...

Here! Here!

Great post; you communicate very well!

Sarge said...

Really great post. As a radio operator, I know that if you just call out into the ether, get no answer, there's no communication.

I have, in fact been told by some of the apologists that now is the "Age of Faith" and we must get our info from other means than direct interface. We must search for the 'word' in other ways...They get a bit annoyed when I ask to see their "Age of..." schedule. I seem to have misplaced mine. They don't find this risible for some reason.

Now, I have heard that some people claim that they HAVE been spoken to by their diety. He always seems to convey that one is to injure other people, for some reason. I have never heard anyone say that their diety told them to mow their nieghbors lawn, spot Joe down the street twenty bucks, he needs it, give old lady Jones a ride to the store.

Well, on some reflectoin, I DO remember hearing of people to whom the christian god spoke. My parents were their church's delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention in days of yore, and I remember hearing ministers saying they "heard the call" to take their ministry from where they were to another place. The fact that the "call" offered more money, prestige, and better living arrangements was tactfully seldom mentioned. But, every now and then one would hear about some up and comer, some rising star in the church, who, instead of moving up or even laterally, would hear "The Call" to some very poor spot out in the middle of nowhere, or want to go into missions. In that case, it was opined that they were NOT hearing the "Voice of God" but were "Slap Dab Crazy" and this shit would cease, and cease forthwith! I guess it's also who gets to interpret if you actually CLAIM to have heard anything.

I'm told that Lithium dibromide makes a good mute button for such unwanted communication. So does electro shock.

Jax2020 said...

Good post! I think this is the same reason I started my de-conversion. I even told the so-called "Almighty" that I wasn't going to continue this faith crap if he was never going to talk to me or do anything else. God must not have been available for comment b/c I never heard anything. And now I'm here. I love this site!

William said...

Honestly, that conversation is as true as it gets for most people...myself included.
...God shouldn't I go here cuz it really sucks where i am RIGHT NOW!!....God? hellloooooo....
However, there are other times...when God is speaking to me...you know how i know this? because if any of these decisions were made on my own, i would probably be dead right now.
The point is I know because in the midst of that decision, God will say something, and I KNOW that i am not smart or clever enough to come up with something as like that...
So God HAS been guiding your steps...He HAS heard your prayers
He has brought you to this point so you can see how much he really DOES love you and wants you to have a relationship with him...
He IS speaking to you...
I promise.

DagoodS said...

William,

I am obviously not in a position, of course, to review the situations in which you claim God was speaking to you.

I would note, though, that many, many people, theist or non-theist, when concentrating on a problem, not surprisingly obtain a solution they had not thought of before. Bit like finding one’s contacts after losing them. If one didn’t look, one wouldn’t find. But if one had it already, they aren’t looking in the first place, eh?

God has been guiding my steps? An interesting guide indeed!

Can you possibly explain why God would dare guide me to study textual criticism, history, archeology, writing, anthropology, canon, early church history, and Judaism to come to the inescapable conclusion that the Bible was written solely by humans? Seems a funny path upon which to lead one.

And then God would have to be guiding me to post on the internet, busily placing questions in other God-fearing folks, and (dare I say) actually causing others to start their own missions of discovery in which they, too, lose God.

It’s like God is throwing the game on purpose.

He has heard my prayers, too? Again, a curious kind of “hearing” without answering. Has he heard the prayers of my wife? Of my brothers and sisters and parents and aunts and uncles and cousins and nieces and nephews, and former pastors and deacons and missionaries and church members (Including the church members of my brothers and sisters and parents and aunts and uncles….) and friends and acquaintances all, ALL of whom are busily praying, and God looks down with a smile and nods to the music?

Do you know even my own family, as firmly entrenched in Christianity as one can be, are starting to seriously wonder why God would not answer their prayers? They know they are not asking out of selfishness or sin. They may secretly suspect that I was, but they know they are getting it right.

Yet they are hearing the same blank silence I heard. How can that be?

They saw my searching, they know my intensity, they knew the openness with which I looked for a God. It troubles them that I wanted it so much, and God wouldn’t respond.

Why? It makes no sense.

Oh wait. Yes. Yes, it does. See, if there isn’t anybody on the other end of the phone, it makes perfect sense as to why no one was answering.

I went to college when answering machines were just coming out. I had one in my dorm room, and it was one of the first ones my family had encountered.

“Hello?........I can’t hear you……Can you speak up?......I still can’t hear you……Louder?......Well, never mind. You are talking to a machine. Leave a message at the beep.”

My mom was SO furious for screaming into a machine that wasn’t listening, she slammed down the phone. She immediately called back to give me a piece of her mind, started to hear that recording again and slammed down the phone again.

The reason no one was responding to her yelling is that no one was there. That is the most reasonable conclusion.

Valerie said...

I loved it; laughed out loud several times. Oh, those prayers are so familiar!

I think perhaps that for some people their minds actually do generate a passable facimile of the voice of God. Or so they seem to be telling us. A psychologist at Notre Dame did some research looking at a quality - I think he called it "suggestion prone." He found that there was a correlation between hearing the voice of god, voices of angels, extra-terrestrial abductions, being hypnotizable . . .

A good Calvinist would say that you simply weren't chosen. Sorry, Dude.

--Valerie T

Valerie said...

oops, sorry. The construct is called "fantasy-prone."

Yolanda said...

Prayer... it's also a coping mechanism... helps religious people to reassure themselves that everything's ok

griggsy said...

How could Yeshua have taught true love when he did not denounce slavery: one could love ones enemy and enslave here!No rational god would have kept the two from knowing good and evil in the first place if it wanted them to be moral beings!And punishment on them and their posterity for a trifle is just stupid and evil .Furthermore, Yahweh showed He is a moral being, albeit an evil one, in allowing evil on Earth!It is evil to require human sacrifice for us.Jews gave up animal sacrifice long agod.Even metaphorically, the eating and drinking of Yeshua is cannibalism and vampirism! Check out Morgan-Lynn Lamberth with your search engine for more great stuff!

skeptic griggsy said...

enslave her

Anonymous said...

I just don't get the super-duper-mega-love concept either. It seems to me that the degree of sacrifice is inversely proportional to the quantity of good it does. In other words, a firefighter who bravely goes into a fire and saves one life, but loses his own in the process, has sacrificed more than someone who died and "saved" all of mankind. And how much of a sacrifice was it for God to give his "son" if he knew it could save all of mankind and he'd be back in 3 days? Truly, we have seen more love from most human parents than in this egotistically-bloated story of godly devotion. The whole thing appears to me to have been derived from the dark side of the human psyche. I used to believe it, too. Wow.