New Posts on Wednesdays and Saturdays -- er generally

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Question

Is mankind better off in believing in a divine being who intervenes on its behalf ?


I read a blog, [Church of the Churchless] (listed in my blog roll), where regularly questions about god's existence are brought up. It has been interesting to see different people's take on that depending on their religious persuasion. I think about spiritual questions anyway but it always adds to my thinking.

My question above is not as simple as it at first sounds. It is not about whether there is a god. Leave that question for another day. This one is about what people might believe about the level of that god's involvement on earth. [Most Believe God Gets Involved].

We don't decide god's existence by the way. He/she/it exists or does not. What we decide is what we do about it. If we see god's hand in everything that happens, how will that impact our lives? Is that kind of belief empowering or disabling?

If someone believes in a god but one who doesn't intervene, then that belief probably changes very little of what they do in their lives. Suppose though they expect god to take their part in disputes, their nation's part, they expect their concept of god to intervene in disasters or even cause them. Some who think like that don't count on doctors for medical care but on prayer. How about those who blow themselves up for a heavenly reward? For many people, believing in an intervening god determines what behavior is okay and what happens if they aren't obedient as in an everlasting hell. Is belief in an intervening god really a benign thing?

What about the argument that in a foxhole everybody believes god will intervene to help them? Do they or do they just hope they can be delivered either in this life or to a better one? I do understand that when we humans have a terminal illness or a disabling one we want to believe it has meaning and even more so that there is a power that can protect us through it, but does that mean there is one?

Might people live different lives if they had to figure out what made for quality living and didn't depend on an age old book to deliver the rules? Might they actually even treat others (outside their religion) better?

Most beliefs in god's intervention are based on hope and something more-- someone else's divine experience. The result of that belief and that other person's experience is often a strict set of rules for living-- and can take you into a sauna that cooks you alive because someone else told you you'd get closer to 'god.' When the founders aren't still around (or even if they are), you have to trust that they actually did hear god speaking from a burning bush with traveling orders. Is your life better off for believing in that... or not?

In the third Shrek movie, there is a scene where Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty along with Fiona and her mother are facing a dire situation (yes, it's a kids' movie but as usual with some wisdom in it). What must they do? One of the women says, Ladies assume the position. Fiona is horrified to see that their position is waiting for a prince to rescue them. Is that what belief in an intervening god can be or is it a backup plan along with some other action which means believing but not believing too much?

There would be no argument over gay marriage without belief in an intervening god. Humans have no reason to object to any form of responsible sexual behavior in others where it leads to stable homes as places for families-- except believing a god not only forbids but punishes it. (Which isn't even really Biblical given that stories like Sodom and Gomorrah are about decadent, abusive behavior, not committed, loving.)

So, even though discussions of religions and politics are supposedly the no-no of polite conversation, once in awhile I want to bring up such questions-- whether they get discussions going or not. The one at the top of the blog will remain a little longer than an average post. I'd like to give it some time to see if a real discussion can be generated.

If you don't want to express your opinion under your usual name here, feel free to post anonymously. I understand it's touchy ground but it does impact our society for what we believe. If you don't agree, just remember the witch trials. What we believe about god's activities regarding mankind can impact other than ourselves.

(Photo looking down on Seal Rock February 20, 2010)

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think most people prefer to believe in God than not.

Kay Dennison said...

I can't speak for anyone else but I, despite being a practicing Catholic, I have always been a questioner and probably always will be. I suppose it has a lot to do with one's perspective at any given time. What believer hasn't asked, "Why me (them, him, whatever), God?"

Ingineer66 said...

Most people believe in a higher power if not a God. Yes I believe that it is good for mankind to believe in something bigger than ourselves.

And God loves all of us, even the gay ones. Your interpretation of Sodom and Gomorrah is spot on. I think it is arrogant for people to tell us what God thinks. I can read the Word and decide for myself.

There how is that for an impolite response to an impolite topic.

Rain said...

I would say that's a polite answer (all of them) to a difficult question. The real question though is not believing in a god or higher power. It's does that god intervene? And this really isn't just about Christianity but any religion. If you believe a god does change things, play favorites based on some standard, then it impacts how you see events and could lead to certain actions. The recent militia people who plotted to kill a sheriff believed in an interventionist god who favored their cause-- at least that's what I would assume given they think they are battling the antichrist. Interesting that they want a public defender given their disrespect for our system. There were parents not long ago in Oregon who let their child die rather than take her to a doctor because they believed in prayer but when it came to defending themselves in the court system, they wanted a lawyer.

20th Century Woman said...

This is an interesting post. I want to comment, but it is an impossible question for me, since I don't believe that there is a god. Thus, how could I believe that such a thing as a god intervenes in human affairs. Your premise leaves people of my persuasion out of the discussion altogether.

Nevertheless, I'll just give it a try. Every time there is a high school football game you see teams and players praying and crossing themselves. Can it be that some sort of god cares who wins a high school football game? And can it be that this god messes with the play in order to favor "his" team? I know this is an extreme example, but what about things like earthquakes? Is what the Christian Evangelicals say credible, that is, that god is punishing the Haitians for rebelling against their enslavers?

Could it be that the concept of a god which does not intervene is by definition a concept of no god at all? Suppose that if god exists he must be able to intervene, and if he doesn't intervene then he is a pretty poor sort of god. And I use the masculine pronoun because it's convenient and customary.

I say all this, Rain, in order to stir up some controversy. I really don't mean to offend.

Rain said...

Not offensive at all, 20th Century woman, and I think those are good questions and thoughts. I am not uncomfortable with the idea there is no god but do think there could be one who didn't intervene.

Dion said...

I believe in karma. So I'm down as a *yes*, God does intervene in our lives. I'm not sold on God being involved in too much of everyday life or helping some nation states over others. The *In God We Trust* that America has printed on money and government buildings doesn't grant us special favors. Actions however, now actions will have consequences.

Paul said...

Here it is folks. If I cannot prove with 100% certainty (through logic) that God exists then conversely do the math. You cannot disprove the existence of God using logic.And based on my observation of people, whom I know, a majority of those people do believe in God.

wally said...

All the people on this planet that believe that God intervenes on behalf of mankind seem to have seperated themselves into different camps. Each group thinks that God in going to intervene on their behelf exclusively. The three major monotheistic religions, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity trace their origins back to one man, Abraham. Yet the Muslims think that Allah is going to help them destroy the nation of Israel. The Jews believe that Jehovah promised them their piece of real estate and will fight to the death to keep it. There is a faction of Christianity here in the U.S. that believes it is their duty to start a war in the Middle East and bring about Armegeddon. These Christians have representatives in our government and in the Military. If God is willing to intervene on the behalf of all mankind he should make his move right about now. It could be that the Divine Intervention will be to eliminate Homo Sapiens for the benefit of all the other species on earth.

Rain said...

Interesting comments, and again, thank you all for contributing to a dialogue.

A god would not have to intervene to have karma work. It could be a consequence of natural results. But does it always? I mean I can think of those that it seems do terrible things and don't reap anything evident anyway. I believe in consequences but not sure exactly how they play out. (I do have a blog set for after this one on reincarnation and if that should be true then karma can carry over). Reincarnation would require god (spiritual power) intervening, I guess as how else could it work?

Interestingly astrology often also plays out to be how it is in terms of general trends impacting certain events or attitudes in people; but that doesn't require an intervening god as such but more a plan that was set in motion long ago. So that would be an intervening god in the planning but hands off now?

Things like karma and astrology though wouldn't require the kind of intervention that many people are counting on or even a heaven where there is a reward for doing something a religion demanded, would it?

Ingineer66 said...

Interesting comments. I think the football game analogy is a good one. Although all of the coaches that I know did not ask God to help them win a game. They asked God to help his players do the best that they could and keep them from getting injured.

I believe in Karma too, but like you said Rain there are a lot of people that seem to be exempt from it. Maybe it will just take a little longer to come back and bite them.

Rain said...

I like your comment, Wally. Well not that I'd really like it but it makes about as much sense as god favoring this religion or that.

The thing that gets me with this intervening god idea is god puts out one religion that is the absolute one, but lets a lot of phonies go out there also so that people can be tricked into following the wrong one? If god really intervenes, doesn't that mean he/she/it is a bit cruel? Some are saved from accidents or serious illness, others chosen to suffer? Once you think of god as intervening, then you are left with all the negative things that means god could and didn't (for our own good) or did one place but not another with no real difference in the kind of people.

I have said before that I don't know about it all which would make me an agnostic; but in my case a pagan who does follow certain traditions of nature but not nature worship rather nature respect and awareness. I am not sure how any concept of god fits into that. Is the problem in religions and not god?

The thing I had been thinking is that with many people believing in this concept or that of god intervening, how often do they not do what they are capable of doing to fix things? They wait or they pray and they don't offer the help they could to different situations. The issue really isn't whether a person believes in a god as such but what they expect that god to do.

Parapluie said...

Some see God as being powerfully intervening on a personal one to one relationship like fundamentalist Evangelical Christians. Then there are Catholics who require a middle priest for communication between the faithful and God. A Jewish friend said Christians see God as being more powerful than her Jewish concept of God. I have been wondering what she meant ever since. I have taken note that Jews do not say grace before an event asking God to bless food or a football game. He isn't that powerful. But they give thanks for their food after they have eaten. Another example of less power is forgiveness of sins. God cannot forgive Jews for sins against other people. They pray to God as a people rather than a personal one on one. Then there are also different levels of belief in personal philosophies. Some would say that God existed and then abandoned us. Some say God never existed and the religions came about as an explanation of the unknown. God is a myth. Myth is a funtional way to bring order to human communities. Others would say God and religion doesn't work and we would be better off to eliminate all superstion.
How much power we attribuate to God does make a difference. Terrible abuse of power occurs among extreem believers and disbelievers.

Rain said...

Interesting, parapluie and yet Jews have believed that they were god's chosen people, his total favorites and that he would intervene violently to protect them like say with the Passover story. Even today Jews seem to believe they have a right to what was Palestine because god promised it to them. That's pretty big intervention. Christians take it a step farther and believe that region will be the trigger for the end times, Armageddon which is the ultimate godly intervention.

Rain said...

Even today, as best I understand it, a lot of Jews send money to Israel and it has contributed to its being so prosperous today. They do this because they do think it's the promised land? The term Promised Land itself has to relate to a godly intervention I would think.

Annotated Margins said...

This is where my latest post is headed.

Rain said...

AM, if what you write, adds to this discussion, please put a link to it here :)

Ingineer66 said...

I thought we were living in the promised land. That is why it rains manna from the heavens here. Oh wait that is tax money.

Alan G said...

Wow, got here a little late on this one….

The various aspects of your chosen subject Rain could each, on their own, be the subject of extensive discussion and debate. But I would like to offer a few comments at any rate.

As to the subject of an intervening God, the premise of most major religions is based on the cornerstone of “free will”. We are given to be the individual designers of our own fate. With regard to the Christian religion in particular, that is why the Ten Commandments were created along with a sundry of many other laws and conditions requiring compliance by the believer. Given our “free will”, we were all running amuck apparently violating all manner of moral code. So an intervening God did apparently step in and gave some guidelines but….still not restraining the “free will” to disregard even those laws and guidelines.

Yet there are others, although fewer in number, who believe in “predestination” which in the end assumes that God has already determined everything before it happens. Therefore, it is a fruitless exercise of life to run around trying to please such a God. I guess one could say that predestination circumvents the need for intervention. At least, on a sort of regular basis I would assume.

As already mentioned here by others, many believers believe that God is involved very personally in their lives. They contend that they have a need to go to their God in prayer even when they are considering buying a new TV. Others think sporting events and individual player heroics are spearheaded by God. Implying of course, a measure of self-righteousness by those exhibiting such public behavior.

I don’t know how many times in the workplace or other places over the years I have heard someone say that some something they did, something they received or attained was directly attributed to God. I admittedly for the most part regarded it as poppycock.

I personally tend to view the majority of all of this type behavior as nothing more than a display of self-righteousness from the believer. Perhaps from some there is a true measure of sincerity but I don’t think that is the case for the majority. It seems to me that if one truly believed that God was intervening in their lives on a regular basis, they would be much more contrite and endowed with a real sense of humility in their human interactions, both with their God and other human beings.

In illness, certainly for many some measure of belief in an intervening God gives needed comfort and hope. For the individual human condition in general, many draw comfort and hope from such belief whether it be with regard to health or their economic condition. And many religions teach that when these entities of the human condition improve, we must give thanks to God for that improvement, thus intensifying that intervening belief and taking away from any sense of human fortitude and accomplishment.

What do I personally believe? I suppose it gets complicated but nearing the end of writing my comments regarding your post I did notice that I had capitalized the word “god” throughout without forethought, certainly indicating some level of belief in a “God”.

I do however disagree with your comments on the “hot topic” of gay marriage being a mute point were it not for the “god” factor. In my personal opinion one cannot disregard the biology surrounding that subject matter and the subject of procreation itself. These are integral contributors to that debate and will continue to be so, regardless of one’s religious views.

Another intriguing and thought provoking post Rain! Sorry I was a little late. :)

Rain said...

Not late at all Alan and thanks for your thoughtful post. I planned to leave this up longer than usual to hopefully get more opinions than a topic might usually. This seems to me one that people can take awhile to really decide what they want to say. The concept of a god who intervenes, who punishes, who rewards does have an impact but the question would be positive or negative? If there is such a god and he/she/it really does intervene, that's one thing; but the other is that there is not but mankind, through various religions, has convinced themselves that there is.

On the gay issue, biology alone would mean people who weren't ignorant of biology would consider it just natural. As for procreation, not all people procreate-- gay or not. And today it's a choice that every family can make-- again gay or not. Certain concepts of certain religions are the only reason to see being gay as wrong. Often what people believe has been so subtly formed by religion that they really don't know why they feel what they do.

Paul said...

I believe that GOD has a sense of humor. Even He has had to cope with the folly of humanity and residue of worldly wisdom. Free will has gotten human beings into a lot of trouble. Now say the soothsayers and Mayans and Nostradamus and my neighbor Pinky the world is going to end in December 2012. To thinl a lot of people believe this malarky, but deny the Bible. Well, I expected them to do so. It's been fun citizens !

Rain said...

Some believed the millennium (which was only based on a human calendar) would end it too. My father talked about a group of Christians, when he was a boy, who gave away all their worldly goods and went up on a hill to wait for god to come. Mankind seems to have this idea of god or something ending it all and the Bible is full of the same predictions. The funny part about taking the Mayan calendar seriously for this is if they were such great prognosticators, why didn't they know who the bad guys were when they arrived? Long term, of course, it would not have saved them if they had. European civilization had it over theirs for weapons.

Darlene said...

At the risk of sounding irreverent I must confess that I have always found it illogical to believe that even a great god could hear millions (billions?) of prayers being directed to him at the same time. I also find it unbelievable that a god would give a hoot about our individual problems. To me free will means that I have to solve my own problems and not put this burden on god.

I am pragmatic and skeptical about the whole concept of an intervening god. If there is a god I think he created the Universe (so vast it boggles the mind) and we are but ants on this rock.

Is it good or bad to believe in a god's intervention? I think it depends on the individual. Some people are so fragile emotionally it provides comfort to think something is helping them when they are in trouble. For others, it's a crutch so that they can just sit back and wait for god to take care of it for them.

Anonymous said...

To me, belief in an interventionist god is the root of much hate; thus, I cannot see it as a good thing. I think that people develop hate because they believe that they have been treated unfairly, as in, "Why doesn't God make all those people treat me better?"

Alan G--I capitalize "God", not because I believe in one, but in following traditional "rules" of punctuation. I also capitalize Kleenex.
Cop Car

Annie said...

I read a funny story recently, fiction of course, about how God created humans and used to be very much involved in his creation, but the time and energy consuming and conflicting demands for intervention by his created beings eventually got to him, so now he hides, his only friend Frankenstein's monster. I would think an interventionist god would have to have a very high tolerance for conflicting demands and paradox!