newprotest.org: ABSENT

ABSENT

March 25, 2009
by: jovial_cynic

image: I wanna hold your hand (cc) batega

An old friend of mine recently posted a link to a youtube video on his facebook profile which posits the absurdity of a belief in an intangible God who appears to be perfectly absent.

Here's a link to the video. It's well done, actually, but I enjoy sarcasm.

The video includes all sorts of requirements for a deity to demonstrate its own existence -- stopping bad things from happening, having bad things happen to believers in a disproportionate manner, etc. Basically, the video provides a test of validity, and names the conditions of that test. This is fine, but given the nature of the relationship between God and those who walk with Him, I think that such a test is meaningless, much like the test one might use to "prove" one's love for another.

I love my wife. I can't prove it to her, but I continually try to demonstrate that I do. But in the same way that somebody can explain away God's plague of frogs on the ancient Egyptians as a freak natural occurrence, my wife can view my gift of assorted flowers as a self-serving act, meant only to be used as leverage for some favor; it wouldn't prove that I loved her. My words, my actions, my reactions... they could all be explained away as the result of physical and mechanical processes: chemistry, biology, and psychology. Likewise, my wife is quite capable of compiling a list of requirements for me to demonstrate my love for her (doing the dishes every day, folding all the laundry, changing every poop-filled diaper, etc., etc.)... but I could easily do those things without any sense of affection towards her. Her test of proof has no meaning; one cannot actually prove that they love someone else.

The proof requested of God to show his presence is identical to a request for proof that a spouse or friend demonstrate their love; God is love, after all.

So what does this test actually do?

I wonder if such requests for proof (impossible that they are to fulfill) are not actually a request for any such thing. Because the requester should be fully aware that such proof cannot be obtained, perhaps the request is merely seeking justification to disbelieve and to disregard. For example, the man who demands that his wife prove her affection for him, and yet remains dissatisfied at her every genuine attempt, does not actually seek her affection. He simply means to place her in front of an impossible challenge. The woman, in this example, mirrors the heart of God who pours out His love to a rebellious people who deny His very presence and His desire for them.

In the case of a healthy and loving relationship, this thing we call love is intangible. It cannot be seen, it cannot be touched. Yet we walk hand-in-hand with our spouses and loved-ones, connected by more than just the flesh that covers our bones - there is a sense of hallowed ground between the people involved. And walking with God is the same -- we are connected to our creator by this love, and it is in this love that we exist and find purpose. This love is the prime mover in the relationship, and we reciprocate that love with our actions. And yet... the actions themselves are not the proof of that love. They are simply manifestations of it.

Those who wish to explain love away as the simple turning of cold gears within the machine of the mind perhaps have never felt love's warmth. And for that same reason, they perhaps have never felt the presence of God. I don't doubt my wife's love for me, and I don't look for proof of it. Likewise, my God is not so absent.

COMMENTS for ABSENT


valdez said:
Hey Josh,

Love this! You've articulated this subject extremely well. I've seen a number of posts on youtube where people attempt to prove that there is no God using this burden of proof technique. It really is sad.

March 26, 2009


jovial_cynic said:
valdez -

Thanks, man. It is sad... but it does make sense to me, I suppose. I mean... using the whole husband/wife analogy, I *know* that my wife loves me and that I love her. I wonder how many people have no concept of love in their own relationships, and are compelled to think of relationships as purely mechanical. And if that's the only way they can see it, of course they're going to also rationalize God out of the picture. How sad, not to love or experience love.

March 26, 2009


Mike said:
But isn't the burden of proof on the folks that say God is real? I mean, if I tell you I have a unicorn as a pet, you wouldn't believe me, right? You'd want to see the unicorn. So the people who do not believe God exists (myself included), who don't fell God in the hearts or whatever, would really appreciate some proof of his existence. God could prove it to me by speaking silently to me in my head, even, that would probably do it for me. But he never does. What I don't get is if God is real and as cool as they say why doesn't he want me to believe in him?
March 26, 2009


jovial_cynic said:
Mike -

If I tell you that I love my wife, is there any circumstance in which you could claim that I must prove it to you? Is there a burden of proof between you and me regarding my relationship with my wife? If not, why would there be a burden of proof regarding my relationship with my God?

I think the hang-up is when people who are believers try to convince other people to believe due to their misunderstanding of the text which instructs them to "make disciples of all nations." They think that their job is to clobber people over the head with the bible until they are compliant in their belief system. This, of course, makes no sense, and the scriptures teach no such thing.

Now, you say that you would "really appreciate some proof of his existence." According to my understanding of the text, if you seek Him, you will find Him. When? I dunno. At the right time, I suppose. But the text seems to indicate that the longing for relationship with God is something that God Himself initiates. Our desire for God doesn't come from us, but is rather planted *in* us. It's like... a guy giving a rose to a girl. Maybe she can understand that he's into her. Maybe she doesn't, yet. But the guy doesn't give a rose to everybody -- he just gives the rose to the one he loves, and *that's* what initiates that relationship. And so it is with God and His people. "True believers" are hopelessly in love with a God who gave them a rose and proclaimed His unending love for them, and has spent all of time demonstrating it to them.

And what about the people to whom God gives no such rose, and initiates no such relationship? I dunno. But I also don't know why He would choose me; it's not because of anything I've done. I didn't earn it. I didn't work for it. And so I'm thankful... but I can't look at other people and think that I'm better than them in any way, because I didn't "deserve" this relationship with God. This is precisely why "holier-than-thou" christians drive me insane. They didn't earn their relationship either. God did all the work.

Anyhow, if you seek, you will find. That's what the text says, and I've found it to be true in the lives of the people I know, and for myself.

March 26, 2009


Mike said:
Well I do appreciate not beating anyone over the head with it.

I'm not actively seeking God, because thus far, in my life, at least, science has done a much better job explaining how the world works. I am comfortable not knowing certain things (what happens to consciousness upon one's death, for example).

Also I figure if God is real he can just show himself to me. If I want proof of God's existence, it's not going to come from you or any other human.

I wonder, with your mellow attitude regarding converting others, what is your view on the idea of non-believers winding up in hell?

March 26, 2009


jovial_cynic said:
Mike -

Just so you know, I believe in science. I believe in most of what science teaches about evolution (in as much as scientists debate among themselves about the subject), about the age of the universe, about the nature of subatomic particles, etc., etc. I don't think anything about science runs against what the bible teaches. I think that ignorant people are capable of reading the text and coming up with strange and improper interpretations -- once upon a time, "God fearing people" believed that the earth was the center of the universe, and before that, they assumed the earth was flat, and now they think it's only 6,000 years old. But that's because of particular literal interpretations of portions of the text... a method of interpretation to which I don't subscribe. I mean... when you think about it, Jesus Himself (being a physical manifestation of the Word of God, via John 1:1) spoke mostly in metaphor and parable... so why should his believers try to take everything the text says literally? I don't know. It's very strange to me.

And this leads quite well into my answer regarding non-believers. I don't know exactly what "hell" is. I mean, I know that the text speaks of a place of eternal torment and burning fire and all that, but such language is directed primarily at the Pharisees. Almost every reference during the gospels to a damnation of any kind is directed at the religious leaders of Jesus' time -- the people who were most responsible for knowing the word of God, and were also the most hypocritical. And the modern version of a Pharisee is... what? Who are the religious teachers of today? Pastors who extort? Priests who abuse children? Deacons who "manage" the offering bucket? Jesus doesn't seem to direct much hellfire threats at your regular joe schmoe -- His disciples included "tax collectors" (still reviled to this day... IRS and all that), and Jesus was rightly accused of spending much of his time with drunkards and hookers. Not a lot of hellfire there.

The book of Revelation makes mention of the lake of burning fire, and describes it as a place of torment for the angels who disobeyed (Satan and friends), and a strange collection of others: those who's names were "not found in the book of Life" (who are these people?), the "beast", the "false prophet" etc., etc. And it's this beast that makes me wonder if this part of the text is meant to be taken literally at all. In the book of Daniel, the beast is explained and defined as a kingdom. It is not a person or a thing. It is a national entity of some kind. And how does such an entity get "thrown into a lake of fire?" This makes no sense to me when viewed literally. So I think that the strong language of the lake of burning fire is meant to describe a place of complete destruction, consumption, and that sort of thing. It's metaphor. God does away with wickedness, and we understand a lake of fire (lava?) as a perfect way to destroy something.

So... nonbelievers. I dunno. I don't see Jesus in the text treating people poorly. On the other hand, He calls the Pharisees "brood of vipers," which they would have understood as being a reference to being "sons of the devil." Quite a statement. But I don't think that we're meant to equate non-believers with the religious leaders of Jesus' day. That doesn't naturally follow.

See what I'm saying here? My view of non-believers has to be consistent with Jesus' view. And Jesus just hung out with them, drank with them, and asked if he could stop by their shop and use their welding equipment. ha. :)

March 26, 2009


Mike said:
Josh
You're unlike darn near any other person claiming to be a Christian that I have ever met or spoken to. I've been told I'm going to hell many times by folks who really thought they knew the mind of God. It's nice to hear someone with a different perspective. I will therefore adjust my attitude about believers.

And of course you're welcome at the shop any time.

March 26, 2009


jovial_cynic said:
Mike -

haha... You don't have to adjust your attitude about those specific believers. :D

But I do appreciate not being clumped in with them. I don't really like them much, either.

March 26, 2009


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