I came across an atheist response yesterday on a message board that reminded me of an old post I originally back in 2007 or so. Actually there were two recent posts that remind me of this guy:
(1) athiest accuses me of "throwing fear of hell at him."
I was angry and tried to say in a cleaver way "go to hell." This guy went on a big tirade that is still going on insisting that I'm trying to manipulate him by "throwing fear of hell at me." No actually I was just being a jerk. No big psychological manipulation involved I just said "go to hell." Wrong, shouldn't have done it but he attaches so much more to it. That also got us off on a thing about fear of hell, which he clearly still has. He denies he has fear hell because he doesn't believe in God but he so angry that its obvious he still fears hell. It's probalby more the reminder of fear. It's like a kid saying "I'm not afraid of the dark," so then when it's time to turn out the light he keeps finding excuses to keep it on but all the while angrily protesting "I am not afraid of the dark! I just have to do some ironing before I go to bed!"
(2) Atheist says fear of God is psychological manipulation
This guy just made the claim that when the bible speaks of "fear of the Lord" that's a sick and evil attempt to scare people into being controlled. From my own studies of the passages involving that phrase I know for a fact that's not it. I told him this and he goes "O you know it is, you are not being honest." It's a conplex concept and you hve to take it verse by verse it's never as simple as just "here's the word fear, so do what I say." Nothing in the Bible is ever that simple. Essentially fear of the Lord is not voluntary. It was transformed into an ethic by the prophests but essentually it refers to the sublime, the non voluntary reaction people have the sublimity of God. "Sublime" doesn't mean pretty it means that which outstrips our understanding and which transcends anything we can conceive of or expect.. Consequently there is the "terrible sublime" where horrible things can be sublime. So it's not the grand Canyon that is sublime it's also 9/11 or Pearl Harbor that is so.
Fear of the Lord, or Holy fear, is the involuntary response people sometimes have when confronted with the presence of God, its also described in realization to angles. The sense of being overwhealmed by some all powerful thing that transcends all our understanding and can't be confronted. Not being used to manipulate because people who would be doing the manipulating are totally freaked out too. Its' unepxected, you can't control you can't know when it will happen because it's totally relation to God's decision to reveal himself.
More importantly fear of the Lord is not connected to bad things. It's fear, it's being feraked out, it's being overwhelmed but it's nto punishment, it's not about hell and it culminates in God's love.
These fears of being controlled are being expressed by people who hate God, if God is just a metaphor for the people who hurt them in the chruch, that's who they hate, it's focused upon the concept of God. They don't know God so they don't know what the fear of the Lord is. They are confusing fears. They are ally imposing their own fear of hell over the healthy fear of the Lord. If they knew God they would know better.
here's the post this reminds me of.
The old post I am reminded of, the reprise:
I just finished this page yesterday.Why I don't believe in hell. It's too long for the blog (4 pages). So I put it up on Doxa. I really should have done it years ago, it's such a basic issue. I write this in response to a commenter on the comments section who was posting in response to the piece "no Will Greater than My Own."
Ah, at last, you've begun to realize that even if your god exists, not everyone would want to follow him.
Not that I believe that either exists, but I would MUCH rather follow Satan than the xian god. In fact, I would rather die and spend eternity in hell than follow the xian god.
My response that's your prerogative and your problem. I will just say that you don't know God. you don't know what God is like. Maybe I dont' either but a i have a general idea. you can't go by the OT. you have to go by Jesus. So far all the atheist attempts to show that Jesus was no good have been less than impressive, for me.
I'll look you up in a million an and see what you think then. I jsut warn you of one thing:
I do happen to know, a little known secret of the universe, a large part of hell of his having to hear the replay of "Down Town" Petula Clark over and over again forever. think about it.
I know everything I need to know about the xian god, and I know everything that I need to know about your vile faith.
I hate Jesus, I hate the xian god, and I would destroy both of them if I could.
"I do happen to know, a little known secret of the universe, a large part of hell of his having to hear the replay of 'Down Town' Petula Clark over and over again forever. think about it."
ROFL! Is that the best you can do to scare me into groveling before your god? You're pathetic.
J.L. Hinman said...
I am not interested into scaring you into anything. You are only hurting yourself.
Then why try to intimidate me by telling me what hell might be like?
Again: I would rather burn in hell than follow your god. Deal with it.
J.L. Hinman said...
that is nuts. to really think that is a serious attempt to scare anyone? I can think of a lot more scary fates than having to listen to "Downtown."
this is something called "humor." Are you so demented you don't even know what "funny" means?
If you bothered to learn more about my ideas you would know that I do not believe in hell as a place of eternal conscious torment. So you are just hurting yourself because you are missing the very essence of what love is by rejecting God because God is love.
If you are just looking for fight you wont get one. I have better thins to do. Go troll someone else. If you really care bout ideas I am wiling to talk but you have to shed the bad boy image thing and grow up and really think.
I am not trying to humiliate this guy or to ridicule him for thinking my joke was a serious threat, although I think it should be obvious it was not. Three things occurred to me as a result of this exchange:
(1) again we see the real issue underneath it all is power. Notice his idea of accepting the existence of God is "groveling." For one reason or another its a power issue. I don't know anything about this guy by my imagination is working overtime playing on images of overly zealous religious people trying to manipulate people into doing their will. Ultimately I don't believe that all the hurt feelings and bitter hatred of hate group atheism is all the fault of religious people. But I certainly don't think we've handled things right.
(2) atheist assumptions about religious people are stereotypes that cause them to cast the issues in certain preset terms.
(3) Perhaps we condition people to think they know what God would be like, or what the Christian idea of God would be like by dealing with Christians. How else could it be? That they think they know what God "is" or would be like is purely a function of two things:
(a) how Christians have treated them
(b) the why they have been conditioned by Christians to read the Bible.
This is why I think it is important up front to get out the message about hell. I urge you all to read those pages because I feel I make a pretty good case for the idea that the Bible does not even teach that hell is eternal conscious torment. It's important for people to understand this because the atheist agenda is wrapped up in propagandizing about Christianity as a punitive and operant notion of religious experience.
two paradigms: operant vs existentialist
The choice of paradigms on the nature of religion lies between two poles, a punitive-operant religion vs an existential religion. Punitive I think we all get drift, hell is thought to be punishment for disbelief, sin and generally doing bad. It is also seen as a means so scaring people into compliance as our friend above thinks.Operant (like B.F. Skinner's positive and negative reinforcement) because through the promise of heaven and the threat of hell one is manipulated into changing behavior on a punishment/reward basis. Existentialist means it is not about punishments or manipulation but a response to one's existential experince of life in the world--based upon personal experiences and aimed at understanding individualistic goals and ends of a person's life rather than fitting into a preset mold of behavior.
While we can't do that much about the way other Christians react to people, we can try to check our own reactions (I do know I still have a long way to go in that area) and we can try to clarify problems with the atheist reading of our belief system. Toward that end I would explain that since I don't believe that hell is eternal conscious torment, I can't really try to scare compliance out of people. There have been instances on message boards where I have told atheists about my view son hell and always some group of them will say "then how can you scare people into being good?" I can only think that they approach the problem from this angle because they feel people have tried to scare them into being good and that's the only way they can see to do it.
The existential paradigm of religion is so much more effective because scaring compliance. Scaring people into obedience defeats the purpose of knowing God and it's really ineffective in the long run. It's much more effective if people internalize the values of the good. This is why God sets up the world in the way it is, why we have to seek truth instead of being issued briefings in press conferences when we are born. Because the search leads to internalizing values and values give us committment for a life time. Belief in hell is a waste. It's childish and it is wasted because no one learns in hell. You cant' come back and try it again, by the time you know you were wrong its' too late to change. Punishment may be just and there should be consequences for evil, but I think ceasing to exist is consequence enough, and humane. Please read the link at the top about Why I don't believe in hell. So I don't believe God's aim is to scare but to enthrall and to bring us to a point of internalizing God's values. We do that by knowing God.
Atheists will no doubt see it as a game and a pretense, but, it is a relationship. One cannot "know enough about the Christian God." you can't get the idea from words on paper or sermons on Sunday. It's not a fair test to go by how Christians treat you because Christians are at all different stages in their walk with God, some don't even have any idea they can know God in a personal way. That being said that is no excuse to treat people badly. We as Christians have to understand how we come across and respond in love, not manipulation. I know I am the worst at responding in love. I have some real idiotic mistakes in lashing out in anger to abuse of atheists. But this doesn't give any clear picture of God, even though they will draw conclusions about God based upon the way we act.
That is no better than trying to know a person by what others tell you. You ever had a friend who had another friend he was always talking about. This guy is the greatest ever, and when you meet that person, nothing like the description. You have to know someone before you can really see how great that person is. You have to actually know God. This brings up the invisible friend effect.
End of the old post.
The atheist "thing" (the experience, the point of message board interacting) is to be accepted by the flock, to have a social cement. To do that one expresses one's derision of the enemy, one mocks and ridicules. So these guys are spending their time mocking and ridiculing people who are in a relationship they can't understand and don't want to understand. That relationship is with someone they don't know and don't even believe exists. They are hardly in a position to clearly evaluate the nature of that relationship. Many of the will claim they know so much about the Christian God very few that say that, when pressed reveal the ear marks of a strong Christianity. Most of them never experienced God's presence. That's not something you get automatically just becasue you go to church for years. I've met atheists who quite Christianity becasue they didn't feel God's presence. Such people usually don't know theology, they know only the pablum taught form the pulpit. So saying "I have a Christian for many yeas' is not as impressive as it sounds.
you can't know someone just by hearing stories about them. It's a real relationship with God it's very diverse. It has to be experienced to be understood. Anyone claiming to disprove or to understand it who doesn't know that God is love doesn't know God. If one's only idea of love is manipulation that's just a warning that person probably needs help, not a credential to show how deeply insightful they are. People who think they have debucncked love are not insightful they are sick.
This original post had a section on "invisible friend" but it's so good (and so much longer) I have decided to cut it off and use it as a separate post latter.