The horrible secret weapon of
Hear the song (if you can take it)
This post on CARM, by atheist Darklady, reminded me of another post on this blog years ago:
In response to a discussion about hell I had joked that hell was having to listen to Petula Clark's song "Downtown" Over and over angain for eternity. This atheist say "how dare you try to scare with such a threat." He was not playing along wiht the joke. From the things he said it seemed very clear he really thought I was seriously threatening him. That's why I put up the picture of the album with that as the secret weapon.
This is the post by darklady that reminded me of that:
Anyone who has been in an abusive relationship will recognize this:This is the post I put up in response to the statement about "how dare you try to threaten me." It was called "to know God is to love God."
First the put downs
“You're NOTHING without me."
Then the threats
"If you even THINK about leaving me..."
And then blame game
"You BROUGHT this upon yourself"
But wait, this seems familiar…
"Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. " John 15:4-6
God thinks we are nothing without him …
"If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,”and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”" 2 Pet 2:20-22
Then there are the threats
"Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned" Rom 5:12
And the bible plays the blame game very well
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 just 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.
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.
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 commitment 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.
Atheists use this as derision, its' like a child with an imaginary friend. Well is it? In some ways it is. Imaginary friends are said to be positive things by child psychologists.Through the assumption of God's active presence in our lives we can model holy living just as through imaginary friends children are modeling real friendships latter for life. It really depends upon the extent to which people take it. I've never been comfortable with "Jesus is here invisibly" idea. I am not comfortable with the way of relating to God that assumes God is saving me a parking place. Some Christians sort of assume they are experiencing God and then letting God step into such occasions. That's actually not all bad really. The sense of God's presence, or what we call "God's presence" is documented over and over again in empirical studies as a valid life transforming experince and something that really changes people's lives for the better in dramatic ways. Some studies show that the mystical type experience is the most mature form of Christianity. The study by Robert Voyle shows this, and it links Christian experience to mystical experience.
That being the case we have no choice but to assume that the experience is the sensation of a reality that is actually present to us at the time.
The atheist can't evaluate this by just hearing about or reading about. I thought people who had such experiences were insane until I had one my self. It's as simple as this, you have to experience it. Its' a say of life, it is not not just one more hypothesis in a life of hypothesis testing. It's a relationship and develops over time. Not all Christians think they hear God, or even believe in that sort of interactive interpersonal relationship with God. There are many kinds of spirituality and many ways of relating to God. I went through my Charismatic phase in the 80s. I still believe some of what I picked up in that era, the "gifts" for example, miracles and healing. But I have not tried to interact in that way, that God is my invisable friend, in some time. That is, in my opinion, a phase. Its' the lower level of stages along the road to mystical union. Mystical union is the highest level of relationship with God and most Christians don't even know about it and will never get there. I will never get there in this life. But it is something, I beileve, we will all experience in after life.
Mystical union is not in the Bible as such. There are verses that pertain to it, but its' not stated explicitly as such. It's part of the voluminous literature of Christian mysticism.
Diverse Expressions of Spirituality
There are as many different views of spirituality and styles of relating to God as there are people to do the relating. Christians are very different. G.K. Chesterton was as different from Billy Graham as was Adli Stevenson from Barry Goldwater. Which is to say as different as Clinton from Bush. Even within the closed ranks of Christian mystics is very diverse. You don't have to relate to God like a big guy in the sky.You can relate to God like a principle or an idea. We can internalize the values and just learn to discern the will of God without having to "hear" or sense works or ideas. Atheists can't understand this because they have to assume it's all made up and so they can only go by words on paper. But they don't even bother to read anything except the bible and that they read for loopholes rather than understanding.
Atheists often confuse popular piety with Christian doctrine and spiritual experience. Popular piety is neither, it is not doctrine nor is it spirituality, at least not in a deep sense. The real depth in spirituality is the mystics; St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and mystical writers not saints, such as blessed John Riseborke, Madame Guyon, Baron Von Huggle. There are hundreds, or thousands. They are all different. They are a different form each other as Plato from Thomas Kuhn. Reading them will only give us a clue. You can't know God until you open your heart to ho him and begin a relationship with him. Until then it's only stuff you hear about and assumptions not in evidence. The first step is open your heart to God's love. Let God love you. If you think love is control and manipulation then you are just missing the boat on what life is all about.
Being a Christian is about knowing God in a personal way. This means experiencing God's presence, but it means a lot more than that too. It's a personalized relationship which fits the individual's own style; it's a love relationship:1Jo 4:7
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
This is something that has to be experienced to be understood. Once it is experienced it is known. The atheist claims to "just know" there's no God don't stack up to that because they are by their very definition the absence of a relationship. One cannot experince the fact of a thing not existing. We can experience the lack of food, clothes, shelter, taxes, peace, whatever, but that doesn't prove these things don't exist, merely experiencing a want and a lack is not proof of anything.Experiencing the presence is proof of something. Atheists may assume or speculate as "what that really is experience of" but that is not the same as experiencing it. To have this kind of relationship with God is to know God. To know God is to love God because God is love. It is also knowing that God loves us. No one can understand this fom outside the relationship and no one can judge God. People who think they are rejecting God are really just rejecting love.