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Righty: God is our creator, our shepherd and our only salvation. We are all sinners, and those who reject God are doomed to everlasting punishment. Therefore we must bring all of humanity into His fold. The Holy Scriptures are the literal word of God, and they contain everything we need to know about life and human conduct. Heaven and hell are actual places; God sees all our sins and will damn our wretched souls unless we bend to His will. Yet He is a loving father who answers our prayers and delivers us from evil. We live in wicked times, and we must stand steadfast against the godless commercialism and decadence that have polluted our culture. We must do whatever is necessary to create a government founded on scriptural principles, so that everyone (and that includes you, Lefty) would be compelled to live by God’s law.

Lefty: The pathetic fools who believe their holy scriptures to the letter are not simply ignorant and deluded; they’re belligerent fanatics who would kill us to save our souls. Save us from what? From the eternal torments promised in their scriptures to all unbelievers. If the scriptures are full of human errors and embellishments, as they obviously are, then nothing in them is believable and the entire faith must collapse like a house of cards. If the scriptures are false, then God is a myth. Surely we’ve progressed far enough over the past few thousand years to abandon those patriarchal Middle Eastern faiths that have existed primarily to perpetuate fairy tales, subjugate their believers and keep them in a state of abject guilt simply for being human. Let’s get real: God is a human fabrication and his devout followers (like Righty) are a menace. Belief in God and the supernatural has no place in an enlightened society, and it must be eradicated before it destroys us.

The New Moderate:

Let’s get this much straight: nobody knows the true nature or will of God. All scriptures mix history, myth, tradition, revelation, dogma, wisdom, fantasy and eloquent guesswork to the extent that it becomes impossible to know the truth. Any of us could write a book and claim that it was divinely inspired.

Because we have no proof of God’s existence, we’re left with faith. We can believe the scriptures if we like, or we can choose not to believe them. We can believe in some parts and reject other parts. But keep this in mind: our beliefs have absolutely no bearing on whether God exists, what form he might take, whether he cares about us as individuals — or whether he is a she. If God exists, he is who he is regardless of what we think he is (or even if we think he isn’t). If God doesn’t exist, no amount of preaching and genuflecting will bring him into being. We humans still believe we have the power to create God in our image or banish him from the universe if he no longer suits our purpose. What colossal arrogance!

Those who live by the literal dictates of holy scripture have equipped themselves with a sturdy moral compass that guides them through the tangled wilderness of earthly existence. Yet they’re also turning their backs on numerous pleasures of this too-transient life, not the least of which is the simple guiltless joy of being human. More seriously, they risk falling into the deadly grip of fanaticism, obsession and even madness. (The New Moderate shudders to think about the number of people who have died in agony at the hands of true believers.) Religious fanatics have done more than anyone else to turn the educated world against religion.

Those who automatically reject God because they reject the scriptures are making a fatal error in logic: they’ve neglected to consider that God might exist independently of the scriptures, in some form unknown to us, the way a novelist is unknown to the characters he has imagined. Forget about the image of God as a bearded Middle Eastern patriarch; he might be an indwelling life force, the source of energy and creativity, the voice of your soul, the inventor of atoms, the invisible moving hand behind the unfolding universe. Or not. But those who succumb to materialism and its enticements are exiling themselves from the infinitely rich life of the spirit. One of the beauties of religion is its aura of unapproachable mystery, the glimmer of light behind a veil of clouds.

If we require a less mysterious God, why not deduce his true nature by observing the universe he created? (I’m surprised that none of the major religions ever considered this approach.) For example, we can see that God must love rats, termites, cockroaches, viruses and people, because he made them so adaptable (and therefore so plentiful). He heaps misery on loners and rewards those who create strong social bonds, so he’s probably something of an extrovert. God has to be fairly enthusiastic about sex, or he wouldn’t have granted it such a prominent place in our life-cycles. He causes the strong to prey on the weak, which would imply that he’s less than kind. But he also makes sure that the weak outbreed their predators, so at least he’s fair and balanced.

All right — these are just whimsical speculations, but they make more sense than many of the outlandish tales we’ve come to accept as holy writ. Why would anyone go to war over rigidly held interpretations of an unknowable divinity? Our continuing attachment to ancient dogmas seems as mysterious as God himself.

Still, we seem to have been implanted with a hunger for divine assistance. God might not answer our prayers like some celestial Santa Claus, but faith in a higher power — even without certainty — can make us feel less alone and miserable during our ride here on Planet Earth. It can boost our immune systems and our longevity, as studies have shown. In the end, how do you lose by giving the supreme deity the benefit of the doubt? Just don’t tell us that he caused your Google stock to triple so you could remodel your kitchen.

Summary: God is who he is (or isn’t) regardless of what we believe about him. All scriptures are factually suspect; we can come to God only by faith.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    July 9, 2009 8:17 pm

    I’ll drink to that ! … errr I mean – Amen !

  2. Valdo permalink
    November 23, 2009 9:07 pm

    Everything is true for he who believes, and everything is lie for he who doesn’t believe.

  3. November 24, 2009 10:07 am

    Valdo: That’s the problem; we need moderates who can look critically at religion without simply tossing it into the dumpster.

  4. Taliesin Knol permalink
    January 8, 2010 9:23 pm

    Religion is absurd to a moderate, just as believing in the Easter bunny or Santa. the concept of a god, is merely improbable. The concept of institutions demanding people live a certain way, condeming those that disagree with their insanities, and being outside or the de-facto law, (Islamic theocracy) remains absurd. Religous institutions must not be given power over people, lest they misuse it, IE: Crusades, Jihads, Witches. You can believe whatever insanity you want, it would be hypocritical of anyone to tell you not to, but that doesn’t mean you can tell me your right and I’m evil for thinking my own thoughts. As is, religion is just a way for people to influence gullible/stupid people who don’t/won’t/can’t think for themselves, usually with disastrous results.

    • Taliesin Knol permalink
      January 8, 2010 9:24 pm

      I apologize for any grammatical errors/crimes, I’m typing outside on a laptop, brrrr.

  5. Mobius permalink
    January 19, 2010 2:42 pm

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that such institutions as the Vatican are becoming more moderate, even admitting fallibility as “religion can be inherently wrong, because man is imperfect.” Or something like that.

  6. Taliesin Knol permalink
    January 19, 2010 2:57 pm

    Now to get them to prosecute the molester clergy…

  7. Saumaya permalink
    April 4, 2010 3:35 am

    Look at what the Buddha taught. It is realism and you can experience what He says now and in this life and come to your own conclusions. In fact He said to examine what He says and to accept it only if you are convinced.

  8. valdobiade permalink
    April 5, 2010 12:10 pm

    In other words, if you accept “only if you are convinced”, then it is the TRUTH. Do you think that lies are going to convince me? HUH… no way…

  9. April 9, 2010 7:12 pm

    religion kills.

  10. Shiroi permalink
    May 25, 2010 4:00 pm

    “If a “religion” is defined to be a system of ideas that contains unprovable statements, then Gödel taught us that mathematics is not only a religion, it is the only religion that can prove itself to be one. ”

    -Bertrand Russell

    Random disorganized thoughts on the matter:

    1. Humans have an extremely strong impulse to believe in a God. It’s a beautiful, comforting fairy tale, but one that feeds on emotion more than anything else.

    2. Yet if one exists, the laws of physics and general structure of the universe may as well be an interesting insight into the mind of a God. For instance, multiplying the acceleration an object has acquired by its mass gives us the amount of force acting on it.

    3. It couldn’t possibly be simpler than that. On the other hand, it’s just an estimative: if you want something more precise, you’d need to watch every wave function of every particle on that object, measure the electromagnetic forces acting on each one and add up all of them. And somehow it would still be completely imprecise.

    4. Would that imply a message that, even with individual particles being highly different in their attributes and whimsical in their behavior, trillions of them can still create a stable and orderly system?

    (Sorry about the rambling. I should put them in to a more organized essay someday…)

  11. joanne permalink
    October 27, 2010 1:57 pm

    I refer to myself as a “recovering Catholic” – I have major issues with religion and there are three quotes from the movie “Dogma” that say it better than I ever could:

    Rufus: “I think it’s better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier. Life should malleable and progressive; working from idea to idea permits that. Beliefs anchor you to certain points and limit growth; new ideas can’t generate. Life becomes stagnant.”

    Serendipity: When are you people going to learn? It’s not about who’s right or wrong. No denomination’s nailed it yet, and they never will because they’re all too self-righteous to realize that it doesn’t matter what you have faith in, just that you have faith. Your hearts are in the right place, but your brains need to wake up.

    Liz: He said that faith is like a glass of water. When you’re young, the glass is small, and it’s easy to fill up. But the older you get, the bigger the glass gets, and the same amount of liquid doesn’t fill it anymore. Periodically, the glass has to be refilled.

  12. Andy Tonti permalink
    May 1, 2012 3:51 pm

    Most of the writers preceding me have encapsulated religion as an objective ‘thing” so it’s easier to indemnify or point to as the cause of errant and often barbarous human behavior
    in humanity’s mixed history of goodness and evildoings. I’m affiliated with an organized
    body of believers (an established religion) but I identify the self-awareness and practice of my faith as my spirituality, my spiritual life. This differs from religion which is perceived as an
    outward display of following rituals, keeping and/or venerating religious relics, and an observation of every holy day throughout the church year. I try to evoke my behavior as a kind and tolerant attitude toward people, a willingness to help others in a tough spot, and
    avoid criticizing, condemning, and judging others whose belief systems may vary widely from mine. This is acting spiritually. It’s not deliberate or contrived or egotistical. Sadly, the rhetoric and actions of the “religious far right” in this current political climate only intensify popular stereotypes of “religious” behavior.

  13. August 28, 2012 12:24 pm

    There are several things I can take issue with in this article, but firstly I’ll focus on the political one- the idea that somehow a belief in God, or in any particular faith, needs must be linked to where you stand in the political spectrum. Now maybe this is more pronounced in the States than it is in my native Britain, and this leads to the “Christian/religious = right wing” mentality moreso than it does here. I myself have known those who are both ardent in their faith and have been associated with the sort of political activism largely associated with the left-wing. Indeed I’ve been that way myself, though I now consider myself politically moderate, broad-spectrum. Also consider those (often associated with Anabaptist traditions) who are essentially apathetic to “worldly” politics, and embody ideals which might otherwise be thought of as an odd mix of political values- left- and right-wing, authoritarian and libertarian.

    Now I am myself an evangelical Christian who believes in the Bible as wholly inspired by God, and also might be seen as being politically “conservative” on the usual hot-button issues (abortion, same-sex marriage &c.)- not that I do not believe the right-wingers on these issues cannot go too far beyond the pale. But nor do I believe that some aspects of a welfare state (if managed properly) are ultimately a bad thing, legitimising theft from the hard-working taxpayer (though it can be, and I need to move my life in that direction) or that the needs of big business are necessarily the needs of all society. Nor (like some on the left) does it mean that business (or becoming rich) necessarily equate to being A Bad Thing, or that we do not expect too much out of the state.

  14. August 28, 2012 12:44 pm

    As to if we can know trust the evidence of the Bible- well I believe we can, though that is not enough. You need the Holy Spirit within you, to know the reality of God. And I do not think it needs must contradict science all the time- but science is a lot more limited in what it can really “know” than most modernists give it credit for. Science is just one way of finding out about the nature of reality, and it is limited to what we can observe and measure, plus what we can infer from that. We cannot prove entirely how life began or developed, only infer from geology and the fossil record. Nor can we peer back before the Big Bang. And just because something is shown in nature does not mean that was the way it was intended to be- we infer from Scripture that sin has affected our human nature, making it imperfect, and indeed has had knock-on effects on the rest of nature too (God placed us in charge of Earth, and when w rejected Him, perhaps He drew back).

    What we know is that we can persuade, but there are limits. and I believe that freedom of belief where reasonable, is necessary. We cannot legislate people into the kingdom of God, we cannot force them to believe. If we try and coerce or pressurise too far- and his includes with moral practices, perhaps- we actually risk alienating people. Not that I believe church-state separation should be so great, that democraatic participation should exclude faith-based viewpoints.

  15. Andy Tonti permalink
    October 10, 2012 12:12 pm

    Oh so rightly said brother. This is spirit-led thought for sure.

  16. January 23, 2014 2:54 pm

    I believe anything is possible.
    God is possible. No God is possible.
    I was raised a Christian, but, I am conflicted.
    If God is both good and omnipotent, then he must be infinitely more forgiving than the most forgiving human being … This would preclude him sending anyone to hell.
    If God is mean spirited then … Oops! This causes a whole bunch of problems.
    All humans in prehistory … All over the Earth … Invented a story of the creation. The Greeks had many Gods.
    If there had to be a creator, then the creator had to have a creator. Hmmm!
    I believe a person can be good and kind without religion. But, I see no reason why a religious person can’t coexist with others with a different view.
    What if there is not a “smallest” thing or a “largest thing”? What if infinity extends not only in every spacial direction and both forward and backward in time but also to the infinitely small and the infinitely large and … To the infinity of Godliness.

    Do not demand others to change.
    Respect those that respect you.
    Live by the universal golden rule of all religions (do unto others as you would have them do unto you).
    Be kind and humble.
    Sounds a lot like Buddism.

  17. Anonymous permalink
    June 26, 2014 4:11 am

    I only believe in the Old Law, it IS the Spirit of God from the beginning…certainly I do not interpret it the same as all…

  18. Pat Riot permalink
    October 15, 2014 8:14 am

    Here’s an easy exercise: imagine two modern parents: a hard-working, good-natured man and a hard-working, good-natured woman who fall in love and have four children, let’s say two boys and two girls. As the children are growing, the parents realize that they cannot and should not do everything for the children. For a simple example, the parents cannot run into the batter’s box and hold the bat for their children during little league. Not only would that be embarrassing, it would defeat the purpose of the children learning to hit a ball. As good parents, they realize there’s a certain amount of letting go that is necessary in parenting. Parents can provide some protection, guidance, and support, but at some point children must make their own way in the world to become healthy adults.

    Now continue to imagine that two of the girls and one of the boys become happy, productive, fun-loving, imperfect but healthy and good-natured adults. Paint your own pictures to suit your fancies. Unfortunately, sadly, one of the boys becomes a bad character—crime, deceit, breaking into people’s homes, violence, a steady history of despicable, seedy, bad. Now an outside observer comes along and thinks or says, “why did the parents allow this? What kind of parents would allow this? Perhaps there were no parents. There must have been no parents…”

    We did not write our DNA code. We did not create our own bodies. A cut on our skin heals itself without our direction. We have intellect. Despite being influenced by our past, we can choose. Air to breath and water to drink has been here on planet Earth. Some things have been provided, but not all. To use the Holocaust or other atrocities of humans to conclude there is no “God” or Intelligent Source or Creators, is off the mark.

  19. Trey permalink
    March 29, 2017 11:05 pm

    My mom converted from Baptist to Jehovah’s Witnesses. My father remains Baptist. As a kid, it was kinda rough, especially because it lead to their divorce, but in the long term, I’m grateful, because in the absence of a united parental/religious front, I was forced to read the Bible, cover-to-cover, using both sects’ study aids and my own twisted heap of grey matter to figure out which parent’s religion was correct. I think Admiral [Allah hu] Ackbar put it best when he said, “It’s A Trap”

    If there is a God, or a Pantheon of Gods and Goddesses, they’ve clearly chosen to manifest Themselves in interesting ways. I find granting Tim Tebow touchdowns and an impressive bank account to be a questionable priority, given the lack of food distribution in the Sudan.

    And while all Glory to the Father sure seems appropriate when Grandma pulls through that triple-bypass without going into the light, God doesn’t seem to move the hands of a guy with a set of steak knives and some alligator clips with the same intricate dexterity as when He chooses to posses cardio-vascular surgeons. And good luck praying for that knee-stump to grow a shin and foot. Amputees are not covered by Jehovah-Care.

  20. July 4, 2017 9:59 pm

    First, pardon the handle, I use this account on many sites.

    As someone who seems himself as a disillusioned, Left-leaning Moderate and firm Atheist, you make a more compelling argument than most. But I believe that it is possible to experience that sense of spirituality without the presence of a God, however one chooses to define Him. For many, the simple thrill of experiencing new things, new ideas, new people, new places, and the love we feel for our friends, families, and partners, are fulfillment enough. It goes well beyond simple materialism, far beyond mindless hedonism.

    Keep in mind, we are not machines, and all but the most detached humans have a moral compass based concepts that aren’t purely logical. Having said all that, I believe a person’s religion is not what is important, but the values they take from their religion. You seem to have chosen yours well.

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