Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Isn’t it Oppressive, Restrictive and Degrading to Praise and to Serve God: A Letter to an Atheist

I too appreciate your thoughtful responses and will try to respond as best I can. You wrote:

  • He also gets to define what is perfection, and any attempt by us to reconsider or redefine this definition using the intellect he gave us, will be swiftly punished in the hereafter, and at least a few times did so directly to his created subjects while they were alive. In other words, he prefers obedient slaves over critical thinkers.
I too would object to a god who “prefers obedient slaves over critical thinkers.” Nevertheless, we do maximize our welfare when we conform to certain principles. I don’t defy gravity by jumping from a building; nor do I violate sound principles of health by an over-consumption of junk food, at least, I try not to. Likewise, I rationally know that my welfare is best served when I adhere to God. And this I do gladly because I know that He loves me with a love that transcends all understanding (Eph. 3:17-19) and has even died for me.

When I had a higher estimation of myself and my own wisdom, I might have resented the fact that God “defines what is perfection.” However, I now recognize that it gives me great freedom to live within His boundaries, like the paraplegic who is now “confined” in the seat of his state-of-the-art wheelchair, and great joy to serve this Source of all truth and love.

It is like a goldfish within his tank. Perhaps he can jump out into the “freedom” of the surrounding world. However, he maximizes his freedom and welfare by remaining within the confines of the tank.

You are right about punishment in the “hereafter,” but the punishment has actually begun here! When you rebel against God, you also rebel against yourself - the laws and truths He’s already written into you. When you go against His moral truths, you wound your conscience and condemn yourself to always having to prove your moral rectitude against an accusing conscience.

Ironically, it is we who make ourselves slaves to our psychological needs for self- and social-affirmation. We become workaholics and form co-dependent relationships.

For instance, when you hurt others, you hurt yourself. When you use a woman to satisfy yourself at her expense, you feel guilty and are forced to justify your actions and morality. We place ourselves on a never-ending treadmill of trying to convince ourselves that we are good and worthy people.

When you judge God and others, you also judge yourself. This is because we all fall far short of our own (God-given) standards and make ourselves into self-condemned hypocrites when we judge without truth and mercy.

Also, when we bring our various indictments against God, we are unable to do this in any coherent and objective sense. We can only objectively judge if we have an absolute standard by which to judge. However, such a standard is only possible if it is transcendent, universal, unchanging, and just – the standard that can only come from God.

While this heavenly Father is so dear and beloved by us, you, from your adversarial perspective, understandably experience God as “an absolute tyrant”:

  • The problem we[atheists] have with the idea of god, is that he is an absolute tyrant…yet he demands to be worshiped eternally; who thinks that because he can create a universe, he is justified in creating any amount of unnecessary misery he wants as examples;
Bob Dylan once sung a sung, “You Got to Serve Someone.” I think that there’s a lot of truth in this. Either we serve the oppressive and changing opinions of humanity and society or we serve the opinions of a loving and omnipotent God who promises that He will never stop loving us. We are social creatures and cannot – mercifully so – detach ourselves from social opinion, like the psychopath. We are not “islands unto ourselves.” We need to define ourselves – and everyone has a self-definition – from within a social context.

Consequently, we are not entirely free. (It’s funny that many atheists will exalt freedom while they deny freewill!) We are largely driven by psychological needs. If we fail to see this, we will be utterly controlled by these needs.

We need rules and restrictions. Even playing a game of chess requires rules. Without rules and restrictions, we can only have chaos. Yes, submitting to God is a matter of submitting to such restrictions, as Jesus pointed out:

  • "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)
Coming to Jesus does require taking upon ourselves a yoke. However, this yoke is “easy” and “light” compared to the yoke of a life apart from Him.

Understandably, you balk at the idea of praising God eternally. However, praise is not so much for God – He doesn’t need my praise – but for me! Meditation never worked for me. I had been an incurable depressive and meditating upon my thoughts and feelings was the quintessence of depression. It is therefore such a privilege to take my eyes off my sorry self and place them joyously upon Him and praise Him for all He is and, selfishly, what He means to me. He has freed me from myself!

You also balk at the idea of not being able to criticize God. You might be surprised to find that many of His people in the Bible have criticized Him. Although I don’t criticize Him, I do bring to Him the things that trouble and perplex me. I am honest with Him and tell Him how I feel. The Psalms are filled with these anguished outpourings. However, I do this as a little child before a beloved, wise and trusted parent. How else to approach the God of Creation and Salvation!

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