A Biblical Challenge and a Conversation

1 kings 18-27 It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.”

In this passage Elijah mocks the prophets of Baal because their God is silent. But what of the God of the Bible today? Is he not as silent as Baal was in this passage? I argue then that the God of Abraham deserves the same mockery that his prophet Elijah leveled at the worshipers of Baal. This text sets the precedent that a silent God is a useless God.

So I ask you, follower of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, where is your God? Either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.

Jay Muratore

As the one who mocks him, do you really wish for Him to awaken?

James Yount

I would stop mocking him if he did. But by this scriptural example of Elijah mocking Baal, I'm completely justified in mocking any dead god. 

Jay Muratore

I'd presume that you would stop mocking him, by proxy.

James Yount

I would first want to know where he's been. To paraphrase a great man, All it takes for evil to prevail is for good gods to do nothing.

Jay Muratore

God doesn't answer to you James. I think that is the problem with this.

James Yount

And Baal didn't answer to Elijah.

Jay Muratore

you are not Elijah.

James Yount

No, I'm not a work of fiction.

Jay Muratore

you are a piece of work none the less.

James Yount

A piece? I thought I was the whole thing.

Jay Muratore

there is the error of your thinking, that you are the entirety

James Yount

No, I think very little of myself actually. The problem with the religious is when they can't combat your logic, they combat your person.

Jay Muratore What if I told you that you are what is wrong with your logic? Would that make any sense to you?

James Yount

The problem with the religious is when they can't combat your logic, they combat your person.

Jay Muratore

we're at an impasse.

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Comment by James Yount on May 19, 2012 at 7:49pm

Michael I agree with you for the most part. The problem is that most Christians see their religion as having a mostly positive affect on the world. Honestly, I don't disagree that Christianity is at least mostly nonviolent and charitable these days in comparison to a lot of other religions. If a Christian regards you as a sinner you usually, at most, will receive an unkind word. As opposed to Islam where you might be killed or maimed. To the credit of Christianity today, it has moved away from it's violent roots which are prevalent in its texts. What distresses me is when one of my close religious friends says he'd have to consider sacrificing his children if he heard the 'voice of god' commanding it. To many devout Christians, god can do no wrong. I asked my friend if god could command or do anything that would be wrong. His answer was of course that if god commanded it then it's not wrong. Blind faith. I don't like the idea of my moral friends throwing out their good judgement on the perceived whim of a deity. This is why I keep trying to get them to acknowledge that a god that is so absent doesn't deserve such obedience. I'm sorry, but at best he's a deadbeat dad.

Comment by Michael OL on May 19, 2012 at 6:41pm

James, I'm also an engineer, and have to remark that religion is especially frustrating for us engineers.  Unlike in the fundamental sciences, we deal with approximations and care primarily about practical consequences.  Unlike in the arts, we want our work to be rigorous and substantiated by physical facts, rather than mere aesthetics or personal taste.  A religion that's too aloof to be subject to physical evidence, and too effete for unambiguous translation into daily life, is frustrating from both ends.  

So my advice is to turn Christianity's advice onto the Christians: "By their works ye shall know them".  Ask for evidence not that Christianity is epistemically true, but that its consequences are genuinely beneficial.  And gently point out the impasse once we find just what those consequences really are.

Comment by James Yount on May 19, 2012 at 12:02pm

And there is the fundamental problem. If you can't question the words of god, then how are you to determine which god to follow in the first place? The crux of the religious command, wrapped in overcomplicated lingo, is don't question.

The idea that god is so far above man in intellect and meaning is the key reason that christians spend so much time trying to find hidden meanings in religious text. I was at a bible study one time and the scripture that was being discussed was the tabernacle. People where throwing off the cuff 'meanings' left and right to a text that was basically just a building blueprint. The tabernacle represents this, the curtains represent that, the gold had to mean this, the priestly garments that.  Therefore we should live our lives in XYZ manner because that's the picture that god is trying to paint for us.

It seems that god is so smart/stupid that he can't just say do this and don't do that. He has to paint an overly complicated metaphor that the majority of us simpletons are bound to get wrong 99/100 times.

I'm an engineering student and I was taught the acronym KISS early on. Keep It Simple Stupid.

Comment by Michael OL on May 19, 2012 at 11:46am

The basic religionist idea is that mankind is so corrupt, that we lack even the initial basis for asking why god would do such and such a thing, or whether god's participation in physical events makes sense or not.  In other words, we are completely unequipped to apply logic ourselves, and have zero point of departure from which to begin constructing an argument.

And a tidy approach this is... completely airtight and unassailable... save for one problem: any system that is so unapproachable that it can not be put to the test, becomes completely arbitrary - and therefore meaningless.

Comment by James Yount on May 19, 2012 at 11:25am

JS, if you think about it, a god that creates everything is responsible for everything including our shortcomings. So doesn't it seem petty to make a creature only to give them a set of rules that you've created them to break, then punish them for it.  This is why I've come to the conclusion that for there to even be the possibility of a good moral god, then said god could not be omniscient or judgmental in the manner of the christian texts.

Comment by James Yount on May 18, 2012 at 10:27pm

Yeah, that reminds me of the 'bible' account of Saul and David. Saul was supposedly chosen by god to be the king of Israel. Then he was overthrown by David. Of course the bible explains this by saying that Saul rebelled against god's ways and David was righteous.  There are numerous similar accounts in the bible of one war or another, and the commentary is always either that the winners were obedient to god and thus prevailed or the losers were disobedient and thereby were defeated.

Comment by James Yount on May 18, 2012 at 10:07pm
Thanks JS. It's a convenient cop-out to say that god doesn't answer to you. The truth is he can't because he's non-existent. Or if he does exist, then he's uninvolved and thereby unworthy of our attention. Certainly, we shouldn't be living our lives according to a moral code that is contrary to our own internal morality to appease a god that can't be bothered to say hello. A one way relationship isn't a relationship.


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