Beliefs, Practices, History
Is God a Delusion? A Reply to Religion's Cultured Despisers (Wiley-Blackwell: Dec. 3, 2008), p. 63.
I happen to think we can discover in the Bible a God worthy of worship — the God of radically universal love attested to by Martin Luther King, Jr. But we can't discover this God if we think of the Bible as a monolithic treatise written by God himself. When the Bible is read in that way, we don't derive a picture of a God worthy of unfettered devotion. What we get is a picture of a capricious deity, sometimes merciful and loving, at other times jealous and tyrannical. If this way of reading the Bible is the only legitimate one, then the proper conclusion to draw — given God's essential goodness — is that the biblical god is not God. ¶ But there are other ways to read the Bible. We can read it as a human testament to the encounter with God, one that evolves as human misconceptions crash up against a divine reality that transcends our understanding. In short, we can treat it as a rich historical archive unified by a common struggle: the struggle of flawed human beings to understand and respond to the divine, and to live as the people of God. We can see this struggle as ongoing, and the voices recorded in the Bible as participants in an enduring conversation that we ourselves have every right to participate in — rather than as a blunt authority intended to silence conversation.
"Bill Maher vs. the 'talking snake'", by Andrew O'Hehir at Salon.com (October 2, 2008).
What if there was a religion, asks comedian Bill Maher, in which an all-powerful god from outer space decided to send his unborn son on a suicide mission to planet Earth? So this space-god impregnates a human female in some mystical, not-quite-physical fashion, and she gives birth to a baby who is both a human being and a divine incarnation, simultaneously the space god's spawn and the space god himself. (Oh, space god also has a third manifestation, one that's totally invisible.) So space-god junior is born on Earth destined to be killed, even though he's a space god and therefore immortal. As you've picked up by now, the religion Maher is describing is not imaginary, and in various forms and guises is professed by most people in the United States, including every president we've ever had or are likely to have in the foreseeable future... In the acerbic late-night talk-show host's new movie "Religulous," made with "Borat" director Larry Charles, Maher keeps bludgeoning you with stories like these to make the point that the central story behind mainstream Christianity, when considered at face value and taken literally, sounds every bit as loony as the oft-derided tenets of Mormonism or Scientology.
The True Intellectual System of the Universe (Gould & Newman, 1838), pp. 560-1.
The great design of God in the gospel is to clear up this mist of sin and corruption, which we are here surrounded with, and to bring up his creatures out of the shadow of death to the region of light above, the land of truth and holiness. The great mystery of the gospel is to establish a godlike frame and disposition of spirit, which consists in righteousness and true holiness, in the hearts of men. And Christ, who is the great and mighty Saviour, came on purpose into the world, not only to save us from fire and brimstone, but also to save us from our sins. Christ hath therefore made an expiation of our sins by his death upon the cross, that we, being thus delivered out of the hands of these our greatest enemies, might serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life. This "grace of God, that bringeth salvation," hath therefore "appeared unto all men, in the gospel, that it might teach us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and that we should live soberly, righteously and godlily in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." "These things I write unto you (saith our apostle a little before my text) that you sin not;" therein expressing the end of the whole gospel, which is, not only to cover sin by spreading the purple robe of Christ's death and sufferings over it, whilst it still remaineth in us with all its filth and noisomeness unremoved; but also to convey a powerful and mighty spirit of holiness, to cleanse us and free us from it. And this is a greater grace of God to us, than the former, which still go both together in the gospel; besides the free remission and pardon of sin in the blood of Christ, the delivering of us from the power of sin, by the Spirit of Christ dwelling in our hearts.
"A More Perfect Union", delivered in Philadelphia on March 18, 2008.
Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety - the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity's services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.
The Divine Conspiracy (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1998), p. 273.
Anyone who is not a continual student of Jesus, and who nevertheless reads the great promises of the Bible as if they were for him or her, is like someone trying to cash a check on another person's account. At best, it succeeds only sporadically.
Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (First edition, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998), p. 6.
[T]heology made no provision for evolution. The biblical authors had missed the most important revelation of all! Could it be that they were not really privy to the thoughts of God?
Beyond Born Again, p. 75.
The very admission of the need to harmonize is an admission that the burden of proof is on the narratives, not on those who doubt them. What harmonizing shows is that despite appearances, the texts still might be true.
"Truth Commissions and Judicial Trials" in The Provocations of Amnesty (New Africa Books: 2003) p. 82.
The isolating device of prison guarantees that reconciliation between prisoners and the rest of 'us' remains far out of our minds. The case with amnestied perpetrators is different. Their very presence raises the daily question: can the sinning and the sinned-against achieve a new positive relationship. For the sake of new social harmony, the motto 'forget and move on' has its utilitarian attraction. Bt the motto is deceptive. Forgetting is a tricky business, both psychically and politically. Psychically, Kierkegaard was right to suggest that real forgetting requires real remembering: 'When we say that we consign something to oblivion, we suggest simultaneously that it is to be forgotten and yet also remembered.'
C.S. Lewis on Praise and Worship said...
Reflections on the Psalms (Harvest Books: 1964), p.179.
I have never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise — lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game — praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least. Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible.
John Horner on the Church said...
No, to find real blasphemy, we have to look to ourselves and our forebears — those of us who have taken upon ourselves the name of Christ, and then, in the name of Christ, perform acts that make him weep. When our Christian forbears used the name of Christ to justify slavery, used the name of Christ to justify the history of anti-semitism and the long line of pogroms. When we used the name of Christ as the reason for apartheid and Jim Crow. When we use the name of Christ to kill the Irish Catholic or the Irish Protestant. Or the Serb or the Croatian or the Bosnian. When we use the name of Jesus as the banner under which we picket the funeral of President Clinton's mother, or someone who has died of AIDS. When we get upset because the homeless are littering the sidewalk that leads to our church. When we expend more political effort toward getting a cut in our taxes than we do in making sure that the children of our country have decent food and shelter, and do it in the name of Christianity. When we do these things — that's when we should raise the cry of "Blasphemy."