In a previous post, I decided to find an example of the “Love the sinner, hate the sin” thing; and stumbled upon this site: Got Questions?org, a religious site devoted to answering religious questions. And it was there that someone supposedly asked the questions: "Are we to love the sinner but hate the sin? Does God hate us when we sin?"
And for those without the patience to read stuff, the short answer is: Yes, and yes. We should love the sinner but hate the sin; and that God, in his infinite wisdom and power, can and does hate both us and our sins in a perfectly holy way. Terrific. It’s bad enough that I’m going to spend the after-life in Hell due to a terrible misunderstanding; but I’ve got my creator hating me during life too. That’s all I need.
As the answer states: Even as Christians, we remain imperfect in our humanity and cannot love completely, nor can we hate without malice. But, God can do both of these perfectly well, because He is God! God can hate without any sinful intent at all. Therefore, he can hate the sin and the sinner in a perfectly holy way and still be willing to lovingly forgive at the moment of that sinner's repentance and faith (see Malachi 1:3; Revelation 2:6; 3 Peter 3:9).
Now I hate to be rude, but this all kind of sounds like a steaming pile of doo-doo. I mean, “hate” is a pretty strong word, and if it’s something mankind is completely unable to do without malice; it seems kind of odd that it would be virtuous coming from God. I don’t even know if I’ve ever hated anything; but I imagine if I did, it’d be pretty bad. And we’re to believe that God feels infinitely more hatred about almost everyone who has ever lived? And this is a good thing?
What does hate even mean in the context of God, anyway? And how the hell can we possibly tell if God’s doing it right? Isn’t it possible that God could be tricking us? It must be possible. The dude can do anything! Of course he can trick us. So how can we possibly be sure that God’s hatred of sinners really is a good thing? Maybe what God calls “sin” are really the good things; and that everyone really should be screwing like rabbits, killing their brothers, and coveting shit like crazy. And all we’ve got that says otherwise is His own holy word for it. Whatever.
And even that assumes that these Got Questions people are close to getting it right; and I’ve got serious doubts about that one. I mean, hate? God hates people? What the hell sense does that even make? Hate?? He created something knowing full well that he was most likely going to hate it? And hell, by any reasonable reading of the bible, it’s unlikely that even 10% of the people who ever existed will make it into Heaven; and that’s a fairly loose standard. It’s probably closer to 0.1% or less; which is still significantly higher than the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ 144,000. So why the hell did he even bother creating us? Why couldn’t he just create the 0.1% or so that will love him eternally, and leave the rest of us the hell alone? Millions of children are starving and suffering right now; apparently, just in case they wanted to worship God? That’s not love; that’s insanity.
And if we’re talking about a vengeful, evil, egotistical, hating god, who intentionally creates beings so that they can suffer and die for not loving him; that’s fine. I’m cool with that. It’s his universe; he can do any damn thing he wants with it. But I just want that all out front right now. This whole Christianity thing would really make a lot more sense if we weren’t supposed to believe that God was a good guy. I can believe hellfire, though I think it’s silly; and I can believe in a kind creator; but I have a hard time putting these two ideas together. Either he loves me, or he doesn’t. But I don’t believe in a conditional love that depends upon me loving him first. And that’s exactly what we’re talking about if we say that God hates sinners unless they repent and accept him first. And if that’s the case, I’d be a fool for not accepting God; but I’d rather not accept that kind of god at all. Nor can I imagine why he’d be interested in my obviously coerced love; or are we supposed to believe that eternal damnation isn’t coercion?
So my response is: No, I’m just not having it. Got Questions? didn’t explain a damn thing, on why we’re supposed to love the sinner, while God hates almost everyone. That just doesn’t make sense.
But I decided to give this a second shot and look-up the three bible passages that GQ referenced for us, just to see what the good book had to say on the subject. Sure, Got Questions kind of muffed this up; but maybe they were assuming that we were already familiar with those bible passages and knew some deeper context that would explain everything. So I whipped out my trusty Catholic Living Bible that I received as a Confirmation gift and has my name on it and everything (though I’m not exactly sure if they always come with “Doctor Biobrain” imprinted on them, or if it was custom ordered for me). Again, I’m using The Catholic Living Bible, so your results may vary.
So let’s see. The first citation was Malachi 1:3, which is at the beginning of Malachi, so I’ll go ahead and quote the first five verses of Malachi, just to make sure we’re not missing any precious context. I’ve bolded verses two and three:
Here is the Lord’s message to Israel, given through the prophet Malachi:
“I have loved you very deeply,” says the Lord.
But you retort, “Really? When was this?”
And the Lord replies, “I showed my love for you by loving your father, Jacob. I didn’t need to. I even rejected his very own brother Esau, and destroyed Esau’s mountains and inheritance, to give it to the jackals of the desert. And if his descendants should say, ‘We will rebuild the ruins,’ then the Lord of Hosts will say, ‘Try to if you like, but I will destroy you again,’ for their country is named ‘The Land of Wickedness’ and their people are called ‘Those Whom God Does Not Forgive.’”
O Israel, lift your eyes to see what God is doing all around the world; then you will say, “Truly, the Lord’s great power goes far beyond our borders!”
Wow, Land of Wickedness. Strong stuff. Now, my bible is a little vague about where exactly 1:3 is, as it combines 2 and 3 together; but I’m just not seeing anything that would help explain how God hates us and our sins in a loving and holy manner. He says he loves us, but I find that claim a little weak. I mean, the proof he’s offering is that he punished our brother and our brother’s descendants for eternity; and that sounds like more of a vague threat than proof of his love for us. Needless to say, I’m unimpressed.
But maybe I wasn’t getting enough context, so I quote on; verses six through nine:
“A son honors his father, a servant honors his master. I am your Father and Master, yet you don’t honor me, O priests, but you despise my name.”
“Who? Us?” you say. “When did we ever despise your name?”
“When you offer polluted sacrifices on my altar.”
“Every time you say, ‘Don’t bother bringing anything very valuable to offer to God!’ You tell people, ‘Lame animals are all right to offer on the altar of the Lord – yes, even the sick and the blind ones.’ And you claim this isn’t evil? Try it on your governor sometime – give him gifts like that – and see how pleased he is!
“’God have mercy on us,’ you recite; ‘God be gracious to us!’ But when you bring that kind of gift, why should he show you any favor at all?
“Oh, to find one priest among you who would shut the doors and refuse this kind of sacrifice. I have no pleasure in you,” says the Lord of Hosts, “and I will not accept your offerings.”
WTF?? A little sarcasm, anyone? And is it just me, or is all this stuff a tad bit psychotic? I don’t mean that in a disrespecting way, but if we were talking about anyone but God, we’d certainly have to lock them up in the boobyhatch for a long, long time. I mean, really. It was bad enough when God suggested that the proof of his love was that he punished Esau; but now he’s getting all uppity about the sacrifices and insists that this is proof that the priests despise him. Who’d of guessed an omnipotent being could be so touchy.
And let’s not pretend as if these sacrifices were actually going to the Big Guy. We’re all adults here, and while it’s fun to believe that the priests accepted the sacrifices in the name of the Lord; it was still the priests who got the goodies. Just as it was priests who decided to include this book in the bible. And just as it was a priest who wrote this book of the bible. Follow the money, people. Follow the money.
But I’m still at a loss as to understanding why Got Questions? even bothered citing Malachi. When you look it up, you’ll see that this wasn’t about God’s power to hate sinners in a “perfectly holy way.” It was about God bitching because he wasn’t getting good stuff and felt dissed by his followers. This isn’t some high and mighty treatise about the nature of God or his relationship with us. This was the kind of stuff that Arthur Miller might have written up in a play; of an abusive father who browbeats his children into sacrificing their lives so he could have his. This isn’t an omnipotent being, without fears or limits. This is a whiny-assed titty baby complaining because he’s not getting the respect he thinks he’s entitled to, from people who had no choice in the matter and who just weren’t loving enough.
But this isn’t to suggest that God is necessarily to blame for this; as we only have the bible’s word for it that God ever said these things. And if anything, it’s quite possible the author of that passage is a blasphemer, using the voice of God to convey his own personal message; and therefore, anyone who cites this blasphemy is also a blasphemer. I mean, God doesn’t seem to care about his sacrifices anymore; so why are we assuming that he ever cared? Why not just assume that it was a message from the priestly class; the leaders who lived off of the benevolence and reverence of others? But that’s another argument for another time.
Well Malachi didn’t help much, so let’s move onto that second citation: Revelation 2:6:
But there is this about you that is good: You hate the deeds of the licentious Nicolaitans, just as I do.
Right. That explains everything. Got Questions? really hit the nail on the head with that one…except that it explains absolutely nothing. For those curious, there is a footnote on this one: Nicolaitans, when translated from Greek to Hebrew, becomes Balaamites; followers of the man who induced the Israelites to fall by lust.
And in case you wanted some added context from the bible itself, I’ll paraphrase verses one through seven, which is the entire letter. This is a letter written to the leader of the church at Ephesus, and basically says that while that leader is doing a good job, he doesn’t love the letter’s author as much as he used to (though it’s possible he’s speaking as God or something); though he is pleased that the leader hates the deeds of the bad people. He then ends the letter, writing: “Let this message sink into the ears of anyone who listens to what the Spirit is saying to the churches: To everyone who is victorious, I will give fruit from the Tree of Life in the Paradise of God.”
That’s the whole letter, of which, Got Questions? cited one line. And so we’re stuck again with another passage saying that, while God likes what some religious followers are doing; they’re disrespecting God by not doing even more. And while, that’s acceptable behavior in some circles, it doesn’t do a damn thing to reconcile GQ’s answer with anything written in the bible. They were trying to show us how God can hate us in a loving way; but fail again.
3 Peter 3:9
And so we’re down to our third and final bible citation, which surely will explain this conundrum to our satisfaction. Surely, a website dedicated to answering questions of God must know enough about the bible to find some kind of justification for their answer. Right?
But alas, 3 Peter isn’t in my bible. My bible only has two Peters, making me wonder what other inadequacies the Catholics have inflicted upon me. Nope, I just checked the only other bible in the house, Holy Bible: Children’s Illustrated Edition; as well as the must-read Asimov's Guide; which I accept as gospel truth. And neither one of them has three Peters. And when I search Yahoo, the only references to 3 Peter 3:9 are five variations on the same Amazon.com book review and Got Questions? own reference; thus making me think that GQ made a mistake or something.
So I’ll just check-out 2 Peter 3:9 and see what I find. Ahh, that sounds about right:
He isn’t really being slow about his promised return, even though it sometimes seems that way. But he is waiting, for the good reason that he is not willing that any should perish, and he is giving more time for sinners to repent.
Ok, that’s fine and everything; but that still didn’t answer our question; and in fact, was the least relevant passage of the three. This wasn’t about God hating us at all; but was just rationalizing why Jesus seems to be taking so long with his return. It’s not that God is slow, we’re told; he’s just trying to help us out by giving us more time to convert. Sure, you could argue that it’d be an even bigger help if he just got rid of the whole hell thing; or if he could just be a little more obvious about showing himself to us and telling us what he wants. But the author of Revelations is stuck rationalizing the beliefs he’s got, rather than getting rational beliefs in the first place.
But we’re still stuck with our original problem: Where exactly in the bible does it say that God hates sinners in a perfectly holy way? Sure, it doesn’t have to come from the bible. Christians believe lots of things that aren’t to be found anywhere in the bible. Like almost any details pertaining to Heaven, Hell, the Devil, and whether or not God looks like Jerry Garcia. But Got Questions? provided citations; so you’d kind of expect to find something there. I don’t even require it to be something that I’d agree with; but I expected to find at least something. Except we don’t. We didn’t find answers at all. Just more questions. Who knows; maybe that’s all part of their marketing technique, to get users to keep coming back for more.
But I expect it’s the exact opposite. We were supposed to read GQ’s answers and be done with it. They didn’t provide links to those citations, and it’s safe to suggest that most people aren’t going to pick-up and research citations that they found at that kind of lightweight biblical website. Instead, we were supposed to trust Got Questions? and simply assume that everything was honky-dory with those citations. As if all the proof was right there, in the bible; but that we don’t need to bother researching it ourselves. But then again, isn’t that really at the basis of all religions? Or Republicanism? Lots of footnotes and citations which completely disintegrate with the most slapdash of examinations. Even the bible itself gets crushed under its own weight, once you put it into historical perspective and find out what they were really talking about.
And sure, maybe they just meant that we could get that message if we combined parts of all three verses. By doing so, we could yield something like: God loves you, God likes that you hate the deeds of sinners, and God is waiting for the sinners to repent. But honestly, is that really any way for God to convey a message? That you have to combine messages from three separate books which were written over a period of over 550 years? According to Asimov, Malachi is perhaps from 460 B.C., 2 Peter from 90 A.D. (though possibly as late as 150 A.D.), and Revelations is perhaps from 95 A.D. That’s a long fucking time to take to convey a short little message.
And the context of all three passages are completely different. The original authors clearly had different subjects that they were recording. Sure, God could be putting coded messages into the bible, where you’re expected to take seemingly random events to combine together to give us some bigger message than anything the original authors had realized. I’ve played video games like that. But is this really any kind of way to convey the ultra-important message regarding how God thinks of our sins and what he expects us to do about other people’s sins? My eternal soul is on the line, and God’s playing a freaking word game?
In other parts of the bible, we see a micromanaging god who, in Deuteronomy 12:20-23, suggests that if the Lord enlarges your borders enough so that you live too far from the central alter, then it’s ok to sacrifice your offerings at home; which is usually a big no-no. Nothing ambiguous about that. Or take Deuter 13:5, which insists that we execute false prophets who suggest you worship other gods (ie, Hindi, Rastafarian, and Muslim missionaries). But then again, if Christian missionaries went in a time machine back to the days of Deuteronomy, and tried preaching the idea of Jesus and the Trinity; it’s likely that they too would be executed as infidels. As the bible shows, in the end, everything’s relative.
So it’s obvious that God can be straightforward with this stuff when he wants to. So what gives? He’s telling us where to sacrifice and who to execute; all kinds of cool stuff. Compare that with the cut-and-paste biblical scholarship that Got Questions? engages in. Ridiculous. Most Christians don’t sacrifice jackshit, and while they might want to execute false prophets; they’re generally polite enough to refrain from doing so.
A relativist like myself would find perfect sense that the problems and solutions listed in the bible were a lot more relevant to the people who wrote those parts of the bible than they are to us; but for the supposed absolutist believers, that should really cause a lot of problems. I mean, for a book that was intended to be the Final Word for all of eternity, it really sure does concern itself with a lot of stuff that hasn’t been applicable for thousands of years. We have to triple reinterpret half a dozen passages to find anti-abortion messages; yet Leviticus 21:9-15 tell us directly that we’re supposed to burn a priest’s daughter if she becomes a prostitute, or that a priest can only marry a virgin from his own priestly tribe. Boy, I sure could have used that advice earlier today.
It’s the Authors, Stupid
And even worse, a better interpretation of those three citations would be that they are variations of the same message: God will love you if you properly respect him, and will hate you if you don’t. And that’s probably the reason why they were included in the bible. And implicit in that is that if you don’t respect God, he will start loving you once you show him the proper respect. Also implicit, is that if you stop respecting him, he will start hating you again. But it’s all the same message about how God will love you, only as long as you love him first and devote your life to following his commands.
And frankly, I can’t figure out what’s so special about this. I love my kids no matter what they do. As long as they’re not setting me on fire or killing my wife, I’m pretty cool with mistakes they might make; and have learned to be particularly forgiving when the animals they sacrifice to me aren’t totally perfect. People make mistakes, especially kids. So if I can understand that, what’s God’s big problem? He’s supposedly the one with the infinite patience, and yet he hates me because I don’t go to church? I quickly forgive my kids for ruining the carpet and disobeying rules that I’ve explicitly stated on numerous occasions; and God’s going to hate me because I refuse to believe in something I’ve never experienced? That’s crazy.
But then again, there’s no particular reason to believe the interpretation I gave above is at all correct. After all, there is a group who benefited more than God for all of the above passages: You got it, the dudes who wrote them; and the people who included them in the bible. What does God want with some damn goat sacrifice, or some stupid old crops? What does God care about the stupid Nicolaitans? What part of “all-powerful” doesn’t he understand? He can just snap his fingers and send them to Hell before they even had a chance to complain. Why does he need humans to do this shit? If it’s such a problem, let him deal with it. But…what if it really isn’t God that’s so concerned
And then we have Revelations. Ok, God’s going to reveal to us his whole plan, including a timeline, and it’s all important and everything, and he can’t bother telling us when this shit’s going to happen? Once it starts, he’s given us a roadmap so we’ll be able to identify each and every aspect of the End; but he won’t tell us when it’s going to start? Again, once it’s started, we’ll know every step; but until then, we’ll know nothing?? Ok, sure. Maybe God really just likes to screw with us, and this really is how he did it. He’ll string us out for over two thousand years, and the only people who will see it coming are the people who it will directly affect; and in the meantime, we’re all left looking like dummies. Sure. But…there’s a group of people who are far less likely to know when the end of the world is: The guy who wrote Revelations and the folks who agreed to include it in the bible. They’re the ones who would have to say that they don’t know when all this will happen. God can’t really have much of a reason to hide it from us.
And that’s the thing. Maybe there is a God. Maybe there is a Creator. Maybe most of what they say about Him is true. He’s all-powerful. Knows everything. He’s a swell guy. Sure. But what’s to say that the bible is right about any of the details? How the hell are we supposed to know that some dude 3500 years ago didn’t make some shit up? Or confuse a story? I mean, we already know so much about the people who wrote the bible, and there’s no reason to believe they couldn’t screw things up. We know they included stories from other cultures. We’re pretty sure that they lied to us regarding historical events, and have even more reason to believe they got shit wrong. God didn’t even bother telling them that the Earth circled the Sun, or where infections come from; and yet we’re supposed to trust these people with our lives and souls? These guys were afraid of pork, for christ’s sake. And I’m supposed to translate their advice into this modern world? Whatever.
And that’s what we’re putting our faith in. Not in God; but in some dude thousands of years ago. People who had no idea of jack shit. People who weren’t even insignificant to the insignificant players of the day; mere specks of history. And we’re supposed to put faith into their words? Their enemies become our enemies? Their fears our fears? And anything that doesn’t make sense to our modern ears is perfectly ok to metaphorize into one of our own solutions? Un-fucking-likely.
So how does Got Questions? end all this? Try this: A true act of love is treating someone with respect and kindness even though they know you do not approve of their lifestyle and/or choice. It is not loving to allow a person to remain stuck in sin. It is not hateful to tell a person they are in sin. In fact, the exact opposites are true.
Right. Of course. You can show respect and kindness to people by telling them that the actions that they think are normal, natural, and part of their daily life are actually sinful and will make them suffer for eternity. Which sorta makes sense, except it doesn’t. I mean, by the standards of the Old Testament, every Christian I know is an infidel and a sinner. And sure, we’ve been told that Jesus somehow changed the rules; but I’ve never understood what the basis for that is; or how you determine which rules no longer apply.
So how do they know that these OT quotes are still the good ones? Because it just seems like they’re picking the ones they wanted and ignoring the rest; which really kind of undermines the bible’s supposed authority. It’s obvious that Christians aren’t getting their authority from the bible; but merely using it to rationalize and institutionalize their own beliefs and opinions. And to me, that sounds like much bigger blasphemy than anything I’ve ever done. All I’ve ever done is express my disbelief in things I haven’t experienced; but these people have abused their god’s good name by ascribing their own beliefs to His holy mandate; and have essentially usurped their god’s voice like a rogue ventriloquist. My agnosticism looks saintly in comparison.
And it’s no different in this case. These Christians want to hate those they classify as sinners; but know that it’s wrong. So they ascribe that hatred to their god, and insist that they’re merely acting on his behalf. They don’t hate anyone; their god does. And they’re just doing what our creator wanted us to do. And how do they know this? Because they’ve got historical documents which show people rationalizing their aggression by claiming that they were on a mission from god. And these Christians have adopted that rationalization as their own. They’re allowed to attack people because a small group of desert-dwellers attacked people thousands of years ago. Of course.
And that’s what all this is about. Got Questions? says that we’re not supposed to hate the sinners, but provides quotes referencing how much God hates those who displease him. Who are they trying to fool? This is implicit permission for us to hate people. That’s what this is all about. And I think that’s just stupid. Hatred’s stupid. Hating the sin is stupid. If you’ve got a problem with something that somebody is doing, you might be right in telling them not to do it. But if they seem rational, understand the stakes, and still refuse to obey; then maybe it’s time to leave them the hell alone.
And what about this whole freewill thing? They keep telling us that God allows us to have freewill and thusly allows us to do evil and make bad choices. And I can accept that, I guess. But then why do they turn around and insist that we can’t use that freewill that God finds so precious? If God’s so big into freewill, then why won’t his followers let me get an abortion? Why do they stop me from buying liquor on Sundays? Why do they want to stop consenting adults from doing the very deed that their god made so incredibly fun and exciting? What’s the point of freewill if these people keep trying to penalize us for exercising it?
But this has as little to do with following God’s Will as it does to God honoring freewill or God hating sinners. There is no firm basis for anybody to believe this. There is nothing in the bible which compels us to do these things. Nothing. This is about people trying to justify their actions. Actions which obviously don’t have better justification; or at least, the believers of which have no better justification. Because relying upon God as your source is the absolute last refuge you’d turn to. If you can explain your position, you do. And if you’re relying on a vague unseen anomaly, you probably don’t know what you’re talking about. Especially when there have been billions of people who have tapped that same source in order to justify completely different goals.
Every religious person has a different view of what our creator looks like and what he wants of us; and the belief of each is just as valid as any other. There is no trump card when we’re talking about belief. If someone believes that God wants him to blow up Jews, or shave his head, or hate sinners; that’s fine, I guess. We can’t stop people from believing what they want to. But they have to understand that their beliefs do not give them rights over ours. They may believe they’re doing God’s work, but that shouldn’t permit them to deny us to follow our beliefs.
If they have a legitimate reason to prevent my actions, I’ll be willing to listen. But I refuse to allow them to pretend as if their beliefs are somehow superior to my own; even if they do believe that my creator wanted them to do it that way. And after all, we’re all sinners to someone; and nobody likes to be hated. I honestly don’t like that last line, but couldn’t figure out any better way to end this. Sometimes, I think eternity is rereading my own damn posts.
P.S. The typical religious disclaimer applies to this post; ie, I’m not referring to all Christians or all religious folks; and that if my words don’t apply to you, then they don’t apply to you. Oh, and irreverence is not a sin.