Don’t submit to the tyrant “bully-god”

by Kyle
published January 18, 2013


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I miss Christopher Hitchens.

A prolific writer and icon of 21st-century atheist thought, Hitchens died of esophageal cancer on Dec. 15, 2011.

I never met Hitchens, but I read his books and listened to his speeches and debates. He challenged me. He ensured my faith was not mindless and blind by questioning it. He drank like a fish and smoked like a chimney, but his intellect was razor-sharp and his wit even sharper.

Above all else, Hitchens’ intellectual honesty was courageous. He thought through what he believed, wrong as it may have been, and he lived it out to its logical conclusions. Without a morally authoritative god, Hitchens gladly took that role upon himself in his life and applied his standard evenly across everyone. Neither President Clinton nor Bush was safe from his criticism.

Hitchens was especially honest about why he didn’t believe in God. In an interview with Anderson Cooper near Hitchens’ death, he claimed belief in God requires the believer to “give up (his or her) self-respect.” Richard Dawkins called him “a valiant fighter against all tyrants including imaginary supernatural ones.”

In Hitchens’ debate against William Lane Craig, during a cross-examination, it became clear Hitchens’ primary objection to God and religion was that God is “an authority that would give other humans beings the right to tell me what to do in the name of God.” He called God “the origin of all dictatorship.”

I can’t help but wonder how many people reject Christ for the same reason.

The God of the Bible is perfectly holy and an exacting moral authority. He has a standard for living he expects each person to meet, though nobody does. If you associate with that kind of God, then you stand condemned in your own belief system. You no longer have permission to live like you want, but are instead compelled to live the way God wants, and that’s scary and wholly unappealing.

In the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 5-7, Jesus reveals the sort of ethical standard God expects.

He expects us to be humble. Retaliation is out of the question. Even calling someone a fool is the same as murder. Looking at a woman “with lust” is the same as adultery. Divorce is verboten. Instead, we are to love our worst enemies. We’re supposed to give away our money and never take any credit for the good we do. Even worrying about the future is a sin. Jesus expects perfection (Matthew 5:48).

Who wants to follow a God like that?

Paul Froese and Christopher Bader recently published a book called “America’s Four Gods,” in which they explored the way people in America view God, how they came by their opinions and what that says about us as a culture. It’s a fascinating read. One of the factors they listed for how we think about God is our parents.

Hitchens’ relationship to his parents is well-known. He wrote in his memoirs that his father was a depressed, heavy-drinking, austere man and that his mother — the only “splash of color” in his young life — committed suicide after she left his father. The two most formative sources of authority in his life were severe and punishing on the one hand, and abandoned him on the other hand. I think somewhere, Hitchens only picked up half of the picture of who God is.

The mean “bully-god” with a fetish for commanding us to do the impossible and dreary while forbidding the fun and exciting is neither the God of the Bible nor the God of reality.

It’s true that God asks a lot of us, but he gives even more.

It’s one thing to submit to a tyrant, but it’s another thing to call a truce and enter a relationship with a friend. In both cases, you end up doing things for the other you don’t want to do and wouldn’t otherwise. In both cases, most or all of who you are is required of you.

The difference is, the tyrant takes it while the friend asks you to give it willingly. The difference is, the tyrant only takes while the friend gives you all he has as well; namely his own life through torture and a brutal execution.

I agree with Hitchens on one point. Never submit yourself to the tyrant “bully-god.” That god will only take and take until you have no joy left in life.

Instead, allow the God of reality to take your place on a cross. Let him give you joy instead of take it. Let Christ be your God because he has already done the work. He was perfect because we couldn’t be, and he died so we wouldn’t have to.

I’ll serve a king like that any day.

What do you think?

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