Thursday, September 21, 2006

what if god is a tyrant?

what if president bush were an evil tyrant? (this is all hypothetical of course). what if bush required us meet once a week and praise and learn about him? what if we were required to call him and leave voice-mails three or more times a day thanking him for our freedom and the land we live in? what if we were required to read his biography every night? what if we had to dress in a way that he told us to? what if we had a weekly bush-day where we were required to not engage in our regular activities and instead had to think about him all day? what if we were required to eat bush-crackers to help us remember him? what if we had to swear loyalty to him through a ritual of crossing a path draped in an american flag? what if we had to arbitrarily believe that he was the greatest president ever? what if failure to do all of these things resulted in being kicked out of the nation to live a solitary life of misery - despite all of the good you provided for the county?

most of us would revolt. we would decry this tyranny. we would think bush were an evil tyrant and undeserving of our devotion. yet this is the way that most of mormonism and much of christianity envisions god. and they call it good.

it is for these very reasons that i reject a tyrannical model of god and either reject/refine the various ways with which god becomes a tyrant. i want to believe that god is a loving being - the most loving being. i want to believe that god is primarily and ultimately concerned in the ways that god's children interact and treat one another. i want to believe that god is self-less and unconcerned with praise, admiration, and devotion. i want to believe that god is concerned with our hearts and not with the propositional beliefs that we hold or our proclamations of 'faith' which seem to be arbitrarily dispersed among god's children. i want to believe that god is not a tyrant.

but what if?? what if god is a tyrant. what if god is an all-powerful being concerned with his praise and devotion. what if god will see that one of his children suffers for not holding a proper belief about him? what if god really does elevate/damn his children contigently upon whether or not they go through a ritual denoting devotion to him, in this life or the next? what if our lives are subject to the power of a tyrant who can and will destroy us because of a lack of devotion and ritualistic praise of him - despite all we try to do for his children?


  1. Isn't the God-man relationship pretty well covered when you think about him as a Father?

    There's a certain amount of respect and obedience required that comes along with a having a father, but isn't most of it protection, care, and good times?

    Our willingness to eat the crackers or participate in God Day are really just an outward showing of our commitment to God's ideals and our own personal relationship to him, aren't they?

    I like to look at "requirements" as "signs you're obvioiusly ready." I mean, if we can't even attend church or read the scriptures, I don't suppose we're ready for higher things anyway.

  2. i hate the whole "God as Father" thing. Fatherhood is so completely a human conception that to extrapolate an argument about a divine father becomes non-sensical. To say that obedience is the prime reason for church-going, etc. and that blessings/God's love is dependent upon obedience is to maintain such a narrow view of God, and fathers for that matter. If, big IF, you want to anthropomorphize God as father-figure, at least realize that human fathers are finite, imperfect, and conditional and a conception of God should move beyond that. edr

  3. this is a really intersting context, loyd. i would love to see this stretched out to essay length...

    are you writing for sunstone, or anyone else?

    saw you at the ethics lecture on ethics in sports. i was going to talk to you after, but i had to interview Vernon Law for the paper. it was the only one i could make with my schedule. how were the others?

  4. Rasinbread said:

    Isn't the God-man relationship pretty well covered when you think about him as a Father?

    Our willingness to eat the crackers or participate in God Day are really just an outward showing of our commitment to God's ideals and our own personal relationship to him, aren't they?

    I'm sorry, but I don't think these two points really line up. God's our Father, so we....partipate in God Day? Even on Father's Day, I've never suspended all other activity in order to praise or worship my dad. Sometimes our approach to the Sabbath seems at odds with our conception of God as a father figure.

    If God is a father figure, I don't necessarily think He expects us to sit around and praise Him and talk about how great He is all day; rather, I think He'd have us do something meaningful, like serve others, spend time with our family, or something like that.

    And by the way (this is somewhat of a tangent), I've never been a huge fan of the "outward expression of an inward commitment" line. What are we trying to do, show people how faithful and devout we are? Didn't Christ have something to say about that?

    Of course, if the outward manifestation is the natural result of one's inner devotion, and is not intended to prove anything to anybody, then I guess I'm cool with that.

  5. There is a part in the Hermeneutics of Contemplation where Rhees talks about a god that punishes heretics. He says something to the effect that if such a god existed, he would tell him to blast away. I liked that, because often that is my only recourse when talking to people who believe in a tyrannical god. If i met such a god I would flip HIM (because he is supposed to be a patriarch) and have great pleasure doing it.

    That being said, i think this issue is really interesting in the context of mormon theology. mormon's believe in a finite god who is neither their ultimate creator, nor the creator of the universe. When hearing this most theologians respond by saying that such a god is not worthy of worship. I actually think that is right, the mormon god is not worthy of worship is some sort of unconditional sense. but he is worthy of love, friendship, adoration, and devotion. in fact he is the only god who desires human beings to be equal to him, and thus to not worship him, but be fellow adults (in the heavenly sense).

    i guess i am saying that the tyrannical god is a person who demands abosolute worship/obedience. if the mormon god is the true god then he is not worthy of that type of worship and in the end doesn't desire it. It is too bad that mormons make their god into a tyrant anyway.

  6. sorry should say flip HIM off!

  7. @anonymous

    Well, I think think that God is a (divine) human, so that might be where I come up with that. Why would God call himself that if it was so misleading?

    I didn't say obedience is the prime reason for anything. Please reread my comment. Sorry if I didn't communicate it well enough.


    I think you started out your comment disagreeing with me, and made the full turn to come to what I was trying to communicate in the first place. I think we're talking about the same thing.


    Basically, I was trying to say that I don't see God as a tyrant who demands our blind obedience to obscure ritual and empty devotion and praise. I see him more as a Father.

  8. Basically, I was trying to say that I don't see God as a tyrant who demands our blind obedience to obscure ritual and empty devotion and praise. I see him more as a Father.

    Yeah, that's exactly what I'm saying.

    But as Johnny points out, our system of worship sometimes conflicts with this perception of a benevolent God.

  9. ashy knees and elbows9/22/2006 9:01 AM

    is there anything you can say that i don't adore?

    oh yeah, i think you told me to fuck off once... or twice.

    ; )

  10. thanks for the comments everyone.


    perhaps we have had very different relationships with our fathers (as others have commented on). this of course all begs the question of whether somebody accepts god as a father - especially in a world with different conceptions of god and good reasons to not believe in god.


    reminds me about a quote from fight club - "if fathers are our model for god, what does that tell us about god?" i think a father/mother/parent understanding of god can be appropriate, however not in 'drunk father demands respect or will smack you around' sense.


    i mostly attended the death penalty sessions which i am pretty passionate about. they were all really good. i got to meet sister helen prejean at a dinner up at sundance tuesday night. she's an amazing person.


    i concur


    i was originally going to open up with that rush rhees quote, but i didn't have it with me at school when i was writing this up.


    be careful. you might ruin my street-cred.

  11. President Bush is an evil tyrant.

    God, if he exists, is energy. Pure and simple. Mostly pure.

  12. Son of the Morning9/25/2006 7:13 PM

    If God is a tyrant you backed the wrong guy along with the other 2/3 of us man. I hear it's not too late to join Lucifer. He is certainly a victim of some massive propaganda if your proposal is on target.


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