Divine Clarity – Forging God’s Signature

This was originally written in response to a Facebook post made by someone with whom I went to high school:

“God will never tempt you, Satan does. Will you choose to sin when you are tempted? Or will you turn away? God always offers a way out.”

And her subsequent response to my initial reply (which I’ll refrain from posting for the sake of brevity and because the rest of my response renders it redundant):

“I believe that there are demons (Satan) working against believers in Christ everyday. Satan knows when and where we are weak and will take every opportunity to attack. God has set eternity in hearts of man, and I believe that there IS more than this life. Revelations is VERY differnt than that of the rest of the bible..however it does reveal some about what is yet to come. Eternity of punishment=death=sin. Eternity in Heave=life=obediance…..

“Which is Which? Thats a battle believers in Christ struggle with everyday…Is this God speaking to me? or is it my flesh? (Sata) the deeper the relationship with Christ, the clearer it becomes..”

I liked my own argument so much that I wanted to share it with all of you. (Also, she appears to have deleted the entire thread instead of replying. Thanks, Sally. Guess that means I win the argument.)

I’ve modified it slightly for flow/conciseness/etc. Anyway:

The problem lies with authentication: How do you identify the tricks when you see them? If God is giving you some kind of signal, how can you be sure it’s not a forgery? That is, if Satan is truly cunning, it should be possible for him to fake God’s signature sometimes.

Everything gets so oversimplified that God and Satan are reduced from omnipotent or nigh-omnipotent super-beings to these caricatures that can barely pull off cunningness at the level of which humans are capable. It’s all cartoonish and blatant, like the depictions of Satan as a rascally pitchfork-wielding red guy, always causing childish and puerile mischief. But if he’s really such a threat as to necessitate this big, long battle over human souls — something some would argue is one of the most important things we could concern ourselves with — he HAS to be capable of tricking us into doing or believing just about ANYthing.

For instance, maybe Satan wrote the Bible, and every time someone worships the God depicted therein — a God who would commit genocide against humanity when it disgusted him, or who created two people with no sense of right and wrong and expected them to understand the significance of obeying rules and then punished not only them but every one of their descendants forever when they didn’t use the facilities that they didn’t actually even POSSESS until AFTER they’d eaten the apple — every time you align yourself with this petty, irrational, arbitrarily cruel entity, you’re worshiping the REAL Satan — the one who was so devious, so deceitful that he masterfully wove together this elaborate and effective framework of religion and faith, manufacturing and demonizing bogeyman opposition, so that people would eagerly throw themselves with the best of intentions and hopes right into his trap.

And sure, you can say “well I know the difference, I have the clarity that God has given me to recognize the truth”, but that’s exactly my point: How can you be sure? How can you know that that feeling you have, that understanding you feel you possess, is the genuine article and not just a forgery intended to keep you obedient to the REAL Satan?

Maybe the real trick is to get you to think that something is a trick when it’s not. Or that something else isn’t a trick when it is. And whatever clarity you might think you’ve attained is also just deception.

14 thoughts on “Divine Clarity – Forging God’s Signature”

  1. I’m pretty sure most religions believe basically exactly that about all (or at least most) other religions. They never seem to really view their own in that light. Well, one shouldn’t generalise – I’m sure many of the more intelligent Christians, Muslims etc have examined their own faith in view of the possibility that it’s a trick, though I have no idea as to what justifications they’d have for their faith.

    Interesting to note that your acquaintence links heaven with Obedience, rather than actually being good. Sure, to a Christian they mean the same thing (when the obedience is to god) but the wording is important: obeying God is the key thing, not the overall morality of it.

    Which, amusingly, is the sort of thing an evil hoax religion would have one believe.

  2. “Is this God speaking to me? or is it my flesh?”

    All I can say is, I am really glad that I no longer subscribe to a mindset where I was encouraged to hate and fear my own flesh.

    I’ll just quote May Swenson on the topic:

    “Body my house

    my horse my hound

    what will I do

    when you are fallen”

  3. I guess that somewhere among the middle of religious logic, one could argue that what matters is not most of the allegories presented or the depiction of events, but some statements that are related to the core of their belief (like the parts of the 10 commandments or Jesus saying that he’s the only way, etc). One could say that God himself ensured that some core parts wouldn’t be tainted, and that the rest of bible would be filled with a mixture of messages so that through individual judgment people would be able to discern what is wrong and what is right. This would mean that God is ok with the absolute guide of life being confusing and sometimes downright wrong, but considering that christianity relies on the concept of unsure messages, that’s not really that much of a stretch.

    But of course, this would also imply that most of the bible could simply be avoided if the believer wants to be sure he’s not following anything bad, and that’s an insane conundrum since you have to follow a designated code instead of just believing in God and all that stuff.

  4. When I was a kid, I viewed God as a loving father, like my own father. I refused to believe that a loving God would ever encourage people to do evil things–“Red, brown, yellow, black, and white, All are precious in his sight” and all that. So obviously, anyone who claimed God told them to do bad things was lying or mistaken.

    So when I got old enough to actually slog through the Old Testament and realize how brutal and horrifying it was, it was hard to reconcile with the gentle, loving God-concept I’d developed as a child. I explained it away by viewing the OT as the cultural/historical/religious background to the actual story. In order to show the struggle of the people coming to grips with this benevolent god-man Jesus, the authors had to go back and show what Jesus’s contemporaries in Palestine actually believed and how they lived. In other words, the Bible was a whole shitload of background info (the OT) so you could understand the main story (the Gospels and Acts) and then the commentary (epistles, Revelation, etc.) would make more sense as well.

    This lasted until about two or three years ago, when I finally admitted to myself I didn’t believe a word of Christian dogma anyway. Jesus was a very wise person, sure, but not a god.

    As for reading the Bible, my bookmark is still in 2 Maccabees. I can’t bring myself to read any more of it, especially after Sirach beat me over the head with 62 chapters of “Hookers are BAD.”

  5. I’ve wondered this same thing before. As Dennis Loubet of The Non-Prophets pointed out, people seem to believe they are infallible at identifying supernatural beings. If there really is a contest for souls going on (which I highly doubt) then it would make sense to try to make your side look like paradise and the other seem like, well, Hell. Don’t let yourself come across as evil, that would be too obvious. Instead, do some nice things to get people to listen to you, then slip a few things here and there about who your followers should hate and that something or another is an abomination, etc. This is how U.S. politics frequently works, and yet if you try to get somebody to look at the Bible with that possibility in mind (or any possibility other than their own foregone conclusion for that matter) they think you’re nuts.

  6. Jabs, pretty well-thought out argument you have there. People could repsond to that with “Well, God’s more powerful than Satan, so He wouldn’t let him do that.”

    But then it all comes back to the original problem: you don’t know. Every time you make a statment relating to God or the Devil, you don’t know.

    There is no evidence!

  7. Well, that’s why they call it faith, I suppose; you’re not gonna find out if you’re right or wrong until the casket is closed or the ashes are scattered.

    Well, as a Christian (*ducks for cover and waits for the overripe fruit to stop flying*) I completely see the validity of this argument. There have been plenty of people in history that use the Bible in conjunction with self-proclaimed “conversations” with “God” in order to justify their own rather daft acts, the most recent example being Phillip Garrido, that fellow who kidnapped a girl for 18 years and claimed that he could speak words with his mind. Of course, one could also place conventional prayer alongside that as well, I suppose.

    To be honest, like the Facebook friend of yours, I don’t have a direct answer to this (only I’m open enough to other’s opinions to admit that I have no answer, rather than redirect it with a clavacade of tangentially related dogma). That really is the (arguably foolish) crux of faith — relying on the unprovable.

    As for the “God never tests you” bit… Well, don’t quote me on this as it’s been a while since I read the story in 600 year old English, but wasn’t the big point behind the entire book of Job that God deliberately made one guy’s life a living hell just to see if he’d crack and curse Him? (which, IIRC, he kinda did, which in turn made God come down himself to give him a scolding… But like I said earlier, don’t quote me on this).

  8. The question of whether a god would test his subjects is an interesting one. The more interesting question, though, is “why?” If there is a god as defined by the majority of the evangelism I frequently hear (omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent) then he should have no need for tests and should despise them. If he knows everything, then he knows the results of any test he could ever perform without performing them. It would be like if I dropped a bowling ball on my toe to see if it hurt. I wouldn’t learn anything new. The only thing accomplished is unnecessary suffering. If he is as benevolent as they say, he should desire to avoid unnecessary suffering (we’ll leave the problem of evil for another day), and should therefore not wish to inflict such suffering if he already knows the answer.

    That means that the God that Christians talk about cannot be the same character as that in the book of Job. He’s either not as nice or all-knowing or nice as they say, or the book of Job is a bunch of bollocks. Or he may not even exist.

  9. @KOPD — Well, said test was in response to a bet made with the Devil, apparently. The whole “He just likes you because you give him nice things” argument.

    I’m… not quite sure if this portrays God in a worse way, though. Figures. ^^;

    In any case, I hold OT as seriously as I do the Vedic texts or the Buddhist Taishou Shinshu Daizoukyou. It teaches good morals (somewhat) through the use of allegory and fable, but it remains quite outdated as parts of it were developed as “survival guides” for tribal Jewish peoples, not to mention the rather erroneous views it takes on the world. As some unnamed Cardinal during the Scientific Revolution once said “The Bible tells you how to get into heaven, not how the heavens work.”

  10. You make sense, lots of it. Reasoning like this is what made me think that the god some Christian dogma beleives is a different one. Some worship the benevolent celestial father while other worship the bloodthirsty evil warlord.

  11. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.

    sorry to disagree; the desires of my flesh have a very different tone to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is alive.

  12. Yeah, about that whole sheep thing. I keep wondering why people talk about Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Shepherds I know of don’t look after the sheep out of the goodness of their hearts; they do it for wool and mutton.

  13. That idea is not old. The question of how to discern spirits. While the question is only tangentialy the solution is posited there: the discerning of spirits is a gift of the holy ghost, and, as with many gifts of it, it is a personal experience, a certainty attained by closeness to god.
    The idea that the bible god is not the benevolent creator is nothing new either. The idea of the tetragramaton being a blind/dumb/childish/evil deity is present in several gnostic and early-christian-heresies. Often it is posited that YHVH is a manifestation of the evil force and Jesus is the manifestation of His adversary, Good.
    Likewise more contemporary views, such as luciferianism, exhibit a similar position.

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