I find myself dealing with a sense of frustration of late, and I think it’s bleeding into my online “tone.” One of the difficulties I have with religious claims is that it ultimately comes down to a matter of faith. How often have we heard that it doesn’t matter if we don’t have the answers here, they’ll be available in heaven? Or a contradiction in the Bible isn’t really a contradiction, even though it appears that way? It just requires more study, or will eventually be a non-contradiction in heaven. If someone has doubts, they are to pray to God until those doubts are removed. I’ve seen some of the methods used to harmonize the Bible and they don’t work for me for two reasons – some are a huge stretch, and if the same principles were applied to another religious text, I don’t see that the harmonizations would then be accepted. Rather, the harmonizing would be seen as … well, along the lines of grasping at straws.
Am I stretching the point? Perhaps. But I doubt it. It’s along the same lines as saying that another religious text can’t be from God because of all the violence, and yet saying the Bible is divinely inspired and directly from God, even though the same type of violence is in the Bible. Violent acts that would persuade someone that the book wasn’t of divine origin in any other context.
The standards just seem to be relaxed when applied to religion (well, to be more precise, conservative Christianity), and that’s the frustrating part. Take a math equation – you can’t say to someone that they don’t need to actually resolve the contradiction, or it will be revealed at a later time, or having the answer doesn’t matter. You do need to solve that contradiction, or the math equation doesn’t work. If you’re basing lives on that equation, you’ll get those lives killed. You can’t tell someone to pray to remove the doubt: the doubt is removed through receiving an answer that either proves the equation, or shows that the equation needs to be re-worked.
Or determining that someone is good: we do that based on lifestyle and behavior. If someone kills another person over a pair of shoes, we would conclude that person A is a bad person. However, when I’ve asked others how they determine that God is good, it pretty much comes down to “God is good because He says He is.” Okay, but that is not the method we use to determine if a person is good. (There have been variations onto this, in that God’s very nature necessitates Him being good. But we know this based on … God saying so, because God is the one who describes what His nature consists of).
And this is after I’ve asked how one determines that one is actually following a good God. What criteria is the judgment of good based on? And before anyone starts saying that I’m imposing my own fallible moral code onto God, I’m not. I am taking what Jesus says is good – behavior that Jesus says is just like God’s behavior – and checking if that is consistent behavior throughout the Bible.
The resolution to this is basically to just have faith. And that reasoning works for a lot of people, and they find it acceptable. Herein lies the problem, though: the people who say to just have faith are the same people laying claim to an absolute truth, and that those of us who aren’t like them need to have this absolute truth right away.
A claim of absolute truth should be associated with the idea that the person has researched, and investigated all sides. I don’t see this coming from those who say to just have faith. Rather, I see the investigation as skewed: all facts are interpreted through an already-established paradigm, and rather than doing independent research, one relies on others for facts.