The Raving Theist

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God Squad Review CLXIV (Need for a Messiah)

March 20, 2006 | 8 Comments

“What would be the need for a messiah if we evolved from lower life forms, even if God did start the process . . . why would we need redemption?” a Squad reader asks. Implicit in the question is the premise that evolved creatures are less in need of redemption than spontaneously created ones, a premise I don’t understand. Compounding my confusion is the notion of redemption itself, which rests on the idea that bad people are made good by the will of some supernatural being — usually after they have flattered it by saying they believe in its existence. However, it doesn’t matter whether the reader is making sense, because the Squad rarely addresses the issue raised and whatever answer they give generally makes less sense than the question. So I’ll just comment on various parts of the Squad’s reply:

The way we became human beings is the just and rightful province of science. Why we became human beings is the just and rightful province of religion. The debate over evolution and intelligent design may be motivated by religious commitments, but that debate remains a scientific one. It’s the same debate that always occurs in evaluating a scientific theory, and the resolution of that debate hinges on which theory best explains the facts of human life on Earth.

The problem with this analysis is that the “way” and the “why” questions aren’t are separate ones. If the “way” did not involve an outside consciousness directing the process (whether it was evolution or some form of spontaneous creation), then there was no “why”. It makes no sense to say that the “why” is something to be answered only by religion. Furthermore, the very premise of the question “why” is that there was a pre-existing being with reasons for creating us — so there’s nothing left for religion to answer as the question begs itself.

The purpose of human life is another matter altogether, and it is in those speculations that the belief in a messiah arises. The theological problems that belief in a messiah are meant to solve are first, the individual problem of atonement for our sins, and second, the collective problem of the presence of evil in a world created by an all-powerful, benevolent God.

The Squad doesn’t explain how the “purpose of human life” is in any way different (much less altogether different) from the question of “why we became human beings.” Presumably if we knew why humans were created we would know their purpose. Also unexplained is how atonement is a problem that arises out of the notion of purpose. That might be the case if our purpose was to sin (in order to give the messiah a role in the later atonement and/or punishment scheme), but religions usually don’t argue that God specifically intended us to do evil. And finally, the Squad fails to explain why the separate personage of the messiah is needed when there’s already a God to sort things out in the end.


8 Responses to “God Squad Review CLXIV (Need for a Messiah)”

  1. Dada Saves
    March 20th, 2006 @ 10:13 am

    TRA cherry-picked, or as you kids say ‘quote-mined,’ the Squad. He says “the Squad fails to explain why the separate personage of the messiah is needed when there’s already a God to sort things out in the end,” willfully ignoring this sage advice, which even a child could understand:

    “One of the ways we teach children about sin is to pound a bunch of nails into a board and ask them to imagine that each nail represents a sin we commit against God or against another person (and God). Then, we pull the nails out and tell them that the holes represent the hurts we cause when we do wrong. We then ask them how to get rid of the holes. Some children say you can fill them in, sand the filler and paint the board, but even then you can see where the holes were. ”

    My woodshop teacher could have been a theologian.

  2. Jean-Paul Fastidious
    March 20th, 2006 @ 10:18 am

    Now, RA, you’re just feigning ignorance. The Squad reader’s question is based on perfectly understandable premises (albeit ones that raise more problems than they solve).

    “Redemption” in fundamentalist Christianity (as opposed to the wishy-washy-hand-wavey-popularist form that the Squad peddles) isn’t some generic concept, but refers to being forgiven for the specific naughty thing Adam & Eve did in the Garden of Eden which resulted in the world and all of humanity being cursed with sin and necessitated Christ coming down to earth to fix things.

    If humanity evolved from non-human life, then that would contradict a literal reading of Genesis. Since a literal reading of Genesis is the only source for the belief in the whole “we are sinners because the first humans disobeyed God” concept, then, in the minds of people like the quoted Squad reader, to believe in evolution is to deny the truth of that premise, hence we don’t need no stinkin’ messiah, lets riot and fornicate like the animals we are!

  3. conleythorn
    March 20th, 2006 @ 10:25 am

    Confusion is the inevitable result of attempting to make sense of something that makes no sense. I think the best elucidation of the Judea-Christian scheme of things that I have ever read was Carl Jung’s “Answer to Job,” in which Jung psychoanalyses Yahweh. His analysis makes it very obvious why thrologians have been trying fervently and unsuccessfully for three thousand years to justify the ways of God to man.

  4. The No God Boy
    March 20th, 2006 @ 10:46 am

    The role of a messiah is an important one – nearly as important as that of an Elvis impersonator.

    Basically you have a lot of people who, for quite some time, have been unable to catch a glimpse of the guy they really want to see. They are sure he is out there (he isn’t dead) just missing somehow.

    Enter the stand in.

    He dresses up how he thinks the main guy would like and darts about entertaining the crowd. The great thing is that there are almost as many messiahs as there are elvis impersonators.

  5. Dada Saves
    March 20th, 2006 @ 12:00 pm

    And like the Messaiah, Elvis rose from the dead — according to multiple eye-witness testimonies, anyway.

  6. The No God Boy
    March 20th, 2006 @ 1:06 pm

    Risen or not his crypt was enetered and his body moved. In his case it was to Graceland.

    Also, in the DaVinci Code Jesus was rumored to have had a daughter. Elvis did have one and clearly (just look at her) she carries the King’s bloodline.

    I dunno…..the similarities here are starting to be really shocking.

  7. john sargeant
    March 23rd, 2006 @ 9:21 pm

    JC is a myth based on the Greek presocratic notion of the ‘Logos’.
    God is so enigmatic and etheral that religious authority down here stole the notion of Logos and dictated that the only way such a ‘being’ could in any way commune with lowly humanity was through the force of the Logos which Paul and other epistle writers knew to be mythological. They recognised it as such but through visions identified Jesus as the personification of the Logos. Christ Jesus meaning the ‘annointed one’ was also recognised as not a being of this planet by the epistle authors and was known by them to have been killed upstairs by demons. Evangelist liars ‘reinterpreted’ early Christian history for their own ends – presumabley for wealth and power ie sex.

  8. joshieb
    April 10th, 2006 @ 11:40 am

    Basically religious people have tricked theirselves into thinking that the debate between IT and evolution is a scientific one. No “real” scientist supports IT. Its Bible beating parents and teachers vs Science and they can keep the IT people on their side by constantly trying to make people believe that some scientists are not so sure.

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