God grew up

This morning, a Quora person responded to an answer I’d given about God. I have to give some background, now.

The original question was posted by someone who is probably Muslim, from their name. They were distressed about atheists not showing respect for God, or for other people’s beliefs about God. My response to that question was:

My God is strong enough to take the mockery from people who don’t believe. I really find it tiring when so many of my fellow theists get bent out of shape by people who don’t believe.

Why is it such a big deal to you? Do you think God can’t take it? Why do you feel you have to defend God? Do you really think God needs defending? Is your God that weak?

I don’t know about you, but my God can take criticism and even denial or rejection just fine, because my God doesn’t need to worry about what people think. My God doesn’t need me to attack people for not believing. God’s far more mature than that.

I got a few good responses. Then, this morning, I got the first jerkheaded one:

WTF? What god are you talking about? You’re Jewish but you don’t believe in the incredibly sensitive, nasty, vindictive god of Abraham?

*sigh* Adonai spare me from the literalists.

See, this is the thing. The literalist mindset (“the way it is written is exactly the way it was then AND STILL IS NOW”) is prevalent among two groups, as far as I can see:

1. Rabid atheists, like Dawkins and those who follow him

2. Rabid fundamentalists, like the Haredim at the Kotel

Neither of these groups gets that there are layers and levels of meaning in the Torah (or, indeed, in any holy book – I’m sure there are also levels and layers of meaning in the Qu’ran and the Christian Bible). They want to read the words as if the words are all there are. I get this mindset. I used to have this mindset – and I’ll admit that in many places I still have it, about many things. Breaking a habit of forty years is hard to do.

But let’s look just at the text of the Torah for a few minutes here, okay? Because I think the key is my comment that God is more mature than the literalists give him credit for (because they are still looking at him in his early years).

God punishes Adam and Eve rather severely. This is like a young parent who overreacts when their too-young-to-understand child does something that irritates the parent.

God punishes the world rather severely in the Flood. This is like a young parent who’s gotten used to being severe.

But then, God’s going to punish Sodom, right? And Abraham calls him on it. Abraham says “Hold up, Adonai. What if I find a few people in Sodom who aren’t sinful? Don’t you have to take them into account? Are you going to punish them, too?”

And God listens. And instead of zotting Sodom with a big lightning bolt, he backs down. (Genesis 18:16-33)

This indicates an increasing maturation on the part of God, doesn’t it?

The fact of the matter is that the Torah is, in many ways, accounts of a young God. It is an early God. It is a God of petty ambitions and jealousy.

That’s not the God I experience. That’s not the God who’s sent me spiritual helicopters. The God I believe in doesn’t care whether people believe in him – he believes in us.

So the only conclusion I can come to is that God grew up.

The fact that the literalists have not is not a reflection on God. It’s a reflection on them.

Maybe someday they’ll grow up too. Until then, all I can do is be patient and wait.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “God grew up

  1. FreeTrav

    I don’t think it’s G-d that “grew up”; I think it’s us. I don’t see an omniscient, omnipotent, eternal G-d as being someOne that can make errors or experience a loss of “cool”; rather, G-d’s responses are Self-adjusted to what we can understand, and those responses change when we do. The episode where Abraham is commanded to sacrifice Isaac, and at the last minute, is stopped and a ram provided, represents the point where we learned that human sacrifice is inappropriate; Abraham calling out G-d in the matter of Sodom and Gomorrah is when we recognized that collective punishment is inappropriate; the destruction of the last Temple may have been an acknowledgement that forms of worship are less important than Hillel’s answer, and less important than establishing one’s personal relationship with G-d, and that sacrifice to propitiate G-d is unnecessary (and perhaps inappropriate); and so on. And yes, sometime there is backsliding, and some don’t grow up as fast as others.

    I also think that G-d does – and will – answer our questions, when we ask the right questions in the right way.

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    • I see your point. Perhaps the way we see God is partially conditioned by how, with our biological and cultural limitations, we are able to view him, so that’s what we see at any given time.

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