Mano Paul writes a series of posts leading up to Christmas titled “Christmas Perspectives”. Analysis and deconstruction follows.
No Fear, Only Faith
Mano repeats the dangerous notion that belief in God means that one can have no fear of anything, because God makes anything possible. We evolved a fear response for good reason – to ensure we pay extra attention to dangerous situations. If we are actually the product of design, we would expect that the side effects of that response (irrationality, sweating, paralysis) would not be so counterproductive. However flawed the mechanism, though, it is evidence of a survival advantage to have fear.
No matter how often they repeat it, it’s clear that most Christians DON’T actually believe that God gives them invincibility. Though there are the occasional exceptions, there aren’t millions of stories of deaths after Christians try to fly, or stop bullets, or breathe underwater, or do any other dangerous impossible thing that God should supposedly make possible.
Fear is a terrible thing to endure, especially chronic existential fear. That is why religion is so successful: it takes advantage of the fearful in their weak moments and gives them a “cure” – a fantasy world in which they don’t need to be afraid. Ironically, Christianity is perpetuated by the imaginary concept of hell, which is supposed to inspire mortal fear. Christians give themselves and each other this hypochondriac’s disease, which makes them even MORE in need of a cure for their fears.
If only Christians spent the energy they pour into their devotion instead of changing the world to be a less scary place and actually understanding the things they fear. They plaster on layer after layer of God bandages and ignore the disease for the symptoms.
God With(in) Us
Mano asks each of us if God is with us, as well as within us. It is not entirely clear what he believes the difference is, but clearly Mano believes it is superior for God to be within us and not just with us.
Christians believe the birth of Jesus fulfilled an OT prophesy (Matthew 1:23). Apparently Joseph wasn’t interested in literally fulfilling the prophecy by naming his son Immanuel (Hebrew for “God with Us”), but we’ll get to poor Joseph in a minute. Without further explanation than this reference, Mano offers no other clue whether he means that God was with us in body for a short time in the form of the Son, or that God is creepily watching us do whatever it is we do, or something else including a combination of all these things.
To support his definition of “within”, Mano quotes Philippians 2:13, which outlines a more active participation of God in our lives, not unlike the puppeteer with his puppets. He says we need God within us and not just with us, which implies that we have some kind of choice in the matter. I suppose this is a more palatable theology than a God who enters us at will whether we want Him to or not (not unlike a rapist would).
A rough summary of Mano’s position might be: “I believe God is hanging around waiting for us to let him in, and we should do that by thinking that we want him and by doing the things we think he’d want us to do.” Why is this added step necessary? Shouldn’t it be enough to decide we want to do whatever this supposedly perfect being wants and then let Him take it from there? After all, Christians acknowledge almost nothing more than the fact that we are wretched sinners who don’t know our own way.
If only God could communicate better, once He is inside of us, what we are supposed to do instead of leaving it up to us to decide what is His will. Maybe we wouldn’t have ended up with “Gott mit Uns“. As an exercise for the reader, did Nazis believe God was “with” or “within” them?
God’s Will Towards All Men
There are many secular traditions at Christmastime. Whether Christians borrowed them from others or we borrowed them from Christians and made them our own, some of these traditions seem like things we should practice the whole year, instead of for a few weeks in December. “Peace on earth and good will toward men” is one of those sayings which secularists might even believe even without knowing where it came from (Luke 2:14). Imagine if the Christians in the US military actually applied their biblical principles and committed to peace by laying down arms and coming home?
The Wise Seek to Worship
Mano claims it is wise to seek to worship. We should give people the respect they are due, naturally, but this borders on tautology. It is wise to seek to dismantle ideas. Those that are true will survive the attempt. Those that are false will crumble like so many idols through history.
The Gift of Our Life
Mano claims that we owe our lives to God. It is hardly a gift then, is it? This is probably the worst example of Christian Doublespeak – that Jesus gave us a gift when he died on the cross. If he did so with no strings attached, sure. But if we are obligated with our very lives for this gift, well, that’s not a Christmas tradition any reasonable moral person would celebrate. To give him our lives isn’t then a gift, it’s payment of our mafia protection money. Even Santa only asks us to be nice instead of naughty.
Condescension for Ascension
Mano admits that it was condescending of Jesus to live among us. Wow, thanks, Jesus! Now we love you even more! In yet another example of Christian Doublespeak, this condescending act (which in the overwhelming number of cases is negatively connoted) is a loving act. The story so far: God creates man, fucks up by making us weak to temptation, kicks us out of paradise, tries to give us a go of it on earth, fucks up, drowns us all to start over, fucks up, then condescends to come live among us to show us how we’re supposed to behave if we want to come back to live with him. If that is supposed to be some sort of role model behavior, perhaps we’re better off trying to find our own way.
Promised Son for the Prodigal
Mano mixes up the parable of the prodigal son with the Jesus myth. Well if the prodigal can waste his temporary gifts and still be received back into his father’s arms, what incentive does that give us not to live it up while we can? In this light, Christians who truly believe in redemption have more moral justification than anyone for killing, raping, and stealing on this world if they can simply repent and enjoy heaven in the next. It is a common accusation of atheists and humanists who don’t hold themselves accountable to a nonexistent God that we will simply behave immorally without divine accountability. But what accountability exists in the Christian worldview? God continues to fuck up, but he keeps trying to find ways to get us into heaven anyway. Shouldn’t we just enjoy ourselves until he figures out the rules for this game?
The Real Christmas Story
Imagine the Christmas story took place today. What would we really think is going on? Is there any reason to believe it actually happened differently 2000 years ago?