God as Donald Trump: Trying to Make Sense of Praise and Worship (part 4)

God as Donald Trump: Trying to Make Sense of Praise and Worship (part 4) August 29, 2018

Why would a perfect god accept praise or worship? Donald Trump would, but how could this make sense for a perfect god?

Let’s continue with Christian apologists’ justifications for praise and worship of God (part 1 here).

6. “By praising God, we are reminded of the greatness of God!”

I’ve used lots of quotes to illustrate the Christian position.

[God is] saying, “if you serve Me things will go well with you because this is how I intended the whole thing to work. I love you and want only the best for you. It’s good for you to acknowledge the natural order of things: the way things simply are.” (Source)

Sounds like what slave owners taught their slaves.

Praising God is useful and favorable for us. By praising God, we are reminded of the greatness of God! (Source)

According to the Bible, our purpose, the reason we are here, is for God’s glory.  In other words, our purpose is to praise God, worship him, to proclaim his greatness, and to accomplish his will. This is what glorifies him. (Source)

We are not worthy even to gather up the crumbs under your table (from the “Prayer of Humble Access” from the 1993 Book of Common Worship of the Presbyterian Church).

When Christians say this, it’s not with head hung and feet dragging. Telling God how fantastic he is (and, conversely, how worthless they are) suits them just fine. The people in church with their eyes shut and hands forward to collect the holy baryons (or whatever the custom is in your local church) are getting an emotional reward.

Here’s how one person describes the experience. Here is their response to the lyrics, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, / oh my soul, / worship His Holy Name / Sing like never before, / oh my soul, / I’ll worship your holy name”:

The first time I heard this praise song it melted my heart and brought tears to my eyes.

I didn’t know the name of it. I didn’t know who wrote it or who was singing it. I just knew my heart was bursting with praise and that I was in the presence of the Lord.

To some, a worship song is just a song. But to the believer, a heart of praise is a surrendered heart to the will of God, and open to the moving of the Spirit.

For some, the process of praising a god (and, in so doing, putting themselves in a subordinate position) is a reassuring thing. Losing yourself in the embrace of something greater than you are can be comforting. If there’s a god that’s vastly smarter, more powerful, and more compassionate than you, then you’re in good hands. It’s a way of patting yourself (since God won’t) and saying, “There, there—everything’s going to be all right.”

Worship can have meditative benefits like prayer, and it can keep our egos in check. But these are benefits in the here and now. God doesn’t have to exist for worship to be a thing.

Debasement feels good

You don’t need to be born again; you need to grow up. The problem is that the church is not your ally. As John Shelby Spong observed, “The church doesn’t like for people to grow up because you can’t control grown-ups.”

I’ve written about how Christianity infantilizes people here and here. Let’s explore that a little more.

Worship is the art of losing self in the adoration of another. . . . To truly worship God, we must let go of our self-worship.

. . . The physical acts often associated with worship—bowing, kneeling, lifting hands—help to create the necessary attitude of humility required for real worship. (Source)

The worship habits that feel good—that scratch that psychological itch—will stick and become part of a church’s custom. The priesthood is motivated to help. These are natural reasons that help explain the custom of god worship. No actual god is needed.

Here’s a sensible bit of caution.

Too many people say that they cannot praise God while refugees wander without a home, while people freeze to death for lack of shelter, while children remain hungry, while hatred runs free in our streets, and on down the list of social ills. (Source)

But they have an odd solution.

Perhaps this is part of the reason for everything feeling overwhelming or out of control; we have forgotten how to sing God’s praises every day. . . . If the world is overwhelmed with hatred and poverty and fear, it is not God’s doing. God is still God in the midst of the mess we have created.

Yeah, when the world sucks, don’t blame God. It’s not like he created everything. Let’s only credit God with the good stuff because he might get sad if you pointed to “his” creation and demanded that he explain himself.

You paint a pathetic picture of your god. How can you praise God when he helps without cursing him when he doesn’t? More than 1000 garment workers died when a building collapsed in Bangladesh in 2013. The last survivor pulled from the rubble had survived an incredible 17 days. Her sister said, “We got her back just when we had lost all our hope to find her alive. . . . God is so merciful.”

If that was God being merciful to you, then he was being a mass murderer to the families who lost loved ones.

The self-debasing attraction of worship has a natural explanation. Worshipping God simply because he’s powerful is like worshipping a natural disaster because it, too, is powerful and deadly, which is kind of what ancient people did. Perhaps Christianity personifies nature.

Note also that we see no equivalent within science, the discipline that actually does get results. Perhaps then worship is an ancient vestigial artifact we have yet to get rid of.

Continued in part 5.

The most preposterous notion ever conceived by homo sapiens
is that the Lord God, creator and shaper of all the universe,
wants the prayers of his subjects, and the adulations of his subjects,
and that if he doesn’t get this flattery he becomes petulant.
This absurd notion, without a trace of evidence to back it up,
pays for the biggest, least productive industry on Earth.
— Lazarus Long
(quoted by Ray Romano at the 1995 AAI Convention)

.

Image via Stephen O, CC license
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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Kevin K

    Stockholm Syndrome.

  • epicurus

    I didn’t know Ray Ramano was an atheist, I have only seen a few of his old sitcom shows from the 90’s or whenever it was.

    • Pofarmer

      The lady who played his wife is a religious nitwit so I guess it evens out.

  • Bob Jase

    Poor god, half an eternity old and still as immature as a three year old going through potty training.

    • I’ll keep that in mind next time I feel sorry for Donald Trump.

  • Kev Green

    Ah yes, that famed Christian ‘humility’. Nothing says humble quite like insisting the universe was created by an omnipotent omniscient deity who cares deeply what you think or say about Him.

  • Greg G.

    Speaking of hymns, when I was a kid going to Sunday School, one of my favorite hymns to sing went, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know.” When I was an adult, I learned that the composer of that song was a cousin of mine a few generations back. He wrote that song after his wife and children died in a fire while he was out preaching somewhere.

  • eric

    The first time I heard this praise song it melted my heart and brought tears to my eyes.

    Sounds like a junkie.

    And I’m somewhat serious about that. I fully expect that some ‘religious experiences’ are pleasant or emotionally impactful enough that the people experiencing them then want to experience more of them, and chase that feeling.

    • Susan

      Sounds like a junkie.

      Sounds like an avid fan of new country.

      Or a Taylor Swift fan.

      Or a royal wedding addict.

      All of which are mundane (and in my opinion, apalling) human responses. .

      That they elevate such a mundane human response to a claim about something profoundly deep, a claim that they are in contact with a transcendent being is extra icky.

      On at least a couple of levels.

    • Otto

      I have had Black Sabbath songs do that.

      • Susan

        I have had Black Sabbath

        Good lord.

        And what a bunch of wankers.

        That only strengthens my point.

        • Otto

          Even my 60+ aunt who is a music teacher and hated them in the 70’s now admits she was completely wrong…there is still hope for you.

        • Susan

          Even my 60+ aunt who is a music teacher and hated them in the 70’s now admits she was completely wrong

          II don’t care if she’s a music teacher.

          Bunch of wankers.

          It’s not the genre. It’s the band.

        • Otto

          It is just music…I don’t expect everyone to like it.

        • Pofarmer

          ROFLol. I think I’d let this one die.

        • Otto

          Hey…I have no problem if people don’t like them…to each their own…but to compare them to Taylor Swift is more than I can take.

        • Pofarmer

          AT least it wasn’t Rascal Flatt’s.

        • Susan

          AT least it wasn’t Rascal Flatt’s

          A Nashville version of Taylor Swift and (dare I say) Black Sabbath.

          But I won’t suggest that you are describing all country music.

        • Pofarmer

          Way too much of the modern stuff is too me nearly unlistenable. Eric Church. Luke Bryan. Same crap over and over. For the last few years we’ve been listening to some Canadian country, Corb Lund, Ian Tyson, etc. lot’s of Classic Country and Classic rock.

        • Doubting Thomas

          Try some modern folk. It’s what country music would sound like today if anyone in country had talent.

        • Pofarmer

          I’d say that’s more or less what I’m listening to. Some contemporary Bluegrass. Turnpike Trubador’s, Etc, etc. Not all of that is good, either, though. Do you have any particular artists?

        • Doubting Thomas

          Iron and Wine, Lord Huron, Bon Iver,… Pandora picks most of my music these days.

          I enjoy bluegrass, but after a while it all starts to run together. Ricky Skaggs version of Little Maggie is wonderful though.

        • Susan

          to compare them to Taylor Swift is more than I can take

          They are Taylor Swift for a different market.

          Bunch of wankers.

          But, at least you don’t claim that your expeience means you met “God”.

        • Otto

          You know I can get you don’t like them…but you don’t actually explain why other than to insult.

          >>>”They are Taylor Swift for a different market.”

          The difference is they are credited with helping to create a genre, if not out right creating one. That isn’t the same as Taylor Swift by a long shot.

        • Susan

          The difference is they are credited with helping to create a genre.

          Wow. A genre?

          Look. There’s no point in having discussions about music on these forums.

          That isn’t the same as Taylor Swift by a long shot.

          I disagree. The biz of showbiz is to create legends. Hence, the claim of “helping to create a genre”.

          Formulaic goo aimed at adolescents who buy into showbiz accolades is the same in any genre.

          The point being that hymns do the same thing but claim the experience of the listener is evidence of an imaginary being.

        • Otto

          >>>”Formulaic goo aimed at adolescents who buy into showbiz accolades is the same in any genre.”

          Wow…you just described the entirety of Rock and Roll…how insightful.

        • Susan

          you just described the entirety of Rock and Roll

          Nope.

        • Otto

          Another well explained point

        • Susan

          Again, there is no point in having musical or songwriting discussions on these forums.

          But, no. Chuck Berry and KISS are not the same. Black Sabbath and Deep Purple are not the same. Taylor Swift and Jimi Hendrix are not the same.

          So, I wasn’t describing “the entirety of Rock and Roll”.

          It’s a pointless discussion. I get that you don[‘t like Taylor Swift. I think she’s awful. I think Black Sabbath are just as awful. I don’t see a difference.

          Terrible melodies, mundane rhythms, dumb riffs,badly written lyrics and a huge number of people who adore them both. What is the difference?

          And a huge legend created around them by people who write things like “helped create a genre”.

          This is where arguments ensue.

          The point being that people elevate their experiences to having some kind of contact with an imaginary being.

          It’s worse when it;s just a version of Taylor Swift (in both our cases) or Black Sabbath (in my case).

          I think they are both equivalent to the Family Circus of cartoons.

          Which is why I was careful to say that it’s the band, not the genre.

          But who cares?

          At least you are not claiming access to a higher being (nor am I) because of it.

          I think the claim that a piece of music is ’cause Jesus is ridiculous.

          I was just saying it’s doubly abhorrent when the piece of music is the equivalent of a Hallmark card (in any “genre”).

          My original foray into the topic was meant to be friendly. (Though slightly frustrated ’cause “Black Sabbath”.)

          I also happen to love broccoli and beets but didn’t get all defensive when other people said they hated them the other day.

        • Otto

          Thank you for at least explaining your position.

          >>>”Black Sabbath and Deep Purple are not the same.”

          I love both, I could have easily said Deep Purple instead of Black Sabbath to start this, and just think of the difference it would have made if I did…but Black Sabbath is cited as being incedibly influential by people in the music industry as to the influence and creation of heavy metal. Again I don’t have a problem with you hating them…but what you are criticizing them for is not an opinion shared by many people in the industry. They weren’t propped up by popular radio stations and the music they made was original.

          >>>”And a huge legend created around them by people who write things like “helped create a genre”.

          Well, if you check out what members of great bands say about them you might change your mind…from bands like Black Flag to Guns and Roses to Smashing Pumpkins, all who cite them as a major influence, and those are just a few. I don’t expect I could change your mind but I am pretty confident that if you listed bands you admire more than you think will list them as pretty influential and important.

          >>>”The point being that people elevate their experiences to having some kind of contact with an imaginary being.”

          I couldn’t agree more which is why when I cited them in my very first post it was meant as a bit of a joke, one you didn’t seem to get.

          >>>”My original foray into the topic was meant to be friendly. (Though slightly frustrated ’cause “Black Sabbath”.)”

          I can’t say it came off that way, but I think we have both had our say now.

        • Susan

          I am pretty confident that if you listed bands you admire more than you think will list them as pretty influential and important.

          I’m pretty sure that not.

          I can’t say it came off that way

          Then, I apologize. It’s my fault.

          I would delete all my comments on the subject if I could and pretend the conversation never happened. But that would leave weird holes.

          It’s pointless and the wrong place for it.

          Also my fault.

        • LastManOnEarth

          Who whoa whoa! What’s with the Family Circus hate?

          Bill Keane created a whole new genre of syndicated cartooning. Man was a frickin’ genius.

        • Greg G.

          That was my second favorite cartoon. Me, my sister, and my brother thought it was about us. My favorite was Henry.

        • From a business standpoint, that’s impressive. But I always thought of Charles Shultz (Peanuts) as a sellout.

          I read a summary of the Calvin and Hobbes guy. He just wrapped up his project and moved on. He wrote books but never franchised the series. The “Calvin pissing” and “Calvin praying” bumper stickers were ripoffs. He gave all his original artwork to the local college.

          I suppose you could say that he could’ve sold it to endow a foundation that would do some good in the world, but I admire his route.

        • LastManOnEarth

          Just a fad.

    • Pofarmer

      Theres definately an addictive quality to religious experience.

      • Otto

        I think it is interesting that the experiences many religious people attributed to only Church and the Holy Spirit they have later found out can be duplicated by completely secular means after leaving the faith.

        • epicurus

          Ol’ John Lennon wasn’t off the mark when he said The Beatles were bigger than Jesus. Can’t imagine those airports full of screaming crying fainting girls going to Church and being that enthusiastic.

  • Greg G.

    Jesus and Mo discuss the Ten Commandments:

    http://www.jesusandmo.net/comic/10cs2/

  • Ficino

    When I first heard “The Girl From Ipanema” it melted my heart and brought tears to my eyes.

    That’s because she was right then and there looking straight ahead, not at me.

    • Greg G.

      You smiled but she didn’t see.

      https://youtu.be/8PYKOo_jgJo

      This video has over 9 million views and a Fran Sinatra version had over 14 million.

    • apparently it’s a trope to have “Girl from Ipanema” as elevator music in movies.

      There was one monster movie where the good guys are in the elevator and they hear some horrible banging from the monsters they’re trying to get (or evade). One guys says, “What was that??” And another says, “I think it’s ‘Girl from Ipanema.'”

      https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheElevatorFromIpanema

  • Ficino

    Why the hate on Taylor Swift? I liked Love Story (Romeo and Juliet) and You Belong with Me (sneakers, bleachers, lyrics better without the video). And I liked it that her advertising campaign to be a spokesperson for New York quietly died. And she likes cats.

    • eric

      It shows you’re cool to hate on popular music. That’s been true since, oh, at least the 70s and disco.

      Also memory is a weird thing, as we age our memories from late teens – mid 20s tends to remain strong while later memories fade in both detail and importance. Which is why (as a generalization, often wrong but more likely right than not) older people like the music they listened to growing up more than newer music. To us Homer Simpsons, rock attained perfection in 1974. 🙂 I’m reading a book about centenarians from Holland, interviewed a few years back. Asked to describe their most memorable moments, most of them describe local events from the 1930s (Bob’s dam broke! I got to kiss my wife at the dance) and completely forget that WWII happened. Compared to that sort of memory lensing effect, the Taylor Swifts of the world have no chance.

      • Otto

        I think it is funny that some music I hated back when it was popular I now enjoy a bit on a nostalgic level, while other stuff I hated I still hate.

    • Jim Jones

      Why the hate on Taylor Swift?

      I don’t. She’s very pretty – and tall – but not much of a singer.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZmrS_w6s7s

  • Jim Jones

    > I’ve written about how Christianity infantilizes people here and here.

    Not just Christianity. It is the core of all religion. It’s a transference of the wiring that compels us to follow a leader, even a very bad one.

    62.98 million people voted for Trump, and most still support him, emotionally, not logically.

    • Bob Jase

      I disagree – there is nothing childish about wearing a collander on one’s head.