God as Donald Trump: Trying to Make Sense of Praise and Worship (part 5)

God as Donald Trump: Trying to Make Sense of Praise and Worship (part 5) September 26, 2018

My thesis in this multi-part post (part 1 here) has been that praise and worship might be relevant to someone like Donald Trump who admires dictators, but it makes no sense for a wise and powerful god to want it.

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

7. Worship God because we need to fear him

Here’s an old-school approach to our relationship with God:

 If at any point in the process we lose respect, trust, appropriate fear, or love for God, we lose the ability to learn and grow as we ought, and then, like unruly children, we can do ourselves great damage. . . .

For this reason, it’s necessary to command people to worship God, just as it’s necessary for a parent at times to command their children to show respect. . . . God insists on worship, because He has to protect our ability to learn from Him. (Source)

Ah, the “You’re gonna worship me or else!” school of thought. I knew it would pop up somewhere. The source continues, and it gets a little spooky.

[After a disaster] is a dangerous time in which faith can be lost; and it might be lost, if there was not a standing command to honor God, and an already-existing relationship.

If your common sense is telling you that there is no god, given his no-show status at a disaster, listen to it. This nonsensical “just believe, regardless of the evidence” advice is the sound of a meme struggling to survive.

The conflict between grief and love for God produces tension; the tension eventually produces new growth, trust with a more mature understanding. The obligation to worship is the lynch-pin that keeps the believer tethered to his salvation when life makes little sense.

This apologist tips his hand. This “mature understanding” realizes that you can’t take the Bible at its word. When Jesus says, “Ask and you will receive,” it’s not like that’s supposed to actually work in the real world. Prayer doesn’t “work” in the same way a car or light switch works. You must have a “mature understanding,” you see. Prayer is good at self-soothing and supporting a confirmation bias, but “mature” Christians know it’s not like prayer works or God will look out for you or that you can rely on any of Christianity’s other supernatural claims.

8. Because it’s only fair

We’re supposed to praise God because it’s just the right thing to do. Here’s an example:

Imagine that you crafted an incredibly beautiful sculpture and won a prestigious award for your creation; but when the time came for the award ceremony, they gave the prize for your sculpture to the wrong artist! That would not be just, right, or good. (Source)

Human artists are burdened by concerns that never bother God. They need to make a living, and prizes can be an important way to build a reputation and raise the value of their art. Or, maybe they just have an ego, and they like hearing praise. God has no such concerns for money, and he should be above ego-driven needs.

Tibetan Buddhist monks might spend a week or more creating a sand mandala on a floor and then sweep it up afterwards. That’s how enlightened people approach praise for their work.

In the same way, God—as the only being perfect in goodness, justice, love, etc.—is worthy of our praise. We do, in fact, owe Him that praise. He wants us to praise Him because it is right and good for us to do so. Since God wants us to do right and good things, of course he wants us to praise and worship Him.

My responses to previous arguments apply to this one. This argument assumes that praise makes sense in the case of a maximally enlightened being, but that assumption must be backed up with an argument.

9. Because we’re under attack!

Circle the wagons, people! We’re under attack:

Praise makes the enemy flee. It pushes back the darkness [that] surrounds, and blocks the attacks and hissing lies over us. Evil will not stick around if we’re praising our God, who will fight our battles for us. (Source)

Praise is an effective weapon against the devil. . . . He has hated praise ever since because of its reminder of what he gave up and can’t regain. (Source)

Here’s a Chicken Little apologist with an active imagination who imagines a celestial D-Day:

Every place in history where God intervened in the affairs of men constitutes a beachhead where God’s dominion has been re-established in some measure. Around those beachheads . . . hover the unclean spirits as an occupying army, deceiving and destroying the souls who are their captives. (Source)

In the first place, Satan works for God. Read Job 1 to see that he does what God tells him to. (Yes, Satan killed people in this story, but it’s with God’s permission, and this was the limit of Satan’s killing in the Bible. God, by contrast, kills millions.)

The idea of a celestial battle probably came into Judaism after Cyrus the Great of Persia liberated the Jews from captivity in Babylon. Zoroastrianism was the religion of Persia, and it had the concept of two equally matched gods, one good and one bad, and a final battle with Good triumphing.

Christianity is left with an odd mixture. On one hand, Satan is roaming the world at will and capturing souls. But on the other, Revelation lays out the entire convoluted end game in which Satan will unquestionably be subdued and imprisoned.

Concluded in part 6.

The more I study religions
the more I am convinced
that man never worshipped
anything but himself.
— Sir Richard Burton

.

Image via pixabay, CC license
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  • Who the heck can produce any evidence that a God intervened in the affairs of men? And where is any evidence of invisible unclean spirits trying to take away souls?

    Anytime Christians start pulling out the war between invisible spirits stuff, I just roll my eyes and know the conversation is over. Aren’t adults a little old to believe in invisible spirits? Can’t they just enjoy sci-fi or superhero movies and books? Why do some insist on legislating their fantasy world onto the rest of us?

    • Bob Jase

      I knew a Christian who found a parking place once – explain that!

      • Taneli Huuskonen

        A car goes out, a car goes in, sometimes a miscommunication. You can’t explain that!

  • epicurus

    As if we didn’t get enough grief from Satan, after he is subdued and thrown into a bottomless pit, you would think, finally we are done with him. But no! Because after a thousand years, he’s let out “for a short time” (Rev 20). Well, given that words like “soon” can mean thousands of years when Jesus or Paul use them, “a short time” might mean what? A thousand? Ten thousand years or more of God allowing the devil to run around?
    Makes one wonder who is really in charge.

  • Kev Green

    Imagine that you crafted an incredibly beautiful sculpture and won a prestigious award for your creation; when the time came for the award ceremony everyone lavished you with praise. But soon, days went by with out anyone praising you for your wonderful sculpture. Then praise became even rarer. Sometimes weeks or even months went by without anyone telling you how wonderful your sculpture was. That would not be just, right, or good.

  • skl

    “someone like Donald Trump who admires dictators”

    If Trump admires dictators, he can have some strange ways of
    showing that admiration. For example:

    “There’s never been a president as tough on Russia as I
    have been,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday.

    That might sound like hyperbole, but in this case, there’s
    actually some basis for the president’s boast.

    “When you actually look at the substance of what this
    administration has done, not the rhetoric but the substance, this
    administration has been much tougher on Russia than any in the post-Cold War
    era,” said Daniel Vajdich, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.”
    https://www.npr.org/2018/07/20/630659379/is-trump-the-toughest-ever-on-russia

    “President Trump announced harsh new sanctions on Friday against North Korea…”

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/23/us/politics/trump-north-korea-sanctions.html

    • Joe

      You have difficulty with understanding things, don’t you?

      • eric

        Understanding or not caring? I suspect most people on the right understand that Trump’s ‘sovereign nation’ stuff is tantamount to the U.S. government washing it’s hands of human rights abuses throughout the world, and letting dictators know they can do whatever they want to their own people and within their own borders. The right just doesn’t care. Isolationism to them is a feature of this administration, not a bug.

    • epeeist

      If Trump admires dictators, he can have some strange ways of showing that admiration.

      Alternatively you might want to have a glance at this article. You might also like to consider what Trump has said about the leaders of democratic countries such as Canada, Germany and the EU more generally for example.

    • Rudy R

      And let’s not foreget “Jesus loves me! This I know, For the Bible tells me so.”

      • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

        Ask those children WHERE the Bible tells them that.

        I remember singing the song, but I know I would’t be able to answer such a question. The church taught me to lie.

    • there’s actually some basis for the president’s boast.

      One problem with being a liar is that when the audience sees, over and over, that you don’t give a shit about the truth, they just assume that everything you say is useless. So I don’t much care what boast the president has made.

      Remember the laughter from the UN General Assembly? That’s me.

      • MR

        “One problem with being a liar… So I don’t much care what skl has to say.”

        That’s me.

      • skl

        “So I don’t much care what boast the president has made.”

        Although NPR, among others, does care and in fact acknowledges basis for the boast.

        “Remember the laughter from the UN General Assembly? That’s me.”

        Then this also must be you, something I read today:

        “Oh, how they laughed. When President Trump
        told the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday that “in less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” the delegates of the world couldn’t contain themselves. “I didn’t expect that reaction,” Mr. Trump responded to the laughter ringing through the hall, “but that’s OK.”

        Mr. Trump’s boast merited an eye roll, but I’d laugh right back at the U.N. It deserves it.

        Who but the U.N. would elect some of the world’s leading human-rights abusers— Saudi Arabia, China, Venezuela, Pakistan and others— to run a Human Rights Council and lecture the rest of us? In 2016
        many of these members even tried to silence Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, in midsentence as he exposed their hypocrisy.

        Who but the U.N. would elect the Islamic Republic of Iran to the executive board of its agency “dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women”? The World Economic Forum ranks Iran 140th out of 144 nations in parity between the sexes for a reason. Its regime arrests and beats women who peacefully protest for their rights. It imprisons and tortures women for removing their headscarves. Discrimination is written into every area of Iran’s civil code, from marriage and divorce to employment.

        Who but the U.N. would hold a World Conference Against Racism, only to have supporters of Israel harassed, intimidated and booed off the stage with chants of “Jew! Jew! Jew!”? In 2001 the conference was “overflowing with copies of ‘The Protocols of The Elders of Zion’ and pamphlets featuring pictures of Jews with long hooked noses and evil smiles, their serpent fangs soaked in blood and their military uniforms decorated with swastikas,” according to a correspondent for the New Republic. As of June 2016, the Human Rights Council had condemned Israel more than every other nation combined. It has since passed 10 more anti-Israel resolutions, for a total of 78.

        Who but the U.N. would elect Syria to a leadership post in the Special Committee on Decolonization, which fights “subjugation, domination and exploitation,” as the regime was slaughtering its own people with chemical weapons? Instead of correcting its mistake, the U.N. then re-elected Syria in 2016 and again in 2018.

        Who but the U.N. would hold an official minute of silence in recognition of the death of Fidel Castro, Cuba’s murderer, torturer and jailer in chief? In fact, one wasn’t enough. The U.N. gave Castro two separate minutes of silence and then a third tribute. Under Castro, Cuba sometimes served on the Human Rights Council but never allowed inspectors into the country—except once. U.N. official Jean Ziegler, a Castro admirer and the
        cofounder of the Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights, visited Cuba in 2007. He liked what he saw.

        The U.N. laughs. If it had any shame, it would cry.”

        • Michael Neville

          Notice that this Trumpista doesn’t even attempt to justify anything that his hero has done. Instead he points fingers at the UN. Tu quoque is a logical fallacy.

        • Max Doubt

          “Notice that this Trumpista doesn’t even attempt to justify anything that his hero has done. Instead he points fingers at the UN. Tu quoque is a logical fallacy.”

          Yep. It’s the same failure as when they try to deflect valid criticism of Trump by bringing in Obama or Hillary. When they go there I take it to mean, “I got nothin’.”

        • Although NPR, among others, does care and in fact acknowledges basis for the boast.

          Trump is such a colossal liar that he’s made fact checking far too difficult. I just assume it’s a lie and wait for evidence that it’s actually a rare truth.

          Who but the U.N. would elect some of the world’s leading human-rights abusers

          Nice! This is the “Well . . . well, you’re as bad as I am!” defense. First, let’s not change the subject. Second, thanks for the confirmation that Trump is indeed in the category with the worst people.

      • epicurus

        Now Trump’s saying they were laughing with him, not at him. Good grief. I guess he’s just joking when he brags about his govts accomplishments.

        https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/trump-un-laughter-1.4840194

        • Golly, what a surprise. And you’re right–whether laughing at him or with him, Trump looks like a fool. One says, “You’re an idiot or a buffoon” and the other says, “Funny–the idea that your administration has done much useful!”

          We can either laugh or cry at the Dear Leader, I suppose.

  • eric

    The conflict between grief and love for God produces tension; the tension eventually produces new growth

    Growth like…conversion?

    I think the most common attack on atheism is to argue that we’re wounded or hurt and that’s why we reject God. But the theologian can’t have it both ways; they can’t argue that the tension between grief and belief produces (positive) growth when it leads to a result they like, but then claim the tension between grief and belief is a lousy reason to conclude something when it leads to a result they don’t like.

    but when the time came for the award ceremony, they gave the prize for your sculpture to the wrong artist! That would not be just, right, or good.

    Maybe not, but a perfectly merciful God wouldn’t take offense and a perfectly forgiving God would, y’know, forgive the slight. Theologians can’t make this analogy work unless they deny God’s omnibenevolence.

  • Rudy R

    This Yahweh character wants and needs quite a bit, which are desires contrary to an all-powerful being.

    • Bob Jase

      I know, I accidentally burned my supper last night and even though Yahweh craves the odor of burning food he didn’t even thank me.

  • Bob Jase

    “we lose … appropriate fear, or love for God,”

    So is god love or is god fear? They aren’t the same thing, in fact they’re pretty much opposites. Believers please decide amongst yourselves and when you reach a full concensus let me know.

    “In the same way, God—as the only being perfect in goodness, justice, love, etc.—is worthy of our praise.”

    No, not really. If god is automatically all that then it took no learning, no effort, no struggle to achieve that perfection. You don’t deserve praise for default settings.

    “Praise is an effective weapon against the devil”

    Then why do believers keep saying the world is infested by constantly attacking demons when believers are constantly praising god somewhere? Guys, its not working according to your own claims.

    I’m rapidly running out of patience & toleration of contradictory magical thinking.

    • Otto

      Christianity is internally inconsistent.

    • If god is automatically all that then it took no learning, no effort, no struggle to achieve that perfection. You don’t deserve praise for default settings.

      Nicely stated. It’s like praising a rock for rolling downhill.

  • “The idea of a celestial battle probably came into Judaism after Cyrus the Great of Persia liberated the Jews from captivity in Babylon. Zoroastrianism was the religion of Persia, and it had the concept of two equally matched gods, one good and one bad, and a final battle with Good triumphing.”

    That’s the first thing I thought of when I read the part about “praise makes the enemy flee.” Cyrus the Great sent the captives from all of the nations home to rebuild their walls and worship their own gods. The good gods could only win if their subjects worshiped them. Their energy came not from their own omnipotence, but from the praises and prayers of their subjects.

  • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

    Funny, I don’t remember having “appropriate fear” of my parents was ever necessary for me to learn from them. Or from my teachers.
    I hope my children feel the same way.

  • RichardSRussell

    “God As Donald Trump”, eh? Well, that’s certainly the reverse of the prevailing attitude at the White House.

  • Meta comment: I respond to comments by getting Disqus email notifications. For the past week or so, I’ve gotten some comments as much as 5 days late, when they’re usually delayed by minutes. It’s a new Disqus record (and the old records were pretty impressive).

    Disqus (notorious for being unresponsive in response to bug reports) has been notified. So (1) sorry for my late replies and (2) if Disqus seems messed up at the moment, that’s because it is.

    • Greg G.

      We are also limited to seven days to edit a post so if one might have two days to fix an error that should be fixed when someone points it out.

  • bizraffles

    You know that empty feeling you atheist feel? That feeling that no matter what you do or want, it’s never enough? That’s because you don’t have the holy spirit. The father’s advocate. God blinds people like you, so you can read the scriptures all day everyday and you will never see. It’s only thru Jesus Christ that you can even know God. Without him, you will never understand the scriptures. You talk about the Bible like you understand it. But you don’t. And you do believe in God, you just hate him. But trust me. When u die, you will still have to face him. And trust me when I say. I much rather be on the winning side. Thru Jesus, I am no longer empty. What True Christian’s have is better then gold or precious Jewel’s. I pray you seek him. And stop hating him. Your not convincing anyone. Your simply In denial. For creation declares his glory, which is also in Job. Next time you quote scripture, which you don’t understand, do it thru the holy spirit.

    • God blinds people like you

      So then he’s a dick?

      And you do believe in God, you just hate him.

      Golly. It’s like you can see right into my soul, huh?

      No, actually I don’t believe in God for the same reason you don’t believe in Zeus.

      But trust me. When u die, you will still have to face him.

      Just like I’m going to have to face Zeus?

      And trust me when I say. I much rather be on the winning side.

      My feeling exactly! As an atheist, I don’t have that doubt that lots of little nagging things don’t quite fit together within Christianity.

      What True Christian’s have is better then gold or precious Jewel’s. I pray you seek him.

      Why? Do you seek Zeus or Quetzalcoatl or Shiva?

      And stop hating him.

      You mean like you hate Zeus?

    • Phil

      “You know that empty feeling you atheist feel” Nope, tell me more, what are the symptoms. I feel empty when I haven’t eaten for a long time. Is it like that?
      “And stop hating him” How am I doing that? Have you been stalking me or something? How is it possible to hate something you don’t know exists. Sounds so implausible. Nearly as ludicrous as loving something that doesn’t exist. I don’t hate unicorns either. Do you hate unicorns?
      “For creation declares his glory” How does that work? How do you come to that conclusion?
      “But trust me” Nope, trust has to be earned.
      “You’re simply in denial” Do you deny the existence of Odin, Zeus, FSM etc?

    • Greg G.

      You know that empty feeling you atheist feel?

      Yes, but it goes away for a few hours after a nice meal. Theists get that, too.