Bill Maher’s Personal Relationship with God

I’ve never met Bill Maher, so I don’t know what kind of guy he is.  He does say plenty of things that irritate me, and lots of people, but he also says some pretty funny things that make me laugh. On par I’d say he’s probably a good guy with some strong opinions about some things I don’t share.  He hates religion, though, saying religion is a bureaucracy between God and man he doesn’t need.  I’m on his team for that one.  He calls himself an apatheist, saying he doesn’t know what happens when we die and he doesn’t care.  I can’t hang with him there.  When he got on a jag about the Russell Crowe movie Noah Maher said something very interesting about God:

“It’s about a psychotic mass murderer who gets away with it, and his name is God”

He also said that God “drowns babies.”  Now if you can get past the bravado and sarcasm and hear the basic question Maher is asking, it isn’t so easy to answer.  He wants to know how a good God not only allows suffering and pain, but how a good God inflicts suffering and pain.  Maher is not saying there is no God.  He repeatedly says he doesn’t have the answer to that question and is open to there being a God or gods, but that thehqdefault-37-460x260 God of the Old Testament, which is the same God Christians claim as their God, is not a good God.  Maher is saying he doesn’t like the Christian God and he presents his reasoning for not liking Him:  God is a mass murdering baby killer who wipes out everyone because He doesn’t like what a few of us are doing.  Bill Maher’s personal relationship with God (at least the Christian God) is enmity.  He doesn’t want to be friends with this God.

It makes sense to me.  If I thought the Christian God was a crazed baby killer who might go off on me at any moment and kill my family or my whole country because I wasn’t acting the way he wants me to act, I wouldn’t want to be his friend either.  Who needs friends like that?  But I am friends with the Christian God, so I have to take Maher’s accusations seriously and not just be irritated because he said “bad things” about my friend.  Christianity is not for lazy people or squeamish people.  It takes effort to be in a relationship with real people.  They do weird things.  They embarrass us.  Some times they need to be defended against false accusations.  Some times we need to hear an outside opinion of our loved ones because we are too close to see their flaws.

The problem with Bill Maher’s opinion about God is this:  we have no concept of a bad God.  The name “God” is itself derived from the word “good.”  God is simply good writ large.  The highest GOOD we can imagine is God.  When Maher calls God a psychotic murderer, he calls him “not God” = or = he says this God can’t be real; this God doesn’t exist.  So Maher contradicts himself when he says he doesn’t know or care if God or gods are out there and how he might or might not relate to them.  He very much does care about at least one God; the God of the Christians and the Jews, and he definitely doesn’t want to have a relationship with him.  But what about any other God?  How would Bill ever find a God he could agree with?  If the standard he sets for an acceptable level of God-ness is only what Bill Maher calls God or what Bill Maher can understand about God’s actions, how would he ever know he had a real God at all?  That would mean that Bill himself is perfect and judges perfectly any and all actions of the divine being.  It would mean in fact that Bill Maher would have to be that god.  And that is precisely what anyone in his position does have – a god of their own manufacture.  A God who never contradicts us or confounds us, but only agrees with us and acts in the exact way we think they should act is indistinguishable from our self.  A god like that is not worth much when we need help or advice.

I said that relationships with real people are hard, and they are.  The Christian God is a real person.  He does things that embarrass me.  He does things I don’t understand.  He does things that make no sense to me that I wish he didn’t do.  The problem for me is different though.  My problem is that knowing the extent of God’s goodness; his perfect love and wisdom, I can’t lay any fault at his feet for these things.  He is good and he doesn’t do bad things.  He is wise and he doesn’t make mistakes.  The lack of understanding is with me.  The misperception is mine.  This is not because I’m inferior or stupid or unimportant to God.  Its because if I’m going to have a God at all I’m going to have to have a God who is great enough to do things I can’t understand.  The Christian God doesn’t leave me without information, however.  The Christian God gives me plenty of confidence in his essential goodness.  He dies on a cross for me.  He enters into our suffering.  He is touched by my frailty.  In other words the Christian God gives me an overwhelming reason to trust that a God who would go to such lengths to have a real relationship with us would not randomly kill babies.  He is not psychotic.  He is not a mass murderer.  The cross contradicts me when I am angry at him for not acting in a way I find appropriate.  He did not withhold Christ from us; why should I believe he would withhold any good thing when he gave the highest thing so freely?  I don’t know why my God does what he does.  I don’t know why he chose the cross either, but I am sure my God cares and cared about every person ever born more than me or Bill Maher ever did.  And so I trust him.  He is my friend.

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Spinning in the Dark

Have I told you I love our early morning instructors at the Y?  I do.  I love them for getting out of bed and having more energy than me so I can put my mind on auto-pilot and work out to their routine.  I always try to keep that in mind when I feel complaints welling up inside.  So there it is, my disclaimer.  Now; what’s up with freaking spin classes in the dark at 6am in the winter???  In fact, what’s up with spin classes in the dark period.  My wife told me I had to try spin classes when they first came out years ago.  This is the woman who did step aerobics into the eighth month of both her pregnancies, Jane Fonda stretch spin-revolve1leotard and all.  She knows her workouts.  She said this is really fun.  A bunch of people riding stationary bikes together in a room with good music.  It took some convincing but I finally went.  And I liked it.  All except she didn’t mention you did this in the dark, or in the very close to dark.  What’s the deal with that?  Is it really so hideous to see other fatties sweating it out a few feet away?  We even had one instructor who insisted on placing herself in complete darkness.  Now there’s a plan.  Watch me, I’m calling out the moves here, oh wait a minute while I turn down the lights so you can’t see me.  Another class I asked the instructor to turn up the lights a bit and about five spinners had a conniption.  Seems they couldn’t get their spin on in the light.  Does that even make sense at all?  Not to me.  One of our first spin instructors got in the habit of telling us how sleepy she was every time she got a class going.  I know why!!  People sleep in the dark!  People don’t work out in the dark!  So I contemplate these things on my spin bike at 6am trying to wake up and get my head and heart pointed in the right direction.  Its dark.  An unusually bad blend of music plays.  7 minute long techno distortion, a worn out pop song, heavy metal hell band.  Spinning in the dark.  And I sweat.  My hear rate gets up – which is the only reason I’m here – elevate the heart-rate for 30 minutes a day.  I look at my wife spinning in the next bike.  At least she is close enough to see.  I like looking at her.  Sometimes I steal a smile.  Even in the bad songs I find a beat that I can work with and even in the dark on a stationary bike we are going somewhere together.  Getting healthier.  Getting going together.  Spinning in the dark doesn’t make much sense, but it doesn’t stop us from finding something good in it.  There is good to be found.  It only takes a little light to find it and a little beat to hear it.  It is there.  He is here.

Voldemort and the Myth of No Good or Evil

“He is with me wherever I go,” said Quirrell quietly. “I met him when I traveled around the world. A foolish young man I was then, full of ridiculous ideas about good and evil. Lord Voldemort showed me how wrong I was. There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it… Since then, I have served him faithfully, although I have let him down many times. He has had to be very hard on me.” Quirrell shivered suddenly. “He does not forgive mistakes easily. (from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone)

Do you see the gaping hole in Voldemort’s world view?  There is no good or evil, he says and teaches his protege’, yet he is harsh and unforgiving when let down.  But what is the let down if not evil to Voldemort?  There is not such thing as a practical universalist.  If a person tells you they don’t believe in good or evil, go and let the air out of their car tire or trick them into giving you their pay check, then you’ll see they believe in evil.  No matter what we do all of us smuggle into our minds some standard against which we measure the world.  It is unavoidable.  It is the result of a created world, not a random one.3141025-hp-dh-part-2-lord-voldemort-26625098-1920-800

Can You Hear the Ring of Truth?

“Now Ahaziah had fallen through the lattice of his upper room in Samaria and injured himself. So he sent messengers, saying to them, “Go and consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, to see if I will recover from this injury.” But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Go up and meet the messengers of the king of Samaria and ask them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going off to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?’ Therefore this is what the LORD says: ‘You will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!’ ” So Elijah went. When the messengers returned to the king, he asked them, “Why have you come back?” ”
“A man came to meet us,” they replied. “And he said to us, ‘Go back to the king who sent you…” (2 Kings 1:2-6)

Think about the men sent out from the king to inquire about his health.  They meet a complete stranger on the road who tells them to go back to their king and tell him he is going to die.  Without even getting the name of the stranger they obey his words.  Either these messengers are stupid or they know truth when they hear it.  Since you have to believe their very lives are at stake it must be a case of good hearing.  There is a tuning fork within each person which resonates when struck by Truth.Church-bells-001