How Can You Believe in a Vengeful God?
We ask for questions, we’ve got them! The most recent one comes from a Christian. He wants to know “How can you believe in a vengeful God?” He specifically talks about God sending people to burn in a pit of fire for eternity for either sinning or not believing in him. If you have this question too, read on.
First I want to say that questions regarding Christianity are best answered by Christians. When someone outside of animism speaks for animism, their reply is tainted by outsider bias. We all have it. We can only understand what we know from our own experience. When we interpret things that have a different context, our own experiences color our interpretations. So, if you have questions about Christianity, animism, Judaism, or any -ism, you will most likely get an answer that fits your world view if you ask someone from that culture.
Now let’s look at this idea of gods in general. Gods exist to help humans navigate the unknown. We know that there are things mightier than we are. We know that some things are mysterious and unknown. Some things defy explanation. Surrendering to the gods and asking for their help when we encounter these things gives us hope. It gives us a way to get through life without fear. In return for this help, we give the gods our devotion, prayers, and sacrifices. Life is always reciprocal. We don’t come empty handed to the altar and expect presents from Santa Claus.
When we don’t have this exchange of energy, the relationship dries up. If the gods ask too much of us and don’t give back, we stop believing and praying. When the culture changes and we expand our ideas, we may find things that used to be mysterious are now commonplace. So, we don’t have a need for those gods anymore. Or we place our faith in another “god” such as medicine.
So religion isn’t a static thing. It grows and changes with culture and society. Religions that require strict adherence to ideas that were created for a set time, place, and culture often fail to thrive. This is especially true now when the world is so connected and it’s hard to live in isolation from other ideas and cultures.
One of the ways that religions deal with this is through fear and control. If my god is powerful enough to destroy you, you’d better watch out and obey! If my god gives society laws, it’s for control. Now pro-social behaviors are a good thing. They encourage positive interactions and the survival of society. When they become too rigid, they are no longer helpful.
Gods show us how to live. They are reflections of our society. A vengeful god is not the most loving example. It’s an example of authoritarianism – my way or the highway! Threats of ostracism aren’t things that many modern people support because we know the pain of guilt, shame, and isolation. We prefer acceptance of diversity and compassion towards others who are perfect. We’ve seen destrution, war, trauma, and terror and don’t want that from our gods. That’s why many people are asking “How can you believe in a vengeful God?” It’s why many people can’t tolerate this in their gods anymore.
That’s my take on it. Remember I am not a Christian. There are many other ways to think about this. Feel free to take or leave anything here that helps you figure out your truth. You can also leave a comment on your perspective. Sharing helps us to all grow.