Why should we have "fear of God"?

8 years 1 month ago #199260 by Cyan Sarden

steamboat28 wrote:

Goken wrote: Why are they saying that you should fear God? Isn't the idea that God is just and kind and compassionate? Why have a religion based entirely around fear?

The etymology of the word means to frighten or terrify, but also means to revere, or regard with awe. It's one of those situations where English speakers use an archaic phrase where a portion's meaning has changed over time. It's not actual, literal fear, it's respect.

I agree with that as far as the English language goes. However, the same isn't true for other languages. In German, the word 'fürchten' - als in 'fürchte Gott' very much means means 'fear' as in 'fear of the dark'. In this sense, 'fürchte Gott' has been taught in church as 'fear the wrath of God' - e.g. if you don't stick to the 10 commandments, are gay, masturbate and other things the various denominations tend to frown upon to varying degrees.

This constant threat of punishment was one of the main reasons that initially drove me away from the Christian belief system. Heaven and Hell, Jesus and the Devil, God smiting those who don't do as he commands, the sins of the father extending to seven generations, people who defy God getting their loved ones in trouble first and then themselves etc. Of course, there are many examples of God's benevolence and mercy as well. Overall, I just have the feeling that large part of Abrahamic scripture is based on whipping people into becoming whatever 'Menschenbild' (idea of the ideal man) the person / organization who wrote and / or translated envisioned.

Now I'm not an expert in archaic languages - I do know some Latin from school, but even Latin versions of the Bible are only translations. That translations of the Bible (or of anything else) are always interpretations is somewhat problematic as not all denominations use the same translations.

Sorry if this sounds cynical, but the issue struck a nerve as I've just recently had to endure a sermon where God's punishment of those who don't obey was the main topic. Incidentally, that was the christening ceremony of our daughter.

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8 years 1 month ago - 8 years 1 month ago #199265 by
Replied by on topic Why should we have "fear of God"?
I don't personally find justification in the scriptures for either of the extreme points of view.

On one hand some say God is vengeful, angry and should be utterly feared. Yet when I read the bible from front to back I see very strong themes of forgiveness, compassion and love. Of course churches are fairly notorious throughout history for fear mongering. I can certainly see why people get this opinion from them. I guess that is why in the final book of revelations churches don't recognise their God or his ways.

On the other hand people say he is endlessly forgiving and wouldn't hurt a fly. If there is another reoccurring theme in the bible it is that your actions have consequences. So if you enslave a people for 400 years, mortar your city walls with their blood, ignore numerous pleas and signs for their freedom and are then so utterly driven by hate that you'd drive your chariot miles across a desert between two walls of water then maybe it is time for you to spend some time in the naughty corner (remember If god is real then death isn't the end).

I see the strongest model for the relationship between the God of the bible and humankind as that of the relationship between father and children. As a dad myself I love my kids to death but do I get angry and should they fear me some times? If I catch them stealing, bullying other kids in the playground or doing something wrong then you bet they should. Why? Because I love them and they need to learn that behaviour like that is wrong.

Goken wrote: Why are they saying that you should fear God? Isn't the idea that God is just and kind and compassionate?

I guess for me the question and the answer is in the quote. Why should you fear god? Because he is just so look out if your being unjust to others. Remember he loves you like a parent loves their children but sometime children need some time in the naught corner if they are going to learn and grow into adults.
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8 years 1 month ago #199271 by Adder
Up until about 5 years ago I thought they were saying God-faring (its not prevalent here in Oz AFAIK), so it was a bit of a surprise and contrary to my particular Catholic upbringing. Interesting to use fear to generate a spiritual experience, seems perfectly valid I guess, into the cave Luke and all that - but to overcome it or be supplicant to it!? I'm guessing the former and not the later has more use for personal growth.

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8 years 1 month ago #199276 by Gisteron
Oh boy, how much to reply to...
Alright, let's do this.

First things first, as V-Tog pointed out, fear is, in this case, a tool. It is true that animals in terror tend to act irrationally when unguided but if your goal is to control a people, you will have an easier time at it if they believe your threats. So much easier, in fact, that said threats or at least fear mongering of one sort or another is a centerpiece of just about every remotely successful ideology, be it religious or political or otherwise. Now, there is still a difference between your standard boogie man, like the wicked machine-man Lord Vader, the greedy deceitful Jew or the treacherous atheist Soviet on the one hand, and the heavenly father of infinite mercy on the other hand, who you are supposed to fear no less than to love, and how the latter is positively sick, I think goes without saying.

It must at this point be however added, that those who fear their gods usually think of themselves as some who one would think would have least reason to fear said gods. The religious seldom consider that their god is the wrong god and that they are doing wrong by their gods' respective standards; at best they might say that everybody does and that they will be forgiven. Even if their scripture, historical and contemporary scholars and religious authorities would disagree, the believer is almost always either blameless or - more often in the case of Abrahamic traditions - forgiven. The ones that ought to be positively afraid of their god are indeed the infidels and that this fear is still preached to a congregation of devout believers betrays in my opinion a certain satisfaction with the torment of the damned or, alternatively, the outdated concept that the majority of listeners in a church are the same infidels that would pass by the market preacher in bronze-age palestinian deserts - a mindset abrahamic traditions have been stuck in ever since.

On to another, more specific point in the case of this particular desert's faiths, I would beg to differ with Ryu's theology. To put it the way Christopher Hitchens used to, at least the Old Testament God was done with you when you died. It is not until after the arrival of the Prince of Peace that talk begins of a fate far worse than death, extending for all time after it, as if a miserable life on earth, supposedly with all the rules and punishments as declared in the pentateuch still in place, if Jesus' alleged words are to be believed, wasn't quite enough of a punishment yet.
That is not to say that the Old Testament God was kinder than we make him out to be. We typically don't quote the occasional sensible or kind saying, in part because all of them are preceded, succeeded or both by quite hideous ones. For instance, the ten plagues of Egypt in Exodus and the subsequent drowning of their entire army in the red sea had nothing to do with divine retribution. Rather, God just felt like screwing with the Egyptians because at the time Exodus was composed the ancient Hebrews happened in their culture to dislike Egyptians quite a bit and probably found it pleasant to write and read their sick fantasies and manifest their attitude in the person of God.

Then there is Corwinani's post where he pretty much copied the text from the "Deities of the ancient Near East" portal box in Wikipedia and then told us to fear all of them and that somehow there are any dualities in either the list or the individual deities. Now, the second claim is false, as I'm sure you'd know if you had read any of the articles linked to in that box, and as for the recommendation to fear gods: No, thanks; better luck next time.

A similarly cynical sentiment goes out to Seventh. Don't say you read the book from front to back when everything else you say betrays how you didn't. I could try and explain why I don't think that compassion, forgiveness and love are strongly represented overarching themes in the Bible and at best are undertones of a few select books of the New Testament and occasional passages in the Old, or how Revelations in particular, a book about how God will come back and destroy all of existence, is a rather poor example of the point you are trying to make, but instead I shall concede that I likewise have never read the Bible from cover to cover, and if I were to, I'd make sure to find out where the chapter long sections of, say, genealogies are, just to skip them because they are frankly boring. In any case, unlike Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat relating to Genesis, The Prince Of Egypt is not exactly an accurate telling of Exodus, I must disappointingly inform you. Neither the Hebrews nor Moses himself plead for their freedom, nor does the Bible have severe problems with slavery in that book. It regulates it, granted, but that's about it. Moses asked for the Pharaoh to set them free for as long as a mere three days to go out into the desert to worship their god after which they would come back. And the Pharaoh didn't stubbornly refuse the plea, God personally forced him to that decision, effectively negating most arguments about free will. He also forced him to pursue the Hebrews and even to go after them into the Red Sea. This wasn't retribution or a consequence of their actions. God just wanted to screw the Egyptians over and he did.
Also, God is nothing like a father. And unless you are willing to murder your children for the mildest kinds of questioning, let alone disobedience, as God would in the Old Testament, or torment them for extended periods of time (and only a finite time for that stands to your avail), like God will according to the New Testament, you are nothing like either God. You are better than both.
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8 years 1 month ago - 8 years 1 month ago #199290 by
Replied by on topic Why should we have "fear of God"?

Gisteron wrote: A similarly cynical sentiment goes out to Seventh.

Ummm... gee thanks for that. Sorry if what I wrote has offended you but what can I say? I gave my opinion, based on my study. For me, listening to others opinions and reasoning without sending out a cynical sentiment is a keystone to understand but ha we are all different. I don't mind being the target of cynical sentiments if that is how you like to communicate.

That said if you'd like to have a rational discussion about it count me in. I just love discussions and hearing others points of view. For example I would be very interested to understand how you think God hardening pharaohs heart equates to the removal of the free will of those charioteers who went into the breach so to speak. Perhaps you are suggesting that soldiers do not have free will and can make a good case for that? Whatever your thoughts feel free to elaborate. I'm listening.

Also the core of my reasoning in the previous post is the relationship between God and Mankind being like that of a father and his children. Kind of staggered you don't see that as it is an important concept of the bible along with forgiveness. Consider the lords prayer. It starts with "Our father who art in heaven" and goes on to say "Forgive us as we forgive others" but ha very willing to discuss it further if you like.

Oh and if I have one piece of advice when it comes to reading the bible, other than read it front to back, it is don't skip the boring bits. Make a family tree as you go, plot the feasts on a calendar or draw the temple design etc. It creates a great reference tool and really helps understanding.
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8 years 1 month ago #199295 by Gisteron
Yea, that quote of mine is where I am acknowledging that I am perhaps being a little harsh. It's a matter of self-awareness. It had definately nothing to do with offense, and why would it? I put no stock in that book. The worst I can say is what I already said: When what you say about the Bible contradicts it, don't say you read it from cover to cover. It either just sounds like you really haven't read it or like you hope nobody else did and both looks worse than you need it to.

The parting of the Red Sea is described in Exodus, Chapter 14. Now, it doesn't specifically say that God hardened the hearts of the soldiers. However, in verse 17 he does promise Moses that he would. To put it in context, God instructs Moses to tell the Israelites to move ahead into the sea (Ex. 14:15) since they are afraid that there is nowhere to run as they see the army approaching (Ex. 14:10), then tells him to move his hand and staff such that the sea be divided (Ex. 14:16), and then promises that he will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, such that they will follow inside behind them (Ex. 14:17). In the next verse he says what amounts to "and then they'll know who's boss". Look it up.
The reason I'm going into such detail is lest I be accused of taking it out of context. The reason I'm not quoting is lest I be accused of using a wrong translation, though the Egyptians is plural in all but one English translation, the exception being the Orthodox Jewish Bible, where a different name is written, but it is plural nonetheless. Also when the Bible speaks of just the Pharaoh, it doesn't use plural Egyptians, it uses Pharaoh instead.
Now, as for whether God in the Bible acts like a father figure I do not think so. Both the kind of mercy it promises and the kind of punishment it threatens are nothing like how a parent should treat their child in my opinion. It is abusive in the highest degree, but of course so can be parents. I just assert that that is nothing to strive for and that - father or not - the God of the Bible is at least not what we would call "fatherly". Chances are you are a better father than him by any standard either of us deem applicable.

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