Saturday, August 29, 2009

Overlooking Moriah

Later on God tested Abraham; he called, “Abraham!” And Abraham answered, “Yes, I am here!”
God replied: “Take Isaac, your only son, whom you love so much, and go to Moriah. I will show you a mountain there, and on that mountain offer him as a sacrifice to me.”
Early the next morning Abraham cut some wood for the sacrifice, loaded his donkey, and took two servants and Isaac with him.
On the third day he saw the place on the horizon.
“Stay with the donkey,” he said to the servants, “Isaac and I will go there and worship, and will later join up with you.”
Isaac carried the wood, while Abraham carried the knife and live coals for the fire.
As they walked, Isaac asked: “Father, I see you have coals and the wood, but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?”

“God will provide one”, replied Abraham.
When they arrived at the place which God told him about, Abraham built the alter and arranged wood on it. He tied up Isaac and placed him on the alter.
Then he picked up the knife to kill him . . .

. . . and said “No”. The knife dropped from Abraham’s hand.

God called to Abraham, “why do you not make the sacrifice, Abraham. Have I not ordered you to do so?”
Abraham spoke up, “I cannot kill my only son, an innocent child. It is not right.”
“But Abraham,” God said, “I am the author of what is right and wrong. If I say that human sacrifice is right, then surely it is right simply because I declare it?”
“Forgive me,” replied Abraham, “but if you have no other reason for declaring something as being right or wrong, then your orders are devoid of any moral substance, because they are based on nothing more than whim.”
“Then what is your reason for not doing this act?” asked God.
“I choose not to kill him simply because I do not want to cause an innocent needless suffering. Isaac is another human being like me, and has the ability to feel pain. I do not want him to experience pain that I would not want to endure myself. How can I end a life when I value my own so highly?”
God did not reply, so Abraham continued: “Human sacrifice is an act that is destructive to society. If I do this act, I will be contributing to the destruction of my family and community.”
“But Abraham,” said God “I will punish you if you do not obey, and reward you if you do.”
Abraham said “if I act simply out of a fear of punishment or reward, then I am morally shallow. Is it not better to do something because I believe it to be right, not because I expect reward or fear punishment?”

There was silence, and Abraham braced for death.

Then God spoke up: “Well done, Abraham, you have passed the test. You have learnt an important lesson: no matter what I order you to do, you are still personally responsible for your own actions. Instead of blind obedience, you thought for yourself and evaluated the consequences of what you would do. You stood up to me, and chose a course of action because you believed it to be right, not because you wanted to please me. You have reached a higher level of moral maturity, and for that I reward you, my good and faithful servant.”

Saturday, August 01, 2009

My response on Beautiful Redemption

Heather, from the blog Beautiful Redemption, wrote the following post in response to my poem, The Potter and the Clay. I wrote the following comment in a response to her post (I see it's currently awaiting moderation, so it might take a little while before it appears):

Dear Heather

I just want to say thank you for visiting my blog, and for taking time to respond with your thoughts on what I’ve written. I always appreciate feedback.

For me, the poem was my own way of trying to describe the turning point in my life when I finally let go of faith in God. I know that, in your eyes, placing God as the clay and myself as the potter does seem like an extreme case of hubris, but in my view this is not the case. You compare me to Satan in your post, but I’m not like Satan in one important aspect. Even the Bible says that the demons believe that God exists (James 2:19), but they still rally against him. But I am not like them, simply because I don’t believe that God exists. That is the difference. For me, I don’t regard myself as being defiant in any way, simply because I no longer believe there is a anything to be defiant against.

You also quote Psalm 53:1. This verse misrepresents the position that most atheists (including me) hold. Ellie Arroway, the main character in Carl Sagan’s book, Contact, makes a distinction between being convinced that God doesn’t exist; and not being convinced that he does exist. I fall into the latter camp. I've never made the absolute claim that God doesn’t exist; rather, I’m simply unconvinced that he exists.

Thanks again for your thoughts.