Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Debate With a Christian, Part I

With regards to my early post: " Religion & Child Abuse", a Christian by the name of Marcus Mok has sent me a rather verbose reply. Instead of replying on intensedebate, I thought it would be best that I write a separate post to explain and elucidate my point of view here.

(Just to keep things up to speed: I have been asking Marcus to debate with me for quite some time; due to his hectic schedule he was unable to find time for a proper debate with me. So maybe, this can be a nice platform to maybe exchange and discuss our stances in a hopefully amiable manner.)

Marcus's comments in red, mine in blue:

1. Beast,
This is the first time I’m commenting on your blog. I’m not here to pick up a quarrel; I come as a friend to share my 1 cent’s worth. I said this because I am not sure what kind of response you and your readers might heap on me. But I hope you can read this, as well as any future comments from me, in this friendly tone, because this is the tone I will be speaking in.
I have no intention to defend the abuses of some religions you have mentioned. But I do have a problem accepting the verdict you placed on the mother of the 4 year old:

"Unfortunately for her child, her childhood will be a period fraught with fear and undue anxiety. Not only does she have to contend with a half-brained mother who thinks she is a wretched sinner, she has to deal with the insecurities of dealing with an imagined deity who is no better than Hitler and Mussolini and all the rest of the tyrants and despots who have walked on this planet at some point of time."


At no point have I assumed that you are here for a quarrel. While I cannot assure you the kind of response you will be getting (After all, I can't control the thoughts and reactions of posters who visit my blog, even if they do have nefarious motives), what I can assure you is that as long as we stick to the same decorum as we have done in the past, I am sure we can take this debate to some kind of a meaningful level.

Writing, in your opinion, as a “half-brained father-to-be who thinks he is a wretched sinner”, I don’t see why that will spell “fear and undue anxiety” for the daughter’s childhood. The fact that we have sinned is part of the story—the fact that God still love us despite our sinfulness, and made provision for us and this child through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is the greater part of the story. And, frankly, the assessment that God is no better than Hitler and Mussolini is really bias in its very extreme. You have overlooked all the truths about God as good and loving in His nature. It is myopic. But I’ll touch more on this next time.

I would remind you that the Christian Bible reveals to us that we are first created in the image of God—the highest definition of human dignity possible. There is no higher honour$ for man than to be made for a loving relationship with his Creator.

While one can speak of God in the context of the new testament (i.e Jesus), the truth is that both the livid, murderous and jealous God of the Old Testament and the long haired, hippie Son of God of the New Testaments are in essence deities that can only be described in extreme polemics.

When you flip through the annals of the Old Testament, you will no doubt find chapter upon chapter of erroneous Biblical laws, coupled with the "smite thy infidel" ethics of the Hebrew Yahweh: The Story of Job and how he was sent into the hands of the Devil to be tormented simply to prove the ego of Yahweh, the story of Judah and how his son, Onan was smite by God for "spilling the seed", and the ecological and total obliteration of Earth with a catastrophic flood in the Noah's Ark episode, God is, in more ways than one, a tyrant, a despot and a terror spawned from the worst depraved imaginations of the human mind.

While Jesus was slightly better in terms of his more humane quality, one can't help notice that he also did curse fig trees which did not bear fruit off-season, and for the animal abuse he committed by casting demons into pigs so that they did commit suicide.

In the minds of PETA, Jesus is a murderer many times over.

That said, Jesus did add one small chink into God's supposedly impervious armor (Of course, there was Jacob, who wrestled with God the whole day and prevailed): His all-too-human frailty and his subsequent Crucifixion meant that the idea of the omnipotent deity was all but extinguished by his rather ignominious death.

In that sense, my statement which compares God to the worst despots and tyrants in history is made by taking into account both the old and new testaments' visceral versions of Yahweh in terms of the Holy Trinity(Father, Son, Holy Ghost).

As for Man being created in the image of God, I claim the exact opposite: We created God in our own image: Jealous, cruel and very vindictive. A benevolent God can hardly be expected if all God ever lusts is the smell of blood sacrifices (In the OT, pious men and women were expected to offer sacrifices of lamb unto the Lord) and the cruel decimation and forced assimilation of other non-Yahweh worshiping tribes (Read Numbers Chapter 31).

It is unfortunate if a mother is so preoccupied with the original sin/the fall of man (Genesis 3) and forgot that we are first made in His image for a relationship with Him (Genesis 1-2). But I don’t think that is what the mother meant in her blog. She is highlighting a biblical truth which she’s applying in the way she view the child. That does not suggest at all that she is going to mistreat her and abuse her and make her existence ‘wretched’. I don’t think you’re reading her rightly.

I myself am fully convinced that I am a wretched sinner, and my daughter to come is also born under the curse of sin. But that is not my preoccupation as I parent my child. On the contrary, the child is a precious gift from God. She is a child made in the image of God. I do not possess her, such that I have the right to abuse her, but I must nurture her, guide her and instruct her, and lovingly discipline her if need be, but not in an abusive manner.

Marcus, I am not suggesting that the mother is physically abusing her child. What I am worried about is that, as a matriarch, the mother is an important figure in terms of guiding the child to a successful life; instead of coaching a child to be positive, this mother chooses to teach that her daughter is a wretched sinner who bears the tainted blood of the Original Sin. Such an archaic form of abuse is counter-productive to her mental development in her formative years, and this was manifested by the way her child thinks.

As the mother wrote on her blog, her child told her one day that she was a bad sinner: "But mummy, everyday I try and I want to be a good girl, but I can't do it. I can't be a good girl".This only sums up the extent of mental abuse she has undergone at the hands of her deluded mom.

If I lost my temper and disciplined her too severely, that is precisely because I am a wretched sinner, and I do well to repent and ask God to heal my wretched heart as I nurse her. It is the humanness in me (or the lack of it) that needs to be corrected. Not my theology.

To accept the biblical view that human babies are fallen in sin is not to paint an abusive picture of them. Rather, it is to acknowledge the reality of our fallenness and our need for restoration. If I see a fellow human being well and good, I do not bother myself much with him; but if I see him wounded, bruised, injured, battered and devastated, I run to him with water and tend his wounds.

Wretched sinner or no, you should not be abusing children, physically, mentally, or both. They are the progeny of adult humans and are necessary to carry forth the next generation of ourselves. I do not need to be a God-believing, bible touting follower to know this very simple fact.

The ability to perform charitable deeds comes inanely in all of us. No deities need to be invoked.

And to recognize that I myself is equally broken and battered like him is to recognize that we both need the grace of the Healer. I gently lead the broken friend to the Friend who is broken for us all, for healing.

That is what it means to see others as God sees us. It is not a pessimistic picture. It is a realistic one.

If you disagree that human beings are sinful from birth, I could only say, well, I don’t share your optimism. Perhaps we might both change our minds when we have our first child. :)

I do not believe in the idea of Sin, other than the Sin of stupidity (In Darwinian terms, stupidity will get you killed in no time, sometimes too early for you to propagate your genes.).

The idea of the Original Sin is so bad that Christians and Catholics have to invent the ludicrous idea of the "limbo" (The idea that babies stay in some kind of suspended animation after they die) to justify it, without which, even babies will be tossed into the raging inferno of hell.

Secondly, you lamented that she doesn’t believe in self-esteem. Frankly, that is not a big problem to me. Do you believe in self-esteem? Why do you believe in self-esteem? What is there worthy in the self to be esteemed? You mentioned Hitler and Mussolini. I am not sure what level of self-esteem they have, but my guess is that they are doing quite a lot to boost it! =P

My point is this: there is nothing much to esteem in a self that is a by product of chance and evolution—one self is not necessary higher than another self to serve any special esteem (nor, for that matter, the dog across the street, or the dirt under my toenail). But if we fully realize (ok, maybe partially realize) what it means, that we are created in the image of God, that though fallen, God has redeemed us through Jesus Christ—if we fully realize what that actually mean, than we are esteemed far higher than any form of esteem we can bestow upon ourselves.

It is not who we are. It is who we belong to.

Self-esteem belies self confidence; without a healthy dose of self-esteem, a child is not going to perform well in anything he or she performs.

A child who grows into adulthood without any sense of self-esteem is going to be a walking disaster: Would you, for example, utilize the services of a surgeon who has no confidence in performing the operation on you? Or, for the matter, would you trust a mechanic to fiddle with your car if he displays a complete lack of confidence in his stated profession?

I must say I am quite appalled by your general comparison of Hitler or Mussolini to self-esteem: If anything else, tyrants display a high level of narcissism, and self esteem has got nothing to do with their evil deeds.

You assume that if we own our existence to a game of chance or evolution, then self esteem becomes meaningless. I totally disagree with your point. The truth is, as homo sapiens, our intellectual faculties, which we owe to Mother Nature, has given us more reason than anything else to feel proud about. No doubt, human civilization has made mistakes, more than its fair share I feel sorry to say, but we are in general masters of our own destinies. The triumph and nobility of the human spirit should not be dissed off by some silly imaginary father figure in the sky.

That's all for this post. I shall await for the next response.