Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Why Job is Christianity's Silver Bullet

Something worries me about Christian love of the book of Job. It's not the capricious, uncaring, arrogant & borderline malevolent nature of the god in that book. It's not the veneration christians have for a weak, subservient little slave, nor the fact that women, children & the poor are viewed as chaff while a wealthy man is worth having 2 gods gamble over. No, what worries is that this book is an obvious silver bullet that should end every christian's faith-but it doesn't.

How is this a good argument AGAINST Christianity, you ask? Well, it all boils down to the premise.

God/Yahweh/Elohim makes a bet with Satan/Moloch. Right there, the adversarial relationship that makes up the foundation of many versions of Christianity is subverted. Not only that, but they're portrayed as, essentially, equals here, or at least nearly so, meaning that there's more than one deity, and the christian god's victory is not assured. Anyway, Yahweh and Satan are making a friendly wager about whether or not Job will remain faithful if he loses all his wealth, family and friends. God thinks he will, Satan disagrees, and God lets Satan ruin Job's life to prove this.

It's important to remember that god is said to be all knowing, all powerful, and all loving. If he's all loving, why would he allow Satan to rain death on Job's family, servants and livestock? Why would he let an evil being infect an innocent man with a disease that causes boils and disfiguration? If he's all knowing, why is the bet necessary? A true all knowing god would simply say "Satan, I know everything, you know that. I know he won't curse my name no matter what you do, so let's just not hurt him or his loved ones." In fact, what good would any bet be to the ruler of the universe? What could Satan have that Yahweh would want? There is literally no reason for him to agree to this wager. Furthermore, if he did agree to it and Satan was dumb enough to bet against an all knowing deity, what's to say Yahweh didn't control Job to stay faithful? It's not like Yahweh didn't have a history of doing that: prior to this, he punished people with the confusion of multiple languages for building the Tower of Babel, and he "hardened Pharaoh's heart" in the Exodus story. So there's no reason he couldn't do the same here. And really, who would know?

And what was the end result? Job stayed true and ended up getting ten times the wealth, ten times the kids, and many wives that were much hotter than his now-dead ones. This sort of attitude wouldn't come from a god that loves people. That's the language of someone replacing a pet. "We'll get you another one that I'm sure you'll love more!" Yes, it's more like how a real deity would act if trying to curry favour with a mortal, but it's not how a loving being acts. On top of that, he openly bragged about his greatness in front of a broken man. One of many shifts I work is at a homeless shelter, and if any of my employees acted half as dickish as god did at the end of Job towards our tenants, we'd probably lose the contract. It takes someone with a fragile ego to brag about creating the universe to someone who has lost everything.

So, what does all this mean? It means that god is a horrible, unlikable bastard, but also that he's not perfect in the three things christians say he's perfect in (wisdom, power and love). The only way out for a christian is to say Job isn't literally true. Even if it's not meant to be literal truth, if it's true to the personality and abilities of Yahweh, he's still nothing like the christian perception of him, in this book at least. And so, why is it in the bible?
Well, we may know the answer. It's theorized that Job borrows a lot from nearby cultures, and the relationship between Yahweh and Satan is reminiscent of that of El/Elohim and Moloch of ancient Palestinian myth. In fact, several other elements of Job, like Leviathan and Behemoth, as well as El and Moloch are found in the Ugaritic Texts, the oldest example of written language we have, which came from the ancient Sumerians. In other words, this is a relic of a pre-Hebrew myth that shows that the religion now known as Christianity has ALWAYS evolved to suit cultural norms. Even before the bible was codified. If there ever was a god speaking to the authors, he stopped caring about the fidelity of the message shortly after sending it.

In summary, the book of Job is a story of other gods re-written to suit the god who became the christian god, who is the same today, yesterday and forever...but not really. It betrays that god's lack of perfection, and reveals the fact that, while "studying" the bible, christians rarely actually study it.

So maybe we should all abandon the myths, eh?

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