Sunday, May 15, 2011

Does God Get Angry (Spirituality, Religion and Philosophy Entry No. 7)

When I was in junior high, a priest asked me during confirmation preparation why people shouldn't sin.  I said it made God angry.  The priest corrected me, saying God did not get angry -- that God is in heaven and is always at peace and does not feel human emotions like anger.

This struck me as strange, given the Old Testament, with example after example of God getting angry.  I thought first of the story of Noah and the flood.  Now that I look at the verses, nothing literally says God is angry.  But Genesis says God saw that man's every thought was evil, and God "was grieved to the heart" and regretted he made man.  Genesis 6:5-8.  This is why God decided to destroy humanity with a flood.  Genesis 8:13.  After the flood, God promised Noah, "I will never again curse the ground on account of man...."  Genesis 8:21.  Then there is God pouring down "sulphur and fire" on Sodom and Gomorra.  Genesis 19:24.

The priest's statement that God didn't feel anger reflects, to me, the conflict in many Christian churches between the old and new testaments.  While Jesus does get angry (like when he throws the money changers out of the temple), it's hard to picture him sending fire or flood to destroy a city or all human beings.  Also, it's unlikely he'd have a lot of sympathy for a God that does things like killing all the first born sons of Egypt (Exodus 12:13).  Yet, the Christian religions don't toss out the Old Testament and only focus on the New, at least the Christian churches I've been to read from both books.  Many politically conservative Christians don't hesitate to hearken back to the Old Testament to support views on topics such as war and the death penalty.  When I was growing up in the Catholic Church, on the other hand, I got the impression that the Old Testament was viewed as more allegorical.  While it contained some historical events, was not meant to be taken literally.  In contrast, I thought the New Testament was historically accurate and was written by the disciples who followed Jesus. 

The difficulty reconciling or even understanding varying parts of the Bible is what makes religion both so frustrating and so interesting.  How two different people view even the same translation of the same text fascinates me.  Despite being a non-believer, if I ever went back to school just for the fun of it, theology would be high on my list.

Lisa M. Lilly
Author of The Awakening

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