Does Religion Misrepresent God?

Matthew Friesen/Trumpet

Does Religion Misrepresent God?

Why you—and your children—need to know the truth
From the April 2014 Trumpet Print Edition

Atheism is on the rise worldwide. The Pew Research Center reckons that atheism and its shadowy second cousin, agnosticism, have grown rapidly in America in the last five years. In 2013, one in five Americans were unable to say that they believe in God.

Social scientists claim there are two main reasons people are embracing “non-belief.” First is the religious right’s political activism. Second is the blatant hypocrisy in modern Christianity exemplified by Catholic priests’ sexual abuse of boys and the Catholic Church’s massive cover-up. Huffington Post also suggests that the trend can be credited to a movement named New Atheism. The only thing new about it is that atheists and agnostics are no longer satisfied to disbelieve in God personally—now they don’t want anyone to believe in God. The movement is an intellectual offensive against religion.

The Atheist Mission

With the help of a left-leaning media, modern atheist leaders like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Ayaan Hirsi Ali are working diligently to spread their doctrine with a religious-like zeal. Those disillusioned or hurt by religion are listening, joining ranks, organizing rallies, establishing weekly meetings and setting out to attack all religious groups.

Here is a recent example.

On cnn’s religious news and views blog, Belief, atheist blogger Deborah Mitchell wrote this: “When my son was around 3 years old, he used to ask me a lot of questions about heaven. Where is it? How do people walk without a body? How will I find you? You know the questions kids ask. For over a year, I lied to him and made up stories that I didn’t believe about heaven” (January 15). Notice her strategy. Nothing gets people’s attention like discussing kids’ questions about God.

She continued, “But the trade-off was that I would have to make stuff up, and I would have to brainwash him into believing stories that didn’t make sense, stories I didn’t believe either. … One day he would know this, and he would not trust my judgment. He would know that I built an elaborate tale—not unlike the one we tell children about Santa—to explain the inconsistent and illogical legend of God.” Saying that God is an inconsistent and illogical legend was just her first slice of the knife against believers.

Mitchell wrote, “And so I thought it was only right to be honest with my children. I am a non-believer, and for years I’ve been on the fringe in my community. As a blogger, though, I’ve found that there are many other parents out there like me. We are creating the next generation of kids, and there is a wave of young agnostics, atheists, free thinkers and humanists rising up through the ranks who will, hopefully, lower our nation’s religious fever.”

That is the current atheist mission: to make Americans less religious.

Why Pick on God?

Ms. Mitchell’s article, “Why I Raise My Children Without God,” went viral and drew the most comments ever on cnn’s iReport, which allows people worldwide to post news stories and photos.

While the opening remarks in her article were disturbing, the body of her article was blatantly blasphemous. She explained, “Here are a few of the reasons why I am raising my children without God.” Then she spelled out her seven specific problems with God: “God is a bad parent and role model. … God is not logical. … God is not fair. … God does not protect the innocent. … God is not present. … God does not teach children to be good. … God teaches narcissism.” Mitchell claimed that God allows His children to inflict horrible harm upon each other; condones violence and abuse; does not protect the innocent; is not fair because He answers the silly prayers of some yet lets the serious prayers go unanswered; is not bodily present on Earth and is therefore a product of human imagination.

Like Ms. Mitchell, most atheists validate their belief that God does not exist because of the evils running rampant in our world. Is that logical reasoning? Is it God’s fault that children are physically and sexually abused, kidnapped or murdered? Is it God’s fault that innocent people suffer tragedy? Is it God’s fault that our world has terrorism, starvation and war? Do all of these terrible things happen because God doesn’t care, exist or have the power to stop it? Atheists point out these horrible evils and claim, A loving, benevolent God would never allow such evils to happen. Therefore, God does not exist. Does this logic prove that God does not exist? Never.

Some of the brightest, most intelligent people in the world are atheists and agnostics. However, they miss the crux of their problem with God and religion. Atheists have the right to point out the errors in modern religions—the hypocrisies, fallacies and unreasonable, wacky beliefs. Looking at Ms. Mitchell’s article objectively, it is obvious that religion has failed her. But she and people like her have made a wrong assumption. They assume that God is behind or in control of modern religion. So they lash out at God. This is a huge mistake.

For a while, Ms. Mitchell made up religious-sounding stories to help her son feel safe, loved and full of hope. Unfortunately, men have been doing this under the guise of religion for centuries. Yet, in the end, modern religion’s fables and fallacies do not satisfy and cannot answer the whys of life’s problems and difficulties.

People in our modern world have been brainwashed with false religion. Some see the fatal errors in religion, but instead of searching out the truth, they take it out on God. In Mitchell’s case, she has consciously decided to not educate her children about God and is proclaiming that to the world apparently in the hopes that other parents will do the same. That is also a serious form of child abuse. There is a better solution.

Rejecting God Got Us Here

One of the most important theologians of the 20th century, Herbert W. Armstrong, asked those hard questions. Discussing the evils present in our modern world, he asked, “What has gone wrong with government, with religion, with higher education?—and why are more than half the world’s people illiterate, poverty-stricken—many actually starving—living in filth and squalor?” (The Incredible Human Potential). Not many people think deeply enough to ask these vitally important questions.

It is undeniable: Our human governments, our systems of higher education, even our religions have indeed gone terribly wrong. Who is to blame? Mr. Armstrong did not point a finger at God. He didn’t ask what had gone wrong with God. Nor did he conjecture that because we have evil, God does not exist. Instead, he challenged everyone, atheist and religious, to think differently by getting to the real cause of today’s world evils. The problem is not God—it is humanity!

“But it should be clear, at this point, what is the cause of today’s world evils. The presence of Satan, and his invisible, subtle, yet super-powerful sway … over mankind is the basic cause,” continued Mr. Armstrong. “The way of life Satan has injected into human minds—the way of vanity, lust and greed—of jealousy and envy—of competition and strife—of rebellion and deceit—these things we generally term ‘human nature’ are the direct and specific cause. And all humanity has suffered the effect!”

Where did Herbert Armstrong get this information? Did he just make it up to make us feel safe? No. What he teaches here is based squarely on the Bible.

The Bible is the most maligned, misunderstood, misquoted book in human history. Yet, it is the only truthful source that accurately explains why our world is the way it is.

The second and third chapters of this miraculous book, Genesis 2 and 3, reveal that our first parents, Adam and Eve, forsook God and rejected the knowledge He provided them. They believed Satan and his lies, literally following Satan as their god. As a result, God sentenced them, and the rest of humanity born from them, to be cut off from Him. (However, God determined to call and use a few men and women throughout human history to advance His plan to save all mankind.) Read and study these two chapters. They contain information that contemporary religion, education and science cannot reveal to you.

Who is the real ruler of this world? At the time of Christ and the apostles, it was not God but Satan! (2 Corinthians 4:4). And it still is today. Satan is feverishly working to keep people blind to God’s incredible truth. In fact, the devil has successfully deceived all of humanity through the many humanly devised religions—even modern Christianity (Revelation 12:9). God gave human beings the choice to follow Him or to follow Satan. The overwhelming majority have unknowingly followed Satan! This is vital information that few people understand.

Any person willing to put in the effort can easily prove that much of modern Christianity is not based on the Bible. This world’s largest Christian organization, boasting over 1 billion followers, admits candidly that the Bible is not the sole source of authority for its religious practice. Few of its members have actually read or studied the book directly inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16). Most of the rest of traditional Christianity admits to only following what is written in the New Testament and Psalms.

This is why modern Christianity cannot provide true answers to life’s most important questions or explain why the world is the way it is!

Do You Believe Fables?

Not teaching children the truth about God is as abusive as teaching children God does not exist. Teaching a child about God is one of the most important responsibilities God places upon parents. However, there is no value in teaching children fables or “made-up stuff.” Parents must learn the truth first, and then teach only that truth. Parents must ensure that their sons and daughters grow up with a healthy, positive and true picture of God.

Are you sure you have a true picture of God and His ways? Before you dismiss God, prove for yourself whether the God of the Bible is real—not the God of men’s traditions. Be sure to examine your personal beliefs about God before you begin to teach your child about Him. So many adults have wacky, outlandish and just plain false ideas about who and what God is and what His plans for man are.

For example, this April, most of Christianity will celebrate what it considers to be its chief holiday, Easter. Prior to this day, many will have observed 40 days of Lent and then a “Holy Week” culminating in Good Friday, the supposed day of Christ’s crucifixion. Prior to Easter, people will color hard-boiled eggs, buy hot cross buns, and purchase candy to be stuffed into Easter baskets. Families will dress in their best clothes and go to church, likely for a sunrise service. Children will be taught that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead on Easter Sunday morning.

Most people suppose that Jesus Christ sanctions these Easter customs. But all these customs are based on fable—“made-up stuff” from the imaginations of men.

Jesus Christ and His apostles and disciples never celebrated Easter. The early New Testament Church never celebrated this holiday either. It is well known in atheist, secular and religious circles that Easter customs and religious beliefs come directly from paganism. “The name ‘Easter,’ which is merely the slightly changed English spelling of the ancient Assyrian and Babylonian goddess Ishtar, comes to us from old Teutonic mythology where it is known as Ostern. The Phoenician name of this goddess was Astarte, consort of Baal, the sun god, whose worship is denounced by the Almighty in the Bible as the most abominable of all pagan idolatry,” wrote Herbert Armstrong in 1957 (The Plain Truth About Easter).

Contemporary Christian groups understand this fact, but keep the festival anyway. “The name ‘Easter’ has its roots in ancient polytheistic religions (paganism). On this, all scholars agree,” writes ChristianAnswers.net. “This name is never used in the original Scriptures, nor is it ever associated biblically with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For these reasons, we prefer to use the term ‘Resurrection Sunday’ rather than ‘Easter’ when referring to the annual Christian remembrance of Christ’s resurrection.” Even this group that recognizes the pagan origin of Easter still celebrates the day—it just gives it a different name.

It is this kind of hypocrisy that causes atheists and agnostics to point a finger at God.

Live by Every Word

God specifically commanded that His people not absorb the religious practices of pagan peoples. Referring to the nations surrounding them, Moses, under God’s inspiration, commanded Israel, “Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the Lord thy God: for every abomination to the Lord, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it” (Deuteronomy 12:30-32).

God does not want to be worshiped or honored with pagan customs. Yet, most Christians dismiss this teaching because it is taken from the Old Testament.

Christians are supposedly people who follow Jesus Christ. Yet Christ condemned the practice of picking and choosing which scriptures to follow. He defeated Satan’s titanic temptation by quoting another scripture from this book: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4; Deuteronomy 8:3).

Here is a life-altering, deeply religious truth. God commands all Christians to keep only His religious festivals listed in Leviticus 23. These days open up vistas of knowledge about God’s plans for all mankind. Not keeping these days blinds a person to why God acts the way He does, and why He created man—the purpose for human life.

Live by Truth

Mr. Armstrong explained, “God Almighty commanded His people to observe the Passover forever! (Exodus 12:24). This command was given while the Israelites were still in Egypt, prior to the Old Covenant, or the law of Moses! It pictured, before the crucifixion, Christ’s death for the remission of our sins, as a type looking forward to it. At His last Passover, Jesus changed the emblems used from the blood of a lamb and eating its roasted body to the bread and wine” (op. cit.).

The Bible clearly commands all Christians to have a church service to remember Christ’s death, not His resurrection! Few obey this simple-to-understand command, and the results for our world have been disastrous. Our world is chock-full of evils because human beings refuse to obey God, and they literally teach children to disobey God. Until this problem—human rejection of God and His way—is fixed, our world will remain full of evil.

Is there hope? Absolutely.

You as an individual can turn things around for yourself and your family. You can get to know the true, almighty, loving and living God. You can pass this incredible revelation on to your children. God reveals Himself and His plan for all mankind in the pages of His greatest gift to mankind, the Holy Bible. Are you a student of the Bible? Are you willing to let it be your authority, your guide for life?

If you are ready to do this, become a student of the Herbert W. Armstrong College Bible Correspondence Course. This exciting 36-lesson series will make the Bible relevant to your life as no other course can. You will learn that the Bible is a contemporary book with insight and solutions to today’s world problems. And it will help you teach the truth about God to your son or daughter.