Paul wrote in his epistle to the Ephesians in chapter 4 verse 18 “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.”
I was recently accused of having a “hard heart” toward God. To clarify before I go on, I have no anger or hate toward something I don’t believe exists. This would be like saying I’m mad at Luke Skywalker and therefore refuse to admit he’s a real person. This indictment against my character also postulates that I have chosen to alienate myself from feeling God in my life. What my accusers are saying is that I am not working hard enough to feel God’s love or presence or influence in my life. If I were to work harder and “humble” myself to God (in their words) then he’d reveal himself to me, but only after I’ve decided to seek him humbly. We’ve hit on a key flaw in not just Christian thinking, but theist thinking generally: one must work constantly to feel the presence and be “worthy” of God in their lives. Their divine creator, their heavenly father designed a world full of perfection, but somehow forgot to make loving him and the ability to be guided by him innate and unconditional. These are apparently skills that must be learned and refined constantly.
The website Christian Today published a list of seven symptoms of a hard heart: hopelessness, worry, insensitivity toward others, not reading scripture/praying daily, fear, sin, and stubbornness. Compare this list with anything Google brings up when you search the Westboro Baptist Church…are they not living their lives in constant fear, worry, insensitivity toward others, stubbornness, etc…? Yet they claim some sort of divine special connection with God, even going so far as to call their teachings revelation. I’m sure an apologist would argue that our definitions of these words differ; perhaps. Either way, the concept that if you don’t act exactly right (definition of “right” as interpreted by each sect/group/dogma differs here) God will withhold his love and communication from you is ridiculous.
The instructions given by the world’s religions on how I should approach my relationship with God remind me of the rules dictating life in countries like North Korea where, according to the Telegraph, “North Koreans can find themselves sent to a prison camp [for] failure to wipe dust off portraits of Kim Il-sung”. Christopher Hitchens famously said,
“Once you assume a Creator and a plan, it makes us objects in a cruel experiment whereby we are created sick and then commanded to be well. And over us to supervise this is installed a celestial dictatorship, a kind of divine North Korea: greedy for uncritical praise from dawn till dusk, and swift to punish the original sins with which it so tenderly gifted us in the very first place.”
God only loves those that kiss his butt apparently; the “yes men” of the temporal world if you will.
Juxtapose North Korea with the extreme religiously-based laws of a country like Iran where the Independent writes, “Article 262 of the Islamic Penal Code states insulting the Prophet carries a punishment of death, however, article 264 of the Penal Code says if a suspect claims to have said the insulting words in anger, in quoting someone, or by mistake, his death sentence will be converted to 74 lashes”. Laws like Iran’s exist because man fears doing anything to anger God or his messengers, thus fundamentalists attempt to force the people into obedience; they attempt to force the softening of man’s heart.
You’d think that if a personal God existed our ability to be led and guided by him would be an essential human utility. Like breathing, sleeping, or the involuntary pumping of the heart, man’s ability to communicate with his God should click on automatically in embryo just as the other functions “come online” during gestation. Yet, the religions of this world tell me different. The men of God worldwide tell me to bow down and kiss Gods feet so that he will then grace me with guidance and love. They tell me that God is swift to punish the wicked and hard hearted (see Sodom and Gomorrah).
If this God truly exists then I’d rather spend eternity in Hell. At least Satan doesn’t send me to jail for not, “wiping the dust off his portrait”.
Image Credit: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32400550