from An Opinionated Dictionary of Religion at uponreligon.com
A Violent God. noun. A supra-sensible, semi-competent Personality who delights in and performs (and instructs others to delight in and perform) acts of physical and psychological harm. Upon close examination, a Violent God is unmasked as the reflection of a certain type of human cogitator on divinity: a Violent Theist--a rare bird.
(See my previous post 'Religious Violence' on the rarity of religious violence.)
Two things happen when theists image God. (Let us for the moment not argue God's existence and just worry about how God is conceived to be. Even atheists have a stake in this.)
First, theists image God as wholly different from humanity, using words that are simply negations of what humans are.
- Im-material--not made of matter, like us.
Love and kindness decorate the image of God, yes, but meanness, pettiness, and violence are on the palette too.
God's 'human' attributions always erupt from the personalities of the people doing the imaging of God. So, a personal rendering of God is a reliable sketch of the personality doing the imaging.
Ponder a given theist's image of God and you'll see a replica of that theist. If you are a theist, the God you have in mind, the image of God that you hold, is a mirror held up to yourself.
- A kind man will image a Kind God. And a Kind God announces a man given to kindly acts.
(Why has there never been an image of a Funny and Witty God?)
Here is the principle:
Religion burnishes and amplifies what is already there inside someone.
We see this every day of the world:
A kind woman's kindliness is polished and enhanced by her personal image of her Kind God. But a petty woman buffs her pettiness to high sheen with the clenched chamois of her imaged Petty God.
And, woe to all of us, a violent man adds luster to his violent urges and becomes more violent with his image of a Violent God.
Who will rid us of this troublesome Violent Deity?
We would all hope to uproot a Violent God from the global scene (although he has an ancient pedigree and has never been entirely out of sight in any historic epoch).
Clear-headed Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Sikh, and Baha'i, Caodai, and Hindu theologians, and lay men and women in those religions CAN help unweave the efficient causes of a Violent God, and there's one absolutely necessary operation whereby they may diminish the image of a Violent God in young theists.
(Older violent theists may be too far gone.)
Theologians and theists--in all theistic traditions--can offer a remedial theology that insists upon benign images of God and alerts the faithful to the human tendency to image God in their own likeness, even to the point of attributing human imperfections to God.
Remember, for hope's sake:
- A Violent God's genesis cannot be traced to supra-historical sources.
- A Violent God is not the God of most theists since most theists are not violent.