Divine Retribution

The Tanakh is often described as portraying the Jewish God as an angry, vengeful god.  In comparison, the New Testament supposedly depicts the Christian God as a kind, forgiving god.  I suppose this makes sense; the New Testament is full of passages about how God loves us despite our sinning, whereas the Tanakh is full of passages in which God, having been slighted by the Hebrews, almost gets rid of them all, ultimately contenting Himself by killing a few and terrorizing the rest with horrifying threats if they don’t shape up (“YOU’LL HAVE TO EAT YOUR BABIES”, for example).  But, well, the actual beliefs of His followers seem to indicate the opposite.  In particular, their views on the afterlife and the coming of the Messiah seem switched, in my admittedly limited understanding.

The Jewish view of death is that you go to a vaguely Purgatory-esque place for a number of months and then go on to one of the seven levels of Heaven, regardless of what kind of life you lived or what you believed.  There’s no sort of eternal punishment for screwing up in life; even the lowest level of Heaven is pretty awesome, and you’re guaranteed at least that.  It’s just that the other levels are, y’know, more awesome.  To top it off, when the Messiah shows up, you get to come back to life unless your body was snorted by Keith Richards or something.  No matter what you did, God forgives you, though he does reward goodness.

By contrast, the Christian view boils down to this: if you believed in Jesus and weren’t an unrepentant douchebag or something, you get to go to Heaven, which is a totally sweet place.  If not, though, have fun spending eternity in Hell, which is on fire and resultantly sucks.  Even if you lived like a saint, you get endless suffering if you didn’t believe in Jesus.  And that’s it.  It seems a bit petty to me, and certainly retaliatory.

Then, of course, there’s the beliefs of the coming of the Messiah.  The Jewish view, while a bit unclear, is something along these lines: either some dude will show up to lead us to a new age of peace and prosperity or we’ll just enter such an age anyway but, either way, it’s gonna rock for pretty much everyone.  Especially the Jews, though.  Also, as previously noted, the dead get to come back if their bodies were dealt with properly.  Cool.

Meanwhile, Christianity seems to say that Jesus is gonna show up again (I say again because we killed him the first time because we’re jerks), at which point all believers will die and be whisked away to Heaven.  Everyone else gets to suffer a variety of horrors heretofore unmatched until they die, at which point they’re sent to Hell to suffer some more.  Harsh.

To be fair, my understanding of these topics is incomplete and probably at least a little wrong.  Still, it seems odd that the “vengeful” God would let people mostly off the hook while the “forgiving” God would punish the crap out of people.

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Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010 Thoughts 3 Comments