The God of traditional theology as described by Bertrand Russell in his 1952 essay – Is there a God? -is a monster.
Russell achieves his understanding of God by taking to its rational limits the claim that God is omnipotent. His subsequent implication that this is the traditional God that all Christians believed in up until modern times, is at least as improbable as that there is a Celestial Teapot. But what Russell says is based on a truth, which is that the abuser god, the god of might is right, is a meme that suits those who would use religion to maintain power, and suppress opposition, and that Christianity is vulnerable to infection by this meme.
One of those who was appalled by the imposition of this abusive god upon the vulnerable was First World War army chaplain and poet G.A. Studdert Kennedy.
by G.A. Studdert Kennedy
My brethren, the ways of God
No man can understand,
We can but wait in awe and watch
The wonders of His hand.
He dwells in Majesty sublime
Beyond the starry height,
His Wisdom is ineffable,
His Love is Infinite.
Before Him all created things
Do bow them and obey,
The million stars that night by night
Wheel down the milky way.
The shrieking storm obeys His Will,
The wild waves hear His call,
The mountain and the midge’s wing,
God made and governs all.
‘Tis not for us to question Him,
To ask or reason why,
‘Tis ours to love and worship Him
And serve Him till we die.
O weeping Mother torn with grief,
Poor stricken heart that cries,
And rocks a cradle empty now,
‘Tis by God’s will he dies.
His strong young body blown to bits,
His raw flesh quiv’ring still,
His comrades’ groans of agony,
These are God’s Holy Will.
He measures out our Peace and War As seemeth to Him best,
His judgments are unknowable,
Remember that – and rest.
For what are we poor worms of earth,
Whose life is for a day,
Our finite minds that Satan blinds,
My brethren, what are they ?
We are but little children weak
Who cling to God’s right hand,
Just think how wonderful He is,
And bow to His command.
He has some hidden purpose sure
For all this blood and tears,
It is His Will – be still – be still,
He is the Lord of years.
He bids us love our enemies
And live in Christian Peace,
‘Tis only He can order Wars
And woes that never cease.
Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,
Beware ! Thou shalt not kill,
Behold the bloody fields of France,
They are God’s Holy Will.
That is what makes Him wonderful
To our poor human sight ;
He only can work miracles
And turn Wrong into Right.
So bow you down and worship Him,
Kneel humbly and adore
This Infinitely Loving God
Who is the Lord of War.
Lift up your hands in ceaseless prayer
That He will spare your lives,
And let His loving judgments fall
On other people’s wives.
He is a God who answers prayer
And alters His decrees If only we persistently
Beseech Him on our knees.
If only we would pray enough,
My brethren, for our sons,
Then He would save their lives for us,
And spike the German guns.
Our shrieks of pain go up in vain,
The wide world’s miseries
Must still persist until we learn
To pray upon our knees.
Upon our knees, my friends, I said,
And mark well what I say,
God wants to see us on our knees
The proper place to pray.
Nought is impossible to God
In answer to such prayers,
If only we are meek enough,
He is a God who spares.
Whenever people seek to know
And ask the reason why,
Their sons are swallowed up by wars
And called to fight and die.
There is one thing I ask, dear friends,
One thing I always say,
I ask them straight, I’m not afraid,
I ask them, ‘ Did you pray ?
Did you pray humbly on your knees
That it might be God’s Will
To spare his life and bring him back,
To spare, and not to kill ? ‘
Then if they still can answer yes,
And think to baffle me,
I simply answer, ‘ Bow your head,
His death was God’s decree.’
And who are we to question it,
Who crawl upon the earth
As insects in His Holy sight,
Vile things of little worth ?
Remember, rather, all your sins,
And bow to God’s decrees.
Seek not to know the plans of God,
But pray upon your knees.
That you may love with all your heart,
With all your soul and mind,
This perfect God you cannot know,
Whose face you cannot find.
You have no notion what He’s like,
You cannot know His Will,
He’s wrapped in darkest mystery,
But you must love Him still.
And love Him all the more because
He is the unknown God
Who leads you blindfold down the path
That martyred Saints have trod.
That is the Gospel of the Christ.
Submit whate’er betides.
You cannot make the wrong world right,
‘Tis God alone decides.
O by Thy Cross and Passion, Lord,
By broken hearts that pant
For comfort and for Love of Thee,
Deliver us from cant.
- Woodbine Willie – Padre of the people. (silly9.wordpress.com)
- The Sorrow of God – G.A.Studdert Kennedy (benwitherington.blogspot)