1 O come, let us sing to the Lord;
    let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
    let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
3 For the Lord is a great God,
    and a great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth;
    the heights of the mountains are his also.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
    and the dry land, which his hands have formed.

6 O come, let us worship and bow down,
    let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
7 For he is our God,
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    and the sheep of his hand.

O that today you would listen to his voice!
8     Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
    as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 when your ancestors tested me,
    and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
10 For forty years I loathed that generation
    and said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray,
    and they do not regard my ways.”
11 Therefore in my anger I swore,
    “They shall not enter my rest.”

As a belief system organized around the existence of a god who is located and defined in a way that corresponds to our need for him (or her), theism is inherently vulnerable to the counter-arguments of atheism. This is especially the case when the representations of this god in story, art, and theory are taken literally.

As long as god’s existence is taken literally, atheism – as the rejection of this claim – will continue as a logical, rational, skeptical and equally viable position. In fact, these two positions are logical corollaries of each other. If one individual states that god is “thus and so,” there will be at least one other who can rightfully insist “not so.”

The theist and atheist are stuck at an impasse that only exists because each one is taking “god” literally. The atheist is no more “enlightened” for rejecting the claims of the theist. His case, as put forward on the force of common sense, lack of evidence or convincing logical proof, is itself predicated on the assumption that a particular representation of god and the reality of God apart from that (or any) representation are the same, and can therefore be simultaneously dismissed.

Personifying god as one who “loathes” disobedient backsliders and gets “angry” when things don’t go his way, who condemns those who doubt his character and question his existence, is still playing small.

Even though the psalmist’s god is “king above all gods” and creator of all things – that is to say, “bigger” than he had been represented in earlier  mythology – any atheist can legitimately argue that no one has actually encountered this deity, ever.

And yet, we do seem to be moving forward somehow. At least the psalmist’s god is willing to cut his losses with the wilderness generation and move on with the present one. Is this at least a foretaste of the forgiveness that Jesus would later proclaim in his gospel?

Maybe. Although we still get the feeling that if this generation doesn’t do any better, it may be curtains for them as well.


  1. Lol I think it may be curtains for us…we had a weird winter–I think the end is nigh 😛

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