When watching evangelicals on television, listening to incessant political adds of 2024, I am often reminded what theologian Dick Westley calls “religion vs faith” conversation.

Here’s an excerpt from his book, Redemptive Intimacy:

For many evangelicals, it seems Christianity is a religion rather than faith, where people are told what to do by an angry God from a holy text that can’t be changed.

Even though religion and a literal interpretation of the Bible is a reflection of flawed understanding of our relationship with God. And in that flawed understanding, all sorts of bad things are possible yet blessed by God because that “god” is our made-up version of Him.

Whew. In other words, if you act in the ways listed above, blaming it on god, that is a god of your own making.


It’s always been sort of obvious why some would want people to believe in an angry God. The big, bad god is going to smite you if you don’t adhere to what he says you must do, and, of course, I have a keen insight into what that is.

This is a way of controlling others, instead of assisting people figure out what God wants in their lives.

The Divine Punisher

You can see some of how the idea idea of punishing God who inflicts plagues and disasters on bad people is scary, right? But I see us as needing to push back on this idea of the angry Divine Punisher who is wiping us out.

That’s a really old-fashioned idea from when we didn’t have better ways to explain why and how illnesses, diseases, and disasters come from.

Christianity is much more than just an explanation for bad things happening to people. And, there are better explanations ground in science.

Any god you want to worship should be more than just a caricature of our basest beliefs. Unfortunately, many believers see it as their right to ignore scientific fact, and justify it with their religious beliefs, their conception of a god who can keep them safe, who brings order to the world. Since their beliefs are not falsifiable, they can’t be proven or disproven.

Rejecting Ideas

The following quote was helpful to me when I was younger. I’m fortunate to have stumbled onto Theologian Dick Westley. He puts it this way in his book, Redemptive Intimacy.

  • God does not punish, if He ever did, people and nations with bad things. Rather, when people and nations engage in actions out of alignment with His will, bad things happen, not because He is smiting them, but rather because these are troubles we bring upon ourselves. Simply, human beings are allowed to own the consequences of their own actions (or the actions of others).
  • The End Times are not for individuals, prayer groups, or any one group to predict or bring about because it suits our ends to smite our enemies. Our enemies will do their best to hurt us, and we will do our best to defend ourselves because we live in the world, not in heaven.
  • An omniscient God must know that we no longer live in Eden. Instead, we live in a dangerous space where our only solace are those who rise up and welcome his Spirit of lovingness and forgiveness.

I have not found a more clear rejection of god as a divine punisher.

The Drowning Man

One of my favorite stories reminds me that if something good is going to be done, you better get to doing it yourself or ask for help from another human being. Counting on “hope, prayer” is not an evidence-based approach. If hope and prayers worked, we would have seen a lot less violence against humans. Any belief system that justifies human suffering and death as a sacrifice to an angry god, well, is crazy to me.

The Story

Soon the water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned. He went to Heaven. He finally got his chance to discuss this whole situation with God, at which point he exclaimed, “I had faith in you but you didn’t save me, you let me drown. I don’t understand why!” To this God replied, “I sent you a rowboat and a motorboat and a helicopter, what more did you expect?”

You know, it reminds me of Matthew 4:7-10, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Here’s an interesting explanation:

If Jesus was in peril, God would have to save Him. Jesus refused to test God in such a way. We are to accept God’s Word by faith, without requiring a sign (see Luke 11:29). God’s promises are there for us when we need them; to manipulate situations in an attempt to coerce God into fulfilling His promises is evil.

If human beings live in fear of God, their greatest fears may very well be apostasy and this quote from Jesus:

“But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Can you imagine what children might reject the Gospel, their belief in the Christ, because their parents rejected vaccinations and masking in schools? What a terrible example we are setting.


People are dying, have been dying, and there is a bit of panic among Christians. It is the sort of panic that is strange, because the panic isn’t about dying necessarily, but rather the embrace of a plague.

If there is plague, it is inconsequential. If it is consequential, it is to be dealt with with prayer and faith, not human means. If human means are insufficient, if God doesn’t intercede, then it is a sign of the end times.

Given that most American Christians are vaccinated against a host of diseases at birth, including (with their baptism) against the lies and snares of the Devil, I am disappointed at the reaction to COVID-19. That reaction includes efforts of Anti-vaccination, anti-masking, yelling and screaming, threatening violence to educators and withholding funding.

Fear Science Will Prove God Doesn’t Exist

Science is the best tool humans have at understanding objective reality in spite of themselves. If you accept God exists, you realize that there is BIG possibility that you lack the capacity to comprehend Him. If you don’t accep God exists, you also accept that you are basing your lack of belief on a narrow sliver of the reality you understand based on imperfect evidence…and that this evidence may change in the future.

Either way, I discount human’s religious beliefs about God. I suggest we may be too limited to grasp it. Like broken vessels, we gotta capture what evidence about the world we can, understanding there is a vastness to it all that is beyond our grasp at this time.

Salon Article

I found this Salon.com piece worthwhile meditation this past weekend. It is entitled, “Evangelicals, science and the vaccine: Refusal is built on deep-seated fear.”

From Darwin to COVID the church has been wrong. It’s really about fear among the Christian faithful when they turn away from science. Even scientific theory is dismissed out of hand by the church because of a fear thatsomehow science will prove that God does not exist.

As the pandemic spreads from one church to another and global warming continues to be ignored by the evangelical movement, it is clear that practitioners of the current Christian faith have not evolved from their ancestors who condemned Galileo and Darwin.

That science will have anything to say about God, immanent and transcendent, is laughable. But Science does have a lot to say about our current situation, the physical world we live in. I found the author’s points spot on:

There is nothing to fear from scientific data and proper research. There is something to fear from the fearful and ignorant. Anyone who is not willing to question their own belief structure, or anyone that remains in their own echo chamber, is dangerous. That is why there is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

It is expressing the fear of people who claim to have none. It must be addressed, but that will not be easy.

Consider religious responses to the Black Death..

A final note: This reflects my current thinking on the matter. I could be wrong about many aspects of what I’ve written here.