Fashioning Kamisama Dolls…and Other Gods

Kamisama Dolls

Utao and Kukuri

One of the series I anticipated most going into the summer season was Kamisama Dolls, which looked as if it could have a great balance of action, sci-fi, romance, and even religion.  I enjoyed the first couple of episodes, but not enough to continue with the series, and dropped it there.  Others who did finish varied widely in their opinions, from those who loved it or otherwise enjoyed it to those who hated the show and those who were somewhere in between.  On another note, there was one one writer whose love for a character on the show approached the bizarre.

When I dropped the series so early in its run, I figured I would miss some religion-related content that would’ve been ideal for me to blog about.  Luckily, my friend, アレクザンダー, editor of the terrific review blog, Ashita no Anime, filled me in on an interesting conversation in episode 8, “The Role of God.”  At about the 20:35 mark, Utao and Kyouhei have this exchange:

Utao: “Aki said kakashi can only kill and destroy because they have human hearts.  So no matter what, is that really the only thing Kukuri can do?”

Kyouhei: “That’s not true.  If what Aki said is right and it has a human heart, then YOU decide what it will do.  If you don’t want it to do those things, then Kukuri will be a good god.”

Kyouhei’s response was ripe for commentary.  Are gods made by us?  How do we fashion gods?  What are gods?  アレクザンダー included some commentary in an email about man creating God, so I thought it would be great to incorporate that information a short debate about this idea below.  After that, I’ll comment a bit on Christians fashioning their own gods.

Fashioning Gods in our Minds

アレクザンダー:  I’m of the position that all gods were created by people.  Since the gods reflect our own image, it only makes sense that the gods people worship get labeled as good or bad depending on the actions of the people worshiping these gods and acting on those gods’ behalf.  If you do charitable acts in the name of your god, then your god is good.  If you wage war in the name of your god, your god gets labeled as bad.  For me, this explains why every person in the world who believes in a god really just believes in themselves and uses appeals to their “invisible friend” to justify their own actions.  Every person’s god, even among worshipers within the same religion is different and that god’s biases match the worshiper’s biases.  If each person has a different personal god, especially when a large group all claim the same god, it’s just more evidence to me that gods can’t possibly exist.

TWWK:  Okay, I’ll buy most of your argument – after all, I’m of the same opinion for all gods except for one.  But I’ll contend that Christians who use God to justify their actions maybe aren’t paying attention to their own God’s values.  One thing that separates the Abrahamic God from most others is that we simply fail to live up to His values.  He is holy and we are not.  Even the great heroes of the Bible, like Moses, Elijah, and Jeremiah, failed in their faith time and time again.  Why not create a god whose standard isn’t perfection?  And to add to this, why not create multiple gods?  After all, much of the Old Testament deals with the Israelites turning to other gods and indulging in deeds that were fine in those gods’ eyes, but which were despicable to YHWH.    

アレクザンダー: You claim that Yahweh’s standard is perfection.  But we have no standard by which to judge what perfection in the eyes of any god would be.  A woman who claims god’s decree is for us to strive for greater peace is just as justified in her beliefs as a man who claims his god declared all who disagree with the divinity of his beliefs deserve death.  The bottom line is, even with a holy book, we still cannot agree on what values are greatest or perfect.  You have to look no farther than the countless denominations of Christianity to see that my point has merit.  This inevitably reduces us to making our own decisions.  However, when we prop up our conclusions with the will of unprovable beings whose will matches our own, it’s inevitable there will be harsh disagreement. 

A short debate, to be sure – any good points made?  Or are we just a couple of ignorant fools?  Let us know in the comment section below.  Meanwhile, moving on…

Fashioning Idols in Our Lives

Non-Christians often, I think, lose respect for Christians because they think we live our lives by someone else’s (archaic) rules.  Why don’t we use our own minds?  Why must we follow this God to the letter?  Why can’t we make our own choices?

Well, much of that line of thinking is ignorant – there’s certainly a fundamental lack of understanding regarding Christianity.  After all, many Christians don’t understand even some of the basics of their faith, while most, including myself, don’t  understand a lot of the deeper issues and concepts.  But one thing is certain – our allegiance to God should come out of thankfulness for His gift of salvation.  As such, we desire to worship God with our lives.

However, when we start making choices based on how we want to view our God, we get in trouble.  For instance, I don’t believe in universal salvation and I don’t believe that when you’re worshiping Allah (or any other God), you are worshiping the same deity Christians are.  After all, I think YHWH was pretty clear when He commanded, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3).

When we add our own values to our God, we begin to worshiping someone different (which was kind of alluded to by アレクザンダー).  This is no longer the God of the Bible, but rather an idol – something we’ve fashioned ourselves.  Although He may largely resemble the Christian God, He is no longer that if we’ve added attributes, characteristics, and values to Him that He doesn’t have.  It’s like if I had a friend who said this about me: I love soccer, excel in mathematics, and am a drunk.  Not only would that person be wrong, they would be talking about someone different than me.

Kannagi

A slightly different, handmade idol (Art by パインパ/群青ピズ)

Of course, idols extend to other areas of our lives.  I’ve heard it said many times that we as humans were made to worship.  I believe this.  But what do we worship?  What is the most important thing in our lives?  For me, I often place priority on family and on entertainment before I do God, and adjusting my worldview is often a struggle.  Others put possessions or money or career success or relationships first.

But the point is this – no matter what you do, you’re going to worship something.  What or who you worship – that’s up to you.

Note: Thanks to アレクザンダー for hatching this idea through his thoughtful analysis and for his kindness in both finding the Kamisama Dolls quote and letting me use his analysis.

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About TWWK

TWWK, known to outlaws and lawmen alike as Charles, lives deep in the heart of Texas, where he drives cattle and boot scoots (not really - though he does sport a pair of rattlesnake boots). Somehow in this frontier, he also finds time for his wife, children, and church. Oh, and anime, too.

Posted on 10.04.2011, in Anime, Atheism, Christianity, Religion, Shintoism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. There’s a big point of contention I want to bring up. It’s in this quote,

    “When we add our own values to our God, we begin to worship someone different (which was kind of alluded to by アレクザンダー). This is no longer the God of the Bible, but rather an idol – something we’ve fashioned ourselves. Although He may largely resemble the Christian God, He is no longer that if we’ve added attributes, characteristics, and values to Him that He doesn’t have.”

    If you listen to atheist rhetoric, you’ve probably heard this point before, but I think it’s worth making it again. I’m reminded of the story of god commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Following the command blindly, Abraham was about to go through with the act when god stopped him. This story glorifies faith in a way that greatly displeases me. Should a kind, wise and loving god expect us to forever be dependent upon commands? Shouldn’t the Christian father figure want us to strive to find the good and compassion that exists within each of us and use that as a moral compass? Shouldn’t we be rewarded for at least trying to seek a greater morality than we currently live with? Shouldn’t he allow us to grow up and change from wandering little children into responsible adults?

    I think a suitable response to god’s command for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac should have been, “A kind and loving god would never command one of his beloved children to take the life of another, least of all his own child. You must be an imposter!” The story would then continue to say that god was pleased with Abraham’s kind and noble heart. He would have passed the test to god’s satisfaction.

    • Your point is quite ironic (your morality is right, but the Christian God’s isn’t? Wait…), but I don’t want to get into that. Instead, I’ll just mention a point about Abraham and Isaac. The story is about faith, but as the New Testament expresses, it’s not about blind faith in God’s commands – it’s about KNOWING God and loving Him and trusting Him.

      Abraham doesn’t do what he does like an unfeeling dummy. Genesis is clear that he longed for many, many years to have a son – and as those who’ve tried to have kids can attest, it’s a painful process. So we probably have a sense of what he was going through and the doubts he had taking Isaac to the place of sacrifice – why would God do this?

      The thing is, Abraham both knew the answer and trusted in it – God would find a way. He had always found God to be 100% truthful in the past, and as such, He trusted in God’s promise: God would make a nation THROUGH Isaac, the very son he was about to kill. In some way, God would make true on it – Isaac would live.

      It’s a beautiful story of complete trust and an example of how we can love God and others. It’s not about blind faith – it’s about complete faith in an unchanging God.

    • To add to what TK said, Abraham was promised generations of children through Isaac and yet God was asking him to sacrifice his son. The interesting point is when Isaac asks his father “where’s the sacrifice?” Abraham replies that “God will provide a lamb”.

      In the end, Abraham knew that God would let Isaac live somehow.

  2. I’ve since given this some more thought and I realized that I’ve overlooked something very fundamental in your response to my original comment. Here’s your quote,

    “Okay, I’ll buy most of your argument – after all, I’m of the same opinion for all gods except for one.”

    Why do you make the exception? If we were truly of the same opinion, you’d be an atheist like me because you’d see that all other gods that have been worshiped and are worshiped now are on the same level with Yahweh. All unseen, unmoving and unprovable. But I digress, this is starting to move away from the topic at hand, so I’ll stop there.

    You also speak of trust and faith as if they are the same thing, but they’re not. They are opposite sides of the same coin. Trust is based on evidence and a well-established track record. Faith must necessarily be without evidence, because as soon as evidence is presented, it flips to become trust. *sigh* This may seem like a debate of semantics, but sometimes definitions of words are important and how we use those words can make a world of difference to a discourse where fine details matter. I think this is one of those moments.

    • No, semantics are important. Definitions, connotation, all that good stuff that makes language and words so amazing – these are significant.

      I don’t, however, think that trust and faith need to be mutually exclusive. I have faith in God and I trust Him. Faith is placed in things (or individuals) unseen – empirically w/o evidence, but experientially, yes. Faith is not without reason.

      Trust is earned because of experience and other matters – but it’s up to the person placing the trust just how much experience is necessary. For instance, one can say, “I trust you” almost as a question, because that person has little or no experience that the other person is trustworthy. Likewise, one can believe God has worked extensively in his or her life, building experience; however, one can still have faith in God, because He is unseen.

      Note that depending on the situation, trust and faith can be synonymous. Trust can be a dependance that something, sometime in the future, will occur. Faith can mean the same. So while they could be different sides of the same coin, and faith can lead to trust, that isn’t necessarily the case in all (or even most) instances.

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