"Teachings of Jesus 36 of 40. parable of the fig tree. Jan Luyken etching. Bowyer Bible" by Phillip Medhurst - Photo by Harry Kossuth. Licensed under FAL via Wikimedia Commons.
[...] Over the years, I have watched believers seriously struggle over the odd or violent stories in their holy book. Even Emily was occasionally flummoxed by the Bible. One day she recounted how disturbed she had been during her morning devotion upon reading that Jesus had cursed a fig tree for not bearing figs when it was not the season for figs (Mark 11:12-14). I am certain that she must have read this story dozens of times since she spent a good deal of time reading the Bible every day, but her demeanor was as one who had never encountered the story before. She was sitting on the floor and she pounded on the ground, saying. “But Jesus, you are always loving. I don’t understand since it was not the time for figs.” I said nothing, and she said nothing. We never talked about this matter of the figs again. She moved on with the same piety she had before. It should not be surprising that this fig story was not a deal breaker. What I think is noteworthy is that this seemed to me one of those moments when we read the Bible without the veil of dogma and for a moment, we see it for what it is. For a moment Jesus looks not only human, but even a bit irrational. But for a believer, these moments are short-lived. Something else in the mind takes over and forgetting the brief moment when the voice of reason was heard, one returns to reading the text as one wishes it were.This parable and the reaction to it reminded me of what Christopher Hitchens said about the cruelty of a supposed God who would create not just fig trees but all of humankind to be flawed and then expect perfection.
Or put differently, punish those who cannot honestly believe in his existence would be punished for not being capable of getting it with eternal hell. I suppose they do it to themselves the same way the fig tree does it to itself when it's simply not in season. This tree is merely behaving as it was supposedly designed! Seems to more resemble the behaviour of an abusive parent than a loving father to me. Perhaps some wise Christian can explain Jesus' seemingly childish fit and apparently brutal snuffing of a perfectly good tree.
I have been called arrogant myself in my time, and hope to earn the title again, but to claim that I am privy to the secrets of the universe and its creator — that's beyond my conceit. I therefore have no choice but to find something suspect even in the humblest believer. Even the most humane and compassionate of the monotheisms and polytheisms are complicit in this quiet and irrational authoritarianism: they proclaim us, in Fulke Greville's unforgettable line, "Created sick — Commanded to be well." And there are totalitarian insinuations to back this up if its appeal should fail. Christians, for example, declare me redeemed by a human sacrifice that occurred thousands of years before I was born. I didn't ask for it, and would willingly have foregone it, but there it is: I'm claimed and saved whether I wish it or not. And if I refuse the unsolicited gift? Well, there are still some vague mutterings about an eternity of torment for my ingratitude. That is somewhat worse than a Big Brother state, because there could be no hope of its eventually passing away.
-- Christopher Hitchens, Letters to a Young Contrarian