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Charles's avatar

What does "god fearing" (really) mean?

Asked by Charles (4815points) January 31st, 2012

Why fear a man whom you worship and you claim loves you? Are you essenstially saying that you’re doing good in fear of what may happen to you on judgment day in the event that there actually is a god?

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21 Answers

digitalimpression's avatar

”‘Fear’, when talking about God, is synonymous with ‘respect’, ‘reverence’, ‘piety’, ‘awe toward a supreme power’, etc”

MollyMcGuire's avatar

Since you think he is a man I suggest you not fear him either.

woodcutter's avatar

Thats code for not actually fearing a deity but rather the people who put themselves in the position of speaking for such.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Why would anyone want to fear god? If there is a god – which is open to debate – wouldn’t that god want to be loved and respected? What good is making people fearful, which causes resentment?

The whole premised of being ‘afraid’ of god is rather demeaning. If I am going to have a meaningful relationship with anyone or anything, it should be a relationship of equals and carry mutual respect. If I am a lesser person then our relationship is imbalanced.

So I would say that ‘god fearing’ is a behavior encouraged by the clergy. It keeps them employed (as the supposed intermediaries to god) and keeps the people in the religion docile (out of ‘fear’).

Moegitto's avatar

God fearing is a tactic used by the church to force morality on society. The church believes that without it, man will commit atrocities because there’s no governing factor to prevent them from doing things such as killing kids in a playground and or going around raping women because you don’t think there will be any repercussions. But as you can probably tell, it doesn’t work as well as they think. But this is only my opinion, feel free to add or subtract.

DominicX's avatar

Most of the time I hear it used to mean someone who is religious in general, a believer. “He’s a God-fearing man”.

My memory of catechism class tells me that “fear” was understood as “respect”, not literal fear. As true as that may be, that seemed problematic to me as many people only respect something out of fear. But can that be considered true respect?

Something to think about…

ETpro's avatar

@Charles Excellent questin. Fearing someone who not only loves you, but is love? Seems strange. But that’s just one of the many cotradictions Christians and Jews must live with in order to worship the God of the desert. And when you read about how that God treated his “chosen people” you understand why the fear. One might even conclude that not being chosen was the true blessing.

@digitalimpression Can you give me a source for that understanding of the word fear within the Bible or Torah ,or dies that idea come from some more recent source?

Judi's avatar

The explanation is complicated. Being raised Lutheran, in Luther’s Small catechism when he explains each commandment he always prefaces his explanation with, “We are to fear and Love God.”
I found one pastors explanation almost adequate, but not quite:

Both fear and love are part of our relationship with God. Fear, in a religious context, means more than emotional terror or dread. It also includes great respect and awe. As a child, I feared my father, but not only because he could punish me. He was bigger, older, wiser, faster, and so many other things than I was. Yet this fear did not exclude love, rather they went hand-in-hand with each other. When I did wrong, the terror of punishment was foremost. However, I also knew that Dad would use his strength, wisdom, and other abilities to protect and defend me, to put food on our table, and to keep scary things away. Thus, I deeply loved him.

I believe I have read other theologians who said that the word “fear” as translated is not adequate to convey the meaning. It is an awe and a trembling, sort of like seeing a tsunami coming towards you, when you realize how insignificant you are in the face of immense power.

zenvelo's avatar

The god of the Old Testament is a pretty scary God, and got pretty angry at times. He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, he turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt for doing something very human. He flooded the world.

He was also a tough task master. He asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, then called it off at the last second. He made life miserable for Job, even though Job was a blessed man who lived righteously.

When I was young a lot of the old school religious education taught us to be fearful of vengeful judging God.

smilingheart1's avatar

Recognizing and reverencing the reality of God; due respect not flippant, scoffing as in human pride without understanding. “The fear of God is the beginning of knowledge.” (and alternately wisdom.) These foundational principles are covered in Proverbs and thread through the Bible.

digitalimpression's avatar


Proverbs 8:13
The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.

Proverbs 2:1–5
My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding;If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.

Proverbs 9:10
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

Proverbs 14:2
He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the LORD: but he that is perverse in his ways despiseth him.

(Clearly not the same as being afraid of a man-eating grizzly while lost in the wild.)

ETpro's avatar

@digitalimpression Thanks. That then reconciles Rearing the Lord with God being Love.

Sunny2's avatar

To me, it means behaving as one does because one is afraid he will be punished if he doesn’t abide by the church’s teachings. The Old Testament God is fearful The new testament God is loving, as I understand it.

Charles's avatar

church believes that without it, man will commit atrocities because there’s no governing factor to prevent them from doing things such as killing kids in a playground and or going around raping women because you don’t think there will be any repercussions

What about civil laws? Aren’t those governing factors?

elbanditoroso's avatar

@charles – there are any number of religions that do not respect (or follow) civil laws when it suits them not to.

Let’s take an easy one. There are laws and decisions that make abortion legal. That doesn’t stop trigger happy Baptists from shooting doctors who perform abortions.

ETpro's avatar

@elbanditoroso Among the most morally upright people I know, there are many who are atheists or agnostics. And the commandment “Thou shalt not kill’ didn’t do much to stop the Crusades, the Inquisition, or even Vald the Impaler (The very real Dracula).

Moegitto's avatar

@ETpro The church molds the bible to it’s own ways. About a year ago when I was in a dinning hall in the Army there was a CNN news bit showing the Vatican saying “alien life could be possible”. In the 1990’s the church was all against any other life form in the universe, not they say it’s a possibility.

ETpro's avatar

@Moegitto They are actually improving. It took them hundreds of years to finally admit they were wrong about the Earth being the center of the solar system.

Shinimegami's avatar

Christian religious leaders use fear motivate people give them power and money. Priests create Heaven and Hell, similar of Candy or Spanking at human child or Sugar or Whip at horse make them obey orders. Despise savage religion use fear against naive people.

ETpro's avatar

@Shinimegami I’m glad to find that there are things that you and I agree about. :-)

Shinimegami's avatar

@ETpro, Always best agree!

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