Choose your own deity
One of my biggest surprises in the time since I’ve deconverted is the number of people who have more or less told me they have invented their own god, and can’t understand why I won’t do the same and call myself a believer.
The first person to amaze me in this manner was my mother. I was trying to tell her of some of the difficulties I was having with the Bible, as a starting point from which I hoped to progress to talking about my difficulties with the concept of God. I mentioned one atrocity in the Old Testement in particular. I can’t remember which one, exactly. It was one of the times God commanded His people to commit genocide.
She interrupted me to ask, “You don’t really believe God did that, do you? The God I believe in wouldn’t do that.”
That’s what she said, and it stopped me right in my tracks. “The God I believe in wouldn’t do that.” I had no response for these words. I spent years studying the Bible, reading theology and looking at the world around me to learn more about God and God’s will for us, and when I couldn’t find enough evidence to support any view of God, I turned and spoke with family, friends and fellow clergy and told them of my doubts. In response, several spoke to me of “the God they believe in”. The God they believe in performs these certain actions, and has those vague characteristics. If I pointed at the contradicting evidence in the scripture they claim to follow or the in world that we live in, they look surprised and say, “I wouldn’t believe in a God like that, would you?”
Five, six years ago, I would have been frightened for their souls, and prayed for God to turn them from their blasphemous idolatry. I would have tried to argue with them. Today, I don’t know how to feel. With no trustworthy, coherent and consistent revelation of who god is, any theist is going to be inventing their own. But to speak of “the God I believe in” and fail to see any problem with this? It still surprises me.
It’s not just the people around me, either. When Canada joined in on the atheist bus campaign, the moderator of the United Church of Canada responded, “I think most of these ads … are responding to a version of God and Christianity that is grounded in a kind of judgment and fear and guilt. I don’t believe in that God either.”
Is this really any different? I mean, at least a God grounded in fear and guilt is grounded in something. I can talk to people who try to base their views in something, even if I disagree with the conclusions they reach. But it seems that many theists are beginning to see that there are no attributes of God that they can describe in a manner they can defend, and are holding this up as a virtue, as if it’s some sort of progress! It might be, if they would only admit that their ‘god’ was imaginary, and only useful for purposes of personal inspiration and perhaps ritual language and stories for communal celebration. If they still want to claim their god has any existence or authority outside of their imagination, they have actually retreated further from reality than a Christian who looks to the Bible, Church or world for revelation. I suppose this is why, when I switched from conservative Christianity to a more liberal Christianity, it took a very short time to become an atheist- there was no substance in liberal Christianity to slow me on my way past.
Entry filed under: Quester.