Even though I grew up attending a Baptist church on a weekly basis for years, since I was about 20, I don’t consider myself a member of any organized religion. I still attend church services on a regular basis (in various denominations), but only to sing in the choir or act as solo cantor. It’s a job and nothing else. I always tell people, ‘You have to pay me to go to church!’ And I’ll go anywhere that they are paying, too; I don’t discriminate. I like the musical aspect of church services (I love to sing hymns, for example), but I am less-than-enthusiastic about the liturgical parts. The same tedious rituals week after week, and especially the sermons and scripture readings, are a crashing bore to me, although I do find a lot in them with which to take issue.
Most sermons and homilies that I have had to sit through seem irrelevant and pointless to me. I’m sitting there thinking, They are just talking bullshit! What does that have to do with helping us to become better people? Why doesn’t anyone ever talk to the congregation about confronting their racism, sexism and homophobia? Fix those things in our lives, and I think that the rest of it—that is, humanity, Godliness and Christianity—just may take care of themselves. But I suppose you can’t address what you don’t acknowledge. There are conflicting views about human morality, for one thing. A preacher is not going to lecture his congregation about those points if he believes that it is okay to discriminate against his fellow humans, objectify women and hate queers.
The thing about organized religions is that they tend to control and bully their followers into believing what they are told and not to think for yourself. If you are a Catholic, you have to be against abortion and birth control. Well, maybe I don’t want to be married and have a whole bunch of kids! It’s the same reason why I don’t affiliate myself with a political party. In order to be a Democrat, I have to believe and agree with their platform. Everything they do is right, and the Republicans have it all wrong. Then the Republicans say the same thing about the Democrats. I can find fault with both parties. I choose not to pigeonhole myself like that. I need to think for myself.
I have found from working at various churches that the tenet lines between the Protestant religions, especially, are somewhat blurred, as there are more similarities than there are differences. They all regard God and Jesus the same, they use the same Bible and Scripture readings, they sing the same hymns, and their service liturgies follow the same basic pattern. As with any group, differences of opinion occur between individuals, and just because they all attend the same church, they don’t have to agree on everything that is done or said there. I think that most people regard attending church as a social thing. One does not have to go to a house of worship to be religious. You can pray and give your reverence to God anywhere.
Now, just because I have no interest in matters ecclesiastical, does not mean that I am not a spiritual person and don’t believe in a higher power. I am not an atheist, but consider myself more of a heretic, heathen or pagan even and quasi-agnostic, since I don’t know for sure. In fact, nobody does. I have many theological questions and I don’t just accept everything on blind faith. Heresy is not a bad thing, by the way. A heretic, for your information, is a person who chooses to think for themself rather than follow someone else’s arbitrarily-established opinion about something. So, what’s wrong with that? I used to know a guy who was a dyslexic, agnostic insomniac. He would stay awake all night sometimes, wondering if there is a Dog. (::rim shot::)
If anyone should ask me the question, “Do you believe in God?” I ask them how much time they have, because the answer requires more than a simple yes or no. I don’t doubt the existence of God, per se; there must be such a thing. It has a referential name, therefore It must exist. So a better question would be, “What do you think God is?” or “What is your personal perception of God?” Now we can talk. I take a more scientific approach to religion and God.
For centuries there has been a conflict between religion and modern science. There is an ongoing controversy between the Biblical account of the Creation of the World versus Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, for example. Many still contend that you have to believe in either one or the other, that the two schools of thought are mutually exclusive. They don’t have to be, though. Instead of taking one side over the other, I will attempt to explain and redefine the situation, which I hope will satisfy both camps.
First of all, the mere fact that everyone does not agree on a common explanation of God, indicates that it’s all based on human theories, and is why there are so many different religions and beliefs, because people all have their own ideas on the subject, including myself. It’s all conjecture. Also realize that monotheism, the belief in only one omnipotent God, has not always been the way of the world. The early Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Norse and Babylonians worshiped many gods, often in the form of graven images.
Another school of thought is that it was Abraham who invented God. It was he who made all the laws and decisions for his people, claiming that they all were relayed to him personally by God. So, in essence, Abraham was playing God, and the people were all too willing and compliant to go along with whatever he told them to do. His later descendants and Gentiles even referred to It as “the God of Abraham.”
So now I will give you my own theory about God. Why can’t the physical sciences be the explanation of God? For me, God is simply the collective energy forces that govern the Universe. God is in everything, and everything is God, including you and me and everybody. Apparently, this is not my thinking alone. I recently learned that there are others that follow that same philosophy. They even have a name for it: pantheism, meaning, God is all. So I guess I am a pantheist then.
I will go so far to say that there are really no real atheists. How can anyone deny the existence of God when It is evident all around us? Is there anyone that denies the concept of nature? We comment on the wonders of nature and on the “natural order of things.“ Well, Mother Nature is just another name for God. The miracle of childbirth and our mere existence is an evidence of God. World phenomena don’t just happen automatically.
Now there are people, like myself, who don’t buy the notion of some supernatural Man or Gnostic Being up in the sky who looks down on us and with whom we can converse and from whom we can ask favors, and whom we were taught by our parents and clergy to fear and praise and obey. But just because you don’t believe in That Guy, does not make you an atheist, because that’s not really God, at least in my opinion. That’s just somebody that Man made up for our benefit, like the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny. If we just accept the fact that God is the Virtual Everything, then there is nothing to doubt or to wonder about. So when someone tells me that they don’t believe in God, I ask them, ‘How do you explain your own existence then? Did you just happen all by yourself?’
I am not being blasphemous when I say that I am God. I am only stating a fact. We all are God. If you believe that we all are created by God, then we all must be imbued with the essence of God. God is what sustains us and what makes our bodies grow and function the way they do. That is God digesting our food and keeping our hearts beating and our blood flowing. So someone who claims that they don’t believe in God is denying life itself, including their own. Whenever we tamper with Nature and upset the natural order of things, we are playing God, or rather, defying God, in a sense. Whenever anyone kills any living thing or even saves the life of anyone who would be doomed otherwise, they are interfering with God’s Will.
A physician’s very profession is to defy God. God gave this person that fatal ailment, and the doctors then go against God’s way by attempting to keep the patient alive. What gives them or us the right to decide for ourselves who is to live or die? I don’t mean to say that it is not a good thing to try to save and prolong lives when we’re able to. I am all for medical assistance when needed, but we still should own up to the fact that we are interfering with one’s destiny when we do so. Just be willing to admit it and don’t be all self-righteous and pharisaical about it.
Incidentally, my God does not have gender. God is an energy force, not a person, and certainly not a man. That’s why I choose to use neuter pronouns in my references to God, except when It‘s a dramatic character reference. So I don’t go along with the Trinity concept of “God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost,” but rather simply, the “Unity”: God the Spirit. Along with that, I will say that the words “holy” and “sacred” have no validity to me. A certain degree of reverence or value judgment is arbitrarily placed on anything having to do with God and organized religion. But to me, nothing is sacred. So I don’t believe in blasphemy and sacrilege, as God, to me, is completely a secular entity.
The Book of Genesis presents the theomorphic notion that “God created Man in ‘His’ (meaning God’s) own image.” (Purported atheist Mike Stivic of “All in the Family” asked his father-in-law Archie Bunker one day, “You mean to say that God looks like you?!”) But I happen to think that it’s the other way around. We (that is, Man) have created God in our own image, just as the gnostic beings anywhere else in the Universe most likely created their God (if they, in fact, acknowledge one) in their particular image, which would be totally different from our concept.
Man seems to have a need to personify everything (to wit—Mother Earth, Mother Nature, Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Father Time, Jack Frost, Ol’ Man River, etc.), and it’s Man who refers to God in the masculine gender—“the Almighty Heavenly Father” and other male, patriarchal epithets. There is also a human need to have a visual image of everything. That’s the reason for religious icons, statues and paintings—to remind us of who and to what we are paying reverence.
But the question then arises, how shall God be depicted? And this arbitrary decision is, of course, at the very heart of sexism and racism. White men naturally always depict God as an old, white man. (It wasn’t my idea.) Anything else would be refuting their imagined superiority. It has to be someone that they can look up to, respect, revere and worship—therefore, an older white man. It can’t be a woman. They have no power here. And it can’t be a person-of-color either. How could they worship and adore someone beneath them, someone for whom they have utter contempt and disrespect? No, it has to be a white man, someone exactly like themselves. You see then, by doing that they are equating themselves with the Almighty, in essence, putting themselves on the same personal level with God.
That is the reason that deists give God all our own human characteristics, to make God to be more like themselves. When they talk about God’s likes and dislikes, they are merely expressing their own feelings and opinions. This is why Jesus, too, is most often given artistic representation with Aryan features, because if his “Father” and mother are white, then he has to be too, right? Just as I contend that nothing in Christianity is original, that common depiction of God as an old, white man with the white, flowing beard is not just anybody. It’s the same way that the Greeks’ head god, Zeus, is commonly depicted. So they didn’t create a new God image but only borrowed an already-existing one.
There is an old joke about a man who dies, goes to Heaven, meets God, but has the opportunity to come back to life and earth to report on his experience. So of course, everybody wants to know what God looks like and all. “Please, tell us, Sir, what does God look like?” The man replies, “Well, first of all, She’s black.” Whenever this is told, of course everyone laughs at the accepted absurdity of it all. But if that punchline had been a pre-ordained notion, then it wouldn’t be a joke.
Why couldn’t God be manifested for all time as a black woman? I don’t see anything wrong with that. Believers expect God to be their Parent Figure, Guardian, Defender and Protector. But in real life it’s almost always the mother who looks after the family, nurtures, feeds and takes care of them. The traditional Man is merely the breadwinner. He is not always around when you need him. So why are you praying to some Man to comfort you and watch over you, when it’s most likely a Woman who is the one doing the comforting and caregiving for you? In general, I hold black women in as high regard as I do white men—maybe more, since my own mother was a black woman. This idea apparently did not escape the writers of the TV series “Joan of Arcadia,” in which more than one of the various guises that “God” appeared to the title character, was indeed a black woman!
At least the Christian Scientists are not guilty of this destiny-tampering, as they do renounce doctors and medications in the time of physical maladies and instead, leave their fate in the “hands of God” by resorting to prayer to save their lives. They believe that if they are meant to live, they will, but if their time on earth is up, they have learned to accept that, too, and that medical intervention will not make any difference one way or the other.
But then, we could also look upon praying as going against God’s Plan. When people pray, they are usually asking for something personal or wanting to change something that is to be. “Please, God, I need this job!” Some people pray for guidance and assistance. “Lord, help me to be a better person and more loving to my neighbors…Lord, help those poor people in need.” I think that’s all up to you. Why don’t you help those poor people in need? What do you expect God to do about it? If God was on the case, they wouldn’t be in need, would they? If you want to be a better person, then be it! So if you continue being a jerk, are you going to blame God for not changing your attitude?
People make deals—“Lord, if you let me pass this test, I’ll start going to church!” I don’t think that God makes deals. “Oh, God, please help us to win this game!” But if both teams are praying for the same thing, whose plea is God supposed to honor over the other? It creates a conflict of interest. “Don’t let my little girl die, Lord!” But then she dies anyway, so now they are mad at God and has lost their faith. God does not keep people from dying just because you ask It to. Everybody dies eventually, of something. God did not give you personal assurance that It would grant your request of prolonged life. People in my life didn’t die because I failed to pray for them to stay alive. I don’t have that kind of power.
Some even make non-requested, personal promises to God, and then think that if they break the promise, God will punish them in some way. First of all, God did not ask you to promise It anything; you volunteered that on your own. So God is not going to hold you to it, if you should happen to renege on it. The promise you broke was to yourself. God doesn’t give a shit. I recently heard a news report that the current Pope made a promise to the “Virgin Mary” that he would give up TV and the internet for some period of time. Now, what is she going to do if he breaks his promise–send him to his room without his supper?! How inane is that?
The weekly Episcopal services at the church where I worked includes Prayers for the People, where a parishioner prays aloud to the congregation and mentions just about everybody in the world for succor, blessing and forgiveness. One part goes, “We pray for those seeking God.” Why would anyone need to seek God? Just look around. God is everywhere and in everything. If you want to find God, just look inside yourself. And what is the point of praying for people who have died? They’re gone. There’s nothing we can do about that. It’s out of our hands now. Oh, they’re praying for their souls, you say? Well, a dead person’s soul is not your business either. What’s done is done. Don’t even be concerned about the souls of those who are still alive, for that matter. Worry about your own soul.
In the 2003 satirical film Bruce Almighty Jim Carrey is given the opportunity to be God for a short period of time. He had been bitching to the real “God” that He was not complying to his wishes when he called upon Him. So God, played by Morgan Freeman (don’t I love that!), appeared to Bruce and said, “Do you think that you can do a better job at being Me? Let’s see how you do.” Well, Bruce does enjoy at first his newfound power, being able to make everything go his way, though only doing things that benefit himself. But he didn’t consider the responsibility that he was taking on, that is, running the entire world and in particular, the answering of prayers. When he starts hearing all those simultaneous voices of people asking him for stuff, he becomes so overwhelmed he doesn’t even deal with it. He soon comes to realize that being God isn’t all that easy. After all, he has his own mortal life to worry about, who has time to listen to or help all the needy people in the world?
So then Bruce creates his own e-mail Prayer website to which all prayers would be directed. He can do that. He’s God, remember. When several millions of hits come in right away, he refuses to read any of them. He simply sends a general “Yes!” to every piece of mail. The next day he hears on the news that thousands of people have won the local lottery for that day, which causes rioting and unrest among the masses. Hmm, I think it would behoove him to examine each and every request. So Bruce learns his lesson, and this experiment taught him not to be so critical in the future. And instead of always waiting for a miracle to occur, he learns that we all have the power to create our own miracles. Don’t expect somebody else, especially God, to come to a person’s aid. Why don’t you help them yourself, if you have the means?
I don’t see the point or purpose of praying to God because if It is supposed to be All-Knowing and is aware of all of our thoughts and wishes, there is no need to tell It what we want. Do you think that God “sits” idly by, watching Its people in trouble and will intervene only if someone asks for help? If God is the Head Guy running things, It will do what It will anyway. How dare we tell God what to do and ask for special favors! I have more to say about “Deistical Favoritism” in my blog entitled, For the Bible Tells Me So.
So when you pray aloud, do you think that you are the only one? There are probably millions of others praying at the same time. I mean, God may be Almighty and All That, but I don’t think It’s that good, to discern everybody‘s supplications simultaneously. So why even bother? Haven’t these people come to the realization that nobody is listening and that they are only praying to themselves? I believe that it is up to us to answer our own prayers, having enough faith and believing in ourselves so strongly as to make our wishes come true. It was Oscar Wilde who once said, “When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.” So always be careful of what you wish for, because you just may get it.
The same goes for confessing one’s sins. If a person admits out loud the bad things that they have done, they believe that God will forgive them. But aren’t they really making the effort to forgive themself by admitting the wrongs they have done? But just like making those promises to God that I just spoke of, it’s not God who is absolving you of anything, especially when you probably keep doing the same thing over and over. It’s good that you have the sense of remorse, but it’s you who has to forgive yourself. Otherwise, again, why bother?
People should stop making God responsible for their own actions. We either blame God for something we did ourselves or we give God the credit for something we did ourselves. God is merely the means for us to function in the way we do. “It’s God’s will … God’ll get you for that … If there is a God, how can ‘He’ allow all the suffering in the world?” Because God doesn’t care! Don’t blame God for the world’s suffering. We bring all that on ourselves. It’s we who are responsible for human mistreatment, injustice and our apathetic attitudes, not God. During church prayers the clergy are always asking God to free the world from poverty and national conflicts. Again, we are the ones who cause world poverty and the inability to get along with each other. How is God suppose to remedy that? It’s up to ourselves to right all the wrongs in the world.
God created us, and then Its job is finished. What we do with our lives is up to us. God has given us the privilege of free will to make our own decisions, and that is the one thing It doesn’t have any control over, our individual free will. If we didn’t have that, life would have no meaning or purpose. We would have no reason to think for ourselves, because every aspect of our life would be decided for us. What would be the point of living? Interestingly, that is the one restriction that Morgan/”God” puts on Bruce in the movie, that he will not be able to tamper with anyone’s free will.
So with this free will concession, we have to take responsibility for the choices we make in life. Don’t expect God to tell you what to do all the time. When some crazed gunman goes into a classroom and blows everybody away, don’t blame God for allowing all those innocent people to die. Blame the person who did the actual killing. God didn’t give him the gun or try to save the victims by preventing the gun from firing. Then, too, our life’s accomplishments are our own, albeit with God’s help. God gives us the tools, the talent, skills and ambition, but it’s up to us to do something with those gifts.
Many performers, upon receiving Academy Awards and others, will thank God for giving it to them. God doesn’t hand out trophies. We have to earn them. I don’t have an Oscar because I haven’t done what is required to get one. But if I ever do win one, it will be because I worked for it, not because God thought it was time for me to receive one. You can pray to God until you’re blue in the face, but until you get up off your lazy butt and make some personal effort, it never will happen.
So I do believe in “God helps those who help themselves.” You may have heard the oft-related story of the pious man who receives a news report that the dam near his hometown is about to break, which will flood the whole town and everyone should evacuate immediately. The man decides, “I am a religious man. If I pray to God really hard, He will save me from this disaster.” So when the flood does come, the man retreats to the roof of his house to avoid being swept away by the deepening water. A neighbor comes by in a rowboat. He says to the man on the roof, “Come down, friend, and get into this boat, and I will take us to safety.” “Oh, no,” the man replies. “I am a religious man and I have prayed to God to rescue me. But thanks, anyway.” Pretty soon a helicopter hovers near and offers to get the guy off the roof. Again he rejects them, telling them that he has prayed and is waiting for God to save him. Well, the flood waters eventually covers the man’s house and he drowns.
So now he’s just arrived at Heaven’s Gate and he tells St. Peter, “I would like an audience with God, if you please. There is something I need to ask Him.” When his request is granted, the man says to God, “I am one of your most faithful believers. I prayed and prayed that you would save me from the flood. So I don’t understand, Lord. Why did you abandon me and let me drown?” God replied, “Man, what are you talking about? I gave you prior warning about the flood, I sent you a rescue rowboat and a helicopter. What were you waiting for, a personal appearance?!” Some people don’t seem to realize when their prayers are being answered. They tend to ignore the very signs of help that are staring them right in the face.
Even though I do it myself on occasion, like when I receive a much-needed paycheck after a dearth of work, I don’t think that it is necessary to thank God for our good fortunes either. Courtesy, respect, gratitude and sense of appreciation are all human characteristics, and Pride is one of the Deadly Sins. How dare we accuse God of having false Pride. Do you honestly think that God is that insecure, egoistical or vainglorious that It needs to be constantly thanked, praised and exalted for all Its goodness? Why would It even care how we feel? God just is and does what It does. Our gratitude and reassurance may influence the world in positive ways, but not because God needs to “hear” it from our mouths. “Well, after all I’ve done for those people, they can’t even say ‘thank you’? I should stop doing anything for those ingrates.“ Talk is cheap, and actions speak louder than words. One can show their gratitude by their good deeds rather than by prayer and worthless Godly praise. In other words, pay it forward.
There are certain people who take it upon themselves to be messengers, employees and even colleagues of God. They go about the land doing “God’s Work,” which I find to be a suspicious and sometimes frightening concept, because they can make that to be anything they want. They kill people in the Name of God and say that God told them to do it, because certain people should not be allowed to live. Well, that’s not your job! If God didn’t want those people to be here, they wouldn’t be. One can always justify their actions by saying that they were only carrying out God’s Wishes, therefore anything they do must be all right. The Catholic Church even has a worldwide organization that they call Opus Dei, which means God’s Work in Latin and which I discuss in my blog, A Critique of Catholicism. That is so arrogant. God doesn’t need you to do Its work. It can manage quite well without your help. Do your own work, why don‘t you?!
Another thing that I don’t take any stock in is the concept “The Word of God.” What is that?! God does not speak. It’s humans who speak, and it’s these anthropomorphic theomaniacs who accredit their own thoughts, words and deeds to God. I automatically turn off when someone starts a sentence with, “Well, God says…” or “God don’t like…” How do you know what God don’t like? If God made it, then It must like it. Anyhow, nobody is an authority on or official spokesperson for God, not even these self-appointed clergymen, evangelists and prophets. I can’t be concerned about what God allegedly said to anybody else or what God doesn’t like. Maybe God “told” me something different than what It “told” you.
It’s a matter of interpretation anyway. If you tell me that God is Love and that we are all God’s Children and that we should love our Neighbors and that thou shalt not kill, then don’t tell me in the next breath that God hates homosexuals and that we all should be put to death. That’s a contradiction. Anyway, if God hates queers, as some people insist, then why did God make, has always made, and continues to make, so many of us? So don’t be mad at us! Take your gripes to God, Which put all of us here in the first place. It must be these people who hate us and are again attributing their own hatred to God.
Do not presume to think for God and make decisions for It. I have a sense of morality and ethic principles, and although some of my morals may differ from someone else’s, I do know right from wrong. I think that I am more lenient and tolerant when it comes to certain accepted ideas of morality than others might be. As long as people don’t inflict harm on others, I think that it’s okay to do some things that might be deemed immoral or unethical by someone else. Judge not lest ye be judged. I believe in “love thy fellow man” (I certainly do that!) and that we are our brother’s keeper. I think that we should look out for each other, if it is within our means.
What is our conscience if not God “speaking” to us directly, guiding us to make certain decisions in our lives? But consider for a moment that some of it might be Old Satan trying to advise us, too. People are constantly committing heinous deeds against each other, with the excuse that they are obeying instructions from God. Why, for example, would God tell somebody to go out and commit mass murder in Its name? But then the claim used by some that “the Devil made me do it” does not hold up with me either. If we all accept that excuse, people would use it as a trial defense. No one could be convicted of any crime. “It wasn’t me, Your Honor. The Devil took hold of me and I didn’t have any choice or control.” “Oh, well, then. Case dismissed!“ No one would be held responsible for their bad actions. Just blame it on the Devil.
We must be very careful not to mistake the Devil’s telepathic guidance for God’s. That must be one of the Great Mysteries of Life, trying to discern the Two. I mean, did God really tell Abraham to kill his son? And he was just about to do it, too, when a voice stopped him with, “Ha ha, I was just kidding. I was testing you, to see if you really would do it.“ Say, what?! The seemingly good advice that we receive from beyond is not always from God either. You know, it’s been said that the Devil can quote scripture, too. The Devil frequently tells us what we want to hear. I believe that those individuals who are strong-willed and astute enough to determine Which is Which and then govern themselves accordingly, are the real survivors in this world. Judging from the incredible good fortune I have had all my life, and the fact that I am still here, I consider myself to be one of the Discernible Ones, at least most of the time.
I will share with you the basic guideline that I follow on how to tell Which you are being influenced by, God or the Devil? Satan is ultimately hell-bent for our self-destruction. It wants us to destroy ourselves in any way we can and inflict harm on others in order for It to claim our souls. God wants us to live, to enjoy life to the fullest, to use and share the talents that have been bestowed upon us. This is the Meaning of Life for me. Our short time here on earth is so precious and quite limited. We should not waste the little time we have. Satan wants us to waste our lives and our talent. God wants us to make the most of them. So when you are receiving conflicting messages in your head, consider carefully what you are being told to do. If one inner voice is saying, “Go ahead, jump!” or “Go ahead, pull the trigger!” but another one is telling you, “Don’t do it. You’ll be sorry.” or “Put the weapon down,” you should know which advice to obey.
For a moment, I’d like to play “Devil’s Advocate” (if you’ll pardon the pun) and share another of my theological theories with you. Instead of two separate entities, what if God and Satan are One and the Same, merely two sides of Good and Evil? I mean, if God controls the whole Universe, then theoretically it makes sense that It’s responsible for all the Evil in it as well. Since God is supposed to represent only Good, Man needed somebody else to personify the Evil in the world, so he created the Devil as a separate being. But I say, There is no Two, only One. I discovered that even this is not a novel idea, on my part, as the Biblical prophet Isaiah apparently had the same notion when he (or somebody) wrote in Chapter 45 of his book, “I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me. I form the light and create darkness. I make peace and create evil. I, the Lord, do all these things.” So, there! See, I can quote Scripture, too!
But even if this is the case, we are still given the choice of how to lead our lives. It’s easy to remember: God = Good, Devil = Evil. The positive side of God controls the goodness in everything while the negative side controls all wickedness. And we do need both to give us proper perspective. How could one determine what is good if there were no bad against which to measure it, and vice versa? The Chinese have their yin and yang. There is good and bad in everybody, including the God Entity. No one is only one or the other, no matter how self-righteous you think you are. Therefore, when we do receive mixed messages of a good and bad nature, maybe that is God testing our morality and sense of what is right and wrong, by giving us the opportunity to exercise our freedom of choice and inherent free will.
(“Are you a Good Witch, or a Bad Witch?”) So then, it’s up to us to decide which is to be the more dominant influence in our own life. Think about this. If God is supposed to be all good and love, how do you account for Its vengeful actions? God’s having a Satanic side might explain it. Destroying the world that time by flood certainly wasn’t an act of benevolence. I’m not entirely convinced that the event even took place, but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt just to make my point. Even modern-day natural disasters, like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, severe storms and drought, which regularly kill and injure masses of people and which are classified as “Acts of God,” by the way, are not looked upon as favorable occurrences. Yes, Mother Nature can be quite a bitch at times.
The people who use the phrase “The Wrath of God” must consider God to be very angry on occasion. Some parents even raise their children to be “God-fearing.“ If God is supposed always to have our best interests at heart, why should we fear It? I don’t think that theophobia is the course to teach or take in life. Of course, some people consider global adversity to be God’s punishments to humankind, but why must the so-called good people be arbitrarily sacrificed right along with the bad? That’s not a good thing, no matter how you look at it.
I find more hypocrisy with these self-professed, so-called Christians, because they don’t put their beliefs to practical application when an appropriate situation arises. Like in the Oh, God! movies (1977-1984), everybody, especially the clergy who get involved, refuse to believe that John Denver (and the little girl in the sequel) had actually heard, seen and spoken with God. And even when “God” appears and speaks to all of them as well, they still cannot accept it. The TV series “Picket Fences” touched upon religious faith subjects a couple of times. They explored the phenomenon of a modern virgin conception, and another time one of the main characters, an 11-year-old boy, experiences stigmata in his hands. In both cases, the townspeople, headed by a Catholic priest and a Protestant minister, try everything they can to disprove the events. They try to explain away the latter incident as being stress-induced.
I’m thinking, In all these cases, now, the whole bases of these people’s religion are supernatural phenomena and miracles and fantastic occurrences and belief in things that supposedly happened over 2000 years ago but without any tangible proof except for their so-called faith. Then they finally get a chance to put these beliefs and their faith to the test in a real situation and they all fail miserably. They just can’t accept any of it. If it happened once, as they claim to believe, why couldn’t it happen again? Why come up with names for these phenomena if they don’t believe in their occurrence? They all were admittedly ashamed even to entertain the possibility of their purported beliefs. “Merciful Heaven, if I admit to anyone that I believe in God, what will people think of me?!” It seems rather hypocritical for a person to profess their belief in Godly matters but then are reluctant to confess their belief in Godly matters. So let me get this straight. It is perfectly okay for people to pray and talk to God on a regular basis, but if God should actually answer back, then those same people are crazy.
In the aforementioned TV series, “Joan of Arcadia,” the title character secretly converses with “God” on a regular basis. When her parents find out about their daughter at the end of the first season, they send her to a child psychologist who declares the teen to have “impaired perception.” That’s an irresponsible diagnosis, in my opinion. I think that a person who sees things that the rest of us cannot, doesn’t have impaired perception but rather heightened perception. It’s their own perception that’s impaired. Just because you yourself cannot see the entity in the room, does not mean that it is not really there.
In the Doctor Dolittle remake (1998), when Eddie Murphy is discovered being able to communicate with animals, of course his family and friends think that he has lost his mind. “Nobody can do that.“ Again, just because you can’t, it doesn’t mean that someone else couldn’t possibly be able to. It seems that whenever someone displays a special ability beyond common normalcy, people tend not to believe it or accept it and will deem that person to be not-all-there. So they can do something that you can’t do, but that makes them the crazy one? Why not encourage someone’s special psychic gifts instead of making them feel that they’re mentally unbalanced or delusional?
The Bible, which they so love to cite, is loaded with characters who claimed to have had personal conversations with God: Adam and Eve, Cain, Noah, Moses, Abraham, Job, all those prophets and others. People accept it from them, but they don’t when it’s somebody they know makes the claim. Even Rev. Todd Burpo, the father in Heaven Is for Real (2014), which is supposedly based on a true story, had a hard time at first accepting his son’s claims that he had actually died temporarily and got a glimpse of what he believed to be Heaven. The images and impressions that the child witnessed in his unconscious state are the same ones that his father has related to him all his life, so why wouldn’t he think that’s where he was? (Check out my Heaven and Hell blog.)
Similar to the guy who waited for the Lord to save him from the flood, in The Preacher’s Wife (1996) Courtney B. Vance is a troubled minister who prays for divine help and is sent an angel in the guise of Denzel Washington. Not surprisingly, Courtney doesn’t believe him. He is constantly dismissive to Denzel and is always telling him to go away and leave him alone. Although he keeps imploring, “Oh, Lord, please help me!” when Denzel keeps showing up, as per his requests, he’s ready to cuss him out. I’m thinking, Why ask for help if you’re not going to accept it when it’s freely given? Now Reverend “Vance” is up preaching about angels and other supernatural beings every service, so he is sent his own personal one, and he’s not having any of it!
Angels in the Outfield (1951) is a baseball movie starring Paul Douglas as the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, while they are in a losing slump. They come to receive angelic intervention, which helps them to start winning games. Donna Corcoran is a little orphan girl and baseball fan who is the only one who can actually see the “angels in the outfield,” and when she says so, of course nobody believes her. I love this scene. Back at the Catholic-run orphanage, Mother Superior, Spring Byington, tries to convince the child that she is suffering from heatstroke or something. The two are standing in front of a huge statue of the Archangel Gabriel, and the nun tells the girl, “Come on, you don’t believe in angels, do you?” Uh, so what is that behind you, then?
So these guys all make their living teaching religious faith to their constituents, but they certainly don’t practice what they preach. Of course, these are only fictional dramas, but as all literature is based on human behavior, I am pretty sure that real people would have a similar reaction if any of these things actually occurred today. There is always some thought-provoking truth in good satire.
“May the Force be with you.”
[Related articles: Credos; A Critique of Catholicism; For the Bible Tells Me So; Heaven and Hell; Jesus H. Christ!; Nativity Redux; Sin and Forgiveness; The Ten Commandments]