I spent an amusing evening reading The God Debate in Newsweek between Rick Warren and Sam Harris. At one point I was not certain whether Rev. Warren was arguing “Is God Real?” or “Are atheists real?” He seemed to hit every Christian Caricature Canard about atheists known to humans—we are angry, we think everyone is ignorant, we are selfish, we are hopeless and, to top it all off, we don’t “want” a God.
Warren: You’re more spiritual than you think. You just don’t want a boss. You don’t want a God who tells you what to do.
We’ve all heard this in a variety of forms. “You want to be like God.” “You don’t like submitting to an authority.” “You think you are smarter than God.”
Is this nuts? Let’s think about this for half a second, okay? I realize that most times the theist is envisioning not wanting a God because of a moral sense, but there are so many more facets to a God than that!
Our universe is comprised of 100 Billion galaxies made up of 100 billion stars in each. And a God is claimed to have made that. We have intriguing concepts like electricity, and love at first sight, and car radios with remote controls. And a God is claimed to have made that. We have time and space. Life. The ability to reason and communicate. We have taste and smell. A God is claimed to have made that.
A God that is so intimately interested in me, that he is aware of the number of hairs on my head. (Although apparently, in my case, he is losing either interest or memory for some reason.) A God that is so enthralled with the human experience, that he had to become a human, interact, and be tempted in the same ways that I am. A God that loves me so much, he died. For me.
And I don’t want THAT? Why, in the blue blazes, NOT? Hey, if we are being accused of selfishness, at least be consistent. Who wouldn’t want such a creature to exist?
I like to down-hill ski. I particularly like to weave between trees at unwise speeds in a follow-the-leader pattern. We half attempt to get close enough, so the next poor sod actually hits a tree or wipes out. It would be quite calming to know that there is some all-powerful creature that created the ground, the trees, the snow, and the theory of gravity, and that creature has His eye upon me. If it isn’t my time to die, or He doesn’t want me to be hurt, I figure he will put his invisible hand between that tree and me, and save the day. I would never know how close I came to spreading my brains on an elm.
Who wouldn’t want that?
At one time I was unemployed. It stinks to look for a job. Sending out 200 resumes, to get maybe one interview. For a job that stinks almost as bad as not having a job. How wonderful to rest in the concept that some God was looking out for me, and putting together a connection where I would get the perfect job for what my life plan was. That all I have to do is give it my best, and this God creature would do the rest. Hey, if he could build a cosmos in a week, most of which no one ever sees ‘cept him, he certainly could find me a job without breaking a sweat.
Isn’t such an idea something we all want?
I have children. A parent’s worst nightmare is that their child is horribly hurt, or kidnapped or killed. It is tough enough keeping on eye on them, and doing everything we can to protect them from harm. What a relief to have a God that can heal, and even bring people back from the dead, who was equally watching over them. God had an appointed time for our children to die. If they did, then we could rest easy knowing he had it in control. If they did something stupid like rollerblade off the roof of a house, and it wasn’t God’s time, then he would prevent it.
Every parent has had a situation at a mall, or a sporting event, or a playground where you haven’t seen your child for a little longer than comfortable. And then, after a quick glance about—you still don’t see them. Another, more careful inspection. No child. You try to not get excited, but your heart picks up a beat, and you begin to walk around, making ever bigger circles. Still no child.
At least with a God, there was a small measure of hope, that even if you were completely biffing it as a parent, He was clucking his tongue, thinking, “Tsk. Tsk” but at least He was making sure nothing more harrowing than a neurotic parent would happen that afternoon. He was watching.
Without a God, you were on your own to find that child. To prevent them from rollerblading off the roof. To hope they get well. To find a job. To ski safely. There is no “Grand Wizard” in the sky who can magically prevent, without anyone knowing it, a grave tragedy.
I see a God as so much grander, so much more wonderful, and so much more enticing than just a God that dictates morals. When the theist says, “You don’t want a God” they seem to be talking about a very, very small, myopic version of a God. The morals of a God are only one part of the entire picture. I can’t help wondering if this claim really says more about the theist’s feelings about their God.
“Want” has nothing whatsoever to do with my belief there is no god. It has to do with evidence. In fact, quite the contrary, there are many things I find pleasing in a god belief. It does not make a god exist, however. So why, I puzzle, does the theist talk about “wanting” a god? I presume they truly believe in a God as well. That “want” has nothing to do with it. In fact, they likewise would tell me that NOT wanting God does not make it non-existence.
“Want,” if one thinks about it, really has nothing whatsoever to do with existence. Unless the theist is thinking, “I want a God. The atheist is the opposite of me. Therefore since I want, my opposite number must not want.” And that could be a legitimate (although equally small-sighted) analysis. BUT. What I see this “You don’t want a God” commonly linked to is not mere desire, but as if God is some sort of limitation. Rev. Warren tied it to “You want to be Boss.”
Why is it that the theist thinks, by my declaring there is no God, I am saying that because I want to be “boss”? No, thank you! Being “boss” is difficult! You have to hire and fire, and pay salaries, and make sure the lights stay lit, and bring in customers, and break up office fights—hard work!
We often presume that what we want, or what we hate, others must as well. I really detest drivers who go slowly in the passing lane. Hey—I’m human. So if I wanted to tick you off, a ready way in which I would do so, would be to drive slowly in the passing lane. It makes me angry; I presume it will to you as well.
What is this saying about the theist? If a theist is reading this, what is something you DON’T want about God? Something you don’t like? Something that, if you had your wants, your God wouldn’t do? Is that what this is about?
I grew up in the traditional Baptist way. We were repeatedly assured we were wretched creatures, and no matter how good we were, or what righteous acts we did, they were the equivalent of a used tampon to God. We were repeatedly informed that all we want to do is Sin, Sin, Sex, Sin, Sex, Sex, Sin and Sex. And, if left to our own devices, the best humanity could do was universally commit suicide within short order.
We were placed on a conveyor belt of try to do right, fail, confess, forgive, and then try to do right. With the confident pledge that no matter how hard we tried, we would repeat this cycle from our moment of birth to our last gasping breath. The only reason we have any worth whatsoever is that God choose to bestow it upon us by his own choosing. And even after that we would to do right, fail, confess, forgive, and then try to do right.
Is that what is troubling the theist? Are they tired of a God that is sitting up there, ready to thwack them on the head when they screw up, and if they had a reprieve from a God, that is what they would want?
Again, that was such a small part of the God I did believe in, I am puzzled by this claim of “You Don’t want God.” As if the only thing our vapid non-believing minds could visualize about a God is one that says “No, No, No, No.” Is the theist secretly telling me what they think of their own God?
Now I may be accused of performing “pop psychology.” That accusation would be accurate. Remember, though, what this springs from. Someone else telling me what I want based upon their own image of a God. “Pop psychology,” indeed!
Rev. Warren made the interesting statement, “I’ve never met an atheist who wasn’t angry.” Well, little surprise in that. If I went around and told entire groups what they want and didn’t want, based upon my own perception, and refused to believe them when they protested, I could see how such protests would grow more irate.
Perhaps less telling us what we “want” and more consideration of what we think would allow Rev. Warren to find some surprisingly pleasant atheists, after all.