If There Was a God.

By Ben Love ~

As you know, many religions assert that there is a God. This is called deism. Many further assert that this God is personal, involved, and good. This is called theism. Some people, like myself, assert that there is no such God. This we call atheism. And others refrain from making any kind of decision at all, since they observe that no one can really know for sure. This is called agnosticism.

Of the theistic religions, none quite matches Christianity in its assertions about this God and what he is like. Christianity is very specific about the character of this God, his attributes, his personality, his preferences, and his methods of working with humanity. Christians, whether they want to admit it or not, are not certain about the things they assert (otherwise, their faith would be superfluous), and yet when atheists like me challenge these uncertain assertions, these Christians will argue until they are blue in the face that they really do know what this God is like.

But suppose we put all that aside. Suppose we wipe the slate clean. Suppose we toss what these Christians say they know. Suppose we ask the questions anew: What if there was a God? What would reality be like? What would the world be like? What would your life be like?

If there were a God, we would have a few choices regarding the basic facts about him. To begin with, would this God be a “him?” Probably not. This being would most likely represent the entire spectrum from male to female and everything in between, or possibly something else entirely. Who knows? Of greater importance, though, is this question: Is this God involved in the doings of the Universe he created, or did he create it and then step away from it, choosing to be distant and detached? If we go with the latter, the idea of trying to discuss this God becomes moot. Why? Because you would have no idea what this God was like; any discussion would be pure speculation. If we go with the former, that this God is involved with the Universe he created, then we must ask if his intentions are good or bad. If they are bad, if he is actually an evil God who creates things simply to enjoy the ensuing anguish, then we are all fucked anyway and there is little more to discuss other than basic survival and possible tactics of opposition. However, if he is a good God with good intentions, what then?

The problem with theism is this: the believers decide ahead of time that this God is good. After having decided this, they then go out and reconcile the reality around them to their perceptions of God’s goodness. And since reality doesn’t reconcile quite so easily, new beliefs, like flying buttresses holding up an unsteady wall, must enter the picture, beliefs like free will, the doctrine of sin, the depravity of humanity, the benefits of suffering, and so on. The believer begins with a belief: that God exists and that he is good. Then, when looking at the world around him, a world which screams from all sides that God couldn’t possibly be good, the believer uses his faith to reconcile that which should not and does not reconcile on its own. The terrible reality of suffering in this Universe is then explained away, cataloged into tidy little compartments of theological ideas which do wonders for the conscience of these believers but do nothing for the rest of us who demand better answers.
But what if this is backward? What if we didn’t start with the belief that God is good? Suppose we allow the evidence dictate whether or not God is good. We are already assuming, for the sake of this particular argument, that he exists (humor me, please; I’m just an atheist speaking of the hypothetical). The question at hand right now is whether or not he is good. If we looked at reality, the world, and the lives of the billions of humans going to and fro upon this planet, what could we surmise about this God using such evidence? I cannot speak for you, but my reflections yield three interesting thoughts…

1.                  Human life seems very cheap. 

After all, this God has placed us in an environment that seems to want us dead. Tornados, hurricanes, avalanches, earthquakes, volcanos, famines, droughts, and climate shifts are all just waiting to end our lives, to say nothing of the countless species of animals, from the grizzly bear down to the amoeba, that would kill us without a second thought. Even the very elements of the planet threaten us: wind, rain, extreme hot and cold weather. We must fashion structures and clothing and weapons in order to survive. This God declined to provide for us an environment that keeps us alive on its own. Sure, the planet produces our food, but we must kill to obtain it. Sure, the planet provides us with medicines, but we have to use our ingenuity to process them. If I placed a rat in a habitat that sought to destroy it at every turn, would the rat have an easy time believing that I was good and that I cared about his life?

2.                  The arbitrary seems to reign supreme. 

Some people believe in this God, others do not. Of the believers, many pray for this or that, and it seems their prayers are answered. Others pray for the same things and get the shaft. Of the nonbelievers, some seek this or that, and it seems like all their dreams come true. Others try for the same accomplishments and die penniless. True, the outcome of a human’s life largely depends on his own choices, but what of this God’s alleged “involvement?” What can be said of a God who intervenes for some but not others? If one person prays that God will help her pay her rent this month, and another person prays that the police will find her before her captor rapes and kills her, what system does this God use to dole out answers? If he provides a way for the first person to pay her rent but fails to keep the second person from being murdered, what can a curious spectator conclude from this? The only conclusion is that this God’s involvement seems to be arbitrary. More than that, his priorities seem to be grossly out of whack. One human’s rent was much more important to him that the life of the other human.

3.                  All signs point to a massive campaign of misinformation. 

This God apparently says one thing to this group and another thing to that group. He reveals himself in such a way to these people, and then reveals himself in another way to these other people. Some people haven’t even had a revelation at all; they’re just off on their own, doing their own thing, having no idea that the destination of their souls ostensibly depends on that which they don’t even know. No one seems to really be certain that he’s even there at all. Some think he is. Others believe passionately that he is. Others can’t say for sure, but their suspicion is that he’s just a myth. Some humans, divided as they are by these confusing avenues of belief, decide to destroy one another over their differences. Blood is shed. Millions of people die. Nations burn. Families are destroyed. Onlookers wonder when this God is going to set things straight so that everyone can just be at peace. But he doesn’t do this. The misinformation continues, century after century after century. And in the one place where he allegedly spoke his definitive message to humanity, he fails to make a convincing case. It’s almost as if he purposefully allowed room for doubt. It’s almost as if he wanted the message to be so tenuous that most people would miss it altogether. In fact, the curious spectator must conclude that this God doesn’t seem very interested in a productive revelation as much as he’s interested in just dicking around with his creations.

If you believed in a God but refrained from deciding whether or not he was good, and if you noticed these above things in your search for evidence, what would you conclude? What does the data at your disposal tell you about this God? I don’t see how you could possibly conclude that he was a good God. You could only conclude that, at best, he’s a mischievous God or, at worst, an evil God. And yet millions of people stand in church every Sunday morning and sing about how good their God is. But they decided this against the evidence, not because of it.

I think the notion of God is ridiculous, but I think the notion of an evil God is even more ridiculous. I personally think there are only two options: 1) God exists and is good; or 2) no God exists. Based on the evidence, option #2 is much easier to believe than option #1. If you go with option #1, you must perform all kinds of mental gymnastics in order to achieve the aforementioned reconciliation. If you go with option #2, you still have some hard questions to answer, but you don’t have to betray yourself to answer them.

But what about our earlier question? What if there was a God? What would reality be like? What would the world be like? What would your life be like?

This is what I think:

If there was a God, you’d know it. “Belief” wouldn’t have anything to do with it.
If there was a God, you’d see his fingerprint everywhere; there would be no room for doubt.
If there was a God, his revelation to humanity would be clear, unambiguous, and available to anyone at any time.
If there was a God, reality would make sense.
If there was a God, all who ask for help would receive it, with no conditions or caveats.
If there was a God, those who pray for peace on Earth would receive it.
If there was a God, he would be free; anyone could come to him at any time without having to do this or say that or believe this.
If there was a God, you would receive answers when you ask for them.
If there was a God, miracles would be happening everywhere, every day, for all to see.
If there was a God, no one would go hungry.
If there was a God, there would be no such thing as fear.
If there was a God, nothing could possibly be arbitrary.
If there was a God, and you knew it, you would stop hurting.

That’s pretty much all I have to say about it.