For a moment, take a step back and forget all the ideas that come to mind when you hear the word "God." Forget about organized religion and everything that flows from it. No Jesus or Buddha. No corrupt religious figures abusing their positions to raise money or shelter sin. No holy wars or persecutions based on humanity's flawed understanding of divine intent. None of it.
Just a force in the universe, not only more powerful than humanity, but greater than anything we have known. Something beyond mere biology with the ability to create worlds and predetermine tomorrow's history. By definition, it's almost too much to comprehend, and, not surprisingly, I have trouble accepting the existence of such a power. But that's not the same as saying God doesn't exist.
After all, God -- like the Loch Ness Monster or that Canadian girl I lost my virginity to junior year -- can neither be proven nor disproven. And given that, it always seems to take an act of both extreme faith and arrogance to mock the very notion of a God or to tell others you know precisely what He is thinking.
Her name was Samantha and she totally exists. Just lives in Vancouver is all.
But that doesn't stop people. And while I can accept whatever's in people's hearts, there's no reason the rest of us have to keep hearing about it. Here are the four things about God I've heard enough of from both atheists and the devout.
#4. Devout: God Hates X
First off, no one says God hates Ecstasy. That's not the point of this title entry. I'm referring to people who claim to know what God hates, whether that's "fags" or really hot sex or people who pray to the wrong god. The devout can believe what they want and even teach it to their children. I hope it gives them strength and comfort like a warm blanket against the cold brutality of the world. But that doesn't give anyone license to use their God as a weapon.
These are the people who actually believe in an omnipotent Creator and the only thing inspiring enough for their protest sign is what that Creator hates? Why would anyone want to hold that up to the world? That can't be the best way to honor God. I mean, think about your own parents. If you were really proud of your folks and wanted to tell everyone how great they were, would you whip out a list of things they hated? Personally, I hope my own children would share things I taught them or talk about how safe I made them feel, not how great I was at hating on cable news and pop culture.
"Best thing about my Dad? Probably that crazy mean stuff he said about the Black Eyed Peas."
But there's another problem with defining your faith by who your God despises: How do you know? Some of you would say, "Because the [INSERT HOLY BOOK HERE] tells me so." Perhaps it does. Or the translation you have does. Or that part of the book written by a disciple or scribe or divinity student does. And perhaps there are no other sections of that same holy book that preach tolerance, forgiveness or even ideas that run directly counter to the tiny passage you've clung to in support of hatred. Maybe that's all possible. I'll even go further. Let's pretend it's somehow indisputable that yours is the only true God and your holy book was written by God, Himself/Herself/Itself. That it came off the heavenly presses and was placed in your hands before the ink even dried. (Although last I checked, God didn't have a thriving Twitter account so I'm not sure he could even land a book deal today.)
Not yet a CBS sitcom.
But even giving you and your Holy Book the benefit of the doubt, there's still a problem: You're still you. Just some dude. Are you so impressed with yourself or so intellectually uncurious that you think you perfectly understand the will of God just by reading a book? Hell, put five scholars in a room together and they'll fight about Shakespeare's actual intent with Hamlet. For what it's worth, Vladimir Nabokov and I have diametrically opposed views on Kafka's Metamorphosis. Does anyone truly understand what Joyce was on about in Ulysses? And these were just books written by geniuses -- not all-powerful, all-knowing deities.
Although the extremists in my faith can be as didactic and angry as any other religion, Judaism does have one feature that makes me very proud: the Talmud. The Talmud is NOT the Torah (Hebrew Bible); it is a book that attempts to interpret the Torah. Each section of the Torah is given a page where its meaning is then disputed by the best and the brightest Rabbis whose interpretations are each recorded in a corner of that page: four Hebrew scholars who all read the same allegedly divine passage, but in four different ways.
Having a one in four chance of being wrong about God is not that big a deal if you're telling people God loves them, but you don't really want to throw stones with those kinds of odds. Unless, of course, you think the New Testament, the Koran or whatever other holy text you follow is impervious to misinterpretation. Then, of course, carry on with your God-sanctioned hatred.
#3. Atheist:God Is Not Great
I take issue with how deliberately and needlessly provocative the phrase is. Also, how illogical. "Hey man, this God you believe in that I totally don't believe in? Yeah, well, he sucks!" Kind of tries too hard, y'know? I mean, after all, if chicks think you're a badass for saying your old man or your High School principal sucks, then, wow, imagine what a rebel you are for saying God sucks.
"It takes a big man to stand up for what he doesn't believe in."
But my main complaint is that most purveyors of this sentiment don't really have a beef with God. Even Hitchens' book mostly tears apart the abuses of organized religion, particularly Judaism, Islam and Christianity. I'm surprised how often atheists conflate the two things. Of course organized religion sucks. It's run by people. Religion, like government or anything structured and administered by humanity, will always be flawed and ruined by all of our weaknesses and failings.
And given how much we suck, why shut the door completely on the possibility of something in this universe being better, stronger and wiser? Something we could strive to be more like? It's always seemed to me that the most virulent atheists -- not mere nonbelievers, but those who claim to be positive about God's nonexistence and openly hostile to anyone who could think otherwise -- are incapable of believing there could ever be something greater than they. Not a lack of faith so much as humility. Certainly, that's not true for all atheists, but it doesn't help the atheist cause that the three most hostile atheists I can think of are also on the short-list for most overbearingly arrogant.
If we find out Trump and Gene Simmons hate God too, then that will just clinch my argument.