Many people worship, or claim to worship, or at least believe in, God. That’s me. Now seems as good a time as any to answer some of the frequently asked questions about me.
Q: Are you really God? How can I be sure?
A: Yes, I am. There is no way to be sure, however. As with anything, you have to make your own judgments, and blindly following what anybody says, whether it is I, or a priest, minister, or preacher, is foolish. You can be assured that what I say is correct, and please check the facts.
Q: What about some kind of miracle to convince me that you are God?
A: There are many reasons why this isn’t going to happen. First, I don’t go around violating the laws of the universe just to convince some ignorant bonehead that I am who I say I am. Second, I really don’t care if you believe it or not — if your thinking is so limited that you must formulate absolute opinions, there is not much I could do that would convince you — and you’d be unworthy of my time. Third, you were drawn to this web site for a reason — trust me to be a little more subtle than performing parlor tricks like some omnipotent magician.
Q: You don’t fit the notion of how I imagine my God to be. Why is that?
A: You’re in trouble already. You’ve formulated your opinion based on what you want God to be, and (worse) what you’ve heard or read from others. This is very unlikely to match what I am actually like, and this can only get you in trouble. The worst thing you can do is to use my name to justify your own beliefs and opinions. If you have the strength of faith in yourself and your own convictions, fine. I don’t like words put in my mouth. I don’t like the weak and ignorant invoking my name to defend their opinions or beliefs.
Q: What about the Bible? Isn’t that more authoritative than this web site?
A: No, of course not. The testaments have been through enough revisions and translations that even if the original were authoritative, there’d be room for huge mistakes. You can get as much out of it as any ancient storybook, but keep your critical thinking facilities engaged while you’re reading it. This goes for any documents and books of the faithful. If you read it in context and with an open mind, you can get something out of it, and I encourage you to do so. However, if you follow it blindly, or (worse) use your interpretation to justify your opinions or actions, you deserve to be sent to Hell. Keep in mind that “God” is portrayed as a viscous, petulant jerk in the Bible. Is that who you want God to be? Is that who you want to be like? The Bible was written for people of a different age, whose social context included violent warring gods who smote their enemies. I don’t do that.
Q: Is there a Hell?
A: Well, not per se, especially if you imagine a Hell of the fire-and-brimstone variety, there’s no such place. However, it’s difficult to explain what really happens when you are judged unworthy. Since it’s beyond your experience, you don’t have words to express what happens — and rather pointless to do so.
Q: Without the threat of Hell, what makes people behave?
A: It’s a common misperception that a mythical Hell has any effect on people’s behavior here and now. Anecdotally, it’s easy to point to true believers who steal and murder, and atheists who behave in a saintly fashion. People’s own moral codes — yes, including your own — don’t require threats to stand on their own. Evolution has led to people feeling satisfaction for socially acceptable behavior, and guilt and shame for socially unacceptable behavior. Hell may be a convenient metaphor only as an expression of how normal people feel when socially detached. Not everybody is normal, of course.
Q: What about Heaven?
A: This is a concept that nearly everybody struggles with, since it’s hard to imagine what could make you happy for all eternity. Most of these concepts are based on physical reality (like eating chocolate on a comfortable couch) that really have no bearing here. Imagine, for a moment, that you and your family are sent to the mythical Heaven. Does your family never argue again? Is it all pleasurable all the time? Don’t be silly. Soon, you’d be tired of that, and be ready to destroy something just for a change of pace. As with Hell, it’s beyond your experience.
Q: How can I be judged worthy when I die?
A: You have free will. Your life presents various challenges and opportunities for you to make decisions. How you make those decisions will determine your worthiness. In both small and large ways, you decide whether to make the lives of others around you more pleasant or less pleasant. It’s as simple as that. Naturally, that can be complicated in and of itself, and it’s possible to make wrong decisions without meaning to. Those looking for assurances about hitting some kind of mythical threshold for getting into Heaven should look elsewhere. It’s not a yes/no decision, it’s a continuum. The better of a person you are, the better things will go for you. If you’re an asshole, it might be time to rethink your approach.
Q: What about faith?
A: Whether or not you believe in me has no bearing on how you will be judged. There are many kind-hearted atheists. Do you seriously believe that I will damn them to Hell due to their lack of faith? Of course not, I am not the shallow, self-serving twit that some have imagined me to be. Frankly, I rather resent the implications. Conversely, there are many self-proclaimed God-fearing people who are responsible for a great deal of evil, and not only have every bit of faith in me, but also have faith that I support what they are doing and that I will forgive them all their sins. I don’t forgive anybody for evil choices they have made. It’s far better to make better choices in the first place. To be blunt, those with no faith at all usually spend more time doing good, and the faithful do a tremendous amount of damage, so if you have to choose, you’re better off without believing.
Q: I believe that if I ask for forgiveness, you will forgive all my sins. Do you?
A: Of course not. This idea was started by a church who used to sell forgiveness for cash, for Heaven’s sake. If you sin against your fellow human, it’s a blight upon your soul that you, yourself, must attempt to correct.
Q: Why do you allow suffering in the world?
A: I have provided you with every tool you need to completely prevent suffering. Humans are more than capable of preventing harm from natural disasters, eliminating cancer and other diseases, and eliminating social ills. It’s not my job to save you from every possible harm — that’s up to you.
Q: Which is correct, Creationism or Evolution?
A: That’s kind of like asking to compare dowsing with geology. Creationism is a belief, and evolution is a theory based on scientific evidence. Like dowsing, Creationism is a belief that manages to persist in the face of contrary evidence, based on small minded fools who either cannot, or will not, adequately formulate and test a scientific principle. Evolution, like any scientific theory, is regularly tested against new evidence. If you’re uncritical enough to have been drawn in to believing in Creationism, you need to expand your world view and learn about the scientific method — before you’re sold a perpetual motion machine. Before you get too smug, it’s just as silly to mindlessly believe in evolution without understanding its context within a scientific framework.
Q: But Evolution is just a theory, right?
A: No, it’s a scientific theory. The statement that “evolution is just a theory” is rooted in a deep misunderstanding of scientific thought. There are only theories in science. A scientific theory is testable, which means that it can be disproven with evidence. Existing scientific theories have not been disproven, therefore, they are generally accepted to be accurate, or as accurate as it is possible to be. Something that cannot be disproven is not a theory — it’s just a belief — for example, my existence. In other words, theory is much better than belief — belief which isn’t based on anything provable. The misunderstanding arises because there’s a difference between a scientific theory, and the word “theory” as it is commonly used, to indicate something postulated, but not necessarily reality. Your theory that a flying spaghetti monster created the universe is not a scientific theory.
Q: What’s a “Christian Death Threat?”
A: Some people are so insecure that they cannot tolerate views that differ from their own. It’s not a phenomenon unique to Christians, by any means, but it’s certainly not uncommon for Christians to lash out at anything not perfectly matching their world view. Some are just stupid, others either don’t want to or cannot understand alternative points of view, and react with unfounded rage. Strangely, this is contrary to their own beliefs and teachings, but such is the hypocrisy of the small minded.
Q: What do you want from me?
A: To put it as succinctly as possible: don’t be a jerk. Try to do the right thing, the compassionate thing, the caring thing. Think of how you’d like to be treated, what you need, and treat others that same way.