Virtually without doubt, the thousands of gods we have loved, feared, and worshiped over the eons, we’ve had to invent ourselves. But as powerful as many of them have been reputed to be, they couldn’t create themselves. To exist even in fantasy, they awaited human superstition, prophetic oration, terrifying natural events, or foreign subjugation. In a pinch to find a protector or explainer, verily did we come up with some doozies!
I’m not completely against gods, even though my atheism is biased by never having found one I can warm to. However, if making up a god makes your life happier and the world a better place, then go for it!
Unfortunately, most previous efforts have yielded gods with questionable ethics, intelligence, or sanity. The Hebrews created their deity from, I assume, spare or discarded parts previously created by other, earlier cultures. He (like most powerful gods, it was male) was OK on intelligence and maybe sanity as well. But, wow, did he fail on the ethics test.
Christians and Jews (and Muslims, for that matter)—acolytes of the Big Guy—pay less attention to the cruel side of Jehovah than once might have been the case, when tyrant gods were more in fashion. Back then, a bullying god was needed to intimidate other nations’ gods. A little bit of the good old days shows up even today. Think U.S. Army Lt. General Boykin, who bragged that “my God was bigger than [a Muslim’s] god.” (Frankly, I think that comment confused Jehovah, whose Islamic and Christian credentials are of comparable provenance. But I’m pretty sure omniscience would guarantee Jehovah’s quickly recognizing Gen. Boykin’s flattering intent.) At any rate, my point was that the whole “God is love” catchphrase in Christianity make it more fashionable to ignore Jehovah’s fussier, nastier side.
So if you want to conjure up a god, you can do far better than Jehovah. This is a blog post, not a book, so I’d be wise to leave a listing of his downright meanness to the Bible. But don’t wait for a Christian pastor to educate you on those references; they tend to stay away from them. In your immediate presence, there is probably a copy nearby with plenty of passages that make the case better than I. The ultimate Cliffs Notes, however, is the adjective-rich summary of Jehovah’s seamier side by Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion:
“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
Other than that, Yahweh’s cool. What did you expect? Perfection? Look no further. If we can accept the “God is good” pretense for a deity whose own book testifies to even a few of the foregoing character flaws, it’s no big deal to accept that he is perfect because he says he is.
I know this kind of talk is seen as the height of blasphemy by Christians, Muslims, and—to a lesser extent—Jews. But the truth is that I am not questioning God—we made him, we can criticize him—I am not questioning the projection, but the projectors. Sticking with a god created by illiterate bronze age wanderers is just, well, unseemly when a so much better god can be devised…one who will be genuinely kind, comforting, enlightening, and—except to people who threaten human welfare—non-threatening and non-punitive.
Now that’s a god I can get behind!