December 1, 2020

Theirs is a Jealous God

Jealous God

There are many things that bother me about the sort of god many Christians claim to worship. The image above captures at least one of them fairly well: the absurdity of thinking that a god so powerful, wise, and loving would demand worship from humans and condemn them to eternal punishment for not believing in it. There are plenty of others, but we can stick with this one for now. Doesn't it seem obvious that only a god created by humans would have such petty desires or a need for veneration?

I suspect that this is indeed obvious to most atheists, but that does not appear to be the case for many religious believers. I can remember at least one conversation I had with a Christian many years ago where I had just made this point and the Christian came back at me with, "I don't understand why you don't see the appeal of worship. Wouldn't you want to be worshipped too?" It seemed to me that he had just made my point for me, and I was dumbfounded when he was oblivious to this. Why would we arrogantly assume that a supernatural being with the characteristics most Christians assign to their god and which exists outside of time or space (and reality) has a mind that functions just like ours? Why would we allow our limited comprehension to restrict the mind of such a being?

Perhaps the answer lies in the need many religious believers seem to have to worship something. If it wasn't their preferred god, it would be another god. And if it wasn't another god, it would be something else. They might worship a political leader, for example. Maybe what is really going on here has very little to do with the god they are trying to depict and is more about themselves and their own desires. Maybe they are creating something to worship just to fulfill their desire to worship.

Subjects like this are the kind of threads that quickly lead to the unraveling of the mythology when pulled. Many educated Christians are aware of this, and that's why they often discourage critical thought and seek to elevate uncritical faith as a substitute. But faith is not an adequate substitute for much of anything. It merely involves abandoning the search for truth in favor of primitive wish fulfillment. We're better off without it.

An early version of this post appeared on Atheist Revolution in 2012. It was revised and expanded in 2020.