A recent conversation with a family member about my lack of belief inspired me to think more about why I’m so different than others in our family. I left behind religious belief years ago for countless reasons, and I am able to better understand those reasons the older I get and more time I have to reflect on my choices and experiences.
Although I have no interest in starting a debate, I’d like to share one simple reason why I cannot be intellectually honest and believe in a god (regardless of the religion that god might originate from). Besides other countless reasons, I cannot bring myself to believe or even seriously entertain the thought of believing in a being that would create smaller, inferior beings to worship him/her. This level of cosmic narcissism is revolting to me, and it astonishes me that more people don’t consider this.
Let’s step back and consider God as a being. He or She is an all-powerful, all-knowing, master-of-the-universe being. One day, for whatever reason, this being decides to create the universe, and with it, earth and all its various creatures. The details differ depending on who you ask, but the general story is similar across religions and cultures. This being could have created this world out of boredom, out of inspiration, out of desire for companionship–and these all seem possible, but at least in the Judeo-Christian-Muslim tradition, it seems that this omnipotent being creates humanity to worship him/her. If we imagine this being to be morally superior (this being created morality, after all), how can it’s modus operandi be something we generally find repulsive–the desire to be worshiped? We point out dictators and totalitarian rulers, and comment on how their need to be worshiped, to be revered in image and song, and we say how sad, how strange, how characteristic of a serious personality disorder that is…yet we fail to question that quality in a superior being.
If, of course, our gods were created by us and exhibit the qualities we might expect a superior being to have, it makes plenty of sense that that being would be jealous and self-serving and cruel to those who fail him/her. That, however, is not how the story goes generally.
I’m not interested in inciting hatred or starting a riot, but I am certainly interested in questioning our assumptions–especially those assumptions that lie deepest beneath or everyday thought, those things we take for granted without even realizing it. I remember once that the late Christopher Hitchens likened believing in Judeo-Christin-Muslim theism to choosing to live in a mental North Korea, and while that certainly is designed to incite a strong response, is he wrong? Might the fact that so many gods feel like dictators be evidence of their humble human origins, where the experience of peoples living under absolute power cannot help but color (or determine) the nature of their gods? Certainly some food for thought.