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March 2010

I think a lot about the kind of god I could believe in, and what her characteristics are, and why I’m no longer a Christian.

I come to this:

The god I imagine, the true one, the ‘fount of all being,’ is a wild limitless overflowing thing of life, joy, and love. A thing totally unconstrained and unpredictable. Has to be. Nothing less. As wild as Pan – god of the earth and forest and ocean as much as god of the sky and the stars. A being of sweet, terrible life. Something like the god whose back Moses is shown a glimpse of, up on that mountain.

Unfortunately, YHWH falls a little short of the ideal. He comes close at times, true – and party-Jesus doing wine-tricks is a glimpse of the ultimate truth – but ultimately YHWH is constrained by ‘rules,’ or ‘justice,’ or hand-waving about ‘the way things are.’ C.S. Lewis has Aslan speak of a ‘deep magic’ that cannot be undone or avoided; the penal substitutionists (and the satisfactionists) speak of some code or law that even YHWH must honour – and, therefore, that we also must yield to if YHWH is to save us. (I guess god did manage to create a rock so big even he can’t lift it?)

Even further – YHWH gets upset at the things people do. And not just for their sake, either (which would be permissible.) He gets offended! And jealous! He punishes people for doing obviously good things, because they contravene his arbitrary moral code! He endorses – encourages! – mass slaughter and pillage of people outside the chosen few.

I can imagine a god greater.

Of course, the flaw in the ontological argument is the assumption that imagining something means it must exist. I hold no such assumption. Nonetheless.

Any god who falls short of the best I can imagine is a god not worth worshipping.

Fraser commented:

Hmm. Pretty much the same, except I'm more inclined to assume such a god does exist. Given two unknowable possibilities, I need to take the more optimistic stance.

Matt commented:

Aha! But my ideal god is a pretty good description of reality! So for a given value of ‘existence,’ yes!

Tim Bulkeley commented:

What I'm not clear about is why you assume the Bible gives a word for word accurate picture of God. Wasn't it written by humans? Don't humans always stuff up?

Your equation seems to be the god of the Bible is less than God, therefore God does not exist !

Matt commented:

Hi Tim! My point is more that – whether or not god exists, and whether or not that god is the Christian god (my opinions tend towards ‘no’ and ‘no’) – the god of the Bible (at least as represented therein) does not deserve my worship.

I see your point as to whether god is accurately represented in the Bible, although that seems a fairly huge criticism of Christianity. I would happily accept that god is not fully or completely represented by the Bible, but to argue that the Bible actually misrepresents god would be a pretty bold claim.

Chad commented:

Yeah I agree especially with this:

Any god who falls short of the best I can imagine is a god not worth worshipping.

For the most part the standard "Christian/Biblical" God seems wrong in some manner, a little to petty. Or at least the humans that claim to have had contact with it describe it as some thing that is far too human, error prone and petty.

Hopefully if it exists they are wrong, that instead of human it is something mysterious, alien, interested and greater.

But I must say I'm rather sure it doesn't exist, however I continue to hope that I'm wrong on it’s existence, and that it is greater than any thing I can imagine.

Nato commented:

I'm not sure I like that concluding statement. What if there was a god who embodied 99% of the best that you could imagine? I'd prefer something like 'I'd never worship a god who fell so far short of my ideals'?

To apply this to another situation: "Any person who falls short of the best partner I can imagine is not worth going out with" = You'd be single for ever. (Not that singleness is necessarily that bad?)