I’m often asked “what if you’re wrong? What if you stand before God? What would you say?”
I believe the expectation is that I would fall down and feel utterly shameful for vehemently hating God. Except that I don’t and never have hated God, I’m simply very doubtful that the kind of God that people preach about really exists, the kind of God who lets millions of children in Africa suffer and die for a mysterious reason, but helps wealthy footballers win sports trophies, the kind of God who says he loves everyone and will do everything for their good, but will also torture them forever if they didn’t died before accepting his offer of kindness. That kind of God is a contradiction, that kind of God simply cannot exist.
It’s a foolish world we live in, where sincere questions about an idea are reinterpreted as hatred against a person. To reiterate, I don’t hate God, I simply don’t think the particular depiction of God that evangelicals promote is real. If I though he was, I would never be at the philosophical position where I am; it’s absurd to think otherwise. But lets put that aside.
But what if he existed and I stood before him?
What would I do? Would I cower in shame?
Would I run and hide? Would I ask for the mountains to fall upon me?
For why should I run and hide? What have I done that I should fear a perfectly good being?
I have never done anything to intentionally hurt a particular God that I think exists, I don’t hate any particular version of any particular God, so why should I be afraid? Is God malevolent? Is he spiteful? Is he hateful? Is he violent? Is he dangerous? Is he the kind of person you should be afraid of? A man who lives an honest life does not fear an honest judge, he only fear a corrupt judge, a judge that cannot empathize or understand, a judge that is more interested in cruelty than kindness.
No, if I met God I would not run and scream, I would ask to sit next to him, and quietly ask him some questions.
Perhaps I would start off by saying:
“Dear God, I know that you’re eons above me, and perhaps you owe me nothing at all, but may I please ask you some questions? You saw my heart and know that I was sincere, I made the best choices with the information you made available to me, and that led me to conclude that the picture they drew of you was wrong, or that you didn’t exist at all. Now that I can plainly see I was wrong, I want to understand how. Seeing you doesn’t clarify the big issues I have had. Can you help me with some of the difficult questions that your followers haven’t been able to answer?”
And I would sit there and ask God some questions.
1. Why did you stay so hidden?
I’ve spent so many years looking for you, I’ve studied science and philosophy, I’ve studied the Bible, and a little bit of the books of other religions. I read the arguments and studies, I did the calculations, hoping and seeking, but all I really wanted to was to be your friend, to know you were real. You saw that I devoted thousands of hours praying to you, talking to you, asking you to show me you were more than a figment of my imagination. And all those times you never answered, not even once. Not even for one second. There were hundreds of occasion where I had to make up answers in my head, hoping they were from you, but deep down I knew it was me, it was always just me. Never you. Why?
Why not just take 10 seconds to quietly whisper in my ear? Why not dispatch the lowliest of your trillions of angels, surely you have a dozen for every person in this world. Why did you remain so quiet? In my deepest moments of need, when tears streamed down my face, and I screamed and begged for you to just be there, to let me know you heard me, why didn’t you? Why did you hide? When I suffered and felt pain, why did you hide? You made a thousand promises in the Bible, but you didn’t even keep one for me? God, you know how much I wished for it, how many times I promised you that I’d give everything up for you. You know that I offered to give up my life, I was willing to sacrifice it all, my money, prestige, family, future, all of it for you. Yet you remained silent and distant, you never explained any of it, God, please, tell me why?
2. Why do you choose torture people in hell?
God, I sincerely can’t understand your desire for the pain of others. Vengeance is never the answer, even Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek. What possible benefit do you have for causing so much pain and misery for these people? What sense is there in torturing a woman for a trillion years for a short miserable life of 50? Why would you want to punish people? Why desire to cause them such dire pain and torment? Why do you prefer that they receive pain than forgiveness? Why not empty hell? Do you not have compassion for these people as they are burning? While you look at their screaming faces and withering bodies, have no you love… or at least pity?
Is your vengeance so overwhelmingly powerful that you would not rescue them from the burning fire after a time? I would not wish such a punishment on my worst enemy, and I am but a mere human mortal, not perfect by any means. A thousand trillion years of torture for every second of sin feels so cruel and pernicious, why would you even dream that up in the first place? Why does such horrendous vengeance please you so? Why not change it to something, to anything, that is kinder and more merciful? Why such horrendous vengeance more important to you than kindness and forgiveness?
3. Why would you refuse to answer prayers that help the needy?
Do you remember those sick children God? The ones I prayed for? Time and time again, as my eyes would glance upon them in their state of utter misery, eyes filled with tears, begging you for help, I joined them in prayer. I wished for you to swiftly come and help. Cancer, malaria, aids, muscular dystrophy, such horrific and ugly things. Why did you let them exist in the first place I’ll never understand. But even more so, why did you ignore the prayers of the needy? You promised God, in the Bible, I can quote you the book by heart, you promised to help people, you promised to answer prayers. So why didn’t you do it God?
Why did you make a promise and then disappear into the silence? Every day of my life, billions of people suffered unimaginable sorrows, all of them cried out to you and begged you for help, but you didn’t do anything. They listed the promises of the Bible, to answer our every need, to answer us in our time of trouble, but there was no reply. Our help came after thousands of years of your absence, we created antibiotics, vaccines, Tylenol, and surgery, we did it because you were not there. Every hospital we built is a somber reminder that you don’t answer prayers. A few people claimed you healed them, though our psychologists said it was placebo, but in the end, with such a small handful of people, it doesn’t matter. You promised to help us, but 99.9% of people in the world suffered and died in excruciating pain, begging for your help, and you never responded, even though it would cost you nothing at all. Why?
4. Why were you so violent in the OT era?
As I read the Old Testament, my heart broke a thousand timed, over and over again. I was not grieved by the people described in the book, I was grieved by it’s narration of you. I hoped it was wrong, but turns out you are the same God of the Old Testament. Why did you have to do it this way? Perhaps it’s too bold of me to question you, but I still will, not to judge you, but as a child who sincerely wants to understand his parent. I cannot fathom how you could promote such ugly, vile, barbaric cruelty? Why would that even interest you? Why would you even care about creating rules for slavery, teaching the subjugation of women, or commanding armies to brutally slaughter masses of small children? Why didn’t you send Jesus in the very beginning?
Why didn’t you teach love, peace, and kindness from the start? Why did you send plagues and armies? Why did you support so much violence? My heart breaks just thinking about it? I thought so highly of you before I read the Old Testament, and now, please forgive me for this, I have a hard time differentiating you from your enemy? How are you two different if you both support such ugly violence? God, I’m so sorry, but I hoped for something more transcendentally beautiful from you.
5. Why would you be so unclear that there are thousands of religions and denominations?
When I looked for you, I heard stories from a thousand different people, who came from all kinds of backgrounds, and they all claimed to have seen you. But they described you differently. To some you were a Trinity of persons, to others a pantheon, and still to others just One. Each of our religions had different pictures, rules, and rituals. From our measly human perspective, it was so difficult God, utterly difficult, to know the truth. How was I supposed to know which religion to pick? They all argued convincingly, they were all persuaded, millions of people from every religion died for their faith. God, they died – they gave up their one and only life – that’s how certain they were. And yet it turns out almost all of them were wrong.
That just seems so unfair God, why would you allow such chaos and confusion? Why not make your Bible clearer? There was so much you could have done to prevent this, all at no cost to you, so why leave us to blindly grapple with the invisible? Why not simply make write your dictates in the stars? Why not spell it out in our hearts, in such a way it’s impossible to misinterpret? Look at our modern books, they are not vague, they are clear, there is no misinterpretation of these, there are not 2,000 different ways to interpret our modern legal code, we have found ways to write coherently and unambiguously, so why didn’t you? Why didn’t you make it perfectly clear God? At least we would all focus on obeying/disobeying the true religion, instead of dealing with the confusion and fear of joining one of the millions of false religions.
Would God reply?
And what would happen then?
If the evangelical Christians are right, God’s wrathful anger would boil hot and he would crush me and torture me, as I scream in breathless agony. That version of God would probably never stoop so low as to answer my questions, I’m a rebel that needs to be burned and destroyed, nothing more.
But if there is a real God and it/he/she is perfectly good, then I am certain we will have the most interesting conversation in the history of the universe.