An accusation I often hear from Christians regarding my unbelief is, “You just want to be your own God.”
For some people, this means, “You just want to commit sin. You don’t want to follow the commandments. You want to do whatever you want.”
For these people, I will just quote famous Las Vegas magician Penn Jillette, “The question I get asked by religious people all the time is, without God, what’s to stop me from raping all I want? And my answer is: I do rape all I want. And the amount I want is zero. And I do murder all I want, and the amount I want is zero. The fact that these people think that if they didn’t have this person watching over them that they would go on killing, raping rampages is the most self-damning thing I can imagine. I don’t want to do that. Right now, without any god, I don’t want to jump across this table and strangle you. I have no desire to strangle you. I have no desire to flip you over and rape you. You know what I mean?”
For others, they are probably telling me, “You want to make your own decisions. You want to be in control. You don’t want anyone running your life.”
They are correct in saying this, but I will argue that the same holds true for them as well.
Of course, they will argue that it is not. They will cite examples of people who gave up money, promising careers, stature, security and so on to go serve as missionaries in harsh and dangerous conditions. They will give less dramatic examples from their own lives when they subjugated their desires in order to “follow God’s will.”
On the surface, it will seem as though they have a point, but there is a hidden desire under all those things they mention — and that is the desire to please God. In other words, a Christian does all those things mentioned in the preceding paragraph because he WANTS to make God happy.
It is no different from a person who wants to lose weight to then give up eating chocolates, ice cream and soda. But one cannot say that this person is not doing what he wants. There is an ultimate desire that subjugates all the others. He is still doing what he wants.
The Christian who gives up “worldly pleasures,” in the same way, is also still doing what he wants. When a Christian does what he sincerely believes is the will of God (never mind if it is actually the will of God, if there is indeed such a thing), then he is making a decision and he is exercising control over his life. He is therefore not that different from me.
The bonus for him is that he can appear to be a good follower, and can even feel good because he thinks he’s getting a spiritual pat in the back. He can hear the divine whisper of, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Now I’m not saying that this is an active thought process. I know many sincere believers do not think this way consciously, but I believe this is what is at work subconsciously. The seeming abdication of their own will and ultimate responsibility of their fates makes them feel good. It is a burden off their shoulders, and thus is something they want.
We are all our own gods, whether we realize it or not.
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.