Being My Own God

Photo Credit: Frankie Tseng (法蘭基) via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Frankie Tseng (法蘭基) via Compfight cc

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.

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2 thoughts on “Being My Own God”

  1. The timing of this post is quite unusual. It is about a week later than your usual post, almost a week after it was on the newspaper’s website, and mere minutes before your next post. A more cynical person might find that circumspect.

    As far as the post itself goes, it is rather self-serving of you the way you choose what you respond to and how you ignore the topics of your own posts. “Being me own god”. This post has almost no mention of you being your own god. You quote one other person who made a statement you agree with, but the bulk of your post talks about others and how you think they are the same way. You flip-flop the article with some small chance possibilities, carefully wording it “for some people” and “for others”. What about the implications of what you are actually saying?

    If you think you are god, according to your previous posts, I am also god. If I am and you are, how are we both right, even though we have diametrically opposed viewpoints? According to your viewpoint, Hitler and Mother Theresa were also god. How does that coincide with your logic wherever it leads thought process?

    You and Penn may rape all you want, but what about the people who do rape because they are also their own god? Murdering? And what about the sins you do commit?

    According to your philosophy, I feel sorry for your wife and kids because you have never done anything for them. You may have done things that they wanted, but it was ultimately selfish, because you must have done them to make yourself appear to be a good husband and father. It made you feel good.

    As far as true Christianity goes, I am sure that you have heard that it is not a religion, but a relationship, a relationship with the Almighty Father. I love God for who He is. God created us to have a relationship with us. He also created us to be holy. His rules show us when we miss the mark. “The apostle John writes, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (I John 3:4). The Greek word for “sin” is hamartia, an archery term for “missing the mark.” We could say that sin is not just making an error in judgment in a particular case, but missing the whole point of human life; not just the violation of a law, but an insult to a relationship with the One to whom we owe everything; not just a servant’s failure to carry out a master’s orders, but the ingratitude of a child to its parent.”

    When I went to buy my first house, I asked people who knew more about it than I did. When you and I have read on religion, we read people who have gone before us. Does it not follow logically to ask God what is best? A good definition of God has to include that He knows best.

    Why are you so cynical to think that you know why people do what they do? Especially to present it (despite the careful few words) that everyone who follows God does it for themselves? My guess is what psychologists call projection.

    Again, I love God for who He is. I am thankful that He loves me for who I am, and that He loves me enough to not to want me to stay the way that I am. There is so much more to a Father-child relationship than rules and will. Yes, I want to follow God’s will. God loves me and knows what is best. God also loves you. If you want to openly rebel against Him, He let’s you. Like the prodigal son, if you ever decide that He has your best interest at heart, He will run to great you with open arms. And, unlike the prodigal’s brother, I, too, will be happy with your return.

    You have said that (if there is a god) that He made you a rational being, but He also made you so much more than that.

    “We are all our own gods, whether we realize it or not.” Since you are an athiest who believes in god, which definition of god are you using at this point? I cannot correlate it to any of the definitions you have given thus far.

  2. Hi Andy,

    “Doing what he wants” is a term that needs parsing, I’ve always thought.

    In your article, there are two completely different things both being categorized as “doing what he wants”. I’ve always broken it down into “doing what I want” versus “doing what I want myself to want”.

    Out here in the US, in big city secular modernity, I hear a lot of people, basic and descent people of this society, tell me not that they are atheist, rather the favorite phrase seems to be “I’m spiritual but not religious”. I’ve been trying to explain to myself what that means, and it seems to me to mean “I acknowledge an existence of spirit outside my perception and humanity, but I’m not interested in cultivating a relationship with it in any way other than just flowing along with the human world around me and being a good and decent person according to the norms they all follow”. And for the most part I think they are thinking of this as “doing what they want” versus the strictures of religion, “rules”, which they see as doing what “someone else” wants them to want, which is strongly resisted by the culture here.

    Another phrase I hear a lot, maybe if I start suggesting a religious point of view and the need to “make an effort”, is “it’s all just a dream”, and I have an objection to this, having heard it for decades now; I do agree about it all being a dream, the unreality of consensual reality, but I think the dream is a significant one that we play an important role in, and that we have a big choice to make that is ongoing, that I can describe as the difference between pushing the train uphill (and not sliding it back down), eventually riding easily up on the mountain ridges, versus rocking and rolling down the mountain and wallowing in the valley, and I think these phrases – “doing what he wants”, “spiritual but not religious”, and “it’s all just a dream” tend to cloud the reality of that important difference.

    The difference between the train that hums along on the mountain ridges and a train wreck in the valley is Freedom.

    And of doing “what you want yourself to want”, (self composed via your own insight on how , and why, to lose weight, or insight you gain through scriptures on how and why to cultivate a relationship with the universe), this or “doing what you want”, which do you think leads more likely to lead to freedom?

    George W Hegel the 19th century German Idealism philosopher taught me when I was young, in “The Philosophy of Right”, that there’s something more important than the “comfort” that we tend to “want”; driven only by our own subjective feelings, we tend to become what he called a “gang of wild colts”; beings that decide the good by what is comfortable he called “eudaimons”; freedom, he said, not comfort, was the highest ideal, and he promoted what he called the “highest cult on earth”, something he called ” Sittlichkeit “, or “Ethical Life”, our cult of higher learning that for him also included religion and led to doing what I’ve been calling “what we want ourselves to want”, informed by a spiritual and idealist education.

    And I think the problem with going along with the gang of wild colts is that we can all end up in the same gilded corral, more easily manipulated.

    In a memorable scene from my childhood, my strict mom was trying to manipulate me and was attempting to bribe me with something she had observed I had a weakness for, at the time, whatever it was, and I must have been resisting, because the part I vividly remember was when she stood there, flustered, and said “I don’t understand, don’t you WANT it?”, and I must have been less than ten years old but I told her right there, “of course I WANT it, but I don’t want myself to want it”.

    She looked beaten, changed her expression, looked at me differently and said to me for the first time that I remember, “you’re crazy!”.

    I was free.

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