Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence. —Richard Dawkins
Standing at the bus stop outside a busy mall the other day, I watched as a bus driver put a man off the bus. He had ridden the entire route twice, the driver said, and he had to at least get off and wait for the next bus on the route before riding again. So, he took his small suitcase and sat down on the bench and waited.
The weather had been rather nasty earlier in the day, with plenty of rain and a few storms passing through. As the middle-aged man sat there, he’d mumble something about it being a nice day, then laugh to himself. There were some obvious mental health challenges but he was high functioning enough to be able to reasonably take care of himself. After a few minutes, the clouds broke and a ray of sunshine filled the parking lot. The man said, to no one in particular, “Oh look, there’s the face of God. You should always say hello to God.” This started him on a stream of consciousness wherein he repeated the few elements of faith that lingered in his mind. They weren’t many. One was that God would not flood the earth and that something in Thessalonians said Jesus was coming back. That’s all he had, all his mind could comprehend at that moment. The bus soon came and he was quiet again.
I try to not be too hard on matters of faith, partly because I used to be among those who believed without question and know the spell-binding effect on those who either don’t have the ability to reason at a higher level, or simply choose to not do so. When one gives oneself wholly to faith, reason can seem silly at best and an aggressive challenge at worst. People whose faith runs deep defend their position the most fiercely because that is their foundation for reality. Chipping away at their faith is like pulling a rug out from under them.
Yet, there are others for whom faith is merely a convenience, an excuse for justifying antisocial behavior without consequences. These are people whose faith is shallow. They don’t really understand the tenets of their religion and all for which it stands. Rather, they have latched on to a handful of concepts and built their own separate belief system around those concepts that just happen to be loosely based upon the religion. They call themselves Christians or Muslims or Hindus, but they are, in truth, none of those things. They are imposters who are simply trying to use deity(ies) as an excuse for their behavior. Let me give you some very recent examples of what I mean.
- Missouri state representative Tina Hulbrect said this week: “It is not up to us to say ‘no, just because there was a rape, they cannot exist.’ Sometimes bad things happen — horrible things — but sometimes God can give us a silver lining through the birth of a child.” The statement was made in defense of a bill currently before that state’s legislature that attempts to define life as beginning at the moment of conception. What her statement effectively does is use God as an excuse for both the rape and the unwanted pregnancy, saying that God uses bad for good.
- The Washington Post published an opinion piece by Chris Nye yesterday (May 5) encouraging Christians to keep their prayers to themselves. The opinion came from having observed too many large, grandiose public prayer gatherings for yesterday’s National Day of Prayer observance. The author challenges the public displays with Jesus’ instruction in Matthey 6:6 to keep one’s prayers private, even to the point of going “into the closet.”
- In North Carolina, where people seemed inclined to check with God about everything, including going to the bathroom, a tow truck driver left a disabled woman stranded on the side of a road because the car had a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker. The tow truck driver, who is actually from South Carolina but apparently does business over the state line, told the woman, “I’m a conservative Christian, I’ve just drawn a line in the sand.”
- Then, RawStory published an article on Wednesday claiming that the Dugger-related cult, Quiverful, was planning a retreat expressly for the purpose of marrying off teenage daughters. The movement bases their actions on a passage in 1 Corinthians 7:36 that they translate to be encouraging young people to get married. Interestingly enough, since that article was posted, the organizers of the retreat have removed the event from their calendar and added a banner at the top of their website claiming they aren’t doing anything illegal.
By the way, that passage of scripture on which they’re basing their actions can sound a little creepy:
If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if his passions are too strong and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married.
It’s that line about, “he should do as he wants” that is misused to justify some incredibly unacceptable behavior.
Every one of those examples, from Rep. Hulbrect’s support of rape, to the public prayers, to leaving a disabled person stranded, to marrying off teenagers, uses God as an excuse for their actions. I’m afraid I have some bad news for those people: God’s not in your corner. No deity actually supports such behaviors and it is this very twisting of religious ideologies that causes people of reason to find your religions distasteful. But here, let me try to put this in a language you can better understand.
- God does not need your help. If God is omnipotent (Genesis 18:14, Psalms 33:6-9, Nahum 1:3-6, Jonah 1:4, 11-13, 15) then he is perfectly capable of handling things without your interference. He does not need you interfering, interceding, or generally fucking things up because you, for some stupid reason, think you are a warrior for your deity.
- God is not buying your bullshit. Matthew 7:21 specifically states: Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. You can call yourselves whatever you want, but your deity can see right through your crap.
- God would just as soon you stay out of the way. 1 Chronicles 20:15 makes it clear that the battle against evil isn’t even in your hands, but those of your deity. “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” The more you interfere, the more you try to “help,” the more you are effectively stating that you don’t trust God to handle the situation. Sit down, shut up, and stay out of the way.
Using God as an excuse does not justify your actions. Ever. Exodus 20:7 makes God’s position very clear: You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
There is no excuse for anyone, of any religion, to behave anti-socially. God (however you define deity) is not here for your convenience. Your actions are not acceptable. Not by society, and not by God.