This was written in 2000. The references to events of that time may be anachronistic
MAN MADE GOD
Modern science has shown us an unbelievably immense universe. It’s so overwhelming we can merely guess at it’s origins or its future. How much easier it is to make up an answer, declare it to be true, and refuse to question that declaration.
I postulate that’s why man made god, thousands of gods as a matter of fact. All were powerful; most were omnipotent. All were wise; most were omniscient. All were much better than humans; most were perfect.
Then after each god was created he was recreated. Like an auto or a home appliance, a new, improved version of the omnipotent, omniscient, perfect god has been trotted out about every year or so. The illogical idea that such a god would even need to change is shunted aside by the explanation that he gave us new revelations or that man had discerned a new understanding of an immutable truth. Some of the new revelations are a sharp departure from the earlier understanding, but god is mysterious. That solves that.
An old story has it that a preacher underlines certain parts of his sermon. The argument for those parts is so weak the preacher needs to shout to cover up the weakness. How similar that is to the evangelical idea that we all must share, or at least claim we share, the prevailing religious beliefs.
That zeal leads Americans to place symbols of god on our mountain tops, often in defiance of the law. They acknowledge him on our currency, our buildings, our most important patriotic statements, and the end zone after a touchdown.
Belief in god, no matter how credulous, is not merely acceptable, it’s required for those who want to enjoy the benefits of mainstream America. Many, perhaps most, civic or fraternal organizations require a positive affirmation of him for membership. Most importantly it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe in something. You can even make up your own god.
One organization that demands a belief is the Boy Scouts of America. They took a case to the California Supreme Court to exclude two aspiring Eagle Scouts. The naive young men thought the BSA really meant that part about being honest. Thus, they refused to acknowledge a belief they didn’t have.
It needn’t have been a problem. Neither the scouts nor any other organization will admit it officially, but every doubter has been told that all a person has to do is say he believes. The aspiring Eagle Scouts could have made up a god and it would have worked just fine for the BSA--if not for their own sense of honor.
Alcoholics, who often see things that aren’t there, are encouraged by Alcoholics Anonymous to fight their delusions except when it comes to a god. Seen or unseen, he must be used to help them battle something they are told they are otherwise helpless to fight. If an alcoholic doesn’t have a god he can make one up on the spot. Nobody would question it. AA even uses a euphemism, “higher power,” to make it easy.
What about those who lead our country? They all have a god, or say they do. You’ll not find an admitted atheist among the 435 members of the house, 100 members of the senate, or nine members of the Supreme Court. Of course some don’t appear very religious. Given the eager acceptance of even an ill defined god, it’s easy to make one up. Rep. Sam Rayburn, long time house majority leader from Texas, could have been thinking of religion when he said “To get along, go along.”
And the big guys themselves, how about them? Just this past year, both of our presidential candidates wooed the electorate with repeated expressions of their own piety. Al Gore claimed to follow the faddish mantra of today’s pious youth with “What Would Jesus Do?” The nice thing about a religious mantra is that unlike his purported statement that he had created the Internet, WWJD wasn’t questioned. When ya proclaim a belief in god you need prove nothing! That makes it easy to get along and go along.
Did Al Gore make up his own god? Nobody asked the fellow who is sometimes called one of the most scientifically astute politicians of our time. It would have seemed such a natural question too.
Turned out though that Gore, and possibly Jesus, didn’t do well in the election. He either came in second or close enough so that they gave it to the other guy. For some reason he didn’t ask Jesus to share responsibility for his defeat. God is blameless no matter what. He was made that way.
George Bush, the other guy, goes even further. He conquered alcohol, temptation, and possibly some drugs he won’t mention, all with the help of god. He never misses an opportunity to tell us of his devotion to the god (or son of god, representative of god, lamb of god: take your pick) he once called a great philosopher.
Bush once checked with the guru of his predecessors, Billy Graham, on whether Jews could go to heaven. Graham decided he couldn’t answer for god--this after a lifetime’s preaching that the only way to salvation was through Christ. We can not only invent god, we can reinvent him in a moment of political correctness. At least we can if we have the stature of a religious guru of presidents.
In any case our new president’s popularity will not suffer because of his faith in the almighty. Faith is expected throughout the land, demanded in some places. Bush’s springboard to the highest office in the land was the governor’s mansion in Texas, the state whose constitution opens with: “Humbly invoking the blessings of Almighty God, the people of the state of Texas do ordain and establish this Constitution.”
After acknowledging his existence in the preamble, the document insists its employees and officers do the same. Article I Sec 4 says, “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust in this State; nor shall anyone be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being” (emphasis mine).
In Texas, the state that holds with rugged individualism, ya can believe in anything folks, but it darn tooting better be something. If ya don’t have a god you’d better make one up or forget about any job with the state. Texas doesn’t fool around with no varmint atheists.
Nor is the Lone Star State alone. An aspiring office holder or public servant also must acknowledge a belief in god in North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Maryland and, Tennessee.
Of course that flies in the face of the establishment clause of the US Constitution but it’s right there in the Constitutions of those states. Furthermore it’s tacitly required in the other forty-three. If you don’t believe it, run for office in your own local state and describe yourself as a dreaded nonbeliever. On the other hand one can just say he believes in something and folks won’t fuss a bit. What would be the outcry if those constitutions excluded any one religion?
One who wants to make up his own religions has all sorts of examples to choose from. According to Michael Shermer in his book How We Believe, some ten thousand religions, each with its own idea of god, have been recorded since the dawn of history. In addition many other ad hoc gods have been created then discarded as soon as a problem was solved, or when it just went away.
The histories of all cultures are replete with references to God. The Sumerians of Mesopotamia were the among the first to give us a written record of their history. They had many gods. One was Ninkasi, a goddess of brewing. Her name meant “you who fill my mouth so full.” I like Ninkasi even though she was a minor goddess. If I were to make up my own god or goddess it would be one like her.
Surely she and the other Sumerian gods and goddesses were made up. Otherwise, where did they go? The nature of a god is to be eternal.
Some of the gods of other early civilizations weren’t as benign as my favorite, Ninkasi. Take the Aztec god with the wowser name of Xiuhtecutli. He was the god of fire. They appeased him by placing sacrificial victims on burning coals, after their hearts were cut out. The once immortal Xiuhtecutli is gone now, replaced by the one true god of the European conquerors. The European’s true god in turn was replaced by other true gods of folks who believed differently.
The god we Americans of today are faced with is the god of the Bible. The Bible is considered his holy word. It is often quoted, albeit selectively, to prove this point or that point. Some of the parts do seem a bit difficult to comprehend in light of today’s knowledge of the universe. For example Genesis 1:6 17, 7:11, 8:2 tells of a firmament that can be opened or closed to allow rain to drop on us. It must have been easy to imagine a god who simply made it that way. Those parts of the Bible aren’t quoted very often nowadays.
Neither is Matthew 19:12 which seems to laud eunuchs as being especially worthy of heaven. That would include those “which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.” Christians with strong libidos hardly ever mention Matthew 19:12. I suspect most avoid thinking about it.
Not that thinking is all that important. Without a lick of proof, folks can simply pick and choose whatever suits their purposes. Take the Southern Baptists. The Baptist religion routinely splits along the lines of politics, geography, and race since it, itself, split from the Congregationalists around the middle of the 18th century.
The biggest rift came in 1845. Southerners wanted sanction for slavery. Northerners did not. The Southern Baptists emerged and used their version of god to justify one man’s owning another man. Because their own made-up god approved, the Southern Baptists didn’t have to offer a lick of proof to justify slavery.
Certainly proof is in short supply in another church, the one that not only uses the Bible, but gave us a whole new scripture. According to Trouble Enough, a history of Joseph Smith and the early Mormon Church, Smith claimed The Book of Mormon was given to him by divine revelation. He used a couple magic peepholes and, alone, read golden plates to a friend who recorded them. Then on June 14, 1828 the friend lost the first 114 pages.
Surely this could not be a problem. With divine revelation those lost pages could simply be recorded again. But what if the original turned up again and it didn’t agree with the second reading? Neither an immutable god nor his special messengers should be capable of making a mistake. Still all wasn’t lost on the imaginative Smith. He simply translated the new, improved version with the caveat : “. . . and being commanded of the Lord that I should not translate the same over again, for Satan had put it into their hearts to tempt the Lord their God by altering the words . . . ”
Who could doubt that? There is every bit as much evidence for satan as there is for god. Otherwise the Mormon Church has been a microcosm we can study for the ever changing ideas of god. Some of the main characters of the Book of Mormon, the tribe of Lamanites were said to be so sinful and warlike that god gave them red skin. That bit of lore disappeared in the face of 20th century political correctness. The idea that blacks were not worthy of the highest level of sainthood also disappeared due to political correctness and possibly because BYU needed some faster running backs. Polygamy disappeared in order for Utah to become a state.
Such disingenuous ideas haven’t hurt the church a whit. It is one of the strongest and richest religions in the world. It’s also one of the most politically active. Not long ago the Arizona Republic reported that not one single law in Utah had passed if the church disapproved. Furthermore Mormonism is growing faster than almost any other. You can believe in anything as long as you believe in something, and as long as you control the surroundings.
Similar contradictions can be found in every religion. Some four hundred years ago the Catholic Church threatened Galileo with the rack for his heretical ideas. Recently the church that claims to be the sole earthly authority for god decided those ideas weren’t heretical after all. They now recognize that the earth isn’t the center of the universe. Even more recently they accepted evolution. Sometimes it’s hard to defend an immutable god.
Man made god. That is obvious. All of recorded history, including two thousand years of Christianity, has given us countless conflicting wild stories of him. There is not a bit of proof for any one. Such a belief was understandable when man couldn’t see beyond the range of his naked eye. We ought to know better today. It is important we challenge the credulous ideas that have allowed mankind to justify slavery, wars, inquisitions, cruelty, and ignorance.
Richard Dawkins said it best with “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.”
//Keith Taylor is a retired Navy officer and general trouble maker in Chula Vista, Ca He can be reached at KRTaylorxyz@aol.com