My best friend when I was a kid was named Brandon. The Ramanos had kids that lived next door, but they were much older than me, so I fell more in love with the Golden Eye and Mario Kart on the N64 than I did with the guys that owned it. Brandon was the Steves’ grandson, our other neighbors. The problem was that he didn’t live with them or anything, so whenever he was gone, I made do with Jake, or at least, I’m pretty sure that’s what his name was.
Jake lived just down the street, and I was allowed to ride my bike to his house and all around our suburban Rochester neighborhood, as long as I was home when it got dark. One day, as we rolled up my driveway on our Mountain Furies like the bona fide thugs we were and I prepared to go inside, he issued me a challenge. I don’t know what the conversation preceding this was, but the challenge went like this:
I bet my dad could beat up your dad!
I remember being pretty logical, even as a child. I thought about what I knew about Jake’s dad at the time. I knew that my dad had congenital scoliosis, a medical condition in which a person’s spinal axis has a three-dimensional deviation, resulting in a great deal of pain and a disability check. So I told Jake that he was probably right.
The Truth about Daddy
Unfortunately, honesty isn’t so easy when you’re a Christian. It weds you to certain claims, and being wedded to those can get you into some pretty ridiculous positions. One of those positions is defending the right to say you have the baddest daddy on the block.
God’s omnipotence is one of the most standard claims about his character. It is the understanding that God is the supreme ruler of the universe, the maker of the heavens and the earth, the star-breather. It’s also one of the attributes that makes it most difficult to love God.
Suicide, infanticide, genocide, homicide, AIDS, starvation, poverty, crime, war, famines, droughts, global warming, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. What does the world have to look like for God to NOT have everything under control?
A couple of months back, I had a lovely spar with my good friend Steve, and we were discussing the tragic death of a student from a school in the Adventist community. And I wondered what it was like to be the parents of that girl, not having surrendered that idea that God was completely in control, and that his failure to prevent their daughter’s death was somehow in his plan. The mental gymnastics that you have to do there are endless.
As an atheist, it’s a lot less complicated and, I think, less sad for me. I don’t believe that there’s some being who loves me, or who’s eternally invested in my wellbeing. I don’t believe he cares about me so much that he knows the number of hairs on my head, or divinely attends my life and offers me guidance and wisdom. And while that might sound bleak to you, I submit that it’s very freeing. Because when bad things happen, I’m not wondering how this being of infinite power and caring is letting this happen to me, I’m thinking, “Yeah, cancer. This is a thing that happens.” It works better because I don’t think I’m the center of the universe, and that takes the pressure off of, well…everything.
Things hurt a lot less if you’re more real from the start. Maybe your god can’t move mountains, and maybe that’s ok. But it’s much easier to love someone – your parents, your spouse, and yourself when you have realistic expectations from the start.
I would put “actually existing” at the top of my list.
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