The God I Don’t Believe In

The God I don’t believe in wrote the Bible through verbal plenary inspiration. What God wanted to be in there, word for word, is in there.

The God I don’t believe in is accurately represented in the Bible.

The God I don’t believe in controls the weather.

The God I don’t believe in sends sinners to hell for doing things he doesn’t like.

The God I don’t believe is definitely male-gendered and is best described with the pronoun, “he.” Preferably, “He.”

The God I don’t believe in is an autocratic dictator. What He says goes, whether it’s morally right or not.

The God I don’t believe in makes everything happen. For a reason, of course.

The God I don’t believe in sends LGB people to hell for having sex with people of the wrong gender, TQ people to hell for being “confused,” and intersex people for having sex with anyone because they’re “defective.”

The God I don’t believe in lives up in heaven, which is in the sky, or somewhere in outer space, in a shiny golden city in the clouds.

The God I don’t believe in makes sure good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people. Kinda like karma.

The God I don’t believe in determines moral right and wrong purely on divine fiat.

The God I don’t believe in created the universe in six literal 24-hour days.

The God I don’t believe in guided evolution to make sure the world turned out the way it is today.

The God I don’t believe in was so angry at human beings for being sinful because of the sin nature they were born with that he had to have his own son Jesus brutally executed in order to justly forgive us, because he loved us so much.

The God I don’t believe in answers prayers about parking spots and let six million Jews die in the Holocaust, those Jews’ prayers for salvation notwithstanding.

The God I don’t believe in commanded his people to commit genocide.

The God I don’t believe in wants us to do whatever the hell we want with the earth, but God forbid(s) we have sex before we get married.

The God I don’t believe in is very nitpicky about how he is to be worshiped, going so far as to personally execute people who get it wrong.

The God I don’t believe in sends (or allows) people to (go to) hell because they believe the wrong things about him.

The God I don’t believe in was heavily mediated by the Apostle Paul, and shared many of Paul’s prejudices.

The God I don’t believe in is omnipotent, able to cause tornadoes to pass over the neighborhoods of some believers and destroy the neighborhoods of other believers.

The God I don’t believe in cares a lot about whether you believe in the Trinity, and precisely how you describe the Trinity.

The God I don’t believe in cares a lot about communion, or the Eucharist, and whether you think it’s a symbol of Jesus, actually is Jesus, is with Jesus, or Jesus is spiritually present in it, or God knows what other options now exist. Pick the wrong one and you’re headed straight for hell.

I’ve been engaged in an ongoing internal debate about whether I believe in God for a while now. It seems like an awkward meditation to be engaged in, especially while I’m in seminary and considering ordination, but if you can’t ask hard questions about God in seminary, where can you?

I’ve been going back and forth for a while now – around four years, I think. Some days I believed in God, but a lot of days I was pretty sure I didn’t, but I didn’t want to admit it – even to myself. I labelled it “doubt,” or uncertainty, or unknowing, but the reality – the truth – was that I didn’t believe in God.

Here’s the thing, though: The God I didn’t believe in (and still don’t) looks more or less like the depictions in the first section. And over these past four years, I’ve engaged in probably hundreds of conversations about what God is like. Maybe God didn’t exist, but I would defend God’s righteousness against all comers.

I would have discussions about how I didn’t think God was there, and to quell my despair I would reach for the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.

I didn’t think the Bible always portrayed God rightly (and I still don’t), but when a friend recently challenged my argument that God wants economic justice for poor people, I was on him with so many Bible verses faster than if a fundamentalist was trying to prove the Bible is the word of God.

I’ve been working on this post since Saturday (today is Tuesday). Saturday, I wrote everything above the fold, and I felt good about it. Later I went back and read it and realized I hadn’t written anything that would have been problematic for me if I did believe in God!

I think the problem, then is the way I imagine God. Because even though I find it impossible to believe in the God I described earlier, I also find it almost impossible to imagine God otherwise. No wonder I keep thinking I don’t believe in God!

So I’m trying to retool how I think about God.

Sometimes I start my prayer, “Mothering God.” That just flips everything I imagine about God upside-down.

I did a google search for the phrase “what do you mean when you say God” that led me to all sorts of fascinating and exciting content. It’s not enough for me to say I believe in God in a way that is not the way I imagine God, because I’m going to keep right on imagining God the same way as before, and I’m going to keep thinking that I don’t believe in God!

We can’t speak of God and not have some notion of what that word means – what God is like – even if it is wrong. If we say “God” and don’t mean anything by it, then “God” is a nonsense word, like Iyfilteringlut.

I’ll post some thoughts I’ve been considering for how I might imagine God and what I might mean when I say God tomorrow or the day after, but until then, I have a question for you:

How do you imagine God?

My thoughts that I posted later

Please refrain from making nonsense-comments like “I believe in the God of the Bible.” I will immediately ask, “Which one?” because the Bible depicts God in so many interesting and incompatible ways that this statement provides practically no information at all, and barely more than if you had said, “The one true real God.”

David M Schell About David M Schell
David M. Schell is a doubter, a believer, and a skeptic. He writes about God and stuff. He is happily married to Kristen, and that's why his posts don't come out as often or as angry.