These days when I read friends' posts where they claim God told them to do a difficult thing like quit a job or praise God for doing something like giving them peace in a tough situation, my first thought is automatically, "God didn't do that. You did."
Since I lean a bit more towards atheism than theism, I don't believe these people are getting divine revelations from God. You are the one who convinced yourself, for whatever reasons, to quit your job and pursue an art career. Which would explain why you failed so miserably too. Because here is my biggest thing, I do not believe for a second that if an all-knowing deity asked you to do something like that, that you would fail. Theologically, Christians have a way around this claiming that God could be testing them or that you obviously weren't completely obedient, but both of these things are cop outs when things don't work out.
If we were honest, I imagine the rationale is something like this: I hate my job. Each year it gets worse and worse here. The one thing I do love is art, but with a wife and kiddo on the way, there is just no time for me to dedicate to my craft. Perhaps I should quit my job and focus on art? My wife doesn't make enough to sustain us financially, but I am sure that once I can devote myself full-time, it will work out. And if anyone questions my decision, I will say that God told me to do it. No one can argue with God. In fact, that little part of me that really wants to be successful artist must be God talking to me. Fast forward to three months later. Oh shit, what have I done? Our electricity has been shut off. My friends and family think I am crazy for doing this. I have a baby on the way. No one is buying my stuff. Maybe I am not as good of an artist as I thought I was. Perhaps it's because I lack some key ingredients to being a successful artist like PR & marketing skills, networking skills, and showmanship. I'll just get a part-time job because this starving artist thing actually sucks. Hey, this job isn't so bad. Maybe it was just that crappy job I had that made me think that quitting my job and being an artist was actually feasible. But we will still say it was God, even though this venture actually failed miserably. I mean, we didn't starve to death and I learned some valuable lessons, so it must have been God, right. God was teaching me a lesson about failure. Yeah, that's it.
When someone says that God got them through a tough time, I often wonder if it was just the idea that there is something out there controlling the puppet strings that makes people feel better. A placebo effect of sorts. After all, I know people with some pretty shitty lives who still insist that God is in control and everything will work out for good. A woman I went to church with died of cancer recently after battling it off and on for nearly twenty years. Yet, when she died her family stated God had been so good to her. Really? Twenty years of cancer is good? What the hell does bad look like then?
Have I ever heard God or felt like he was urging me to do something? Sure. Of course, all those things happened to be things I wanted to do, which is reasonable as I believe it was my own inner voice all along. It's an easy out and a good way circumnavigate your intellect. I wanted to go back to school and major in something I loved. God told me to do it. With that I was off to one of the most expensive private schools in the country (outside of ivy league) and got a degree in a field that will never pay well. I didn't stop and really analyze my decision because I had convinced myself that God had told me to do it and who was I to argue with God.
But what about those people who go do crazy hard stuff, like missionary work in Iran or giving away all their money to charity or moving to Africa to start health clinics. Are those people hearing God? Here is where I believe a lot of psychology comes into play. Some people are gluttons for punishment. They get a thrill out of doing dangerous things and if they are doing it for Christ, then they get a two-for-one bonus. There are others who are all about showmanship. They want people to see how holy they are. I would put the two Duggar kids who went to South America to be missionaries into this category. So far, it seems that the idea of being a missionary and telling people about it, far exceeds the actual mission work they have done, which is zero. There are others who are truly selfless. They see all the zeros in their checking account and then turn on the news and think, "What the hell am I doing? These people need help and I can be that person." Others don't know of any life beyond mission work. Perhaps they grew up with parents who were missionaries, or they began doing service at a young age and rather than go to college, they pursued ministry. Now they are in their thirties and the thought of doing something else is terrifying. After all, their entire skill set is grounded within ministry. And there are some that may be genuinely crazy and misguided. They will convince themselves that to be a good Christian they have to become missionaries and even when things don't work out, even when the worst has happened, they pat themselves on their back for their extreme martyrdom. Look at what a good Christian I am. God has surely blessed me.
I have a friend who is in a country I can't talk about doing work that I can't talk about either. If the reasons she was in this country were to be found out she would either be deported or jailed. There is a possibility of death. I used to joke that if her entire family was transported back in time to 1750 they would get along just fine. This has served her well in the environments she has been in as she knows how to cook with unconventional ovens, knows how to sew, and isn't really attached to electronics the way many people are these days. In short, what she is doing in the place that she is at, are perfect for her. And yet, I also see that it is extremely stressful. She often doesn't feel like she is part of the team since her role is more of support than direct ministry. And she seems a bit stuck. Every year she comes back to raise more funds and every year there is this uncertainty as to whether she will return. She pursues short-term jobs, not knowing if she will be leaving again. Although there are a number of careers that I believe she would find success in, they are more like pipe dreams because of the call to missions. She is starting to think about retirement and how that will actually work for someone in her situation and it is a bit scary. Every time she comes home I kind of hope that she won't be successful with raising money, partially because I worry about her safety, but also because I worry about her future.
We must also discuss the people who claim to hear from the Lord and then are clearly wrong. Just plain old wrong. I am not talking about crazy doomsday predictions, although this does fall into this category. I am talking about people like my mother who claim that God told her and her best friend that her husband would come back to her one day. Although the man moved back in for a month (which both claim was the answer to the prayer after the fact), he did end up filing for divorce, remarried, and is not remotely interested in getting back together with his ex-wife. At the time though, everyone knew what they meant. God would restore their marriage. That didn't happen. So were they actually hearing God or were they just saying God told them something that they themselves wanted? This kind of shit happens all the time though. Some Christians call these things prophecies. To be fair, when these prophecies don't come to pass Christians call them false prophets. A good friend of mine had a man "prophesy" over her when she was a teenager. He said she was a great woman of God who would marry a great man of God and they would work in ministry together. He claimed this revelation came straight from God. Only problem was....my friend isn't straight. There will never be a "man of God" in her future unless he was referring to the drag shows she has done occasionally. But what about the smaller things. The people who say that God told them to have more children even though it endangers their health. What about going back to school or quitting school? What about those who say God wants them to stand outside the abortion clinic and pickett. Or the people who swear that God told them that they should disobey the law in order to live by God's law? And what happens when these things don't work out?
Some will explain this by saying that we have free will and so we can thwart God's plans, but this is ludicrous to me. God is all-knowing. He is supposed to see our future so it would stand to reason that if someone was in direct contact with him, that God could tell you your future and it would be right. 100% correct. All the time. And yet these things are often vague. I don't believe it is because there are agents of Satan sent to lead Christians astray. No, these people actually believe the bullshit that comes out of their mouths. What I see are brainwashed people with overactive imaginations who come up with crazy scenarios about the end times or what will happen in the future and then confuse those thoughts as being from God. On some level, it is madness.
And it makes me worry about my friends because if there is no God, it means that they are doing some rather dangerous crazy shit based purely off their own imaginations with little to no rational thought behind it. They are quitting their jobs to pursue being an artist rather than just setting aside a little more time to actually doing art while still working. For some, this gamble will pay off, but for others they live in a sea of uncertainty that went past normal, several decisions ago. Some may be living in extreme poverty in their old age, their only comfort as they get their Meal on Wheels is that they did something for God.
Why can't we just admit that sometimes the things we want to do are what we want to do and stop attributing it to a deity? Why can't helping others for humanity's sake, be enough?
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.