How to believe in God when believing in God puts you in a bad mood?
June 14, 2019 6:49 PM   Subscribe

Ill keep it short. I suspect there is a God. But I prefer there wasn't. Believing In God puts me in a bad mood, and yet I do believe there is a God.

I prefer to believe there is only energy. Quantum physics. The "Universe God" if you will. Just an impersonal universe responding to our thoughts and intentions.

Because if there was only energy, there would be no one to be angry with for creating a world, for allowing a world, like ours. No one to be angry with for failing health. For weird bodily symptoms. For weird bodies. For bad smells. For parents who die. For all the little annoyances that happen in a days time.

Its far more appealing to me.

Not only do I prefer to think there is only physics. I am a more loving, caring, happier and healthier person when I adopt that viewpoint. Those little annoyances I referenced above are suddenly tolerable. Because it's no one's just is. And I can deal with that.

But this bliss doesn't last long, as I don't believe

So I go back to believing in God. But when I go throughout my day believing there is a God, I am angry and less loving. There's a drastic difference in my happiness, my tolerance for life and people. In my ability to love. Believing in God puts me in a bad mood.

Does this make sense?

Ex: I take care of an old lady throughout the week. Today, I had to clean up a gross mess in the bathroom. Today, that was difficult because of the thought that God made it this way to teach us a lesson, or because this isn't what life was like before the fall and now we're just dealing with the consequences of someone else's mistake, etc.

Last week, when I was in a "Universe God" frame of mind, cleaning up her mess in the bathroom would be no big deal whatsoever.
posted by ygmiaa to Religion & Philosophy (35 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
My question is-- how do I incorporate belief in God into my life when it seems to bring out the worst in me?
posted by ygmiaa at 6:51 PM on June 14, 2019

In your idea of God, what does God want from you? What is your purpose?

Lots of people would have different views of this. I’m a big “love your neighbor” person. Any God I could believe in would care more about whether I’m treating people (including myself) with kindness than whether I believe in God or what I think about God. In this view, I don’t need to worry about believing in God or not or going back and forth. God is in my life like in the passage in the Gospel of Matthew ch. 25 (“for I was hungry and you gave me food...”), in the face of everyone I meet.

Other people might say, God is sending you this burden to teach you something or improve you in some way—to allow you the chance to learn how to push through and deal with those moments of anger or frustration, to challenge you to grow to as a person. In this view, you can incorporate belief in God as something you have faith in and hold on to to understand why you are facing these challenges, and you might find it meaningful that your faith in God keeps coming to the surface in your thoughts even as it frustrates you.

In general, pondering Does God exist? What is God? Why is God? is a lifelong project.
posted by sallybrown at 7:04 PM on June 14, 2019 [5 favorites]

OK your problem reminds me of nothing so much as Joseph Hellers book "God Knows" in which David of biblical fame (yes that David) is pretty much mad at God for existing but also hurt & mad because God seems to have forgotten him or is ignoring him. I wish I could offer you some theological advice that might help, all I can say is, if you're a bit of a bible nerd (this book is funnier if you read books 1 &2 of Samuel first)reading this book might not give you any answers but it might make you feel less alone in your confusion and see the humor in the irony.
posted by wwax at 7:08 PM on June 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I suggest Rachel Held Evans' books, particularly Inspired: Slaying giants, walking on water, and loving the Bible again. I just finished reading it, and it really helped me to sort out my confused, skeptical, doubting, sometimes angry, thoughts and feelings about God.
posted by sarcasticah at 7:26 PM on June 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

Perhaps examine why you feel that a strong opinion on the existence of god, in either direction, is necessary. If you accept god is real (or not), why then is the next step to "incorporate that into your life"? Unless you are to adopt a religion, why does it make any difference? You'd have a mess in the bathroom either way. Define to yourself why this matters.

Personally, I grew up religious and have in the past put a lot of work and thought into this. Twenty years ago though I had a bit of a crisis of faith and emerged from that with a distinct feeling that I could just stop worrying about it. Is god real to me? Probably not. But I can't muster any strong feelings on the matter. Perhaps god does exist. eh ok, whatever, there's no rule saying I have to do anything about that. I'm more concerned with the here and now.
posted by deadwax at 7:33 PM on June 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

You description of "Universe God" reminds me of Spinoza's "God or Nature". Don't know if you've read anything about his work? Might be his framing helps you hold onto that view that you like.
posted by mark k at 7:33 PM on June 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

A good and trusted advisor once told me that if my God isn't working for me, get a new God.

That might sound a little crazy, but... if we think that God is incomprehensible and greater than ourselves, then it stands to reason that any conception we might have of God would be incomplete.

So that's one thing I have to offer. The other is that if you're honestly looking, then you're probably on the right track.
posted by billjings at 7:37 PM on June 14, 2019 [8 favorites]

Consider that you may be a victim of the practice of anthropomorphizing divinity. It's always been a great marketing strategy for religions to give their deities human faces so that adherents and potential converts can form relationships with divinity that support their faith and devotion.

But in practicality, if you're hypothesizing an intelligent force which created the universe you see, there's no real reason to stop regarding it as an "impersonal universe." All you know about the force in question is that it has created at least one universe... maybe that's just what it does: it creates universes. And there's no more reason to be mad at it than there is to be mad at a mosquito that bites you, because biting people is what mosquitoes do. There's no actual reason to make it personal, even though that's what so many human religions tell you to do.
posted by XMLicious at 7:42 PM on June 14, 2019

Ah, I missed that you put "christianity" and "jesus" in the tags. Are you specifically asking how to believe in Christianity? That's a bit of a different question, if the God you want to believe in has to fit into a portrayal from a specific religion.
posted by XMLicious at 7:53 PM on June 14, 2019

Every time you find yourself thinking about God, catch yourself and say ugh, this again, fuck this, and think about how everything is energy and we're all just tangled up bunches of salt falling down a big hill together.
posted by bleep at 7:54 PM on June 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

I think I read this in...I forget, maybe something like When Bad Things Happen To Good People or whatever. Anyway: God's not omnipotent. God doesn't like it when three-year-olds get cancer or hurricanes happen or any of that shit. God just can't do much about it, for whatever reason (free will, etc). God can answer you when there's something it can do and when it can't, it can't. That certainly helps me with horrible shit like this.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:01 PM on June 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thanks guys--

I boiled the question down a bit more...

DeadWax asked why I feel I need to have a strong opinion on God either way. Unless im looking to adopt a religion, etc. There is a mess in the bathroom either way.

The reason I don't want to remain opinion-less on the topic is because....

While, yes, there is a mess in the bathroom either way, in believing one paradigm, I can deal with the mess. Believing the other (In God), I cannot deal with it. At least, not as well and with great difficulty.

So the question becomes....

Do I believe what makes me able to deal with the mess? Or do I believe what I think is more likely true (there is a God and he, at least to some degree is behind the suffering), even if it seems to make me less happy and less able to deal with the mess?
posted by ygmiaa at 8:04 PM on June 14, 2019

You're seeing this as a question of belief or philosophy when it seems to be more about behavior and attitude. Neither science (physics) nor religion (God) have all the answers to everything. You're putting a lot of pressure on yourself as well as examining this as something dualistic. Surely there's an approach out there that will provide you with comfort and I wish you peace in the meantime.

(I am a lifelong atheist who is very understanding and supportive of religion + annoyed by both religious zealots and atheist fanatics alike.)
posted by smorgasbord at 8:04 PM on June 14, 2019

Although from your tags I assume you're talking about a Christian God, as a Jew, a lot of what you're saying speaks to questions Judaism answers for me. Or in a lot of cases, doesn't answer at all, because having been raised on the impersonality of God, the unfairness of the world being a thing that is true and must be repaired while still believing in the beauty, the fact that we're all existing with these unanswerable questions, just the phrase "being in a bad mood" with regards to God made me laugh with how Jewish it sounds...within the context of your existing beliefs, but there's a lot in Hebrew scripture I think you might find relatable or meaningful, or even comforting to read about.
posted by colorblock sock at 8:06 PM on June 14, 2019 [11 favorites]

I see your point, but beliefs have a direct affect on attitudes. Wouldn't you say?
posted by ygmiaa at 8:07 PM on June 14, 2019

Do I believe what makes me able to deal with the mess?

Whether or not you think believing in God is objectively good is a personal opinion and can't be answered by anyone but you. There's no right or wrong answer you can crowdsource here. My personal opinion is you should believe whatever makes it easier to get through the day.
posted by bleep at 8:08 PM on June 14, 2019

The intuition that changing certain beliefs could make you happier and better able to deal with these things is probably true; just perhaps the beliefs don't have to be so deep and big as belief or disbelief in God. Cognitive behavioral therapy exercises in my experience are good for dealing with many kinds of frustration by changing your perspective, and those sorts of smaller changes to your beliefs and perspective are easier and more likely to stick.

Putting that aside, if you really want to disbelieve in God I'm sure you can find plenty of refutations on the Internet, but they aren't likely to stick in the face of a strong feeling of belief. It might be better to try to synthesize these views -- accept belief in God and try to accept the fact that there is somehow suffering nevertheless. Job and Ecclesiastes are two books of the bible that have a good perspective on this, which is sort of neglected by many Christians in my opinion.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:16 PM on June 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

I agree-- maybe an ecclesiastical/jewish viewpoint would be more helpful.

Then, of course, the question becomes... what about Jesus? How can you merge ecclesiastical belief with new testament belief?
posted by ygmiaa at 8:24 PM on June 14, 2019

What you're asking about is called "Theodicy" or "The Problem of Evil" (both will be fruitful search terms), or how a God who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good can allow terrible things to happen.

And the answer is, "Well, it's a mystery." It isn't ours to know; it's ours to ponder, and by the act of pondering, come to know God more thoroughly. And being Christian in the face of that mystery means being okay with not knowing, and that is HARD and a lot of people can't do it, and THAT IS OKAY. And pondering it and thinking God is an asshole is okay! Lots of people do that in the Bible (Jonah is my fave), and there are plenty of examples throughout Judeo-Christian history of people who come to the same conclusion -- Jews in Nazi Concentration Camps threw rocks at the sky to stone God for abandoning them.

Regarding this bit specifically:

"Because if there was only energy, there would be no one to be angry with for creating a world, for allowing a world, like ours. No one to be angry with for failing health. For weird bodily symptoms. For weird bodies. For bad smells. For parents who die. For all the little annoyances that happen in a days time. "

You might read about Pope John Paul II's later years, when he was clearly very ill. And a lot of the Western press was like "LET THIS MAN RETIRE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD HE'S SO OLD IT HURTS TO LOOK AT HIM." But a lot of older people and suffering people saw instead an example of God's grace, that a man whose body was failing was standing as an example of holiness to the world, and was forcing the world to recognize an elderly, infirm, and disabled man AS A MAN, as a human, as a person. Insisting that we look at him and not ignore him as too old to matter, too sick to matter, too disabled to matter -- insisting we see human beings as fully human.

You might also enjoy Tina Fey's book Bossypants, where she writes about her infant daughter, and write a "prayer" for her, including:
And should she choose to be a Mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back.

“My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a Mental Note to call me. And she will forget.

But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.
Maybe today you were peeping your fellow man with God's Eyes.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:43 PM on June 14, 2019 [10 favorites]

From a Christian perspective the crucifixion itself is a very strong symbol of accepting suffering -- if you are a Christian then it may seem incomprehensible that God permits horrible things to happen, but perhaps it could be reassuring that He was willing to go through them Himself.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:47 PM on June 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I guess I'm struggling to see how your question is really answerable.

Either you can somehow just choose what to believe, in which case you haven't given any reason why you WOULD want to believe in god. What benefits DO you see in your life if you believe?

Or you can't just turn belief on or off, and your question is really, how do you deal with the fact that you DO believe in god and can't help it, even though you don't see any good coming from this belief? If that is your question, that's pretty different from the one you have posed above. On the other hand, it is the question that a lot of the answers so far are speaking to.
posted by lollusc at 8:50 PM on June 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

A good and trusted advisor once told me that if my God isn't working for me, get a new God.

and following through on this -- it feels to me that what you're doing is intellectualizing God (or whatever), trying to actually define and understand this God. Which to me flies in the face of what God (or gods or whatever) must be, assuming such is even real.

That is, you can't know God. Maybe you can experience God. But know? Grasp God's meaning, intentions, reasons? I don't think so, because then you'd sort of be on God's level, no? At which point, well who needs him-her-it-them-whatever?

So yeah, if you decide to go looking for a "new God", maybe allow for one that encompasses your confusion, your frustration, your .... everything. I suppose on a practical level, this means a God that allows you to get out there and be your best self, live your best life without binding you up with anger, lack of love, resentment, irreconcilable existential paradoxes etc. Many have found just such a God, and no, they're not all closed-minded, self-righteous assholes. In facty, the ones who've found that God are decidedly none of those things, at least in my experience.

I guess I'm struggling to see how your question is really answerable.

and then there's that.
posted by philip-random at 9:30 PM on June 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

I have been grappling with this same question myself, because of what life has thrown my way: Losing EVERYthing due to natural forces, having a sick family member in need of my care, dealing with a sibling who’s belief is the only way to “god” is to become a born again christian, removing myself from an abusive marriage, the death of a close mentor... I feel the past 5 years have put me through the wringer. I take my frustrations outside in nature where I feel most connected, and the message I’ve received is that: we are all part of an ecosystem that exists only because of our proximity to the sun. That’s pretty magical, and we all matter, we all belong to this crazy little thing called life, there is no good, there is no bad, there just is what is... but we are all symbiotic to it, that is undeniable & we need to carry on doing what we feel in our gut what is meant to be. I believe there is a force greater than we understand, and although we control our lives for the most part, sometimes shit gets thrown our way. It’s not a test, no one is standing on high judging our performance, it’s just life. Live it & love it, and be grateful to have the opportunity to make a difference in someone else’s existence.
posted by Bohemian Sailor at 9:52 PM on June 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I don't know if there's a quick answer to the New Testament perspective. Let me see if I can lay out what I think about it reasonably quickly.

The core story at the heart of the New Testament is that of a highly religious people with a tradition of public debate of their religious beliefs who are subject to imperial rule. It's a rebellious and fractious time.

And into this, comes a man who we believe is the Son of God. He emerges in this milieu of public debate, and becomes an itinerant preacher. He heals the sick, he casts out demons, he raises people from the dead. But he was also extremely critical of the religious establishment.

So the story goes that the subject religious authorities appealed to that imperial authority to have this man executed. The judge essentially said, "Well, if that is what you want," and laid the sentence on him. They nailed him to a cross and let him hang there until he died (which didn't take long). A common, brutal, and ignominious death.

I don't really like the guilt/sacrifice framing of the whole story, because it can seem like Christ died because I eat too much popcorn at night and hate myself. But it's an awful story. It's an awful way to die.

And then there's the rest of the story, which is one way that Christianity answers the awful things in the world. It's almost a big joke.

In the Christian tradition I'm in, we do all of this stuff. We mourn Christ's death, we recognize our part in it. We recognize our insufficiency. We recognize our mortality. And on another day, we celebrate his victory over death and we dance and eat food.

I think that's a pretty good way to think about God: with other people, on a calendar that gives time to consider all aspects of religious life. And with food and music. But that's where I'm at today; once upon a time I was just sitting in my room depressed, getting high and reading _Summa Theologica_. God was there, too, but in a very different shape.
posted by billjings at 1:22 AM on June 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

I have a couple of resources for you. (To preface, I'm not sure I believe in God, but I certainly have grappled with it.)

The first is a great book with a lousy title: When Bad Things Happen to Good People. It's written by a rabbi after his son died of a genetic disease, and it really grapples with the question of the nature of God. To summarize incredibly badly, if God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving, how can we reconcile that with the nature of suffering? One way is to believe that the suffering is required, but that is pretty hard to swallow. Another way is to let go of the idea that God is all-powerful. What if God set up the laws of physics, biology, etc., and then after that is more a companion of humanity rather than someone who intervenes personally.

Another book is a bit of a harder read but it's God: A Biography. This is written as if the Bible is well, a biography of God rather than a set of rules. It's just a nice way to take a different look at this God person.

The final one I feel like I am repetitive about on here but it's Becoming Human by Jean Vanier. For me this book gave me a big perspective on human frailty, especially mine.

Good luck!
posted by warriorqueen at 4:54 AM on June 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

You might be interested in this passage by Aeschylus (500 years or so before Jesus):

Drop, drop—in our sleep, upon the heart
sorrow falls, memory’s pain,
and to us, though against our very will,
even in our own despite,
comes wisdom
by the awful grace of God.

posted by sallybrown at 6:19 AM on June 15, 2019

Your post immediately reminded me of a book: Lit by Mary Karr.

A quick snippet from one of her early conversations about God:

- Wouldn't any god be pissed that I only showed up now, with machine-gun fire on my ass?
- First off--can't you see this?--you have a concept of God already. It's one who's pissed off at you.

It seems like you might be in a similar place. If so, I'd recommend checking it out. It's an honest account of her journey to faith, with none of the doubt, anger, or eye-rolling left out.
posted by fairfax at 7:58 AM on June 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

One of my many quarrels with Evangelical Christianity is its assumption that believing in God will make you happy. As the Catholic mystic Friedrich von Hügel wrote: "Religion has never made me happy; it's no use shutting the eyes to the fact that the deeper you go, the more alone you will find yourself .. Religion has never made me comfy."

I don't think I would want to go that far, but it seems to me that von Hügel has put his finger on an essential point. A lot of Christian writers would say that belief in God leads not to happiness, but to a sense of restlessness and longing. George Herbert describes this most beautifully in 'The Pulley':
Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness;
Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
May toss him to my breast.
Perhaps we need to enlarge our sense of what 'happiness' is. In the Aristotelian tradition, after all, happiness is not simply a state of mind -- as von Hügel puts it, it's not just about being 'comfy' -- it's a state of activity that enables us to make the right choices when we're confronted with different pathways in our life.

Your moving account of having to clean up after an old lady in the bathroom, and the angry thoughts it provoked in you, made me think of this passage from Martha Nussbaum's essay 'Disabled Lives':
Washing the body of a child with Down Syndrome seems vastly easier to contemplate than washing the incapacitated and incontinent body of a parent who hates being in such a condition, especially when both the washer and the washed remember the parent's prime. So the way we think about the needs of children and adults with disabilities is not a special department of life, easily cordoned off from the 'average case'. It also has implications for the way we think about our parents as they age -- and about the needs we ourselves are likely to have if we live long enough.
I'm quite certain that thinking of this as some sort of divine punishment ('to teach us a lesson') is utterly, utterly wrong. But I'm not certain that thinking of it as 'no big deal' is the right alternative. Nussbaum suggests (again following Aristotle) that we should think of it as a question of human dignity. We should recognise that we are individuals with bodily needs, and we should aim, she suggests, 'to develop imagination and the ability to recognize the humanity in one another'. That's not necessarily a religious point of view. But perhaps religion can help you find the way there.
posted by verstegan at 7:58 AM on June 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

I grew up Southern Baptist and struggled to reconcile what I was *taught* about God with the idea that the world is a shit place where things like cancer, birth defects, natural disasters and the like (that is to say, things that are NOT necessarily the result of bad human actions) exist.

Then I discovered the Four Noble Truths, which helped me answer the question of why suffering exists.
posted by Brittanie at 8:59 AM on June 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

OK, here's two relatively short reads that I think would be interesting to you in your current state of mind (if not, please accept my apology in advance): If you want a longer read, I think the book "How To Be a Bad Christian And a Better Human Being" by Dave Tomlinson is relevant to your plight. Here's a quote: "Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent."
posted by forthright at 3:15 PM on June 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

To answer the follow-up of how to reconcile with the New Testament, here's one possible way:

Jesus only said to do one thing: love each other. He didn't leave a detailed list of required beliefs about God. He mostly talked about a loving God (who goes looking for the lost sheep and welcomes back the prodigal son), but sometimes not (when he was on the cross and thought God had abandoned him). So the New Testament doesn't condemn having internally contradicting or alternating beliefs about what God is like. And if the only thing we have to do is love each other, then it should be ok to lean into whatever beliefs help us do that.
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 4:35 PM on June 15, 2019 [6 favorites]

This probably comes from the opposite direction, but I think I can relate. I was raised an atheist, and it left me with a gap. I got used to the uncertainty, and kept an open mind. Over the years I've come to believe in... something. I can't put a name to it. The Way, maybe? I think I must be a Taoist, because the Tao describes it best for me.

You can find what you're looking for in physics, because that's is pretty much where I found it. Or in the sublime beauty of the natural world, or in the relationship between time and consciousness, or the mysteries of evolution, or the vastness of the galaxy. It can take a lifetime to get there, and not everyone ever gets to see it, but once you find it, you'll know it for what it is. It's amazing, and beautiful, and universal. The Thing at the root of every religion. Maybe it's God, or maybe it's an artefact of some pan-psychic Ur-consciousness, or it could be just a defence mechanism to keep our giant brains from going off the rails, I have no idea. There is no reason, no point, in being angry with it. It just is.

And the one thing it knows is what Karen Armstrong describes as the Golden Rule - treat the world and everyone around you with compassion and the utmost respect. Every tradition has its own way of describing this quality - the divine spark, the Holy Ghost, Buddha Nature. Somehow, this is the hardest thing for us to recognise in our rational world, because we don't know how to acknowledge it if we can't prove it objectively, and mostly we're assholes anyway. But I do believe it is there: beauty and harmony are emergent properties in the living world, and somehow we've evolved to be happier as ethical beings, assuming we can manage that much.

If you want to not believe in God in a way that leaves room for this spiritual side of life, Bertrand Russell might help. He is most definitely not a Christian, but he does have a deep appreciation for the ineffable mysteries of existence. A Free Man's Worship and the title essay from Mysticism and Logic are both excellent for this.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 2:41 PM on June 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

The two beliefs you describe here aren't mutually exclusive. There are plenty of Stephen Barr types who try to reconcile them.
posted by aspersioncast at 10:14 PM on June 16, 2019

But when I go throughout my day believing there is a God, I am angry and less loving. There's a drastic difference in my happiness, my tolerance for life and people. In my ability to love. Believing in God puts me in a bad mood.

Yeah, wrong God, I believe. But from the above it sounds like you value loving and your ability to love. Which means that you need to leave the God you grudgingly believe in and move toward love.

I agree with many of the above commenters. Love is where it's at. Which world do you want to live in? The selfless, loving world or the self-focused, angry world?

I am Christian who believes in the Trinitarian form of God. To me that means that God is not a supreme Self but rather a relationship of selves, a pattern upon which to base one's life. A selfless Lover, a grateful Beloved (who responds to love with more love,) and the dynamic Spirit of Love that emanates from the exchange. I choose to seek the world this form of God is based on -- where selflessness and other-centeredness inspire mutually loving relationships in the real, experiential world.

Now, what name(s) you give that God matter much less than the self-less loving behavior and gratitude it inspires and the world it makes manifest.
posted by cross_impact at 12:03 PM on June 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

It is possible to believe in God but still be pissed off at God, for the record.

But maybe what you're wrestling with isn't so much "does God exist" but "what the hell is God's deal". And that may lead you in some really interesting places.

Since you seem focused on the issue of evil, and on the more mundane stuff-that-isn't-evil-but-is-just-annoying, here's something to consider: it's a notion that's been a part of my own personal cosmology since I read it in a historical fiction book about the Children's Crusade when I was 13. The main characters had been following the Crusade, believing the prediction that when they all marched their way across Europe to Italy, God would help them cross the ocean to the Holy Land. Everyone was envisioning a Moses-parts-the-Red-Sea moment, but when that failed to happen, a lot of people lost heart.

The main characters were sitting there despondent, but then one of the kids said, "hang on. I think I get it. God was never going to part the sea for us because we can do that ourselves." He then turned to the other kids and said, "lemme give you an example. Do you need me to help you swim?"

"Duh, no."

"Right, because you know how to swim."


"Exactly. There's no reason for me to step in and help you do something you already know how to do. So maybe the reason God didn't part the sea for us was because...we humans already know how to get ourselves across water. Like...on BOATS." And sure enough, when a small party of kids goes to the docks, they find a ship with a friendly captain and enough room for a bunch of the crusading kids, and they board up and get underway.

That led me to the theory: God (as I came to understand God) does have the power to step in and take care of everything, but God won't do that if we know how to do it already. The thing is, maybe that knowledge is split among all of us humans on earth; and the only way to get at it is for all of us to work 100% together. Which is what God is ultimately trying to get us to do.

You may want to also explore different religious traditions, and how they conceive of God. Another thing that also profoundly affected my cosmology is learning that almost every religion and philosophy out there holds some version of the "Golden Rule" as a key part of its ethics. Which further lead me to believe that there is just one God, but God has just tried re-explaining Himself in a bunch of different ways so each one of us could find the way that we could work with best. You say that right now believing in God angers you - maybe it's that perspective on God that isn't working for you now, and another one would work a little better.

This is not an overnight process by any means, mind you. But it is a fascinating field of inquiry and exploration.

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:17 PM on June 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

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