Freedom From Religion Foundation
I was 6 years old and stricken with grief over the recent death of my dearly beloved dog. Our minister dropped by to visit my mother and I asked him to tell me how I would meet my dog again in heaven. He said I would not meet my dog in heaven because animals have no souls and God does not allow them in heaven. I would, however, meet all my relatives in heaven, and wasn’t that nice?
I was horrified. I tried to negotiate. I said I would be willing to trade a couple of aunts and uncles for my dog. The minister said God would not trade. I stomped my foot and said I thought God was mean, and I didn’t want to go to his nasty old petless heaven anyway. I ran away crying.
My embarrassed mother made me come back and apologize, but my heart wasn’t in it. I detested the minister from that day onward. Furthermore, what I learned about God in Sunday school did not improve my opinion of him. For instance, why would an allegedly loving and all-powerful Father have to make his Son die a cruel death before he was willing to forgive people? Why not forgive them right off? And if he did agree to forgive them after the Son’s death, why was he still sending people to his super-sadistic hell for all eternity? (I had a Catholic friend who told me that my whole family would go to hell because we went to the wrong church. Her parochial-school “Sister” said so.)
I was a nuisance in Sunday school. I asked many questions but I got no answers. I was told that questioning was evil and I must simply believe everything because that was God’s rule. Worst of all, I was expected to become a cannibal and consume the actual flesh and blood of Jesus, whose gory demise was shown to us children in a life-size painting. I wondered, what kind of a Father arranges the cruel death of his own Son and then tells people to eat him?
Later, as an adolescent, I decided to find the answers on my own. I would go to the source, and read the bible for myself, cover to cover. I didn’t expect to find God so completely demonized by his own “holy word,” yet the biblical stories gave him so evil a character that I was astonished that anyone could call it the Good Book or continue to respect its main protagonist.
The divine monster of the original old King James version has been to some extent whitewashed by later editing and revising, but he is still bad enough so that perhaps the greatest miracle of modern Christianity is how he can appear good to the bible-reading fundies. He played a very cruel trick on Abraham, for example, ordering him to kill his son (there was a lot of eldest-child sacrifice in Old Testament times, apparently). I despised Abraham for caving in. I decided that if God ordered me to kill my child, I would tell God to go to hell.
Then there was the story of Job, which a lot of people seem to think a valuable moral lesson. On a whim, God slaughtered all of Job’s relatives, servants and domestic animals, apparently to win a bet. Readers are supposed to feel sorry for poor Job but neither God nor anyone else seemed to pity all those murdered innocents.
And God certainly didn’t mean it when he said: “Thou shalt not kill.” In all the Old Testament books, God ordered gigantic slaughters of men, women, children, babies and domestic animals, excepting only virgin girls, who were to be taken prisoner and raped by God’s warriors. God commanded the murders of witches, homosexuals, adulterers, blasphemers, any of your family members who fail to worship him properly, and any person who works on the Sabbath, which automatically condemns all employees of airlines, hospitals, drugstores, supermarkets and department stores, among others.
God condoned slavery, rape, and torture. He allowed men to sell their daughters into slavery or to beat a slave nearly to death with no punishment if the victim survived for a few days. Jesus also said it was permissible to whip slaves. He promised that anyone who believes in him can drink poison and play with venomous snakes without harm. Such demonstrations of faith have been tried — often with rather disappointing results.
To my adolescent self, God was terrifying. If he could do such awful things to innocent people, what would he do to me, with all my taboo questions? Eventually, though, I got tired of being scared and began to be angry. With a desperate cornered-rat sort of courage, I undertook to challenge the God who probably knew already how much I disliked him. One night during a violent thunderstorm, I dared him to blast me with his lightning, figuring that my parents could think it a natural accident. I lay in my bed and said to the heavens: “I hate you. I think you stink.”
Then I gritted my teeth, squeezed my eyes shut, clenched my fists, and waited for the deadly stroke. It didn’t come. I issued my declarations again, but there was no response. Gradually, I came to the conclusion that I spoke into a celestial telephone with no one at the other end. All those fears had been put into me for nothing. God wasn’t there at all!
The next morning, I woke up and went to school feeling free and light as air. All alone, I had been born again in reverse: liberated forever from that dismal sense of oppression, newly convinced that my disapproval of God was entirely justified. Never again would I be mentally or emotionally enslaved by a cruel mythology. I was converted to truth.