Is That My Big Daddy in the Sky?
Lots of Questions Have No Answers
Sometimes when I think about a god living in the sky, alone, little understood, powerful, but apparently also powerless, I feel sorry for him.
I mean it can’t be easy. Right?
Humans pounding on his door day in and day out with endless requests must be tiring. What if we found out in the end that he was just like us, powerless to change anything? Would we still want to be his friend?
I guess we’d owe him a big apology for keeping him up at night.
Before I proceed let me just say that I started asking these questions when I was a kid.
None of my thoughts were easily expressed because if you’re raised in a religious cult, this kind of thinking isn’t tolerated. So, I knew better than to persist with the zillions of questions that I had as a child. I was probably five or six when the questions started. The more I experienced life, the more questions I had.
So, this essay is the result of my inner child.
I never figured out a way to silence her questions. People tried to silence her for me. They threatened her, whipped her, even tried to break her spirit with stories about an afterlife where a place called hell dwells. All to no avail. I remember the looks on adult faces when they couldn’t answer my questions. They became irritated and insisted upon a level of unsustainable faith rather than a life of curiosity.
I wasn’t a rebellious child either. In fact, out of six siblings, I was the most devout little Christian in the family. I wanted to believe in a god who cared about people. But the questions kept raising their ugly heads.
And I mean zillions of questions.
When I heard about a little boy who was found dead in a closet after his house burned down or a little girl who was baked in her parent’s oven, I was horrified and couldn’t sleep.
And, yes, both stories are true.
The second one I heard on the car radio one morning on my way to work many years ago and I had to pull over at the side of the rural road and scream. I really did sit in my car and scream. I was horrified and angry. Angry that a little helpless girl would be born to two such crazy parents and then be tortured to death in one of the more gruesome ways imaginable.
How can such things happen?
I read a recent story in the news about a young teenage boy who went swimming on a hot summer day and ended up with a rare brain-eating amoeba that most likely entered his body by way of a droplet of water through the nose. I felt angry—AGAIN.
Do I feel the suffering of others in my own body in the same way as a god?
I know I register high on the empathy scale, but is it possible that I register even higher than a god? Because I can’t sleep when I hear such gory stories. I never could. Does god sleep well at night? And if we’re keeping him up at night by pounding on his door, then what keeps him from honoring our requests?
So many unanswered questions.
Supposedly, I entered the world as a fallen creature, tainted by inherited sin and in need of a god to save me. At least that was the story according to the most popular religion of my culture, Christianity.
Apparently, my body is just a shell to house my soul.
Maybe that’s why god is immune to our physical suffering. He isn’t interested in our bodies. Maybe he doesn’t have a body, and so he can’t imagine what bodily pain feels like?
Even though we’re told we have souls, we’re haunted by our physical selves, because we can see and feel our bodies not our souls. We seem to be hellbent on trying to keep from feeling pain, too. I’m sorry but this preoccupation with our bodies deters us from even thinking about our souls.
The immediate needs of the body are too demanding.
Plus, we have just enough intelligence and self-awareness to realize that the day we were born, we signed a death certificate. We try to make peace with that fact, but even those of us who can embrace the idea of dying still worry about the way we’ll die.
We wake up each morning and head out the door with no cues to warn us that today we’re going to die, but just enough self-awareness to understand that death is waiting for us, even stalking us.
Did you read the story about the postal worker in Florida who was attacked by five dogs and killed?
Never in a million years would she have guessed as she sipped her morning cup of coffee that in a matter of hours, she’d be attacked and brutally killed by a roving band of dogs. People who witness the carnage of brutal deaths often require therapy afterwards. It leaves them scarred for life.
How do the gods handle it?
The Christian god supposedly has an all-seeing eye that takes an interest in my every move, even my thoughts. How does a god observe the horrible suffering of humanity times a billion over centuries and centuries and not have a complete nervous breakdown?
Could it be that our suffering doesn’t matter to him or even worse is a source of entertainment?
Everyone wants to assume that gods are benevolent. We love a god that loves us and protects us and gather us up into his arms when we pass away. Don’t we?
But what if gods aren’t good?
What if gods see us the way we see lesser forms of life, as expendable? What if we’re merely a form of entertainment to them? What if he gets easily distracted and wanders off into the universe looking for something else to do that’s more interesting?
What if he’s bored?
I’m always amazed that so many like to refer to god as god the father as though our earthly fathers provide a good comparison. I don’t see the similarities at all. A bad dad maybe. You know the dad that has children but then abandons them or maybe even abuses them after they’re born. But those dads aren’t the role models we want for our sons.
I was told that god is my heavenly father. That’s what my parents called him when they prayed.
However, I noticed that usually he was either missing in action or unable or unwilling to take care of us. How can he listen to the screams of terror and cries for help coming from his children, watching unimaginable forms of torture and suffering, knowing full well that we’re small and powerless like an infant compared to him and do nothing?
And what about those gods that have a reputation for mass killings?
Is that even being a good leader, soldier, father, or citizen? I mean intentionally wiping out the population of the entire world, babies and little children included, with a colossal flood isn’t a tactic admired by respected leaders these days. Are humans more highly evolved than gods or are gods special? They tell us “Thou shalt not kill” while reserving the right to commit genocide themselves?
Hmmmm … not to be too bold, but I’ve got a few questions for these gods.
Of course, even as I say it, I know I’ll never get the answers. Nope, not so much as a squeak of acknowledgement. I’ve been sitting over here hurting for humanity since I was a kid, waiting for this being that created me, died for me, and loves me to step in and make it all stop. Is it too much to expect the pain to stop? Am I really supposed to accept the suffering as part of a plan? If so, what’s the point in giving me a high level of empathy and compassion?
I know the classic answers.
We’re free moral agents with free will. God works in mysterious ways. Life is a test. It’s mankind’s fault that the world is full of sin. And so forth and so on.
But I’m not satisfied.
In the end, I had to learn ways to cope with the atrocities that haunt me every day. I was advised by a therapist to not read the newspaper. She offered me little tips on how to redirect my thoughts away from the macabre realities of life toward something less harmful to my emotional sense of well-being.
Fortunately, she didn’t suggest that I pray.
I warned her in advance about my emotional triggers. I don’t know if she called on a god to guide her practice as she listened daily to a vast array of personal horror stories or not. I suspect that she is like most people, that is, still hoping a good god was out there somewhere with her best interests at heart.
Eventually, as I pieced together my personal experiences and that of others, I became better at accepting life on its own terms.
Don’t get me wrong. I still hurt when I hear yet another tale of pain and suffering. I continue to be amazed at how many variations of suffering there are in the world, and it makes me mad, but I’ve realized that not everyone experiences the same level of pain from the pain of others that I do.
I’m wired that way, but a lot of people aren’t.
Not everyone loses sleep over someone else’s inhumane suffering. A fair percentage of humans register low on the empathy scale and some are completely void of empathy. Thankfully, only about 4% of humans are sociopaths. The rest are either empathetic or apathetic. My guess is that the way we’re wired determines at least to some extent how we visualize a god. The way I’m wired, to be acutely aware of human suffering, guaranteed that I’d start asking questions very early in life.
I wanted the gods to fix things and if they refused or couldn’t or simply could but wouldn’t, then I wanted to know why.
Of course, one thing led to another, until I realized that the burden of fixing things fell on my shoulders. At first that was a burden too heavy to carry. But eventually, I was able to reach the point where I accepted that I would never have the answers to my questions and that I’m only one person, not a god, and thus couldn’t fix the world by myself.
Have I been able to arrive at a few conclusions? Only this …
No god has ever fed a hungry child, started a war, or cured an illness. All we have is one another. The longer we wait for a god to step in to fix things, the longer we put off doing the things that humans can do to make this world a better place for our offspring. Humans can do great things because of our creative problem-solving skills. There lies are only hope.
Life will never be perfect because it’s too random and chaotic.
I’m a smarter animal than other species, more highly evolved. There are advantages and disadvantages to that, however. On the one hand, I am highly creative and good at solving problems. On the other hand, I can imagine things that are so terrifying that they keep me up at night. Something that the rest of the animal kingdom may not be forced to endure.
My big brain can even invent a god, give him intricate back stories, talk to him, and then claim that he’s directed me to share what he told me with everyone else.
Teresa is a retired educator, author, world traveler, and professional myth buster. You can find her books on Amazon.