Godflagration and the Search For a Better God

Godflagration (gɒdfləˈɡreɪʃən) — n  all hell breaking loose in the name of God. (Origin: 2010; I made it up.)

You’d think he had no manners.  No sense of decorum or courtesy.  He must surely be rigid and bitter, certainly xenophobic; he shows signs of anti-social behavior and is narrow-minded to a fault.  No debate is allowed, differences are shunned or punished, and a loving, open heart is to be derided as naive and disloyal.

You know who I’m talkin’ about. I’m talkin’ about God. In his many names. Allah. Christ. King of King. Lord of Lords. Good God Almighty.

cathedral

Or at least God as presented by the good folks who brought us the Crusades, the Salem Witch Hunts, terrorists, Magdalene Laundries, my grade school principal, centuries of oppression, honor killings, legions of war, the Left Behind series, addled priests, and the “family values” platform, just to name a few examples. It’s not news that God is the purported muscle behind all these shenanigans but if I were God, I’d be damned embarrassed  by now (if, indeed, God can “damned” about anything).

mosqueI’m not comparing atrocities — the Crusades were way worse than Prop 8 or my heinous year at that all-girls Catholic boarding school — but there’s a throughline to all this that’s inescapable. An equation that goes something like: God’s Supposed Mandates=Hateful/Bigoted/Intolerant Behavior. A non-Catholic at the wrong end of history ends up on a rack. School children are blown to bits because the two Gods of Ireland can’t tolerate each other. A guy shoots an abortion doctor because God demands it. Young men and women are convinced by Allah to make themselves bombs and kill hundreds. A politician implements dangerous public policy because God said so. Somebody else’s God said some guys can have lots of wives and some of them can be 14; another, that sex is hell-worthy if marriage isn’t involved, dancing begets wanton behavior, women must wear burkas and 52% of Californians should vote to deny basic rights to gays (seems a lot of people’s Gods do not like the gays). God, in his many incarnations, is clearly a very opinionated (and cranky)  fellow.

But what God purportedly mandated to all these different people and various factions over the centuries is based on information that has been passed down and recorded by Man, Human Being Man, and, as such, includes interpretation, spin, distortion, opinion, contradiction, misunderstanding, and personal perception. Much like the Telephone Game. By the time “cats and dogs like to play together” goes from little Susie down past ten kids to Bob, it sounds something like “fat hands oughta pray in heather.” Odds are, by the time notable mandates traveled from God’s mouth to various ears, they’d similarly been through a many-centuried filter of personal interpretation…the Telephone Game as presented by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; Angel Gabriel, Moses, and Muhammad; TV evangelicals, parish priests, rabbis, mullahs, and street corner poets. I just think if we’re going to burn witches, cut off children’s noses, fly planes into buildings, hate our neighbors and vote for discrimination based on God’s Telephone Game, we might want to reconsider our intuitive definition of morality.

Everyone claims to have God on their side but in a many-sided battle that’s mathematically impossible. So who’s right and how can we know? And I really want to know because beyond the aforementioned horrors, I’m beyond weary of all the name-calling, button-pushing, pundit pounding, blog baiting, brow beating behavior that passes itself off as public discourse. It seems essential to solve the conundrum but here’s why that’s difficult: Everyone has their own God, they love their God, their God is precious and, more than anything, THEIR GOD IS RIGHT. About everything. And yet all the various and opposing Gods hanging around these days — and for time immemorial — don’t seem to get along, don’t seem to agree on much of anything, particularly the really important stuff, and so you’ve got the combustible situation of Godflagration. Or, in other words, All Hell Breaking Loose in the Name of God.

NOT ALL THE GODS CAN BE RIGHT. If God 1 says “global warming is just a lotta hog-wash” and God 2 says, “Human beings are destroying their planet and need to wake up,” which God is right?  What about God 3 who says “I made every human being as they are, love and respect each other without prejudice,” and God 4 says “I love everyone but homosexuals, who are an abomination and don’t deserve equal rights,” where do you go with that?  Then there’s God 5 who sees the beauty and integrity of every religion and God 6 who’s really pissed off because law-abiding Muslims want to build a center with a prayer room somewhere near Ground Zero. There are too many Gods in the kitchen and the broth they’re dishing up is a mess.

I can’t speak for the world but when did we become a nation of narrow-minded haters? People who hold God and religious beliefs as armor to push against any opposing viewpoint with intolerance?Really want a scare? Scan the comments under any online article today about anything controversial and you will see the bilous, hateful, bigoted, often terrifying viewpoints of anonymous believers of God (well…their God) and you’ll know, right there, that convincing those kinds of narrow minds that they might have missed the whole damn point of God is all but futile.

Discouraging, but I remain hopeful nonetheless. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking but I want to have faith that we as a nation, a world, a community, a collective, a village, can find some accord, a balance of sorts; at least a modicum of tolerance for each other. Perhaps we can put aside dogma and really embrace that old chestnut that still resonates in its wisdom and simplicity: “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you” and “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” The Golden Rule. I’m told God mandated those ideals as well.

Say what you will about God, believe or not believe, believe how you believe, believe whatever God you wish to believe, but that Golden Rule? It belongs to all of us and whatever Better God came up with that, he’s got my vote.

mad sun

[And, yes, I did use the male pronoun for the sake of literary simplicity. Got an issue with it? Scream quietly to yourself and leave a civil comment.]

All photographs by Lorraine Devon Wilke

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

79 thoughts on “Godflagration and the Search For a Better God

  1. Cris

    We must be mulling around the same idea tree…I blogged a companion piece to your god-blog that goes to the meaning of marriage as defined by Prop 8 types.

    God is such a complicated topic, but you’ve covered so many of the essential points. Diversity, disparity and discouraging news about the human propensity to promote evil things or do evil things in the name of God abound. Yet most one-on-one would not be quite as potent – God feeds the mob mentality conveniently. Ironic, if we remember the story of Jesus and the mob.

    I do not believe that God dwells in the endzone at football games, wagering on one team vs another. I do not believe that God gives a fig about who is elected. I am wary of any organizaton with the name ‘family’ in it as it often turns out to be a far righteous group dictating family values to the rest of us.

    I’m not sure about God anymore, but I do believe that in this country, perhaps uniquely, it was recognized what a troublemaker God had been and could be – thus freedom from religion and freedom from persecution were written in from the get-go.

    I once did a blog about God and Satan instant messaging each other about the ridiculosity of humanity….may have to repost that one someday as this use of God, alas, seems to be the steroid on which nations and peoples continue to divide.

    My free will….good
    Your free will…not good

    And so it goes.

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    1. LDW

      Cris, I’d love to see that blog with God and Satan im-ing each other…it makes me laugh just thinking about it – brillliant idea! Yes, the whole God thing eludes me at times, particularly when it seem rife with thought and action that is so counter to what God represents to me. It’s a meaty conversation; I hope folks will have it more often and with a bit more openmindedness. Thanks, as always, for your contribution to the discussion.

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  2. Max S.

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    1. LDW

      Joe, I have read Sam Harris’ essay and it’s a pretty interesting take. I think faith is a worthy state of being; religion is too often problematic. I don’t agree with all of Sam’s treatise, but his take on science vs religion surely merits discussion.

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  14. LDW

    This topic is a meaningful one for me. The big stuff, the big questions. And I’m thrilled that so many of you wanted to weigh in on it in one way or another. I appreciate that so many of you have told me you enjoy the writing…know that I enjoy doing the writing so your comments mean a lot. Keep reading, don’t ever hesitate to comment with an opposing view; it’s all part of a very important discussion so it is welcome. Thanks again. LDW

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