In a Facebook discussion, I was asking a Christian how I could find God. Although I’m an atheist, I’m a curious atheist, and if God exists I’d like to meet him.
The only caveat, of course, is that I don’t want to be completely gullible. I’m not about to start interpreting my own thoughts as the voice of God, because that’s just too easy (and, unsurprisingly, such voices never tell me anything I didn’t already know).
I’m also not about to start interpreting every unexpected green light on my commute, or every kind word uttered by a stranger, as a sign from God. Not only is that superstitious, it doesn’t actually allow me to communicate with God.
The problem is, when I tell people that I’m looking for some reasonably convincing way of meeting God, they immediately turn it back on me and tell me I have no right to set the rules of the game.
To top it all off, I’m accused of deliberately preventing God from reaching out to me. In my Facebook discussion I was told that:
[God’s] right here, literally dying to meet you … he just wants to hang out with you and show you how great life can be when you follow him.
At this point, my patience ran out. I headed for the Caps Lock key, and replied:
If he’s dying to meet me then WHY DOESN’T HE INTRODUCE HIMSELF?
I don’t think Christians understand the frustration of being given the run-around like this. It is surely one of the weakest aspects of Christianity that its followers have no way of putting me in touch with their God, even though this God is allegedly the most powerful being in the universe, and is actually dying to meet me.
To demonstrate the absurdity of the Christian position, I wrote a short dialog that puts the whole idea of meeting God in an ordinary, everyday setting:
Sharon invited me over for dinner last night. She wanted me to meet someone. His name was Dave.
“Hi Sharon,” I said when I arrived. I noticed she was alone. “Dave coming later?” I asked.
“Oh, he’s here already,” she said.
I looked around. No one. Perhaps he was in the restroom.
We sat down at the diningroom table, sipped some wine. We made light conversation.
Eventually I realized Dave wasn’t in the restroom.
“I thought you said Dave was here already?” I ventured.
“He is”, she replied, “He’s dying to meet you.”
“OK”, I said, puzzled, “where is he?”
“Well,” she hesitated, “you can’t see him.”
“I don’t understand,” I said.
“He’s … kind of invisible”, she responded, looking a little uncomfortable. Well, this was certainly interesting, I thought.
“If he’s invisible, then how do I meet him?”, I asked carefully.
“You just have to speak to him,” she replied.
“Hmmm…, alright. What do I say?,” I asked.
“Just say ‘hi’, I guess.”
“In my head, or out loud?”
“Um, I guess either would do.”
“Alright. Here goes.” I closed my eyes, and in my mind, I said “Hi, Dave!”
“What do I do now?” I asked Sharon.
“You wait for him to respond,” she replied.
“In my head?”
“How will I know it’s Dave?”
“He’ll tell you.”
“Fair enough, but how will I know I’m not just imagining it? In fact, I can imagine right now that Dave is speaking to me. Let’s see, he’s saying ‘Hi there, I’m Dave and I like chocolate ice cream!’ Is that Dave speaking to me, or is it just me speaking to myself?”
A moment of uncertainty passed over Sharon’s face, and she replied “I don’t really know – I think it will be obvious when it’s Dave really speaking”.
“OK”, I replied, “how long must I wait?”
“I don’t think it will be long,” she said, looking down at her glass.
“Is that it?”, I asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you asked me over to meet Dave, and all I’ve done is say ‘hi’ to someone in my head. Am I really not going to meet him?”
“I think that’s up to him”, she replied.
“Are you sure Dave is actually a real person?” I asked.
“Yes, of course. I’ve read a lot about him.”
“You mean you haven’t actually met him yourself?”
“Not in person, no, but we speak all the time.”
“On the phone?”
“No, with my heart, and through what I’ve read.”
Confused, I asked, “How do you speak to someone through a book?”
“You’d just have to try it for yourself,” she replied.
I sat silent for a moment, took a sip of my wine, and responded, “I’ve read lots of books, and never actually communicated with their characters. How is this book any different?”
“It just is, ” Sharon said.
“So what have you read about Dave?”, I asked, curious.
“Well,” Sharon replied, “I’ve read about what he did during his life, how he died, and …”
“Hang on,” I said, “sorry to interrupt, but did you say that he’s dead?”
“No, he’s alive.”
“But you said that you read about his death.”
“Yes, but he came back to life.”
At this point, I suddenly felt like I was in the middle of a big prank.
“This is a joke, right?” I asked.
“No, no, this is quite serious,” Sharon answered, looking quite sincere.
“OK,” I replied quietly, “You know, I think I had better go now. Let’s chat about this more some other time.”
“Alright,” she sighed.
We said goodnight, and I walked slowly home.
I never heard from Dave.