Leonard Pitts: Talking to God

Register
Jul 8, 2013

I was standing in line with God, buying tickets to see “Monsters University.” He’s a big Billy Crystal fan.

“So” I said, “have you heard about these religious atheists?”

God gave me a look. “Is this a joke?” He asked.

“No,” I said. “It’s a story that ran in the Washington Post recently about religion in America. It was fascinating. Turns out 12 percent of those who say they don’t believe in you nevertheless pray. Some of them pray to something they call a ‘universal spirit.’ It also said 18 percent of atheists say religion has some importance in their lives.”

“Really?” said God as the line edged forward. “So where’s this coming from?”

“It was from a Pew study that came out in October. For some reason, the study didn’t get much traction, but the Post story has been making noise all over the Internet. People are blogging about it, tweeting about it.”

“I hadn’t heard,” said God. “My Internet’s been down.”

“So anyway,” I said, “about these religious atheists .?.?.”

“What about them?”

“You don’t think it’s weird? They don’t believe in you, but they pray?”

“To this ‘universal spirit’?” said God.

“Yeah.” We edged forward again.

“Why should that bother me?” asked God. “I am a universal spirit.”

“But it’s hypocritical,” I insisted. “The story even talks about atheists who mimic religious practices, who gather in so-called ‘godless congregations’ on Sundays to, I don’t know, meditate and reflect.”

“This annoys you?” God waggled His fingers at a toddler who was staring at Him.

“A little,” I conceded. “Just seems like they’re trying to have it both ways. Heck, some of them throw hissy fits at any passing mention of you. If I write some innocuous line — ‘Lord, have mercy,’ let’s say — suddenly, I’ve got atheists out the wazoo.”

“Sounds painful,” He said.

“I’m just saying: If you believe, believe. If you don’t, don’t. Make up your mind.”

“You think it’s that simple? It’s not. Faith and doubt do not oppose each other. They define each other, like light and shadow.”

“Wow,” I said, “that’s deep.”

“I have my moments,” said God.

We got to the window. “Two for Monsters,” I said. God showed his AARP card and got the senior discount.

“Here’s the thing,” said God as we lined up at the snack counter. “I designed you to seek me, to feel a need for me. Some people — that 12 percent you’re so fired up about — maybe they don’t find me in what you call ‘religion.’ Maybe that means they’re missing something. Or maybe religion is.”

“What if they don’t find you at all?”

“Finding is important,” said God. “But seeking is important, too. Seeking teaches patience, opens your mind, shows you your own limitations. That’s where wisdom begins.”

“But come on,” I said, “‘universal spirit?’ Doesn’t that sound cheesy?”

God shrugged. “I’ve been called worse. Besides, have you seen the things some religious people do, supposedly in my name? They blow things up in the name of God. They stone women in the name of God. They fight in the name of God. They hate in the name of God.”

He looked sad.

“I wish, more often, they would hug in the name of God. Serve in the name of God. Heal in the name of God. Make peace in the name of God. I would like that very much.”

We got to the snack counter. I ordered popcorn and a cherry Icee. “He’ll have water,” said God and when I looked at him, He said, “I gave you good, strong teeth. Why do you want to rot them?”

The kid behind the counter handed the water bottle to God, who handed it to me. “Don’t forget to recycle,” He said. “My oceans are not garbage dumps.”

I sighed. “Yes, universal spirit,” I said.

I was standing in line with God, buying tickets to see “Monsters University.” He’s a big Billy Crystal fan.

“So” I said, “have you heard about these religious atheists?”

God gave me a look. “Is this a joke?” He asked.

“No,” I said. “It’s a story that ran in the Washington Post recently about religion in America. It was fascinating. Turns out 12 percent of those who say they don’t believe in you nevertheless pray. Some of them pray to something they call a ‘universal spirit.’ It also said 18 percent of atheists say religion has some importance in their lives.”

“Really?” said God as the line edged forward. “So where’s this coming from?”

“It was from a Pew study that came out in October. For some reason, the study didn’t get much traction, but the Post story has been making noise all over the Internet. People are blogging about it, tweeting about it.”

“I hadn’t heard,” said God. “My Internet’s been down.”

“So anyway,” I said, “about these religious atheists .?.?.”

“What about them?”

“You don’t think it’s weird? They don’t believe in you, but they pray?”

“To this ‘universal spirit’?” said God.

“Yeah.” We edged forward again.

“Why should that bother me?” asked God. “I am a universal spirit.”

“But it’s hypocritical,” I insisted. “The story even talks about atheists who mimic religious practices, who gather in so-called ‘godless congregations’ on Sundays to, I don’t know, meditate and reflect.”

“This annoys you?” God waggled His fingers at a toddler who was staring at Him.

“A little,” I conceded. “Just seems like they’re trying to have it both ways. Heck, some of them throw hissy fits at any passing mention of you. If I write some innocuous line — ‘Lord, have mercy,’ let’s say — suddenly, I’ve got atheists out the wazoo.”

“Sounds painful,” He said.

“I’m just saying: If you believe, believe. If you don’t, don’t. Make up your mind.”

“You think it’s that simple? It’s not. Faith and doubt do not oppose each other. They define each other, like light and shadow.”

“Wow,” I said, “that’s deep.”

“I have my moments,” said God.

We got to the window. “Two for Monsters,” I said. God showed his AARP card and got the senior discount.

“Here’s the thing,” said God as we lined up at the snack counter. “I designed you to seek me, to feel a need for me. Some people — that 12 percent you’re so fired up about — maybe they don’t find me in what you call ‘religion.’ Maybe that means they’re missing something. Or maybe religion is.”

“What if they don’t find you at all?”

“Finding is important,” said God. “But seeking is important, too. Seeking teaches patience, opens your mind, shows you your own limitations. That’s where wisdom begins.”

“But come on,” I said, “‘universal spirit?’ Doesn’t that sound cheesy?”

God shrugged. “I’ve been called worse. Besides, have you seen the things some religious people do, supposedly in my name? They blow things up in the name of God. They stone women in the name of God. They fight in the name of God. They hate in the name of God.”

He looked sad.

“I wish, more often, they would hug in the name of God. Serve in the name of God. Heal in the name of God. Make peace in the name of God. I would like that very much.”

We got to the snack counter. I ordered popcorn and a cherry Icee. “He’ll have water,” said God and when I looked at him, He said, “I gave you good, strong teeth. Why do you want to rot them?”

The kid behind the counter handed the water bottle to God, who handed it to me. “Don’t forget to recycle,” He said. “My oceans are not garbage dumps.”

I sighed. “Yes, universal spirit,” I said.

Comments

Contango

Re: "'I hadn’t heard,' said God. 'My Internet’s been down.'”

@ Mr. Pitts:

Since this "deity" with which you are communicating isn't omniscient nor omnipotent, it cannot be the Judeo-Christian God.

shucks

-clown

What do you know or care about the "...Judeo-Christian God"?

According to you , this is your god : http://blogs.discovermagazine.co...

What kind of a person are you who argues about something he vehemently doesn't believe in?

Huron_1969

A spiritual life is hard, if it was easy everyone would be doing it. It's also a very personal choice and I really like this story!

reporter54

Since none of you have ever met God, you cannot be sure He exists. Faith is honorable and all that, but how can you believe in something you've never witnessed? It's like ghosts. Everyone scoffs at that yet they vehemently oppose anyone that questions God's existence. I believe there is much more to the story and it's not in the bible.

shucks

"Faith is honorable and all that, but how can you believe in something you've never witnessed?"
...According to the Bible - a man is unable to look at God without being destroyed by His brilliance.

"I believe there is much more to the story and it's not in the bible."
...Ok , what's the bigger story and where do I find it?

Seacher

Actually his did show himself to people in the bible. Moses was radiant after seeing him so he wore a veil when not in the presence of the Lord. And, he was "with them during the day in a cloud, and a ball of fire at night. Never leaving them on their journey as the traveled through the desert for forty years."

People put too much importance on what they can see with their own eyes. Does a Christian not feel the glory of the lord?
Whether a religious athiest, Catholic, Christian, Buddhist, Mormon, Islamist, or any other religion that serves humanity is a good thing. The bible is from a different time and language. Often, I think parts are confusing. But, I believe the most important part is Jesus and his teachings. All he did was serve people. He did not turn people away but gave unconditional love. If everyone on Earth was to act accordingly, we would have world peace, no starving children, less disease, and a more advanced civilization.

shucks

--Seacher

"Actually his did show himself to people in the bible. Moses was radiant after seeing him so he wore a veil when not in the presence of the Lord. And, he was "with them during the day in a cloud, and a ball of fire at night. Never leaving them on their journey as the traveled through the desert for forty years."

......"The solution is simple. All you need to do is accept what the Bible says. If the people of the OT were seeing God, the Almighty God, and Jesus said that no one has ever seen the Father (John 6:46), then they were seeing God Almighty, but not the Father. It was someone else in the Godhead. I suggest that they were seeing the Word before He became incarnate. In other words, they were seeing Jesus."
http://www.gotquestions.org/seen...
http://www.apologeticspress.com/...
http://carm.org/bible-difficulti...

worddrow811

If one wants to see God, one has to look in the mirror. We are all made the same and we are all one.

shucks

Raise somebody from the dead if you are God.

deertracker

Someone told me that if you want to find God, just go to prison. That's where the convicts say they found him.

G_Richardson

The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a god or not. E, Hoffer.

thinkagain

Revelation of God can be experienced in an intimate, personal way.

The fact is, many don’t want to know Him.

God has made evidence of His existence so abundantly obvious to all mankind that there is no excuse for denying Him.

The Big Dog's back

Was God at Sandy Hook elementary? How about the movie theater in Colorado?

Huron_1969

God gave us remarkable brains and free will, which would be worthless if He intervened in how we carry out our lives. You ask a tough question and that's just my thought about God's role in these tragic events

The Big Dog's back

Good answer.

arnmcrmn

Good response Huron. Good vs Evil (God vs Satin), are a constant battle we see daily. While God does not actually move our mouths or control each one of us like a chess piece, his teachings are what we are to follow and learn from and become better people by.

thinkagain

Huron is correct. It was human beings, not God, using their free will, who caused suffering and death.

herbie_hancock

He's not allowed in schools.

The Big Dog's back

Bullspit.

freethinker1

The article would have been more interesting if it discussed mainstream atheists. You know, the vast majority of atheists who, like me, believe that all religion is man-made supernatural bunk. I would contend that we are ALL atheists. Chances are, you don't believe in any of the Norse, Greek or Roman gods, or any of the other Bronze Age deities mankind invented because they didn't understand how our world works.

I just believe in one less god than today's Christians. As soon as they understand why THEY don't believe in the Roman/Greek/Norse gods, they will understand why we atheists don't believe in the Judeo-Christian god.

KURTje

Q. What's a problem for an atheist woman during intimacy? A. They have no one to talk to.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

While humans will bicker, argue, and even war over who's deity has a...well, I'll just reference George Carlin here to fill in...the fact is that we are all creatures of belief if not faith. Even the most ardent atheist. You don't need a book of canon principles nor a dogmatic practice to repeat to be a person of faith. My proof?

Next time you roll up to a stoplight try not believing or having faith that the person behind you will stop in time. You have absolutely no proof they will or won't, only a hope.

You cannot live your life without beliefs or faith in something or someone outside of yourself. If you call that external object God, Baal, Dagon, or Flying Spaghetti Monster (may you forever be touched by his noodley appendage) it doesn't matter. We are still creatures of faith.

shucks

" If you call that external object God, Baal, Dagon, or Flying Spaghetti Monster (may you forever be touched by his noodley appendage) it doesn't matter."

... It DOES matter.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Please explain, the floor is yours.

freethinker1

Sorry, but as an atheist, I must completely disagree with Hero. I'm not a creature of faith. Faith, by definition, requires taking something as fact without any evidence, and often in spite of evidence to the contrary. Science has filled in many of the things we humans used to attribute to our manmade gods, and continues to do so. I think the Flying Spaghetti Monster is hilarious, as it lampoons our propensity to create gods, but I don't actually believe in him.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Do you, per the other example, have faith that the person behind you will stop before hitting you? You have absolutely no conclusive evidence to support if that person will or not. The other driver is "supposed to" according to law and/or custom. Mathematical statistics will state you have a very high chance of that occurring. It is something that you just "don't" know, it is nothing you can know.

You don't have to manifest your faith in the form of a being, but the point was that we are intrinsically a people of faith in the unknown.

nonconformist

I agree with the majority of your comments above. However, as per your example, I think you take faith a bit too far. Hope is a more appropriate word in your "car" example. Faith is an internal knowing that there is a "god". But on a daily basis, we simply hope (not a firm commitment) that others will follow the law as we do and not cause catastrophic events that affect us.

arnmcrmn

Not necessarily true. I have faith in my wife....that she will be faithful to me in marriage. This has nothing to do with God, but everything to do with him. Get my point :)

shucks

One of those "external objects" has a basis in reality and can do something for you.
I give the floor back to you.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

All are rationalized by man, all are based in reality. Each to their followers is a paragon of how one should live, and as such, has guided generations under them (admittedly FSM is newer to the global pantheon). Each entity contains powers beyond that of mortal man, a Superman, you could say.

Each speaks to our desires, sates our fears, and offers an explanation not just of life as we see it play out but of why it - and we - even exist. You may remember from our prior conversation that I am actually quite a fan of God and suggest that everyone else be too. But to me, the form of God, the name of God is as relevant as The Destructor, the final form of Gozer the Gozerian, was in Ghostbusters.

God certainly isn't a long-bearded white guy. Unless He wants to be. But if not? Vinz Clortho, the Keymaster, and Zuul, the Gatekeeper (both servants of Gozer, in-lore worshiped by Mesopotamians, Hittites, and Sumerians around 6000 B.C.) were dogs in form...for a while.

In the New Testament God took on a new form in Jesus to better be hip with the kids at the time since the old ways were being abused/forgotten/ignored. If you are open to believing it, the Mormons concluded the trilogy to mixed reviews while the gnostics and/or Noddists hold the director's cut of the Bible (bit of a redux on both, I'm going for "the drift" with these).

Like fans of the Alien franchise, Christians are those who absolutely loved and needed the sequel to the first film that was iconic but didn't quite speak to them fully or leave them feeling completed.

In other words, the form doesn't matter. The name doesn't matter. If we were born into Incan society we would be discussing the nature of Viracocha, the creator of all living things. Thankfully, God is a lot shorter to write while still conveying the same power, awe, and respect.

If it serves as your epitome, if it is your not-quite-reachable apex, that is the model we need to continue looking upwards, advancing, and living a life in which we can communicate our desires, feelings, and weaving our tales into the greater story of Life. Capital L Life.

God is a Living story that has been retold countless times across countless tribes in countless languages. God has been called Yahweh, Vishnu, (Yaoyorozu no) Kami, Ahura Mazda, the Force, and even Tiamat or Napio. The recognition and acceptance of these very real names and influences is what makes humans a godly people and will forever have them strive to be better than is, literally, humanly possible.

Pages