Imagine we’re eating a meal you prepared for me. You’ve slaved away at it, hard, all day, and finally, that evening, it’s done. It was expensive, made to impress – the best meal you’ve ever made. You’ve brought champagne, expensive champagne glasses, your finest silverware, and your best crystal. We sit down to eat the delicious meal you’ve prepared, and before you begin to eat a bite, I lift up a finger, as if there’s something we have to do first. Out of respect, you sit there and wait.
“Thanks Jack!” I say brightly to the wall with a smile.
You’re confused. “Who is Jack?”
“Oh, he’s the guy who made this wonderful meal. Isn’t that incredible? Jack really outdid himself tonight. I mean, sometimes I’m not sure, y’know – but somehow Jack always comes through. I mean, thank you, too, for the food. But I have to thank Jack first, because, after all, he did most of the work.”
“But,” you say, somewhat insulted, “I made the food.”
I begin to look a bit taken aback, and then I recover. “I don’t understand why you’re so angry at Jack, unless you think he really did make the food and you want to take all the credit.”
“It’s not that,” you insist. “It’s just that…I worked to prepare this meal for you and you’re praising someone else for it who doesn’t even exist.”
I bristle. “Stop insulting Jack. He worked really hard on this meal, and I’m not going to just sit here and take this rebellion against him. I mean, you don’t even believe in him. So why would you even care?”
Suppose you’re getting married, and you’re sitting across the table from a good friend of yours.
“So, the date is March 16th. You’re invited. Can you make it?”
“I don’t know,” she says. “I’m going to have to talk to Jack about it.”
Then she starts talking to someone beside her, but you see no one there.
“Hey Jack, can I come to [your name’s] wedding.”
She listens patiently. Then she looks back at you.
“Sorry. Jack said your marriage isn’t a real, genuine marriage, which means I can’t come. I just can’t celebrate things Jack doesn’t approve of. I love you, though. I’m not judging. It’s just…Jack doesn’t approve.”
“What the…who the hell is Jack?” you ask.
“Oh,” she beckons to the empty seat next to her. “This – this is Jack. He is my moral and spiritual leader.”
You’re flustered. This is your best friend. “Lemme get this straight. You’re not going to come to my wedding because your imaginary friend – “
Immediately your best friend looks flustered. “How insulting,” she says. “Why are you calling him imaginary?”
“Because he’s not real! You’re making up –“
She is turning red. “DON’T CALL HIM AN IMAGINARY FRIEND. You may not respect him, but I do.”
You’re a bit frustrated and disgusted, and it shows on your face as you sigh in frustration.
“I don’t understand why you’re so frustrated,” she says. “You think Jack is an imaginary friend. If you really think that, why does he bother you so much? Something for you to think about.”
She looks beside her and talks to the empty spot. “Jack, can you help my friend understand how wrong they are? They’re so lost and angry at you.”
By this time you’re done. “Forget it. If you don’t want to come to my wedding because of Jack, I don’t care. Just forget it.”
She looks at you sadly. “Some people are just angry at Jack. I don’t know why. He loves you; he just has standards.” She looks at the empty spot beside her, “Follow my friend, [your name], Jack. Help them see the light; be on their mind constantly.”You shake your head and can’t help but smile; she’s so sincere, and it’s just and empty spot.
She catches you. “Please don’t mock Jack. He’s very important to me; he is in charge and has dominion over every area of my life.”
You’re a voter, and you’re passionate about the upcoming election. There’s an awesome candidate who has integrity and, you’re convinced, could be the best President of the United States in history. Extraordinary in every way you can fathom; he fits your ideals perfectly.
This is the first time you’ve gone door-to-door to canvas for votes. You knock on the first person’s door.
“Hey, I’d like to tell you about candidate X. X has a track record of –“
“Hold on,” the person responds. “I gotta talk to Jack about that.” He looks to his right. “Hey, Jack, do you think it’s a good idea to vote for this person?”
He waits. You’re both standing there awkwardly. Then he speaks up.
“Jack says he doesn’t like the candidate. His name is offensive to Jack.”
“But…the policies will work. Just look at the data….”
“That may be true; the data may indicate X will be a great candidate. I’m not denying that. But my life belongs to Jack, and Jack doesn’t like the name of X. So I can’t vote for him.”
You shrug, and walk to the next house. But to your surprise and consternation, you find that this neighbor has an imaginary friend they consult, too. And on. And on. And on.
Whenever you get frustrated and angry, the people you talk to take that as proof that, deep down inside, you believe in Jack, too. They laugh at your supposed denial, and every time you crack a smile at their imaginary friend or dare to call it an imaginary friend, they get offended.
I have been told several times that my anger at Christianity does not make sense, and that this reaction does not make sense, as I think God is an imaginary being.
I do not think, to put it mildly, this makes any more sense than Extreme Ironing. And that’s saying something.
The reason why I’m angry at God in the first place is because He is an imaginary being. And the frustrating thing about it is that I am deemed disrespectful when I tell people the truth.
I know it’s important to people. I do. I know it’s gotten you through dark nights, maybe. Maybe it makes you happy. Maybe God means you’ll see your family in the afterlife. Etc.
That doesn’t make God real. That doesn’t mean it makes sense if you base your judgments of yourself, me, or any aspect of society on God. If your God isn’t real, it’s basically indistinguishable, in my mind, from Jack.
Hopefully that makes sense and we can move on from this, “If you don’t believe in Him, why does it bother you that I do” nonsense.
The problem is not my denial. The problem is the perseverance in belief that an imaginary being has authority over every aspect of the universe, and your consultations of this being in every/any area of your life and outlook that extends that authority to others.
So next time I get angry when I see someone proclaiming the importance of a nonexistent being, hopefully you’ll understand when I insist it’s time for it to hit the road precisely because, not in spite of, the fact I don’t think it exists.