My oldest granddaughter is now four years old, and I remember playing with her in her first year. I found myself treating her like I did my dog. Neither understood English very well, but they could understand tone. She grabs her toy? “What a smart girl!” She rolls over? “What a clever girl!” She bites Piglet’s nose? “What a talented girl!” She burped, she pooped, she has a wet diaper? “What a good girl!”
This is surprisingly analogous to how many Christians treat God. You get what you wanted in prayer? “Thank you, God!” You didn’t get what you wanted in prayer? “Thank you, God!” God is too emotionally fragile to handle constructive feedback. Christians aren’t supposed to say, “God, the next time you think it’d be instructive to give a five-year-old leukemia, get back on your meds and think again.” God is (supposedly) omni-everything and so could achieve any goal without the human cost. God’s actions are assumed to be good at the outset, and any negative reaction is your fault for not seeing the hidden good.
God is either giving you great stuff or teaching you important lessons, and no matter what happens, God gets the credit. God is praised, regardless—whether you got the perfect parking space when you were late or God dealt some tough love by not giving you that promotion, he can’t lose. When bad things happen, God is never blamed. That’s man’s fault. Even natural disasters are recast as part of God’s marvelous, inscrutable plan. And when bad things happen to someone, they endured the ordeal only with God’s support.
Empty and groundless platitudes like “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” or “God must’ve needed another angel” or “Everything happens for a reason” litter the internet. Doubt is discouraged, and faith (in the sense of belief despite poor evidence) is put forward as a great virtue.
God is always perfect and infallible, especially when you conclude that before you start. There is even the scholarly discipline of theodicy to add somber scholarly support to this claim. Christians give all the other supernatural beliefs (unicorns, Xenu, Zeus) the critique of a skeptical adult, but their god can only handle baby food. And just like a baby, he’s never called to account, never has to clean up his messes, never has to explain himself or follow adult rules. God doesn’t even need good evidence that he exists.
It’s OK to grow out of it.
— PZ Myers
that get carried over into adulthood.
— James Randi
(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 4/7/16.)
Image from Christian Haugen, CC license