Why God Cannot Forsake You

Why God Cannot Forsake You November 23, 2013

cornerWhen I first “came out” to some of my closest friends and told them I no longer believe in supernatural things, they were greatly distressed. A few of them got together and staged a kind of “intervention” which lasted about 10 hours one day. As with any good drama, they did their best to provide occasional comic relief so that it wouldn’t be too overwhelming, but they asked a lot of intrusive and confrontational questions:

“If there’s no God, then where did everything come from?”

“If we came from monkeys, how come there are still monkeys, hmm?”

“If there’s no God, then what’s to stop you from raping and killing and robbing banks?”

“Do you struggle with pornography?”

“How often do you masturbate?”

I kid you not. These were the questions I got. This went on all day long. I was very new at this and I didn’t have the benefit of having had conversations like this before, nor did I have any fellow skeptics with whom I could work through my thinking on those matters. I was a new deconvert, so I didn’t answer their questions well. Honestly, I felt a bit cornered by the whole thing. It was only after this was over that I realized how unfair this set up really is. I know too many who have found themselves in this same kind of situation the moment they admitted their loss of faith to their friends and family. Evangelical Christians in particular feel quite threatened when someone close to them leaves the faith. I will write soon about why I think that is, and why their reaction is so strong. But what I want to note at the moment is the asymmetry of what happens when people “switch sides.” When you become a Christian, you typically find yourself targeted with a well-organized and time-tested onslaught of emotional appeals, social pressure, (sometimes) scare tactics, and thoroughly thought-through sales pitches which have been honed by centuries of meticulous reworking and refashioning to fit each successive “zeitgeist.” They even offer classes for new members of a church so that you can have answers to the questions you bring to the table. By now this is well-oiled machinery.

By contrast, when a person who was raised within a church tradition leaves her faith, she typically will have few people to talk to about her questions, so her journey is often a lonely one, at least at first. Most people I know who left their faith went it alone. There’s typically not much social pressure to conform to atheism (in fact, probably the exact opposite), no support group, no emotional appeals or mood music, no week-long retreat away from normal life, and no classes to help you work through all the intellectual, relational, and ethical questions you encounter on your way out. In the last few years the internet has produced several virtual versions of each of these things, which helps a great many people connect so that they won’t feel so utterly alone with their questions. But at the time of my departure I had not yet discovered those resources, so I was totally green.

Toward the end of this all-day interrogation (all in love, of course), they asked me a question which I answered quite poorly because I had given it so little thought:

“What would change your mind? What would make you believe again?”

I answered honestly, that at the moment I couldn’t think of anything which would make me believe the Christian message again. If I hadn’t felt so put on the spot, I would have clarified that all of the things which could really persuade me to reconsider my newfound skepticism were simply things I knew good and well weren’t going to happen. I could have said “Pick any one of the thousand miracles reported in the Bible” but anytime I started talking about needing to see an unambiguous miracle or signs, I was told that was bad. That makes me a part of the “wicked generation” which Jesus reprimands in Matthew’s gospel. My response to that was the very first blog post I wrote for this blog and it explains why it’s perfectly biblical for me to require such proof for claims of divinity. But I’ve since realized the real reason why this upsets them so much is that they know too well how likely it is that a person will be disappointed if he banks his faith on seeing clear and present evidence for supernatural claims. The next time someone asks me what I need to see in order to believe, I’ll simply tell them I want to see God heal an amputee. Most sane people will warn you away from seeking evidence that concrete, but what interest me most are the reasons they come up with for why God will not do such a thing. Their confidence about this screams volumes about what’s going on inside their own thought processes. More on that another time (Spoiler alert: When you’re the one creating a character, you can dictate what he will and will not do).

At the time of my “intervention,” I couldn’t think of any proofs which would convince me, so I was told that I had “painted myself into a corner.” They said I had stacked the deck—rigged the game. I had constructed for myself a situation in which God could not be proven real. With time to reflect on this interchange I see how terribly off this accusation was. In reality, an intervening and personal God should very well be expected to “show up” in some sort of discernible way (at least if the biblical concept of God has any truth to it). It was as if they were switching gods on me mid-conversation, wanting me to accept the claims of a personal, interventionist God while appealing to some kind of non-interventionist god of Deism for the sake of argument. I don’t think people even realize how often they do this. It’s an incredibly inconsistent line of reasoning. But now I see that for what it is. So from now on, I’ve got a different response when someone tells me I’ve painted myself into a corner. Now I will turn around and ask them a question of my own:

Do you believe that God could ever forsake you? What would that look like? Can you describe for me any scenario at all which would constitute God forsaking you?

Think about that question for a bit. I suspect that if most Christians were to ponder this they would have to admit that any scenario they could dream up could quickly be explained away as “God testing us” or “working all things together for good, according to his divine plan.” This question exposes something about the Christian faith which you almost have to be on the outside to see: It is a carefully-wrought construct within which it is impossible for God to do wrong. It doesn’t just mean that his character prevents him from doing evil (and keep in mind here, I believe we’re talking about a fictitious character anyway). What I’m getting at is that this version of God has been so cleverly conceptualized that you cannot find anything wrong with him. It’s not possible. All criticisms of the character of the Christian God have been categorically disallowed because your starting point asserts that all he does must be good, must be loving. Since that is your starting point, your frame of reference, absolutely anything and everything which happens must be interpreted as God being faithful to those whom he loves. No matter how awful the situation, it’s God being good to you. Devastating hurricane? God is good. Child has cancer? God is good. Spouse dies in a car wreck? God is good. Minister molests several church members? People are bad but God is good. Congratulations, you have constructed a framework that necessarily precludes any criticism of God. He cannot be unfaithful to you. You have logically disallowed it.

At the gym where I work out they regularly play popular Christian music overhead (I’ve lamented about this before). Recently they played a song which includes the refrain: “Not for a moment will you forsake me.” I’m familiar with this sentiment, and like most Christians I was taught to remind myself of this notion whenever I find myself in a stressful or worrisome situation. Some of my closest friends and family members still draw comfort from this idea whenever they are afraid or hurting. Part of me is truly conflicted about robbing them of a thing that makes them feel better, so I don’t discuss this with them in person. But it’s still a mistaken notion. It’s ultimately an empty idea. It’s a construct that really says nothing at all because God “being faithful” could mean terrible, awful things happening to you. It really should bring little or no comfort when you think about it. Just ask the character of Job from the Old Testament. This concept of God was built in just such a way that no matter what happens, God is above reproach.

When we are thinking clearly, things like this should send up red flags, warning us that we’ve played a trick on ourselves. Like my interrogators incorrectly suggested about my disbelief, you have painted yourself into a corner so that “God being faithful” becomes a meaningless phrase. That in itself should open up an array of questions about the credibility of this faith which works so hard to arrange things “just so” in order to protect itself from all falsification. The game is rigged. Make a note of that, why don’t you?

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  • Wow, now I feel lucky to have gotten away with only a 30 minute intervention of laying on of hands and speaking in tongues! I feel your pain about being underprepared for those discussions at the time, almost wish I could go back and do them over again now :)

    I’ve very much enjoyed reading your posts, and it always astonishes me how similar deconversion experiences can be, even ones on opposite corners of the world!

  • Brilliant! ‘Dixie’, I am thoroughly enjoying your clear, articulate articles with their touches of humour and ultimately, of compassion for those who ‘yet believe’. I’m an INFP myself (my psychological type preference), and I’m convinced that most ‘public’ atheists are of the ‘T’ persuasion (‘Thinker’, in Myers-Briggs terminology): “what I’m telling you is the logical truth and if you don’t see how it makes sense, then you’re an idiot—and if you’re offended by what I say, then that’s your problem”. I sense that you are an ‘F’ (Feeler), and as a result, your arguments and shared experiences speak to me much more convincingly than the alternative. As one finding his path out of the evangelical woods, I am beginning to use your posts as a fairly accurate roadmap. “Keep preachin’—yer gettin’ through!”

  • No, there is not a time that God would ever forsake me.

  • Reblogged this on suguangping.

  • (Spoiler alert: When you’re the one creating a character, you can dictate what he will and will not do).

    Wow, that is good.

  • The Christians I know, even the ones who have doubts, cling to the notion that god will never forsake them, no matter the shit storm they might be going through. My thinking was always a little different. I always felt that it wasn’t fair how good god was to me, with all of the horrible suffering going on in the world. So, whenever something bad happened, I figured he was evening the score a little bit. Yeah, I had some screwed up thinking. While most Christians I know feel like they are special in some way, I always felt unworthy. Both ways of thinking are harmful, IMO. Christianity can fit any situation you want it to. That is why it works so well. I much prefer living in the world of complete reality, it sucks sometimes, but at least I don’t feel like there is some guy in the sky fucking with me.

    Like you, I try to keep this to myself most of the time, I did lose it a little this week when my mom was telling me how good god was because he helped her catch a feral cat to bring in to be neutered. I mean she said “It had to be God that helped me, there is no other explanation!” I just said well gosh, I wish god could get on the ball and take care of all of the starving, suffering people in the world if he cares so much for a wild cat. She ignored me like usual. This idea of a god who can do no wrong, no matter what, drives me insane.

  • Linda R

    “At the gym where I work out they regularly play popular Christian music overhead”.


    How the hell do you continue to live, work and endure in that environment?

  • Gra*ma Banana

    I’m still convinced that people who rely on God (“Not for a moment will you forsake me”) to dig them out of a bad situation fosters an abdication of responsibility. Our ancient ancestors might have ‘reasoned’ their way out of a bad situation, but they wouldn’t have prayed to God to save them.

  • Right. That wasn’t the question. That was actually kind of the point. The question was more along the lines of, “What would it look like if God were to forsake you?” The challenge is for you to construct a hypothetical situation in which you would begin to believe that God had forsaken you. What would it take to falsify your belief?

  • Thanks, Darrell. MBTI is a former hobby of mine as well, and I think you’re right about the abundance of T’s, and about my being a “Feeler.” It makes for different styles and approaches. And kudos on your Southern dialect. Not bad for a canuck ;)

  • Basically what he said.

    If you cannot construct any situation which would signify God forsaking you, then you have illustrated that you have a belief that is non-falsifiable. You may be fine with that. Personally, I am not.

  • You get used to it. It’s not just the gym. It’s the doctor’s office, the principal’s office, the gas station, the bank, the local restaurants…everywhere. It’s like being in church all the time, everywhere you go. I wrote a bit more about it in one of my earlier posts:


  • Yeah, not bad, eh! The dialogue I come by honestly; even though I wasnt born & raised in the South, I’m a Canuck who did four years of Bible college in Oklahama (“the Buckle of the Bible Belt”), a summer Missions Seminar in Abilene, Texas, who sold books (Bibles, of course!) for a summer in Arkansas, and who married a wife who was born in Mission, Texas. Sometimes I just feel like I been sent for and went. I’m fixin’ to have a meal at this here restaurant, but that waitress is as slow as the seven year itch! Y’all be good, now, hear? (If that’s possible without God ;-). ).

  • Alan D

    Yup. I’m an INTJ atheist, and while the article was very well written, and everything was concise and on point, it didn’t give me the pay off I was looking for.

    Still, we need to present more emotional arguments. They fit better with the thought patterns of the faithful. I’ll be following godlessindixie’s blog.

  • LOL. Spoken true to type. These things amuse me. Thanks for the follow. I’ll do my best to earn your continued attention :)

  • Alan D

    You must have a good reason for persisting in a community that does that.

  • Dear godless,

    You asked, “Do I know what it would look like for Him to forsake me?”

    I am glad I don’t have to find out, but here’s an account of what it would look like:

    When Christ hung on the cross dying, His last words were:

    “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”(Matt. 27:46)

    And in that moment God turned away from His only begotten Son, and Christ gave up His Spirit as a holy sacrifice to save sinners like you and I.

    Christ took the blunt of God’s wrath, God’s abandonment, God’s judgment so that we don’t have to.

    That is why He cannot forsake me. Not because I have painted a picture in my mind about what I think God is like. It’s because Christ was my substitute.

    “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deut. 31:8)

    Besides that, He cannot “forsake” someone (me) that never deserved salvation to begin with.

    Did we create this earth? Can we conquer death? Let me know the next time you stand over a dying parent or see a friend struggle with life-threatening cancer.

    My friend’s words? “Though He slay me, yet I will trust in Him”. (Job 13:15)

    Since when has God had to bend to the dictates of what we, in our finite minds, believe to be “good”?

    Could it be that His purposes for our suffering include a much greater eternal benefit?

    Could it be that this life is just a vapor, just a distant memory in light of the joy of Heaven?

    Could it be, that by my friend’s faith and witness, she brings those around her to faith and escape from eternal judgment, (eternity is much longer than this life, wouldn’t you agree?)

    The bottom line is He is God and we are mortal.

    He is God, and He can do whatever He wants.

    He could have condemned all of us because anyone or anything less than holy could never even approach Him. But in His mercy He has chosen to save any who call upon the name of his Son, Jesus Christ.

    This will always be ludicrous to anyone who puts the life of man above the glory of God.

    But until I can stop a hurricane or bring my loved ones up from the grave, I will choose to say “From Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever”. (Romans 11:36)

  • Reblogged this on The Little Tower and commented:
    Spot on, like always. Godless in Dixie.

  • My four daughters live here. No way I’m leaving.

  • Beautifully written, Margaret.

    My question was to ask what God forsaking *you* would look like.

    Can you describe an example of what God forsaking YOU would look like?

  • Dear godless,

    It seems to me that you are trying to make a point with your repeated question, that is, that Christianity is based on a presupposition that God is good.

    If I answer in a manner that you would like, (give an example of what it would look like for God to forsake me), it would not be truthful.

    If I told you that I already answered your question, it would only be seen as “proving your point”.

    So where do we go from here?

    It seems to me that you come into your views with your own presupposition, that God is not good.

    I won’t accuse or debate you, and after reading your “about” page, I better understand your lack of faith. I pray that God will use your doubts and questions as a springboard to faith that will reside deeply in your soul.

  • Well… Christianity *does* presuppose that God is (perfectly) good. The definition of good, in fact. At least, according to every sect I’ve ever heard of.

    The point Godless is making here (if I may speak for him) is that your belief structure has serious problems if there’s no way to falsify it — that is, no way that anyone could *possibly* show that it isn’t true if in fact it is not. Granted, this is not in itself a fatal blow to any belief system, but it certainly can and often does indicate that the belief is either purposefully structured such that it can never be proven wrong (for dishonest purposes), unclearly defined, incomplete, or a combination of those things.

    In any case, it seems like a meaningless statement to say that ‘God will never forsake me’ when he is incapable of doing so only by definition. If you have nothing that you could possibly compare your non-forsaken status against, how could you possibly gain any kind of comfort from that promise, much less a coherent understanding of what it even means to be ‘not forsaken’ by your god?

  • Alan D

    That is a very good reason.

  • ”If I answer in a manner that you would like, (give an example of what it would look like for God to forsake me), it would not be truthful.”

    It doesn’t have to be truthful. It’s a hypothetical. If I asked you to give an example of what it would look like for you to be penguin. You might say that you’d have feathers, be black and white, and be able to swim in really cold water for a really long time. You wouldn’t be lying to answer that way. It’s a hypothetical that sets up the conditions. It shows what conditions would lend people to believe that you were a penguin. It doesn’t require you to actually be a penguin. I’m assuming you lack those characteristics, so it would be pretty easy to falsify the proposition that you are a penguin

    Now, try it on the OP’s question: “Can you describe any scenario at all which would constitute God forsaking you?” Your answer seems to be, “No. I cannot.” That’s fine, but it means that the phrase “God will never forsake me” has no real value. It’s an empty phrase; a tautology that equates to, “God will never do what God will never do.”

    The point is not that “Christianity is based on presupposition that God is good.” The point is that a phrase like, “God is good” has no real meaning if it simply reduces to “God does what God does.”

  • I can’t answer for Margaret or anybody else, but I know exactly what it’d look like for a god to forsake me. It’d look like it did when I realized that one dark night decades ago that none of the things in the Bible–none of its promises, none of its assurances, none of its history, none of its miracles–were true, and that whatever might lie beyond this life, it did not look anything like the Bible depicted it. I was alone, and I was on my own. I did not have a safety net anymore, nor arms to catch me if I fell. It was quite possibly the scariest moment in my entire life, but also, strangely, the most exhilarating.

    The Book of Job provides an excellent example of what it looks like when a god forsakes someone. The problem, I think, is that for most Christians, “how it looks when Jesus forsakes you” looks remarkably like “how it looks right now when you’re convinced Jesus loves you.” Most ex-Christians do not suddenly experience rounds of horrible luck or bad health or bolts from the blue; most of the ill-effects come from, well, other outraged Christians around us who don’t like that we’ve left the party bus early without flashing our privates. If I’d been forced to answer a question like yours, Dixie, I’d have come face to face with the realization that except for my subjective feelings and “still small voice” type experiences, my life already looked like I’d been forsaken, as did everybody else’s around me. Our lives already looked exactly like they’d look if there was no Jesus at all in our lives. Whoops! Oh yeah, that… ;)

    A while ago I told a religious researcher that honestly I’d rather be forsaken than have gods all up in my business. She thought it was very brave of me to say that, but I didn’t think it was particularly so. The word itself makes the condition sound terrifying, but it really isn’t. I’ve been under the microscope of a very powerful person before, someone who meant me only good things, and it was scary enough as it was.

  • Joe


    One can presuppose that God is good yet which of the competing gods is the good one? How do you know? It is claimed that Allah is good. Therefore whatever Allah says and does is good. Allah says Jesus is just a prophet and those who claim to believe he is God incarnate are deceived because the Koran the very words of the all good and infallible Allah says so. Mormons claim their god or gods are good. Even admitting that God is good, one is left with the problem of deciding which good God to believe in. By what standard do you judge your particular God good and the others false?

    A Christian can ask a Muslim the same question ” Why can’t Allah forsake you?” The Muslim can simply say, Allah is good and can never forsake me. So without a fail test the Christian and Muslim are at a standoff and their belief is reduced to subjective relativism.

  • ctcss

    “Do you believe that God could ever forsake you? What would that look like? Can you describe for me any scenario at all which would constitute God forsaking you?”

    Perhaps I am missing something here, but I believe this hypothetical question would only be logical within a specific theological viewpoint. It seems to presume God as a person, specifically, a limited person. Thus, it might be possible for a limited person to let another person down, either through neglect, bad intent, or due to their own limited abilities or resources. But in order for God to be capable of doing such a thing, God would actually have to be demoted to “a god” (and thus limited), or “a person” (very definitely limited). Thus the proposed hypothesis seems to be saying, can one imagine God not being God? In which case, all bets are off. (And why would a religiously minded person want to worship or follow something less than God anyway?)

    There is also the theological presumption that somehow God (good itself) would, or could, do that which is bad. Once again, this seems to presume that God would somehow need to turn into something other than God.

    So is the above proposed hypothetical question really a question? Because it strikes me as simply swapping out one set of basic premises for another set of basic premises. And once a person does that, they would need to re-evaluate everything which follows from the newly inserted basic premises. Thus, as noted above, all bets would need to be off until that re-evaluation was completed. (Because no one is going to place a bet until they have a sense of what it is that they are betting on, right?)

    So, for the record, I don’t see how I can create the scenario above without tossing out God. And if I toss out God, it’s pretty easy to see how the state of something admittedly lacking (the absence of God) would be, well, lacking.

    So how is that actually a question? (It’s more along the lines of a tautology, right?)

    “No matter how awful the situation, it’s God being good to you. Devastating hurricane? God is good. Child has cancer? God is good. Spouse dies in a car wreck? God is good.”

    This just strikes me as a person not understanding something that should be rather basic (depending on one’s theology, that is.) If God is good, it is impossible for God to be or to do bad. Thus IMO, “something awful happening” is not, repeat not, God being good to a person. (Honestly, who comes up with such terrible theological notions?) Rather, such things happening have nothing whatsoever to do with God at all. So instead of looking to God as the author of misfortune, tragedy, or disaster, one needs to decide if the God they are worshiping is a God of evil, indifference, or randomness. If God is any of those, then there would seem to be no point at all in a religious person worshiping or following such a God. (Would one truly want to call the fire department if it’s responses were evil, indifferent, or random? And would one ever consider the fire department to be the source of fires, rather than the means for extinguishing them?)

    At least as I understand such things, Jesus didn’t seem to view God as evil, indifferent, or random. Nor did Jesus consider God to be the source of evil. Rather, he seemed to regard God as the means for overcoming the evil and tragedy that the world often seems to present to us. Which brings up the point I mentioned earlier, which is that in order for God to let a person down, God would need to cease being God.

    So, for persons who have decided that God is non-existent, it makes perfect sense for them to conclude that God can and, by definition, must let them down. But for someone who has not concluded that God is non-existent (or neglectful, indifferent, random, or evil), they are likely going to continue pursuing the “God exists” path and persist in following and trusting in God. (OK, maybe it’s just me.)

    It all strikes me as being dependent on what one’s theological viewpoint is. Jews apparently consider it to be important to accept whatever it is that God dishes out to them, good or bad. Mainstream Christianity also has a similar notion in that bad things are often considered to be part of God’s plan. My rather non-mainstream Christian theology doesn’t go in such directions, nor is God viewed as a personal God who is varied and mysterious in intent or expression. So, for the moment, I am not regarding the proposed question in Neil’s post as being valid for my particular theological viewpoint. I don’t see how it can fit. (And, no, this isn’t me trying to jigger things in God’s favor. In a similar way, it also wouldn’t make much sense to ask a person what they would do if gravity were no longer gravity, or “2” was no longer “2”. Fundamental qualities of whatever sort cannot change, otherwise they are no longer fundamental. God, like gravity or the number 2, has fundamental characteristics. Take them away, and you no longer have God. It’s just that simple.)

    My 2 cents.

  • Bonnie

    I too wish I could go back and have those discussions again. I was way under prepared and they were armed and ready. Unfortunately, it’s just not something you can come back to and say, ‘hey I’ve done some research and thought it through some more and NOW I have an answer!” haha :(

    It’s one of the reasons I’m on the internet reading about all these points. I’ve had to learn how to argue that the sky is blue to people who enjoy telling me daily it’s green.

    I’m like you in that I don’t like confrontation. I actually find them extremely upsetting even when I ‘win’. Unfortunately, since I’ve left the faith, they are seeking me out.

  • “I don’t think people even realize how often they do this. It’s an incredibly inconsistent line of reasoning. But now I see that for what it is.”

    That’s the truth. The faith line of reasoning looks something like this:

    I don’t know the answer to X question > Therefore God is the answer > Therefore my particular god is the answer.

  • Godless,

    Please be a little sympathetic to other’s feelings and fears in the future. People fear the unknown, the thought of non-existent and uncertainty are real fears, as others fear snakes, spiders, mice and heights. It is also unreasonable to say to them not to fear because ‘I don’t”. Fear is a strong emotion and often overmasters reason. It is calm and soothing for them to allay their fears with the belief and trust of something more than real. the supernatural. Unfortunately for them, the fearful, their suspension of reasonable thought and logic and the proclivity to gullibly believe and trust in the supernatural and fantastic leads the way to being fooled, swindled and controlled by con artists, quacks, priests. One such is John of God in Brazil, a quack faith healer who performs circus like acts of faith healer while claiming ‘I do not heal, God does’. This guy actually sticks forceps way up people’s noses while claiming to cure ailments and cancers. Oprah crassly promote his new age and spiritist practices to her gullible and desperate audience, Fear must be the reason they believe? Nobody can be that dumb!!!

  • ctcss – “So, for persons who have decided that God is non-existent, it makes perfect sense for them to conclude that God can and, by definition, must let them down.”

    Please read that sentence again just re-read it. You said ‘for persons who have decided that God is non-existent, IT MAKES PERFECT SENSE for them to conclude that God can…let them down.’

    How on earth can something non-existent let you down?

    The entity that Christians think actually exists never lets me down, never hurts me or causes me anguish. It is not to blame for my son-in-law dying, hurricanes and tornadoes.

    IT DOESN’T EXIST and non existent things can neither do harm nor good.

  • Nick


    You do bring up a great point. There are various concepts of God and before arguing for the existence or non-existence of a God one probably should take the time to define what he or she actually means by the word God.

    With that said, can you understand where godlessindixie is coming from? You mentioned that your views on God differed from that of the “mainstream” Christian God. But, if you assumed the “mainstream” concept of God was your own concept of God, could you understand where godlessindixie is coming from?

    Lastly, you say your God exists. What do you mean by ‘exist?’ And how have you determined this?