When A Person is a Better God Than “God”

When A Person is a Better God Than “God” September 30, 2013

The Sims 3 (TS3) is dying. Long live the Sims!

If you play simulation games, you likely know that the Sims 4 is coming out in a few all-too-short months, so the Sims 3 is starting to wind down. The last “Stuff Pack,” Movie Stuff, came out this month; the last DLC world, Midnight Hollow, got released a few days ago, and the last expansion pack, Into the Future, is coming out soon. It’s making me think a little about my long history playing this franchise.

The Sims cover.
The Sims cover. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, I’m a Simmer, if the avatar up there didn’t give me away. I’ve been Simming ever since TS1 came out. Heck, I started with the first SimCity, then moved on to SimEarth, SimFarm, and even SimAnt. I remember one pleasant Thanksgiving day when I was first married to Biff where I set SimEarth to run while I cooked dinner and checked in on my Mac LC from time to time; while the turkey roasted, the dolphins took over and vanished and were replaced by arthropods, and so on. I loved those games. When I saw a package advert for the Sims, it was a no-brainer to try it out, and I was hooked immediately. I still have gigs’ worth of custom content for TS1 and still haul it out to play from time to time. I loved building these little people’s lives and helping them achieve their dreams. I loved watching their little lives unfold and seeing them thrive and prosper.

But what shocked me even back then was how people would mistreat their little sim-people. People’d build up these huge mega-cities and then destroy them with monsters or natural disasters. They’d throw meteors at their planets and laugh at the devastation. They’d set their Sims on fire or lock them in rooms without doors so the little people starved to death. It was just unbelievable how mean players could be to their little people.

I’m here to tell you right now, Campfire Girls’ honor, that I never once did that.

No, seriously.

I’ve been playing these games since college and I have never once deliberately killed a Sim or destroyed a city or civilization just for kicks. I can’t do it. The idea completely repels me. I guess I’m too soft-hearted. Maybe I’m too nice, or too sweet or kind or wimpy or whatever. But I can’t do it. I see a Sim heading toward disaster–into a swimming pool with low Athletics, or about to pick a Death Jelly Bean off a Jelly Bean Bush, or heading off to taunt a Cow Plant, and I can’t stop myself: I swoop in to save the Sim from his or her own recklessness. I can’t even bear to make one of my Sims be mean to other Sims; I don’t like to have enemies or get in fights in the game.

It’s not that I look down on other Simmers who love that kind of thing. I just can’t do it myself. It’s not fun to me to torment even simulated people. I don’t enjoy letting people come to harm.

In this manner, I am a better god to these Sims than the Christian god ever was to me or anybody else.

The Christian god was presented to me as a combination boyfriend, best friend, husband, and father. But what boyfriend/best friend/husband/father would ever let someone he loved come to harm and hurt? If someone who truly loved me saw me careening off toward the Jelly Bean Bush to pick a potentially lethal treat, how could that person just let me do it without at least saying “Hey, Cas, watch out, those can be poisonous!”

One reason I’ve been told time and again is that the Christian god allows his children/spouses/best friends come to harm to teach them a lesson, or to guide them in spiritual development, or because he is a “gentleman” and simply can’t interfere with people’s lives. Disgusting and beyond ludicrous, I know, but the people who parrot these excuses don’t really think about it; the excuses soothe them and somewhat quiet the cognitive dissonance that threatens their worldview, and so these lame and pale excuses are believed and trotted out to use on others who express doubts in or condemnation of such a god.

Obviously, I don’t buy that bit of rationalization.

There just isn’t a way that I can see that a truly good being could sit there and let people come to harm. I might have come from a family that subscribed to the “let ‘er do X, she won’t do that again” parenting model, but nonetheless, I can’t see a good parent just sit there and let a toddler rush off toward a swimming pool’s edge. (Interestingly, I’ve run across any number of ex-Christians who deconverted when they had kids and realized what a terrible “parent” they were worshiping!) I definitely don’t see a good spouse letting the love of his/her life get terrorized and killed by a natural disaster when s/he was capable–at all–of helping save that person; indeed we often encounter stories of spouses who lose their lives trying to save those of their beloved partners, and these stories move us to tears and the most profound admiration.

There just isn’t a reason that a wise or benevolent being needs to torment or torture his creations to teach them anything. There isn’t any way that the evil that exists in our world can be compatible with an ultimately good or powerful god. This simple truth is as obvious to me as looking at the Sims.

Some Simmers are downright mean to their poor little Sims, but plenty of others are like me–incapable of doing anything mean to our little creations; unable to see them rush headlong into harm and disaster without intervening. I don’t even claim to be truly good or benevolent or perfect. I’m just much more moral than the Christian god, that’s all, as indeed most of us are. You don’t have to Sim to notice such a thing, either. The first time you scoop your toddler up from falling into a pool, the first time you rush to push your spouse out of the way of a truck’s path, you’ll understand: When you love or care about someone, you simply can’t stand by and let that person come to harm.

And even if most of us don’t even know the person who is in harm’s way, we can’t just stand there and let that person get hurt. In this manner, we are far better people than this supposedly entirely-good deity is. We may hem and haw about intervening, we may think we should “mind our own business,” but this isn’t seen as an ideal behavior model at all. Heck, even the Christians trying to convert us non-believers to save us from their very own god’s threats of “hell” are better people than their god; for all their toxicity, at least they’re making overt gestures to help others, while their god seems content to let us fall into torture without lifting a finger to demonstrate the validity of his threats or the credibility of his promises. I might say the same of the Christians who rush into war zones or disaster areas to help the afflicted; what they are doing is ten times more than anything their supposedly-omnipotent and benevolent god did to help the people in trouble there.

I’ve had a Christian tell me that the reason his god lets this horrible stuff happen is because he wants us to learn to work together and solve our own problems–which only makes the problem worse, since this guy doesn’t seem to realize that he’s talking about starving children and people dying in terror and pain and women being systematically gang-raped in war zones. The people who are trying to help these victimized and starving groups are doing so much more than the supposedly truly good and powerful god behind the curtain. But it’s so easy to distance and negate the true horrors of these situations, isn’t it? So easy to use fancy words and high-flown language and not realize that what’s really happening is that this god is like a Simmer who is watching one of his Sims slowly starve to death in a room with no doors–and is doing nothing at all to help. But in this case, the little Sims are real people, not just a video game. What person among us reading this could do that, just watch a real-person Sim we’d created die of starvation and not rush to, I dunno, put a danged door there so the little real-Sim could escape and get to the fridge? What person among us could watch on our computer monitors as little Sim-soldiers move to rape a village-full of real-Sim women and not try to do something, anything, to make that nightmare stop? Of course, that last scenario is hypothetical; there is no rape in the Sim-world, so in that sense it’s ten times better than this one that this truly “good” and “omnipotent” god has allowed to spring up. But you get the idea, I hope.

Now imagine a god just sitting back and doing nothing to help the beings that are variously described as his true love, his spouse, his children.

Such a god would be either not truly good, or not omnipotent. Either way, it’s not a god worth worshiping. I’ve got better ways to spend my finite lifetime than kowtowing to a god who treats us worse than the most malevolent Simmer would ever treat his or her video-game people.

So let us enjoy these last few months of TS3, and wait for the next incarnation with hope and anticipation. God-games like these don’t seem like they’ll ever go out of style, and I’m starting to think there’s a very good reason for their popularity–as well as an implicit threat to the traditional model of “god” that way too many Christians push.

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