I was brought up believing in an all-powerful god. He was bigger than anything that you could imagine. He could do anything. He was anywhere, any time. He listened to what people asked. He was like us, in that we were made in his image. Thinking about God always blew my mind, because I would try to imagine what it was like at the beginning of the universe. There was nothing there, just God. There was no time, no space, nothing. Just god. In the beginning, the beginning of all time, God was there, even though nothing was there.
I used to lie awake at night thinking about that. Nothing was there, and God was there … but God is everything, so everything was there in the form of nothing. But what was before that? God was before that. Did god have a god that made him? No, he just was. Nobody knows how he got there. Does God know how He got there? Maybe … yes he must, because he knows everything. Well why didn’t he tell us how he got here then? No idea.
I was taught what I suppose can best be described as sort of axioms: God is all-knowing, God is all-powerful, God is everywhere at every time, God made everything, God is love, God is good. And there is another one: God works in mysterious ways. Using these axioms one can describe the universe with perfect accuracy, better than any scientist could, and answer any question with infallible logic. For instance:
Where did we come from? Axiom: God made everything, therefore god made us, because the set of everything includes us.
Why were we made? Axiom: God works in mysterious ways; axiom: God is all-knowing. We don’t really know why God made us, but he knows, and that’s all that matters. The one thing we know is that God is good (another axiom) and that he did it because he loves us – axiom: God is love.
This satisfied me to a certain degree, in as much that I was unable to argue with any of the statements without questioning the authenticity of God. But there was always something that didn’t quite feel right. I never felt like I could solve any real world problems with these axioms.
If god is all-powerful and protects those he loves, then why do we have to wear a seat-belt in a car? I never had a very good answer for that one that didn’t involve logical hand-waving.
Other questions were tumbling about in my head, and they scared me. I didn’t really know why though. Maybe it is because deep down I was discovering that the beliefs I built my world around were like chaff, that can blow away in the wind. So I decided to find God for myself. I shut myself off from the world and spent months trying to pick apart my beliefs and find what was holding them together. I decided that God would reveal the truth to me no matter what happened and so I opened up my mind as a receptacle for any thought that may come my way, no matter what the axioms said.
Then things started to get strange. I saw turmoil and confusion. If God is love, then why would he choose to torture those who did not believe in him by sending them to hell for eternity? If I had a friend who decided that he didn’t believe that I existed, would I lock him in a torture chamber for the rest of his or her life? No, that would be something an evil person would do. Then I wrote down a sentence that probably changed my life, because it was the first time in my life I had elevated myself to the level of God and challenged him. I wrote, ‘If somebody goes to hell because they could not find evidence for God and therefore could not believe, then they, being punished eternally for a misunderstanding, are more righteous than God.’
Is God so weak that he cannot stand up against questioning? If I cannot question my god, then my god is too weak.
After that the floodgates were open, and there was no holding back the thoughts. Some part of me still believed deep down, but another part of me was putting God on trial. If you can’t test god, then how can we follow him? Maybe we are not made in the image of god. Maybe god is made in the image of us. That would explain why god keeps changing his mind about what is good or bad. For instance, it was okay to kill unbelievers, but now that’s somehow not right anymore, and we should love our enemies.
Also, I came to the conclusion that belief is not a decision, it happens on its own, usually from experience. For instance, you can be told all you want about fire and how it burns and how you should not touch it, but somehow it doesn’t really sink in until you can test it. You can stand next to a fire and feel its radiant heat, and touch it and feel it burn. But you can’t touch God, and feel him. You can’t look at him. You can’t feel his power. I used to think I could, but really the things I could feel where only there when I expected them to be there, and existed in my imagination. God always said exactly what I expected him to say, almost as if he was a fabrication of my mind. I guess it boils down to this: if one can’t tell the difference between a god one made up in one’s own mind, and and the One True God that one claims to follow, that god might as well not exist.
But even after all of this transformation happened, I still believe in the thing they call God. There is something deep within us that we can never understand. Something in our mind that we will never control. It makes dreams seem real and sometimes speaks to us with wisdom that we cannot fathom. It is neither good nor evil. Some choose to call this thing a god, but I call it myself. The thing that is within me is a real thing to me; the thing that is within me is the me that I do not understand. God is within me, and I put him in my image, and I am him.
Perhaps Jesus was thinking on similar lines when he said, ‘Before Abraham was, I am.’ Perhaps the message of the Messiah is that what we believe does not matter.