Thursday, January 26, 2012

God is my imaginary BFF

God is my imaginary I'm told. In the Facebook wall of one of my friends I saw this story from the Denver Post:
The Boulder Atheists announced Monday that the group has purchased space on three billboards in Denver and Colorado Springs to post messages that read, “God is an imaginary friend. Choose reality, it will be better for all of us.” Boulder Atheists co-founder Marvin Straus said billboards have proven an effective way for the organization to communicate with the public. He said recruiting more atheists isn’t the goal.

“It’s not like we’re evangelical atheists,” Straus said. “We don’t care whether people are believers or non-believers. Our main goal is separation of church and state. The goal of the billboard is to encourage a dialogue.”

Here is the design of the three billboards set up in Denver and Colorado Springs:
There have been several reactions to this story from Christians circles in Colorado. One reaction was from Glenn T. Stanton, the director for Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, CO. Stanton thinks that this is "bad manners". He does not agree with the Boulder Atheists's claims that their ad is intended to spark dialogue with people of faith on the existence of God. To him you don't draw people into conversation by poking fun of the beliefs (for more details click here).

A different reaction came from Rev. Roger Wolsey, the director of the Wesley Foundation, United Methodist Campus Ministry at C.U.- Boulder. As a Christian he thinks that God can handle this, and so can we. He is actually thankful for the ad because he thinks that there is no such thing as a faith that doesn’t have times of doubt. If a faith can’t handle people claiming that it’s B.S., then it isn’t much of a faith. (for more details click here

As to my own reaction the ad doesn't bother me for many reasons. For one, I have seen many ads from my Atheists brothers and sisters in the past, for example "Millions are good without God" and "You KNOW they're all SCAMS". To these I can reply: 1) Millions are good without God AND with God, 2) If I am part of the "scam", I am still waiting for my scam checks.

Also, we should remember history to know that Christianity has been attacked in many ways going back to days of Celsus and his work The True Word, to many of the works of Friedrich Nietzche, and lately the books by the so called "New Atheists" like Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens. My Christian brothers and sisters should also remember that we have been attacking each other for centuries and that it was not that long ago that heresy could mean being killed by a mob or being legally executed for being the "wrong" kind of Christian. These days where I live at the least I can write this blog and not worry about three guys wearing red robes and pointy hats telling me how they will poke me with soft cushions (Yes, I am a Monty Python fan).

So, according to many of my Atheist friends, some of them right here at Purdue (yes, :) you know who you are) I have an imaginary friend that, depending on the day, can also be called "Sky Daddy", "Sky Wizard", "Sky Gandalf", etc. According to some of them I don't need this "God" to live a "good life" and it appears that I am reaching the "right conclusions" in my life for the "wrong reasons", and all of this because I have faith in this imaginary BFF. Roman Catholic theologian Karl Rahner thought that faith puts squarely before us only the deep roots of this life which we would otherwise overlook or shut out. Faith to me is not believing in 'something without evidence'; to me faith is about a state of being and in my case a state of being in Christ.

I don't embrace the state of being found in faith because I want to escape from life and at the same time tell others they are "wrong" for not believing in God; I embrace it because I want to be in touch with the radical character of freedom and the responsibility found in life and everything in it: freedom, responsibility, love, hope, guilt, and forgiveness, not because I "know better" but because life DEALS every day with issues of freedom, responsibility, love, guilt, and forgiveness. And I do this not because I am afraid that "Sky Daddy will spank me" if I do not or, because if I don't I would go to some afterlife where I would be forced to listen to Justin Bieber for eternity. I do this because I feel driven to do so. And if you are an atheist my dear reader  maybe you have something to teach me about life, and hopefully I have something to teach you.

So, my reaction to the billboard ad and to my Atheist brothers and sisters is this:, let us work together (like in the past) to help our fellow human beings and, God is saying that we should get coffee and you're paying for it...what a terrible scam :)




  1. As a Christian, I think this is a person, though, don't shove poop in my face and call it chocolate. When has mocking something/someone ever sparked dialogue between the mocked and the mocker....if this billboard were words spoken between one person to another, we'd call it bullying. Call a spade a spade.

  2. As an atheist, I agree with your conclusion. I personally find the whole question of who is right and wrong to be the least interesting starting point when it comes to religion. As a sort-of-pragmatist, my response to that is what does your faith require of you? If we agree that we can be good with and without God, and if we essentially agree on what it means to be "good" (always a sticky and nuanced conversation), then what I have often failed to understand is why the hang up? We agree that it is better for us to behave a certain way, oriented toward our neighbors, helping those we can, living well and respecting autonomy, etc. Embracing stewardship for this world and its inhabitants doesn't have to be a religious/non-religious thing. Maybe we should all be a little humanist. Convert to my humanist sort of but not quite religion. I'm obviously right ;)