I hit the couch to take my Saturday afternoon nap. I like background noise while I nap, so I turned on the TV. My wife had left the TV on the Hallmark Channel, which was showing some movie about yet another beautiful-yet-inexplicably-single woman who unknowingly begins a romantic relationship with the prince of some obscure European country. I couldn’t nap to that, so I switched channels. When I did, I came across a movie called Big Game. I had never heard of it before, but it turned about to be an action/thriller starring Samuel L. Jackson as the president of the U.S. who gets jettisoned out of Air Force 1 during a terrorist attack and lands in the wilderness of Finland (I think).
The movie was actually decent, and it kept me from napping for awhile. What eventually caught my attention, though, was not the action or the characters. It was this line, which a CIA analyst (or some such thing) says after being asked how terrorists could have penetrated security by turning a Secret Service agent:
Now I don’t have much comment on the money or sex part of that equation. I do have a comment about the God part. Clearly the analyst was referring to notion that someone’s God or god inspires them to do terrible things. It is not an uncommon suggestion. It is not entirely untruthful, either; we know for a fact that some people’s understanding of God/god has inspired them to do terrible things.
it is not the whole story, though. While it is true that some people’s understanding of God/god has inspired them to do terrible things, it is equally true that some people’s understanding of God/god has inspired them to do wonderful things.
I could make a list of such people (William Wilberforce would probably top that list, followed by thousands of others), but I really don’t have to do so. Instead of offering such a list to prove my point, I can offer myself. What I know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that my understanding of God (that is, the God of the Bible, the Father of Jesus Christ as revealed by Jesus Christ) has inspired me to do wonderful things and continues to inspire me to do wonderful things. In fact, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it would be my lack of belief in (and/or concern about) God that would inspire or at least allow me to do terrible things. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that apart from my belief in God I would be like this guy:
That’s right. I’d kill everyone who looked at me cockeyed. Or I’d at least give them a dirty look, a harsh word, or a little passive aggression. I’d be a terrible person apart from God. Not only so, I see no reason not to be a terrible person apart from God. If there is no God (which is what these arguments are really about; when we’re in this neighborhood, which not talking, “Which God?” but “God or not?”, in which case there are only two alternatives: either there is some spiritual side of life or there is nothing but physical matter), there is no reason to treat people decently. After all, if “no God” is the reality, then all people are just accidents of random chance, each no more important than algae or weeds or rats or any other vermin I eliminate without mercy when they annoy me.
I don’t treat people that way, though. I’m not that man. And I do not/am not because of my belief in God and my consequent belief that all people are created in the image of God and my even more consequent belief that how I treat people matters, that is, that I can treat people in the righteous way God/Jesus did (understand here my motivation is not that God will punish me in some way if I mistreat people but that God has invited me to be like Him in my treatment of people). The fact of the matter is that I am a far better and superior person by any standard because of my belief in God. People can offer all the quips they want. They can hit me with all the sarcasm they want. They can lay out all the counterarguments they like. But they can’t deny this one truth which I know far better than them: God has made me a better person. Period.
At the very least, then, belief in God is a mixed bag as far as actions go. Has it led some people to do terrible things. Sure. Those people most definitely had a wrong understanding of God, of course, but it is nonetheless true that their belief led them to horrendous action. It is also and equally true, though, (and perhaps more true, as there are certainly more people who have loved their neighbor because of God than there are those who have blown up their neighbor because of God) that it has led me and millions like me to do wonderful things. So belief in God at the least produces both things. And since it does, since it undeniably produces wonderful things as well as bad, it can’t be completely dismissed by a little dig in a movie or any other, similar attack.
BTW: Big Game continued to play as I wrote this post. Yes, I didn’t get the nap I wanted; I wrote instead. As I wrote, I heard the same CIA analyst say this:
So I guess it wasn’t God after all.