An Open Letter to God

Dear God,

I wasn’t sure if you knew this or not, but there’s a church out by me, on the eastern end of Long Island, that’s been advertising its new web site, itpaystoquestiongod.com. I’ve heard the ads on local radio stations while driving and seen pieces written about it in local papers.

The whole concept is this: You go to the site, you type in some big, huge, burning question you’ve been meaning to ask God (well, you), and then the church donates $5 to one of four, pre-selected, local charities. Now, even to an atheist such as myself, this sounds all well and good. I was even contemplating going on and plugging in the question “What’s the difference between supper and dinner?” just so a local charity could get five bucks. Then I figured I’d just write to you directly, bypass the middleman, and use the money on cat food.

So I ask you, what is the difference between supper and dinner? Is it a cultural thing? Perhaps a geographic thing? Does the answer vary from country to country? If you don’t know, then I don’t think anybody will. Maybe I shouldn’t have bothered with this letter at all and just gone straight to Wikipedia.

Writing this to you as a mostly atheist (and yes, I know this makes me sound like the people who call themselves vegetarian but still eat fish and chicken) I realize I’m writing to a fictional character (it’s ok though, I have, after all, written to dead people and corporations before). But what a fucking character you are. In fact, you’re not only most likely the most well known character in all of literature, but you also seem to elicit more passion from Bible readers – whether it be hatred or pure adoration – than any other protagonist from any other book. Though, I suppose you’re more of an omniscient narrator than the protagonist. But then this passion spills out from the pages of the Bible and into real life. Think of how many crazy things have been done in the name of a fictional character?

Now, this is the thing: Atheism scares me just as much as God/religion. Because, as a mostly atheist, if I’m wrong, then I’m screwed when I die. I might have been the nicest person to walk the planet – you know, helping old people cross the street, taking in stray animals, turning the other cheek, etc. – but as soon as I say I don’t believe in God, then I imagine Hell is the only place I’m heading.

As a Catholic school graduate, having read quite a bit of the Bible and having spent far too much time around nuns and other religious folk, I know how vengeful you can be. I mean, Sodom and Gomorrah? You dislike their sexual preferences and practices, so you threw some fire and brimstone their way. Sure, you gave Lot, a good man in your divine eyes, and his family the chance to escape these damned cities. But you turned his wife into a pillar of salt when she turned back to look at Sodom as they fled! That’s not cool. And the story of Noah? The human race pissed you off as a whole, so you drowned those suckers. I mean, come on, you didn’t even attempt to have a Town Hall style meeting first? Your immediate reaction is to wipe them out? This does not bode well for modern society, with 2012 fast approaching (you know, assuming I’m totally wrong and you exist).

And let’s not even talk about the Book of Revelation. When I took a class called Passion, Sin and Miracles, which studied the Bible as literature, when we got to that segment of the course I had to use my allotted absences to avoid having to read it. And when it came time to choose a final essay topic, I avoided anything involving the apocalypse and instead wrote about apocrypha.

But the scariest story of all is the story of Job, who was actually one of your most devout followers. Instead of a pat on the back, you turn him into nothing more than a plaything one day when you and the devil wager on exactly how much it would take for Job to break down and renounce his faith in you. Boils, plagues, killing off his children, taking away his wealth. And all for no reason other than your amusement.

After first reading about Job in middle school, that’s when I knew exactly who I was dealing with – a God who destroys because he can, for no rhyme or reason. And the nuns and hyper religious, lay religion class teachers didn’t really help either. They’d try to tell you, basically, be good, or else. I mean, they’d sugarcoat it with colorful picture books of Bible stories, hippies playing the guitar, fun activities (I vaguely recall making a lamb mask out of paper plates and cotton balls and then crawling around an altar during mass at summer Bible camp) and the rewards of heaven.

But for me it always went back to Job: If you feel like smiting me, I will be smote, no matter how awesome I am.

Where, I ask you, is the incentive to be a good person? It’s all simple psychology. If there’s a piece of cheese at the end of the maze, a carrot on the end of a stick, well, then I’ll be going in whatever direction you’re trying to make me go. But you made your mistake by including the story of Job in the Bible. It just showed me – and I hope it showed others – how arbitrary and tempestuous you are and that clearly I could do whatever the fuck I wanted, because you were coming after me no matter what I did.

This was my reasoning when I entered high school – an all-girls’ catholic school I affectionately refer to as lesbian boot camp. That’s about when I also started to think of the Bible as nothing more than a work of fiction, no different from Greek and Roman mythology (can you imagine taking Theogony by Hesiod literally?), a good summer read.

So I drank. I swore (I’ve probably taken your name in vain on several occasions). I cut class. I stopped going to church every weekend so I could sleep late. I came out of the closet without fearing fire and brimstone (though let’s face it, I was never really in the closet, it was more like a cubby hole.) I basically went down a list of the Ten Commandments and crossed each one off as I broke them.

For the most part, this is how I live my life to this day, with no fear of retribution in the afterlife for all my worldly foibles and misdeeds.

But there is that nagging doubt in the back of my mind, because I don’t think anyone can ever be entirely certain about anything. I’ve never been one to think any possibility was a sure thing. So there’s that .01 percent of myself that’s thinking, “Oh shit, if I’m wrong I am totally screwed for eternity.”

With that, I’ll let you get back to work, assuming the 99.99 percent of me is wrong. But if I am wrong, can you get back to me on supper/dinner question? You have my e-mail address.

Tiffany

PS Are you there, God? It’s me, Tiffany. Can you please not kill me in my sleep for writing this letter?

15 Comments

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15 responses to “An Open Letter to God

  1. go see religulous. this is funnier than a lot of it (but it was amusing) and the end had a point even if it didn’t seriously lead up to it more than once.

    love, jess
    a fellow atheist.

  2. I say the following in sincere sympathy as someone who asked and repeatedly thought many of the points you discussed above:

    “The whole earth is filled with the glory of God and every ordinary bush aflame, but only he that sees takes off his shoes.”

    I’m guessing that you’ll understand the context of this quote, growing up in Catholic school and hearing the story of Moses taking off his shoes in reverence when God spoke to him through a burning bush.

    Although I could, I don’t intend to persuade you with scientific arguments for the existence of a Creator, or give you a bunch of quotes from scripture that you may or may not have already heard.

    I just want to leave you with this. If there is a God, a God who knows your name(as well as your e-mail address) and spoke our reality into existence, a God whose “ways are higher than our ways,” and who is intimately and purposefully involved with the details of our existence, then maybe and just follow me for a sec; maybe, He’s been screaming at the top of His lungs reaching out in Love, to people like us, but not in feeble words, or e-mails, or maybe not even in the most sincere of catholic schools.
    Maybe it is all too possible that the whole earth, every inch of created existence is literally alive with this purpose. Maybe there is a burning bush in front of you, the only problem at this point; you, and maybe a whole mess of people on earth are blind to it. Maybe you feel its heat from time to time spurred by that .01% of worry or doubt that comes and goes every now and again, but nothing is ever intense enough to make you take off your shoes and reverence the fact that there is a God who does not feel the need to prove himself in the ways we so desperately desire.

    But, quite possibly it wasn’t just by complete coincidence or purposelessness that I have no idea who you are, but followed a random link from a random bulletin on myspace to this post. Maybe, and I’ll go so far to say that, “I believe” that this response is just another flicker from that bush, letting you know that God DOES exist and I hope and pray that you won’t limit a spiritual God to limit himself by proving His existence in merely a physical way.

    -with respect and love

    -matt

  3. Emily Snider

    Tiffany, the Catholics and the Old Testament have done enough to ruin the reputation of God. Why don’t you try Non-Denomination and read a little Gospel? I think you’ll find that God not only exists but that Jesus does too and he’s just waiting for you to admit it. Once you do, nothing will change except you’ll probably become a little bit less cynical, a little more content and able to finally rest in the knowing that the artist of existance is the definition of LOVE. This being in not male or female, it doen’t matter whether you are gay or straight. All God wants is to bring love to the world. Who can speak against that?
    “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If one offered for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly scorned.” – Song of Solomon 8:7

  4. Anna

    Dear Matt,

    I’m respecting your respect for people who have opposing views on the matter. Though, I must say, you’re missing the point of the blog. It wasn’t about the representation God is to the religious followers, but of the existence. So you say God is reaching out in love. That’s lovely, thanks for the support. You may say to yourself, “well if we believe in that love, then we can believe in what God brings to us.” This can pretty much sway either way. If you can follow me, just for a sec, and put on your realism shoes, then you might be enticed by the fact that there is only an allusion to God’s existence but there is no validation. Can you give me that?

    “Maybe there is a burning bush in front of you, the only problem at this point; you, and maybe a whole mess of people on earth are blind to it.” Blindness implies having something there to begin with. Where can you actualize the theory of God?

    A note of importance to you, just by you stating that “God DOES exist,” in caps, does not actually suggest that God does. But thanks for the effort.

    Dear Emily,

    No one is arguing or denying Jesus’ existence. We know, he has walked the planet. Again, love does not connote God. Love is a pure sentient emotion. Hello? Where is the sentient in God?

    K, thanks bye.
    Anna

  5. faith

    Hey there fellow catholic school girl!
    No matter what the other commenters have said, I don’t think that God would mind your questioning his/her existence. If we were to base all our beliefs solely on the Bible (either part) we’d have a strange history. In the Old Testament, Noah is what 500 something years old when he is asked to build the ark? How is that remotely possible?
    And why all the women-hating? Why would God, who loves everyone but is also a vengeful god, allow all those horrible things to happen to women just because they are women? I mean really? where’s the equality. You can’t tell me that something created in his image doesn’t get to be equal just because it can give birth. If anything I would think that that would make a particular gender more equal.
    Don’t get me started on his “chosen people.” I don’t believe you make something stronger by constantly testing and hurting it.

    I think that one should believe in god but that you don’t have to find god in a church or look at something like the bible for directions. God gave you free will after all and should trust that you know how to use it.

  6. man. I’m crushed. I really thought that putting things in all-caps DOES make it True.

    …that was with WARM sarcasm by the way.

    first, I was not trying to explicitly reference “the representation God is to the religious follower” but trying to make a generalization about everyone’s timidity to accept evidence for the existence of God. I probably wasn’t forward enough with it, but I was trying to highlight the fact that God’s existence is unavoidably proven in His creation. Herein, I really don’t have enough faith to be an atheist. In nature ALONE, (there I go again) there is evidence not for a common origin of species, but for a Loving, Intelligent Maker. You may refute that statement and shove millions of pages of biological research in my face; and to be very clear I am not debating the fact that species change over time, I am more specifically, highly opposed to what Darwin proposed, a common “origin of species.” Because, this is what makes the evolutionary theory, a THEORY. There IS evidence that species change over time through genetic mutation; however, the intricate (and that’s a massive understatement) differences from one species to another leave no explanation as to how in the world they can slowly, through millions of years of change, uniquely exist from one common collection of elements and proteins.

    I once heard the question of man’s existence is like someone finding a McDonald’s wrapper on Mars and thinking nothing of it. I find it hard to believe that there is no intelligence behind the existence of that wrapper other than that wrapper had some instinctual desire to survive and somehow now exists.

    -thanks for replying Anna

    -matt

  7. tiffanyrazzano

    Enough of all this God nonsense… doesn’t anyone know the difference between supper and dinner?

  8. Lisa

    Why are people so upset about this when they could be arguing with you about Napoleon? Don’t some people want to quote from history and dispell your theory about Napoleon not being so short? Maybe the average frenchman at the time was 5’9″? I would look it up, but you know, that would require actual effort, plus, I distrust Wikipedia.

  9. Joe

    Well I’m not going to get all preachy, since I’m not into the God you are writing about…in fact most of us pagans never push our religious beliefs on anyone…but that’s not why I am writing. I’m writing about your Supper/Dinner dilemma. So here is the deal, it’s not really a cultural thing, more a geographic. For example in the deep south they don’t have lunch in the afternoon, it is dinner, and their evening meal is supper. In the UK, Australia and New Zeland, Dinner is the evening meal and Supper is a small, late night snack, sort of like tea time, but after 9 P.M. Now this may not have answered your question satisfactorily, and all I have left is the etymology. Dinner comes from the Latin disiunare meaning, “break fast.” I know, weird right? It is basically the main, or largest meal of the day, no matter when it is eaten. Unless of course you take it by it’s other definition of “A formal meal in honor of a person or occasion.” The word Supper didn’t actually start to become common until ~1300, when it was spoken about The Last Supper…yep, the Roman Catholics started it. However it does come from the French super, which means, To eat the evening meal…so basically while they have come to mean the same thing in most areas, Supper is a snack or light meal before bed, and Dinner is the last real meal of the day. Hope that helps 🙂

  10. Tiff, you’re right, this is really funny!

  11. mike r

    my, you got yerself some responses, Mary Katherine Gallagher! You know I turned that religious cheek to Jesus last year (while still staying me, only now better), but everything you wondered and worried about, I did too. I just believe that Jesus spoke the truth, God is love, and fundamentalists (of any stripe) are damaging, hateful, and frightening as fuck, but it’s not them that I pray to.

    Love your letters – keep them a-coming!

  12. sarabuc

    Tiffany,
    I read your letter and first of all I would ask you kindly to let me know if God replied… in that case… IM FUCKED TOO!!! Concerning the difference between supper and dinner… hm, well, i can give you only my humble opinion of what sounds reasonable to me… I wanted to say something stupid like … if you erase the letter p from supper you would get the word super which gives the meaning of something extraordinary and therefore I would say that supper could be considered something more religious or not an everyday thing… but i would be just talking nonsense… instead i looked in wikipedia and what they had to tell me is totally opposite from my initial bullshit, and so I change my opinion and i say that supper is derived from french word soupe which means soup and it actually is something ordinary but dinner is a principal meal either second or third in the day depending on the religion or whatever whatever… anyways, i never really read a bible, so God, if you do exist, can i go for “ignorance” defense

  13. Eve

    Hey Tiff! I think any reasonable atheist understands there is a possibility they could be wrong (myself included). It’s just one of many frightening thoughts that comes with being an atheist. But anyway, the burden of proof isn’t on us and blah blah blah

    My guess would be the supper/dinner issue is a class/cultural thing.

  14. kathleen

    haha, theogony by hesiod. i’m so happy you’ve read it! nerdy classics major to the rescue.

    as for supper/dinner: http://www.englishforums.com/English/DifferenceBetweenDinnerSupper/lmzg/post.htm

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