Thereâ€™s a little church I drive past on my way into the city; one of those non-churchy looking evangelical churches thatâ€™s more of a cross between a house and an office building, where the only thing identifying it as a church is its sign: a small, backlit, letterboard, upon which are spelled out messages intended to uplift, amuse, inspire, or guilt people to salvation.
This week, the sign asks, in small, condescending, black letters, â€œAre your needs too big for God?â€ I reflexively yelled back at the sign, driving by the other day, that yes, actually they are, irritated at being patronized by this small collaboration of plastic, electricity, and judgment so lovingly and cleverly arranged by a well meaning pastor.
Some may call me arrogant; accuse me of thinking too much; tell me I need to surrender my pride to the mystery they call god. But I have needsâ€¦
I need to be responsible for my actions, good and bad; no devil to take the blame, no god to take the credit. True goodness arises from the desire to do good for its own sake, not from the fear of an angry godâ€™s vengeance, or the hope of his eternal reward.
I need to be in control of my life, and to know that the things beyond my control happen due to chance, not because I somehow deserve them; good or ill. Thereâ€™s peace and fairness in that idea; the freedom not to have to believe that a child somehow deserves cancer, or that natural disasters are punishment from god; or that an all knowing, all loving god could consciously set up a system in which such suffering was possible.
I need to think for myself, whatever the cost.
I need to live in a world that makes sense to me; that I can understand through observation and experience; to revel in lifeâ€™s mysteries not because they are unknowable, but in the anticipation of uncovering their secrets and unwrapping new questions; to glory in the fact that I exist at all; to marvel at the incredible sequence of events over the billions of years leading up to this moment, sitting here, pondering, writing; wondering at the fact that I can understand at all; one configuration among billions of possibilities in a molecular struggle for survival that accidentally created consciousness.
I need more than â€œGod did it.â€
I need the freedom to change my mind in the face of new information; to maintain intellectual honesty and an open mind; to be humbled by the notion that everything I think I know could be wrong; and out of this uncertainty, to endeavor to treat those who do not share my worldview with respect.
I need to decide for myself what my life means, and how best to spend it.
I havenâ€™t yet come across a god big enough to meet my needs, and Iâ€™m certainly not about to settle for the god of preachy roadside church signs.