I’m not an atheist but…

So many religions view God as an asshole, or at best, a controlling parent.

You have this set of rules you’re supposed to follow and if you fail (which you surely will), you’ll wind up in hell. Or the softer version of purgatory in Catholicism, which has to get rid of all your ugly humanity before you’re worthy of being in God’s presence.

In my view, this is all really fucked up. I remember when my youngest asked me, at around age 14, how God could send his children to hell and still be considered loving. At the time, I was still attending an evangelical church and said something weak about how God just wanted us to choose him.

But his question stuck with me and I realized I really didn’t have a satisfactory answer. If there is a hell, then God can’t be all loving. He wouldn’t let any of his children be subjected to eternal torture.

I always thought God was supposed to be better than us humans. And if I, as a supposedly lowly human, couldn’t condemn my child to eternal torture, how could God?

Another question my youngest asked around the same time was why God would allow Satan to exist if Satan’s purpose was to lead us away from God. He said that if God was all-powerful and really loved us, he would remove that stumbling block. Again, those were questions I couldn’t satisfactorily answer, for either him or myself.

I want to believe in God. I do think there are things that can’t be explained by science and I’m not satisfied with the explanation that it’s all just random coincidence.

But I can’t seem to adopt a positive view of God, at least not with the way I grew up and the way most mainstream religions view him. I’d love to develop a positive definition of God as an all-loving ally who’s always in my corner.

Yet the fact remains that such a view is incompatible with most religions. Even the Ten Commandments are nearly impossible for us humans to follow because they’re such common human failings. As guidelines, they’re good, but they’re a trap when there are consequences attached.

I know Catholicism has things like confession to put you back in God’s good graces when you screw up. But what happens if you die with unconfessed sins? What if you can’t remember all your sins? I know, there’s always the fall back of purgatory. But there’s something about the concept that we’re not worthy to be in God’s presence that sits wrong with me.

Maybe that’s pride–always the one of the “deadly sins” I was most guilty of. But in order to believe in a god, it has to be one that accepts me as I am. Not one that accepts me only if I always remember to dot all my i’s and cross all my t’s. Not one that thinks I’m so unworthy that all my humanity has to be purged from me. If Jesus died for our sins, why wasn’t that enough?

I know there are some more liberal churches that do teach that. But for some reason I always find them unsatisfying. I don’t know if I just can’t release my attachment to the idea of God as a score-keeping jerk waiting for me to mess up.

There’s also the matter that I can’t really believe in hell. Heaven is easier for me to believe in but I view it as similar to the Buddhist concept of nirvana. Yet as an American, it’s hard to truly understand Buddhism and not feel like I’m guilty of cultural appropriation.

Am I really an atheist? I don’t think I am; I think I’m more agnostic than anything. But a lot of the atheist arguments (especially the ones that aren’t knee-jerk and obnoxious) make more sense to me than most Christian apologetics.

I just wish I could find some kind of way to believe in a loving God that I couldn’t instantly debunk.

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