“In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth…” Wow. What a badass. And it didn’t stop there. Back in the day, God also created epic floods, magically impregnated a virgin, resurrected the dead… Really, even as an agnostic who decidedly doesn’t believe in any version of anthropomorphic God, that’s a pretty impressive list of things Judeo-Christian God is capable of. And who knows, maybe 2,000 years ago, maybe even 100 years ago, when man was still dealing with life and death struggles everyday, I would’ve unquestionably believed, too. Whatever God did back then, or at least people said he did, it was awesome, and I don’t mean that in the surfer slang sense, but in the Old Testament way meaning awe-inspiring. God, indeed, was great.
But today? Well, it seems in the eyes of so many believers God’s become rather tedious. His “plan” no longer seems to involve tasks like, I don’t know, creating light, but things like individual minutiae. I’ve heard people attribute God’s intervention to job promotions, job demotions, individual deaths in the family (which, while certainly powerful events in the lives of other family members and friends, usually matter little in the larger scope of the world), pregnancies, marriages, even divorces. Did you find $20 on the ground? God put that there for you, they’d say. Forget about the person who dropped it when he hurriedly pulled out another bill from his wallet. Although, I suppose, if God has a plan for everything, God made that happen, too. Sorry, guy, them’s the breaks, as today it seems, God isn’t as great, as he’s simply mundane.
And nowhere is this more evident than in the world of reality television, where so many fundamentalist or born-again contestants invoke God’s name when talking about their fates as they complete silly tasks for large sums of money.
Yes, it seems God cares deeply about the on-screen fate of our above-pictured, straw-haired hero Matt of Survivor, as two weeks after this zealous confession he’s still there. And no, Matt’s not an anomaly. Jacob Lusk of this season’s American Idol mentioned God’s plan more than once as his reason for being there (never mind his voice and charisma, which or course would be attributed to God, as well, in this view). He did not mention God, however, when he recently got voted off. And there’s more! There are the bachelorettes who tell us God brought them to The Bachelor, the models who say God wants them to pose covered in honey with a swarm of wasps to become America’s Next Top Model. And the list goes on.
Usually there will be at least one of these types on any given show because, no doubt, this sort of simplistic view is entertaining to watch for both those who relate to it and those like me, who obviously don’t. Sure, these contestants sometimes provoke an eye-roll (one of the surest signs that a reality television show has been cast correctly — thanks God?), but more than that, their ubiquitous presence brings up larger, very interesting cultural questions — all of which are the type organized religions avoid, as they involve critical thinking, religions’ Achille’s heel.
Is this evidence that science can no longer be religiously argued away? I feel dumb for even asking that question, as more concrete evidence like physics, has already convinced me that yes, science is right, or at least it’s on the right track. But I think it’s worth pointing out the correlation between the rise of this rather weakened version of God (really, he’s nothing more than a reality television producer now) and the rapid advancement of scientific explanations for things like epidemics, natural disasters and human behavioral patterns in the last 100 years. In essence, it seems science is relegating God’s plan to evermore increasingly trivial events.
What then will be the effect of this weakened view of God, the overseer of all things unimportant, on religion? Well, it seems fundamentalist Christians are actually the ones undermining their religion the most. Their view, which by definition doesn’t allow freedom or choice, which renders the glorious capabilities of the human mind practically useless, which makes God sound more like a Hollywood douche than the master of the universe, encapsulates why I stopped identifying myself as Christian, a conclusion I arrived at only after years of serious soul-searching and often very painful consideration that’d be more fit to explain in-depth in a book than a blog post. And while I’m not sure what exists out there beyond our five senses, although I still have faith something else does, I do know that I definitely don’t believe in any higher power that would give a halo’d crap about who won Bridalplasty. That seems blasphemous to me.