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Do You Believe in God? Yes or No.
Someone asks me whether I believe in God and indicates that a one sentence answer will do. Two at the most. It’s easy, yes or no.
I’m sorry, but why do you insist on subjecting me to the tyranny of such a question? If you are truly interested in my response, you will have to hear me out. If not, good day to you. Nothing is lost.
The question, like so many others, is tricky. It demands of me a clear yes or a clear no. I would have one of those very clear answers if the god about which I am being asked were so clear and well-defined. Do you like Santiago? Excuse me, which Santiago? Santiago de Compostela in Spain or Santiago, Chile? Santiago del Estero in Argentina or Santiago Matamoros?
Okay, look, my greatest desire is for God to exist. It’s the only thing I ask of him. But not just any god. It seems like almost everyone agrees that there is only one God, but if that is true then one must recognize that this is a god with multiple personalities, from multiple religions and with mutual hatred for one another.
The truth is that I cannot believe in a god who inflames the heart for war and who inspires such fear that nobody is capable of making even the slightest change. Which is why dying and killing for that lie is common practice; questioning it a rare heresy. I cannot believe, and much less support, a god who orders people massacred, who is made to the measure and convenience of some nations above others, of some social classes above others, of some genders above others, of some races above others. A god who for his own entertainment has created some men to be condemned from birth and others to be the select few until death, and a god who, at the same time, is praised for his universality and infinite love.
How does one believe in such a selfish, such a mean-spirited god? A criminal god who condemns greed and the accumulation of money and rewards the chosen greedy ones with greater material wealth. How does one believe in a god of neckties on Sunday, who shouts and swells with blood condemning those who don’t believe in such an apparatus of war and domination? How does one believe in a god who instead of liberating subjugates, punishes, and condemns? How does one believe in a small-minded god who needs the minor politics of a few of the faithful in order to gain votes? How does one believe in a mediocre god who must use bureaucracy on Earth to administer his business in Heaven? How does one believe in a god who allows himself to be manipulated like a child frightened in the night and who every day serves the most repugnant interests on Earth? How does one believe in a god who draws mysterious images on dank walls in order to announce to humanity that we are living in a time of hatreds and wars? How does one believe in a god who communicates through street-corner charlatans who promise Heaven and threaten Hell to passersby, as if they were real estate agents?
Which god are we talking about when we talk about the One and All Powerful God? Is this the same God who sends fanatics to immolate themselves in a market, the same God who sends planes to discharge Hell on children and innocents in his name? Perhaps so. Then, I don’t believe in that god. Rather, I don’t want to believe that such a criminal could be a supernatural force. Because we already have our hands full with our own human wickedness. It’s just that human evil would not be so hypocritical if it were to focus on oppressing and killing in its own name and not in the name of a kind and creative god.
A God who allows his manipulators – who have no peace in their hearts – to speak of the infinite peace of God while they go around condemning those without faith. Condemning those who have no faith in that tragic madness attributed every day to God. Men and women without peace who claim to be chosen by God and who go around proclaiming this because it’s not enough for them that God would have chosen them for their doubtful virtues. Those terrorists of the soul who go about threatening with Hell – sometimes softly and sometimes shouting – anybody who dares to doubt so much madness.
A God, creator of the Universe, who must fit between the narrow walls of consecrated homes and buildings uncursed by man, not so that God has a place but so that God can be put in a place. In a proper place, which is to say, privatized, controlled, circumscribed to a few ideas, a few paragraphs, and at the service of a sect of the self-chosen.
Of course, the classic accusation, established by tradition, for all those who would doubt the real attributes of God is arrogance. The furious preachers, in contrast, do not stop for an instant to reflect upon the infinite arrogance of their claim to belong to, and even guide and administer, the select club of those chosen by the Creator.
The only thing I ask of God is that he exist. But every time I see these celestial hordes I am reminded of the story, true or fictitious, of the indigenous chieftain Hatuey, condemned to be burned alive by the governor of Cuba, Diego Velásquez. According to father Bartolomé de las Casas, a priest was present for Hatuey’s final hours, offering him Heaven if he converted to Christianity. The chieftain asked if white men could be found there. “Yes,” responded the priest, “because they believe in God.” Which was sufficient reason for the rebel chief to refuse to accept the new truth.
Then, if God is that being who walks behind his followers in a trance, in all truthfulness, I cannot believe in him. Why would the Creator confer critical reason on his creatures and then demand of them blind obedience, hallucinatory trembling, uncontrollable hatreds? Why would God prefer believers to thinkers? Why would enlightenment mean the loss of consciousness? Could it be that innocence and obedience get along well?