From contributing author Ronald Bruce Meyer
I manage this house; I don’t own it. But my real estate property management experience has taught me to be protective of property belonging to my clients. And as an assisted living manager, I am protective of the residents within. So when I saw two smartly dressed strangers approach the door of the house as I was leaving it, I stopped to hear what they had to say to the house manager I was leaving in charge.
The lead man in the trench coat carried a Bible and another book in his left hand. The gentleman behind him came similarly armed. The first stated his business to my house manager: “We stopped by last week and dropped off some Bible-based material for the people in the house. We just wondered if they had any questions.”
I manage six assisted-living houses and this was one of them. We are not affiliated with any religious organization and consequently keep ourselves open to all faiths-and none. Indeed, we have had not only Christian but Jewish and Muslim residents. We try to accommodate their special diets, as much as we can.
When I got into the field of caring for elderly people, I was rather surprised at the number who expressed no religious preference at all: I had always assumed that people gravitated toward God in their declining years, as if studying for their finals. But no, I guess life teaches some people that you don’t need God to be good or a mystical “elf-on-a-shelf” to guilt you out of doing bad things.
On the other hand, many of my residents do take their religion seriously and I do not stand in their way. I won’t drive them to church, but I welcome all clerics to make house calls, with one proviso: I do not allow proselytizing. It is one thing to enable religious practice. It is quite another to allow somebody to take advantage of a captive audience, my residents, to spread their religion. I do not allow then to talk to residents they do not know and I do not allow then to leave behind any religious literature for other residents to read. If they want to convert my residents, they will have to do it away from my house.
But today they were on my doorstep. My house manager looked nonplused, as if he had been caught doing something bad in front of his boss. He looked at me for help, knowing that it was he who had allowed them access to my residents on their first visit. I stood there, watching, not uttering a word. He stammered something to them like, “No. There are no questions.”
Now, if this had actually been my house, rather than a house for which I have responsibility to somebody else, I would have seen my role differently. Indeed, as I have written before, I would have relished a debate, a chance to shock them or to give them something to think about. But on this day, at this place, that was not my job.
Instead, I asked of the lead man, “Is this your last visit to my house?”
He turned to me, looking almost as stumped as my house manager, and hesitated. I could imagine him thinking, I am doing God’s work. Can he not see that I am only here to do good for these people and to get them to heaven? How can he forbid me to save their souls? Perhaps he needs saving. Perhaps he doesn’t know the horrors that await the unsaved! But he said, “I guess… that’s up to you.”
I said, “This is your last visit to my house.”
As they turned and left, a describable feeling came over me.
Why on earth should I feel guilty? I’ve been an atheist for over 40 years, yet I felt inside me the same emotion my house manager had shown on his face. Intellectually, I had justified my actions as protecting my residents and ensuring both freedom of religion and freedom from religion-in the best American tradition. So why did it nag at me that I had done something wrong?
Maybe it’s normal in this country, this culture, that Christians have free reign but atheists do not. After all my reading and debating, have I even now internalized Christian privilege? I hope not. And the cure may have come from the reverse perspective that I heard from the late Christopher Hitchens in a panel discussion of a few years ago. Hitchens noted that it seems quite acceptable for Christian proselytizers to approach dying people and tell them, in effect, “You’ve got one chance left; won’t you start believing now?” But, he said, what if the tables were turned? What if atheists started visiting dying people and saying, “Well, look, you may only have a few days left, but you don’t have to live them as a serf, you know. Just recognize that that was all bullshit, that the priests have been cheating you, and I guarantee you you’ll feel better.”
Somehow that would be in bad taste and unethical, but when Christians engage in the same kind of emotional extortion it’s seen as quite acceptable, even polite.
Maybe I should start making the rounds!
It’s always been interesting to me how god exhibits human emotions and personality characteristics in the Bible. Believers are always quick to point out the positive emotions and personality traits like love, compassion, and empathy. But what about all the NEGATIVE emotions and personality traits that this divine being exhibits?
Using a few sentences from the Bible, I will point out a particularly nasty aspect of god that most believers conveniently ignore. God is a narcissist. Now, please keep in mind that narcissism is considered a negative human trait that is most recognizable in cults of personality. Politicians, public figures, the rich and powerful… These people typically suffer from this condition, but it can affect anyone. Apparently, god didn’t make itself immune to the condition. I dare say, he/she/it likely suffered from the condition prior to creation, and finding a licensed therapist was impossible at the time.
Even though I’m not a licensed therapist, let alone a therapist – and far from being in touch with how god isn’t feeling at any given moment in time – I will attempt to diagnose and show, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that the deity is truly fucked up and in dire need of immediate intervention, if not, hospitalization. Let’s start with the Ten Commandments. The very foundation of the U.S. system of Justice!
1) “I am the Lord thy God which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”
Right out of the gate, god has a grandiose sense of self-importance and expects to be recognized as superior without comparable achievements. Sure, he/she/it thinks they created everything. But, where are the witnesses to this monumental event of creation? How can anyone objectively compare this achievement to the freeing of people from the “…house of bondage”? Oh… I get it! Just take god’s word for it because he/she/it is “special”. Which leads me to…
2) “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
Yep! Apparently god believes that he/she/it is “special” and unique, and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions. (Remember, this is the christian god, so special and high status people would definitely mean believers, their clergy, their church, their “chosen one” politician/s.) This god also suffers from a strong sense of entitlement, and unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations. Apparently the thousands of other gods that came before are a little more than threatening to this god. I think he/she/it could have worded this commandment a lot better. Something like “All those other gods… They’re really all made up by you measly humans. I’m the genuine article! Trust me!”
3) “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image”
4) “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain”
Really? This god is afraid of the paparazzi? Talk about restricting Freedom of the Press! This is obviously an attempt to control the deity’s public image. It’s also an arrogant, haughty behavior. I wonder if he/she/it would attack the photographer. My guess is yes. “I smite thee with digital interference on thy SD card and cast ye into hell fire! And no autographs please. I’m incognito.” And what about using he/she/its name to damn someone or bless them? Sensitive are we?
Could it really be?
God is a narcissist. In just the first four commandments it’s apparent that god needs serious therapy. But, he/she/it is far more fucked up than that. Jealousy, vengeance, a propensity for mass murder on a whim to strike fear into a single individual or small group of people… The list of dysfunctional human disorders that this deity suffers from could fill hundreds of pages! And, indeed those pages have already been written. But, unlike the Bible, there’s actually science at work in this book. Of course, you’re probably thinking that I’m the crazy one here. You probably think I’m being biased. But, facts are facts. And I follow the path that the facts lead me down. The facts?
The book is called the DSM. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. If you don’t think the christian god is narcissistic, the DSM-IV will shed some of reality’s light on the subject. The facts are hard to dispute.
According to the DSM-IV, Narcissistic Personality Disorder requires five of nine of the following symptoms…
- Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
- Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
- Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
- Requires excessive admiration.
- Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
- Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
- Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
- Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
- Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
Funny how a deity can be so susceptible to all nine symptoms of this purely human disorder. Perfection? Sure. Anything you say. Ah… But what do I know. I’m only human goddamn it!