DIALOGUE AND DISCUSSION ON EDUCATION, ENVIRONMENT AND RACE
God did it! We often hear this phrase, or its other variations—"To God be the glory," "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,"—uttered for different life events, like whenever a new job has been secured, a promotion earned, an ailing friend or family member regains their health, or a new home or car is purchased.
More often than not those three words are followed by a testimony, either in front of a packed sanctuary or in one-on-one conversation, detailing how high the odds were stacked, the unlikelihood of the of outcome, and—most importantly—how God was the entire end-all and be-all for the happy result.
On the surface, such anecdotes seem innocuous and harmless. And in some cases, such as when giving thanks for finding the perfect parking space or acing an exam, maybe they are. But many take it further, giving praise to a deity for every measure of personal and professional success achieved, handing over all the accolades to an unseen partner.
In its own way, "God did it" can be just as destructive as saying "The devil made me do it." While the latter allows individuals to abdicate personal responsibility for their actions, it is not taken as seriously or with as much authority as the former.
Isn't it interesting that whenever a serial murderer, child molester, or other violent criminal invokes inner demons or name-checks Satan, both the religious and non-religious find common ground in laying the blame for the crime squarely on their soldiers? The reality that humans are more than capable of committing horrendous acts all on our own is easily embraced by believers, because it plays into the Christian narrative that at our core, we are scarred by sin and incapable of goodness. Of course, many of those same folks will go through contortions to dismiss or cast doubt on the fact that Adolf Hitler identified as a Christian or that the Spanish Inquisition, Salem witch trials, and Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade were acts of "true" Christians, even though all of them could have found much inspiration in the Bible.
But back to the lecture at hand. When it comes to recognizing the positive sides of human behavior—compassion, empathy, perseverance, and ingenuity—and that these traits can flourish sans belief in a deity, the religious are usually nowhere to be found. Most of us who grew up in religious homes are taught any goodness or "holiness" that exists within you is because of God and your willingness to be "used' by him. We're also often told, through catchphrases like "All of you and none of me," that in order to increase said goodness or holiness we have to diminish our own humanity. But doing so means believing the flip side—that you are completely inept without supernatural intervention.
In the case of getting a new job or a promotion, all of those years spent earning a degree or showing up to work day in and day out and giving 100% mean nothing, because without God it would be impossible to ever obtain either of those things. And in times of sickness, all the doctors, medications and scientific advancements don't matter, because "God did it." A nice home, a great spouse, well-behaved, educated kids—it has nothing to do with you, because "God did it."
This line of thinking works to cripple critical thinking, making people afraid to make their own choices or come to their own conclusions about the world out of fear they didn't consult God first, or maybe they misheard him. It makes people fear and distrust themselves, because they believe all their actions spring from selfish, sinful intentions. It undermines human effort and achievement, because ultimately our best is "but filthy rags." It encourages low self-regard but calls it humility. Ironically, placing all faith in God means removing all faith in oneself.
I was recently given a promotion at my job. After the initial jubilant glow wore off, my thoughts drifted to how I would've reacted to the news not so long ago. I probably would've given a silent quick "thank you" to the Almighty, then given another round of thanks that night before I went to bed. It would have served as a good reason to sing along a little bit louder to praise and worship songs, to take a stroll down to the altar. Instead, I thanked my boss for giving me the opportunity to move up, accepted congratulations from coworkers, then reveled in the good news with my boyfriend, his family, and my family. Because people made this possible and people are what's important.
Yes, we as human beings can do horrible, some might say evil, things to one another. But we are also capable of great acts of kindness. Yes, we can be destructive, ignorant, and narrow-minded. Yet at the same time we can also be creative, enlightened, and inclusive. One thing we possess that God, at least the Christian one, does not is potential. His reputation is already set in stone. There is no room for him to grow or evolve. But we can. Whether we use that potential for good or bad is up to us. Though we would give ourselves a better head start by embracing a philosophy that acknowledges our darkness, as well as our light.