How to recognize a man-made God

In the play Inherit the Wind, there’s a line that goes something like this: “God created man in His own image, and man, being a gentleman, returned the compliment.” I was an evangelical Christian when I first heard this little snark, but surprisingly it did not offend me even then. Whether or not you believe in God, it’s only too easy to find other Gods who¬†clearly¬†have been shaped to suit the preferences and personality of their followers.

What makes these man-made gods so easy to recognize is that their creators invariably project their own prejudices, preferences, and biases onto the gods they create. Sexists imagine a God Who is male and insists on male supremacy and the subordination of women. Racists imagine a God Who treasures “racial purity,” promotes white supremacy, and looks on mixed-race marriage as immoral and sinful. Homophobes create a God Who hates gays and insists on restricting marriage to heterosexual couples only. Lustful men invent a God Who blesses His sons with multiple wives, and defines marriage as the union of one man and one or more women. And so on.

It is somewhat ironic, then, that modern day Christians preach so loudly that their own God is one of the obviously man-made Gods we just listed. In “defending” what they see as the sacred institution of marriage, they are inadvertently exposing one of the great weaknesses of their faith: that their God is merely a very human set of prejudices and superstitions, enshrined as deity in order to lend believers a false weight of authority.

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