Saturday, October 29, 2016


According to Judeo-Christian tradition, no one is perfect, everyone has sinned—except for God, that is.  The Jewish tradition of the Day of Atonement was established to encourage all of us periodically to review our conduct, to acknowledge our sins, and to ask for forgiveness, not just of God but of our fellow humans.  It’s a great concept, I think.  But what if God took a careful look at his own conduct and realized that he too had made mistakes, that he also needed to apologize?  Here is some of what God might say.

Pain and Suffering.

As creator of the universe, I could have set up the laws of nature in any manner I wanted.  According to tradition, my only limitation was that I wanted humans to have free will.  But given my omnipotence, I should have worked harder to set up those laws to avoid causing pain and suffering to humans.  Oh, sure, I would argue that humans brought some of the suffering on themselves by sinning right out of the gate.  I’m not taking the blame for suffering that is the result of human conflict, such as hurtful words, bullying, murder and mayhem, war, that sort of thing.  Adam and Eve should have seen that coming.  No, I’m talking here about natural calamities such as earthquakes, floods (not the Great Flood—more about that later), famine, and disease.  These are all the inevitable result of the laws of nature that I put into effect.  In retrospect, I should have been more careful.  Sorry about that.

Arbitrary Rules and Beliefs.

I designed humans to be curious and to be capable of thinking rationally.  I knew that if they observed closely and thought carefully, they would reasonably question some of the rules that I laid down, starting with the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden.  It simply wasn’t fair to design them to be seekers of knowledge and then arbitrarily to deny them access to the knowledge that that tree would provide.  That was tantamount to cruel teasing, frankly.  Moreover, I could at least have given them a second chance, a do-over.  Besides that, because of my omniscience, I knew in advance that they were going to fail.  Sigh . . . So what was I thinking?  Sorry.

Losing my Temper.

Then there was that unfortunate incident of the Flood.  Humans were just being, well, human, living their lives, raising their families, scratching out a living.  And, yes, some of them were acting badly and some were not paying me the homage that I was demanding.  But that didn’t mean that I had to murder all but a handful of them, along with nearly all of the animals.  I simply lost my temper.  Unfortunately, that happened again and again throughout the Old Testament.  That regrettable series of events in Sodom and Gomorrah stands out in my memory.  Frankly, I have had a long-term anger management problem.  More recently I have avoided engaging in worldwide destruction, so maybe I’m getting better.  Still, no excuses.


Sometimes I let my power and position get the best of me.  I think it is OK for me to demand allegiance and adoration.  After all, I am God almighty.  But on occasion I’ve gotten carried away with my own self-aggrandizement.  When the Hebrews were trying to persuade pharaoh to free them from slavery in Egypt, the pharaoh was ready to let them go after a few plagues.  But, no, I wanted to demonstrate my power, so I actually went in and hardened pharaoh’s heart so that he changed his mind and wouldn’t let them go.  I did that so that I could impose additional plagues, including the tenth, the murder of all the first-borns.  See Exodus 9-12.  That was a totally unnecessary genocide just to make me look more powerful.  Frankly, that was arrogant and shameful.

Salvation Story.

When I created humans, I gave them the ability to think rationally and to insist on basing beliefs on objective evidence rather than meekly accepting what they are told.  So why did I concoct that silly salvation story and insist that they believe it when it simply doesn’t make rational sense?  First, there is the confusion between my being the one God and at the same time inventing this notion of a Trinity.  There simply is no rational way to reconcile these two concepts.  Of course, there have been all sorts of attempts to gloss over this logical inconsistency, but at the end of the day there is no getting around the fact that one does not equal three.  But what is worse, I insisted that Christians can enjoy a place in the afterlife only if they believe that I (or, uh, some form of myself) came down to earth as a human to be born of a virgin, that I lived a perfect life, and that I was raised from the dead to return to heaven.  If they don’t believe that story—which flies in the face of human experience and rational analysis—then they are doomed.  Some humans are gullible or simply are not observant, critical thinkers, at least about this stuff.  They actually have a chance for salvation.  But, as I said, I gave humans the ability to be observant and to think rationally.  So why should those who actually exercise those abilities be lost?  Moreover, I set this up as a binary choice.  If they accept the salvation story, they can be saved and enjoy eternal bliss.  If they do not, well, let’s just say their future doesn’t look bright.  But why should they be punished for doing what I designed them to do?  That was wrong.  Sorry.

There’s probably plenty more that I should apologize for, but this is a start, don't you think?  If you feel there are other matters for which an apology is due, let me know.  I am always here to listen.

© 2016 John M. Phillips


  1. Brilliant, John. Absolutely brilliant. Wish I'd thought of it. I'm not sure I accept God's apology, but at least it's a start.

  2. Very nice presentation of that tangle of contradictions otherwise known as Christianity. Thank you.