In the wake of the tsunami disaster, it’s time for believers to take a more proactive role in world events. It’s time to boycott God.
Centuries of uncritical worship have clearly produced a monster. God knows that he can sit passively by while human life is wantonly mowed down, and the next day, churches, synagogues, and mosques will be filled with believers thanking him for allowing the survivors to survive. The faithful will ask him to heal the wounded, while ignoring his failure to prevent the disaster in the first place. They will excuse his unwillingness to stave off destruction with alibis (“God wasn’t there when the tsunami hit”—Suketu Mehta) and relativising (“for each victim tens of thousands yet live”—Russell Seitz), even if those excuses contradict God’s other attributes, such as omnipresence or love for each individual life.
Where is God’s incentive to behave? He gets credit for the good things and no blame for the bad. Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft is fond of thanking God for keeping America safe since 9/11; Ashcroft never asks why, if God has fended off terrorist strikes since 9/11, he let the hijackers on the planes on the day itself. Was God caught off guard the first time around, like the U.S. government? But he is omniscient and omnipotent.
So slavishly do his worshipers flatter God that they give him credit for things he didn’t even do. Let a man rape and murder a child, and it’s the man’s offense; but if someone tends to the sick or shares his wealth, it’s God’s hand at work. The Most Rev. Gabino Zavala from the Los Angeles Roman Catholic Archdiocese rejects any suggestion that God forsook the tsunami victims, according to the Los Angeles Times, but he credits God with the subsequent charity: “You can see God in the people’s response—how they’re reaching out.”
It is a sad fact of human relations that unqualified adulation often produces from the adored one contempt and a kick in the chops, rather than gratitude and kindness. Apparently, the same applies to human-divine relations.
So, let the human race play hard to get. Imagine God’s discombobulation if, after the next mass slaughter of human life, the hymns of praise and incense do not rise up. He checks the Sunday census; the pews are empty. Week after week, the churches and mosques are unattended; the usual gratitude for his not wiping out even more innocent children does not pour forth.
He starts to worry. Has he gone too far this time? Maybe he should’ve exercised his much heralded powers of intervention, the same powers that his erstwhile worshipers presupposed every time they prayed for him to cure a cancer victim, or get them into law school.
And so, no longer guaranteed an adoring public, he starts to make nice. He calls back avalanches poised to wipe out whole villages; he brings rain to drought-stricken communities; he cures fatally handicapped babies in the womb, or prevents such flawed conceptions before they happen. He presents tokens of his love to malaria victims and children paralyzed by auto accidents. Africa blooms with peace and prosperity.
It might not work. But the “I’m rotten-You’re divine” syndrome isn’t too functional, either. It’s worth a try; there is nothing to lose.