What psychological itch does worship scratch? Does it actually feel good to put ourselves into an inferior role?
Why would a perfect god accept praise or worship? Donald Trump would, but how could this make sense for a perfect god?
Let’s continue with Christian apologists’ justifications for praise and worship of God (part 1 here).
6. “By praising God, we are reminded of the greatness of God!”
Let’s consider some quotes to illustrate the Christian position.
[God is] saying, “if you serve Me things will go well with you because this is how I intended the whole thing to work. I love you and want only the best for you. It’s good for you to acknowledge the natural order of things: the way things simply are.” (Source)
Sounds like the “know your place” lesson slave owners taught the people they enslaved.
Praising God is useful and favorable for us. By praising God, we are reminded of the greatness of God! (Source)
According to the Bible, our purpose, the reason we are here, is for God’s glory. In other words, our purpose is to praise God, worship him, to proclaim his greatness, and to accomplish his will. This is what glorifies him. (Source)
We are not worthy even to gather up the crumbs under your table (from the “Prayer of Humble Access” from the 1993 Book of Common Worship of the Presbyterian Church).
When Christians say this, it’s not with head hung and feet dragging. Telling God how fantastic he is (and, conversely, how worthless they are) suits them just fine. The people in church praying with their eyes shut and hands forward to collect the holy baryons (or whatever the custom is in your local church) are getting an emotional reward.
Here’s how one person described the experience. Here is their response to the lyrics, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, / oh my soul, / worship His Holy Name / Sing like never before, / oh my soul, / I’ll worship your holy name”:
The first time I heard this praise song it melted my heart and brought tears to my eyes.
I didn’t know the name of it. I didn’t know who wrote it or who was singing it. I just knew my heart was bursting with praise and that I was in the presence of the Lord.
To some, a worship song is just a song. But to the believer, a heart of praise is a surrendered heart to the will of God, and open to the moving of the Spirit.
For some, the process of praising a god (and, in so doing, debasing themselves) is a reassuring thing. Losing yourself in the embrace of something greater than you can be comforting. If there’s a god that’s vastly smarter, more powerful, and more compassionate than you, then you’re in good hands. It’s a way of patting yourself (since God won’t) and saying, “There, there—everything’s going to be all right.”
Worship can have meditative benefits like prayer, and it can keep our egos in check. But these are benefits in the here and now. God doesn’t have to exist for worship to deliver these psychological benefits.
Debasement feels good
You don’t need to be born again; you need to grow up. The problem is that the church is not your ally. As John Shelby Spong observed, “The church doesn’t like for people to grow up because you can’t control grown-ups.”
Worship is the art of losing self in the adoration of another…. To truly worship God, we must let go of our self-worship.
… The physical acts often associated with worship—bowing, kneeling, lifting hands—help to create the necessary attitude of humility required for real worship. (Source)
The worship habits that feel good—that scratch that psychological itch—will stick and become part of a church’s custom. The priesthood is motivated to help. These are natural reasons that help explain the custom of god worship. No actual god is needed.
Here’s a sensible bit of caution.
Too many people say that they cannot praise God while refugees wander without a home, while people freeze to death for lack of shelter, while children remain hungry, while hatred runs free in our streets, and on down the list of social ills. (Source)
But they have an odd solution.
Perhaps this is part of the reason for everything feeling overwhelming or out of control; we have forgotten how to sing God’s praises every day…. If the world is overwhelmed with hatred and poverty and fear, it is not God’s doing. God is still God in the midst of the mess we have created.
Yeah, when the world sucks, don’t blame God. It’s not like it’s his creation or anything. Let’s only credit God with the good stuff because he might get sad if you pointed to “his” creation and demanded that he justify the problems.
You paint a pathetic picture of your god. How can you praise God when he helps without cursing him when he doesn’t? More than 1000 garment workers died when a building collapsed in Bangladesh in 2013. The last survivor pulled from the rubble had survived an incredible 17 days. Her sister said, “We got her back just when we had lost all our hope to find her alive…. God is so merciful.”
If that was God being merciful to you, then he was being a mass murderer to the families who lost loved ones.
The self-debasing attraction of worship has a natural explanation. Worshipping God simply because he’s powerful is like worshipping a natural disaster because it, too, is powerful and deadly, which is kind of what ancient people did. Perhaps Christianity personifies nature.
Note also that we see no equivalent or worship within science, the discipline that actually does get results. Perhaps then worship is an ancient vestigial artifact we have yet to get rid of.
The most preposterous notion ever conceived by homo sapiens
is that the Lord God, creator and shaper of all the universe,
wants the prayers of his subjects, and the adulations of his subjects,
and that if he doesn’t get this flattery he becomes petulant.
This absurd notion, without a trace of evidence to back it up,
pays for the biggest, least productive industry on Earth.
— Lazarus Long
(quoted by Ray Romano at the 1995 AAI Convention)