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infantilizing GodI’ve recently found myself a grandfather for the first time, and I’m relearning what it’s like to deal with a baby. I find that I treat my granddaughter, now five months old, a bit like I treat my dog. Neither understands English very well, but they can understand tone. She grabs her toy? “What a smart girl!” She rolls over? “What a clever girl!” She bites Piglet’s nose? “What a talented girl!” She burped, she pooped, she has a wet diaper? “What a good girl!”
This is surprisingly analogous to how many Christians treat God. You get what you wanted in prayer? “Thank you, God!” You didn’t get what you wanted in prayer? “Thank you, God!” God isn’t smart enough or tough enough to handle constructive feedback. Christians aren’t supposed to say, “God, the next time you think it’d be fun to give a five-year-old leukemia, get back on your meds and think again.”
God is either giving you great stuff or teaching you important lessons, and no matter what happens, God gets the credit. God is praised, regardless—whether you get the perfect parking space when you were late or God deals out some tough love by not giving you that promotion, he can’t lose. When bad things happen, God’s never blamed. That’s man’s fault. Even natural disasters are recast as part of God’s marvelous, inscrutable plan. And when bad things happen to someone, they endured the ordeal only with God’s support.
Empty and groundless platitudes like “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” or “God must’ve needed another angel” or “Everything happens for a reason” litter the internet like the walls in a sampler museum. Doubt is discouraged, and faith (in the sense of belief despite poor evidence) is put forward as a great virtue.
God is always perfect and infallible, especially when you conclude that before you start. There is even the weighty discipline of theodicy to add somber scholarly support to this claim. Christians give all the other supernatural beliefs (unicorns, Xenu, Zeus) a skeptical eye, but their god can only handle baby food. And just like a baby, he’s never called to account, never has to clean up his messes, never has to explain himself or follow adult rules. God doesn’t even need good evidence that he exists.

Religion is the diaper of humanity’s childhood;
It’s OK to grow out of it.
— PZ Myers

Gods are children’s blankets
that get carried over into adulthood.
— James Randi

Image credit: Christian Haugen, flickr, CC

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CROSS EXAMINED In his first career, Bob Seidensticker designed digital hardware and was a contributor to 14 software patents. Since then, he has explored the debate between Christianity and atheism for...