Thursday, 9 July 2009

The God I don’t believe in

Some pastoral disasters, along with many reactions to authority, have an interesting a whiff of Sylvia Plath’s “daddy, daddy you bastard, I’m through” about them. Our images of father figures certainly play out in our images of God, for good or ill. Like the Policeman in the sky, the Omnicompetent Fat Controller the Atheists rightly reject, “Almighty Gawd,” is a long way away from the God and Father of our lord Jesus Christ — more like Blake's nightmare vision of Nobodaddy — manipulative, angry, vengeful, controlling. Nobodaddy deals in Certainty not Clarity, Ideology not Mystery, Status not Reality, Politics not Truth, Control not Trust. He is less than half the truth. He uses words as weapons, not the creative impulse to make the world.

Cue a poem by Martin Bell:
Instruction for my Godson
(To William Redgrove)

God help me, I’m supposed to see you’re told
All about God the Father. So my beard mutters:
There are always two Fathers, one Good and one Bad.
You can always tell the Bad One, he’s always around.
Particularly first thing in the morning,
Scruffy and screaming for a razor-blade,
Wondering who to eat up for his breakfast —
He won’t eat you however much he shouts.
I’m not trying to sell you bad old Nobadaddy,
Learn to shrug off his sessions on his throne
Farting thunderbolts and belching clouds.

The Good One has a different way with Clouds; he watches.
He knows fifty-seven ways at least of looking at them,
He addresses them politely, and his looking
Can hold them still in the sky.
Martin Bell


Anonymous said...

Good poem. Thanks.

David Ould said...


I think I'm being a bit dense but I don't quite get what position you're denying here. Can you elaborate?

Andrew John said...

There's a good ebook that's free to help pastors and their wives with discouragement and burnout. You can find it at It's quite helpful.

Steven Carr said...

The God I don't believe in is the one who wants people to be paid for preaching the Gospel.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thanks for comments and links. David, I think everything here is pretty self-explanatory, really. However I am sure you've found, as I have, that the "god" atheistic friends don't believe in is usually not the one you, or anyone, does. Then you have to ask, "where did that absurd idea of God as a crazy, venegful and not very competent fixer come from?" Painfully often, the answer is "something they think they heard us say."

David Ould said...

thanks your Bishness.

yes, I get what you're doing now. Sorry, I think I'm just generally slow at the moment.

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