Do you believe in God?


Are you offended by my asking? Am I snooping into your personal life?
Am I being inappropriately aggressive and punishing in my inquiry? Why
should it matter to me what you believe?
I think being made uncomfortable by that question in a public forum is
a perfectly human response.

Are you allowed, by the will of society and the foundation of your childhood indoctrinations, to not answer or to answer in the negative?
I’m not big on The God Thang, but the USA is a Christian Nation where your fundamental belief in God is presumed.
However, many of us are still tested by the True Believers: “Do you believe in God?
I usually reformulate that question in my mind — as previously defended in my Translating God
article — but today I argue most people do a similar sort of
translation when asked about believing in God.

I believe most people take that question to really mean if they are a
“good and moral person.” Answer in the affirmative and you’re “good” —
answer in the negative and you’re in public trouble.
Folks generally don’t want to say they don’t believe in God — even if
they do or are uncertain — because we have been trained by society to
affirm the goodness, not in others, but in our selves to others, and if
we don’t quickly confirm our belief, the asker will think we are
immoral and in need of condemnation or public correcting.

The easy answer — “Yes, I believe in God!” — is the infrequent believer’s socially accepted — “You do not look fat in that dress!” — fast-twitch response cry
that, while coded to create a nodding head and smiling face in the
asker, actually covers the core of an uncertain truth in many
responders who resent having their values, faith, and morality put to
the test in the public square.

17 Comments

  1. Anne —
    There should also be freedom from having to speak and freedom from religious questioning! 😆
    Sure, we can try that, but as I argue in my article today, to not answer is to answer in the negative. Then you’re branded.

  2. One of the things that sets Judaism apart from most other religions is that there is no prostheletizing – conversion is actually discouraged and would be converts are turned away. As a general rule we keep our beliefs to ourselves and don’t give you a hard time if you choose not to believe. I like that.

  3. Hi Gordon!
    Thanks for sharing those details. In my limited experience with Judaism — what you say is precisely my experience. No pressure. Other religions are not an issue. Belief if a private matter.
    Then you got me thinking about the sects that have pressured me the most. I was raised in the Methodist Church and we all were sort of taught to leave each other and others alone unless they needed our help.
    Here’s my list from most obnoxious interrogators to least intrusive… but still intrusive…
    1. Jehovah Witness
    2. Mormons
    3. Quakers (subtle, but still pushy)
    4. Catholics
    5. Baptists
    6. 7th Day Adventists
    7. Other Fundamentalists

  4. David, I really dont give a hoot about what people say the minute they found out of my religion. I would still say and affirm that I am a Muslim. A practical one at that too.There was a time when someone actually wanted to drag me into religious banter – you know, the kind where the “this religion is better than that religion” kind of talk. I walked away. After telling him some choiced words. How I execute my faith is very personal and I dont think anyone else has the right to press that on my nose. I wont do that to anyone else.

  5. Heya Hanie!
    You are unique and brave! Many people do not share your backbone. They do not have the inner strength to walk away from a public inquisitor.
    There are days around here where you’ll have to avoid a Jehovah Witness at your door and also on the street corner and then, as you cross at the light, there are Mormon missionaries waiting for you there. I don’t know if all that is a sign of desperate times ,or of a desperate religion that has to scrape the streets for Believers.

  6. P.S. —
    That said, I have a lot of Mormon friends. I understand the mission of the young Missionaries and I know they give up a lot to spread their word for two years. I respect that dedication to their religion.
    I’ve offered missionaries on the street soda and money as a sign of support and faith in supporting what they believe — and even if you don’t believe as they do — understand they are young and hungry and are in need of your spontaneous charity and open heart.

  7. Hi David,
    I was really really surprised to face this question in USA because somehow the country poses a very commercial – no nonse – business like image to the other side of the globe.
    My general answer to this question is a bit confusing:
    “I don’t mind if God is there, neither do I mind if he is not there – I take it as it comes.”
    Then comes the real blow – “do you pray?”
    Well, I don’t, not for myself at least.
    Love me or leave me!
    Most of my so called “Christian” friends used to get put off by this.

  8. Right, Katha! And if you disagree with them, then they have their opening to really attack you! There’s no winning either way with them if they attempt to engage you and that is where and how they get their power.