If you read the articles and comments on Catholic websites, you’ll notice a lot of atheists also visit these sites to mock religious people as simpletons who believe in fairy tales. A recurring taunt by atheists is that Christians have invented an “imaginary friend in the sky.” And this sky friend, whom we call God, is just a figment of our imaginations, someone we’ve created to make us feel good.
Well, that’s an interesting accusation. But let’s think about it for a minute. If God did not really exist, but we decided to invent Him anyway, to make ourselves feel good, what would be some of the traits of this fictitious God? We would want Him to be all-knowing and aware of us as individuals, and to care about us. Okay, so far so good. More importantly, though, we would want Him never to judge us, and no matter how self-centered we behaved, we would want this God to give us a big reward when the time comes.
But that’s not a description of God; that’s Santa Claus. He knows when we are sleeping, he knows when we’re awake, he knows if we’ve been bad or good—but hey, that doesn’t matter because as we all learned from the iconic Kris Kringle holiday special on TV, at the last minute he always says, “Oh, they’re all pretty nice.” And then on Christmas morning, everybody gets presents! Yippee!
The God revealed to us in the Bible and through the traditions of the Church is quite different. This God commands us to “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” This God warns us: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.” This God tells us to sell all we have and give to the poor. This God tells us we are blessed when people insult us and persecute us because of Him. This God tells us if we even look at a woman lustfully we have committed the terrible sin of adultery.
Finally, the God revealed to us by the Christian religion offers this warning: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven….I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’”
Whoa, that’s not very comforting. Where is the big reward that everyone is supposed to get when the time comes? If mankind invented this God to make ourselves feel good, how come this God makes us feel so uneasy?
The fact is, if we were going to invent a God, we never would’ve invented someone so perfect and righteous. We would’ve invented someone like the gods of Greek and Roman mythology: larger than life, but more like us, with typical human shortcomings, such as selfishness, deception, lust, and the occasional embarrassing drunkenness.
The God of the Bible is way too holy and demanding. He actually loves us so much that He expects us to live up to our potential, rather than wallow in sinful mediocrity.
The atheists who offer snarky taunts on Catholic websites could not be more wrong (about a lot of things, by the way). Their claim that we invented an “imaginary friend in the sky” is ridiculous. No one would be so foolish as to invent the God of the Bible, if all we really wanted to invent was Santa Claus. We did not create God in our image; He created us in His image. It’s not a bunch of Ho, Ho, Hokum! It’s the truth.