My best friend is originally from New York and has always been a Giants fan. Our 20+ years of association (has it been that long?) causes me to equally support the Giants when they play anybody except my poor Detroit Lions. He was at our house for the Superbowl, each of us on the edge of our seats hoping the underdogs could pull through.
When the Giants gained the lead with only seconds left to play our entire house erupted with shouts and screams of joy. We were ecstatic.
The next day, I was talking with a co-worker who was at a party with predominantly Patriot fans. At the same moment we were whooping and hollering, they were swearing and punching fists in the air. They were enraged.
So what was your God doing at that precise second in time? Cheering? Jeering? Or ambivalent…it is just football.
See, we are social creatures. We react to both positive and negative reinforcement. If a crowd roars approval, or our spouses give support or our employers give a word of encouragement, we get a boost of confidence; a shot of adrenaline. We think we can take on the world.
As humans we react to those social signals. We also react to negative signs. All my parents had to give was a slight pursing of the lips, and I knew whatever I was doing needed to stop. A sigh from a spouse. A lack of laughter from an off-color joke. When we are in our social settings we are constantly interacting and reacting to the signals relayed back to us from other humans.
What reinforcement do you get from your God? As a Christian, I would have to honestly say I received silence. Sure, there were times I would talk to God, and as I was talking a solution would present itself in my mind, or I would feel better about a decision—thinking somehow God had given me an emotional pat on the back, or messed with the synapses in my brain to present the resolution. And I thanked him for it. But I never heard words. I never heard, “Good Job!” or “Bad job!” or “I don’t care!” What I heard was my own brain working.
At best all humans get is some type of feeling that somehow their God is saying something. I do not need to point out how humans vastly disagree with each other on these feelings.
And a second issue comes into play. As humans, when attempting to figure out other humans, we use ourselves as a baseline. We start with the premise what motivates us would motivate others. What we like; others like. Sure, we quickly realize other humans are different, but to start off, we presume they are like us.
I prefer chocolate ice cream to vanilla. It makes no sense to me as to how anyone could like the blandest flavor in the word as compared to the rich, semi-bitter sweet wonderfulness that is chocolate. Yet I have heard such people exist. If you came to my house, and I offered ice cream, I will presume you would want chocolate. Because I would at your house. If you said, “No, I would like vanilla” I attempt to suppress my shock. If you said nothing, you would get chocolate.
In the same way, it always intrigues me what people think motivates others. I often think it says quite a bit about the person. Husbands who come to me claiming their wives are having an affair are often the ones guilty of it. Mothers fear the man will want custody of the children; that is the mother’s prime concern. And we all know the adage of people who don’t trust others are generally untrustworthy themselves.
We all start with the basic presumption other humans are like us, and then look for variances from there. We like chocolate; they probably like chocolate. We would have an affair given the opportunity; they would probably as well. What happens when we couple this with the lack of reinforcement from any God? I see many theists naturally veer towards a god who is similar to themselves. They don’t receive any positive or negative reinforcement to believe otherwise!
The way we are raised, and our social setting creates a conscience within us which many then equate to God’s approval or disapproval.
“God, I felt pretty good about giving to charity.”
“God, I feel guilty about seeing pornography.”
The lack of any response causes the theist to believe their God just supported their own internal feelings. Because they felt good about charitable giving and their God didn’t say anything otherwise—it must be moral. Because they felt bad about seeing pornography and their God didn’t say anything—it must be immoral.
We see it in history. Long hair “seemed” wrong. Felt wrong. So it must be wrong. Rock ‘n Roll felt wrong. In the southern United States, mixed bathing felt wrong. Alcohol feels wrong. Smoking feels wrong. Without any God giving yeah, nay or indifferent, people elevate their own feelings to claiming God must be against it. ‘Cause he isn’t saying he is for it.
I am seeing it in doctrinal shifts. People don’t like to be against homosexuals. Feels discriminatory in some way. So they claim, “I interpret the Bible to say…” and lo and behold the Bible no longer teaches against homosexuality. And the person knows its right, ‘cause it feels right. And their God doesn’t provide any negative reinforcement to claim it is wrong.
I am watching more and more god(s) being created in the Christian community as this person goes with their gut, eliminating Hell, but keeping homosexuality prohibited. Or that one eliminates both. Or this one eliminates inspiration. Or that one is pre-millennium. Or preterist. Or some faction of some faction of some faction. And it all “feels good” and it all must be true, because their God isn’t providing any negative reinforcement.
The answer to the question posed is quite simple. If you are a Giants fan, when Plaxico Burress drew that football in, and the numbers on the scoreboard changed, your God jumped up and knocked over the popcorn bowl.
Because that is what you did