Dear God?

*faith-based discussion removed on Oct.17th*

I recently listened to a song by Sarah McLachlan called “Dear God”, and I must admit, I was really confused. Can someone explain this to me? Anyway, here are the lyrics:

Dear god,
Hope you got the letter,
And I pray you can make it better down here.
I don’t mean a big reduction in the price of beer,
But all the people that you made in your image,
See them starving on their feet,
cause they don’t get enough to eat

From god,
I cant believe in you.

Dear god,
Sorry to disturb you,
But I feel that I should be heard loud and clear.
We all need a big reduction in amount of tears,
And all the people that you made in your image,
See them fighting in the street,
cause they cant make opinions meet,
About god,
I cant believe in you.

Did you make disease, and the diamond blue?
Did you make mankind after we made you?
And the devil too!

Dear god,
Don’t know if you noticed,
But your name is on a lot of quotes in this book.
Us crazy humans wrote it, you should take a look,
And all the people that you made in your image,
Still believing that junk is true.
Well I know it ain’t and so do you,
Dear god,
I cant believe in,
I don’t believe in,

I wont believe in heaven and hell.
No saints, no sinners,
No devil as well.
No pearly gates, no thorny crown.
You’re always letting us humans down.
The wars you bring, the babes you drown.
Those lost at sea and never found,
And its the same the whole world round.
The hurt I see helps to compound,
That the father, son and holy ghost,
Is just somebody’s unholy hoax,
And if you’re up there you’ll perceive,
That my hearts here upon my sleeve.
If there’s one thing I don’t believe in…

Its you,
Dear god.

So what am I confused by? Well, the song, on the surface at least, is about a beef the singer has with God. So far, that makes sense, but the confusing part here is that she doesn’t believe in God. By the song’s bitter and angry tone, it obviously isn’t a parody about the ironic nature of an imaginary loving God in an awful world, nor is it just an intellectual look at the ironies of a non-existent God, it is an angry song about an imaginary God. That’s what confuses me. Why is anyone angry at a God who doesn’t exist? I must admit that I am not too good with understanding poetry or song lyrics and must turn to others who know better than I to understand, so I am hoping someone will help me here.

I don’t go around writing angry poetry about Zeus or Allah or Vishnu being responsible for all the evil in the world, and then saying that I’m not going to believe in them because of it. Why? Because I don’t believe they exist in the first place, so I don’t get angry when they obviously don’t act to save people from evil. I might find it intellectually interesting to write a lighthearted or at least an unemotional parody about the matter, but why would I be angry about it? (If I were an atheist) I would already know that evil and tragedy happen in the world because the world is not a good place and there is no benevolent being to watch out for anyone, so why again am I angry at any of the made-up deities (just pick one) and pour out my anger at them in song? In observing of my own behavior, anger is reserved for real people, not imaginary ones.

I’m assuming that the songwriter here is quite intelligent, so what can account for this anger? Maybe she used to believe in God, but got over it. But this song sounds more like she still does believe in God and is still angry at Him. If you are angry at God, how do you get back at Him… by not believing in Him? This seems contradictory… how can I logically go from believing in Him to not believing in Him as a form of retaliation because I am angry at Him? In the end, He still exists, and the only thing that changed in the universe is my feelings and behavior, not His existence. Am I missing something here?

In my best guess, Sarah seems to be assuming that a good person’s actions should be motivated by love, and that God Himself should act this way too. Because of a perceived inaction to intervene on behalf of those He loves (people who are hurt by other people) or of a perceived direct action (drought, famine, natural disasters) that cause those He loves to come to harm, she is angry at Him. After all, if He is loving and all-powerful, why does He not act in a more loving fashion, either actively or inactively? I look at this more closely in my next post, and assume Sarah is right, that God is loving and that He should be expected to act in a loving fashion towards humans.

However, I remain confused about this song. In my best guess, Sarah believes full well in God, and has some questions to throw His way. But her questions are not really questions, but rhetorical accusations. These accusations seem insincere because they are so clichéd, and so it appears to me that her outward accusations are a front for the real reasons why she is angry at Him. In my experience in talking with atheists, these are NEVER the reasons they stopped believing in God. What are her real reasons? I don’t know.

This is why I appreciate John Remy’s thoughts over at MindonFire. He talks honestly and openly about his doubts and the reasonable tests he performed to see if God were true or not. And we are all better off for it! Thank you John, I know it sounds strange, but I really appreciate your approach. In an open honest dialog motivated by reason, everyone goes away learning something.

    4 Responses to “Dear God?”

    1. Reg
      1

      I can’t help your confusion much, but I will admit that there was a time when this song spoke exactly what I felt (the XTC version of it is great, too, it has a chorus of kids in the background). At this time in my life, I’d been brought up, not to believe in god, but to know his existence, rationally. Since none of the rational explainations made sense to me, I had issues with this and eventually turned away from my parent’s faith. While I was coming to terms with the fact that I was clearly a bad person, not believing in something that, apparently, was so rationally obvious to so many people, that it really did make sense to me to say to His face: “I don’t believe in You.” In a crisis of faith, I think there are stages: the first is when you realize that the faith of the people who have taught you about god is not your own faith. Somewhere between there and establishing your own faith, there’s a very dark sea of emotions and prayers. And lots of anger. In a world where god might smite you for talking back to him (He is, after all, the eternal Father, is He not?), standing up to him and saying “I don’t believe in You” can be very empowering: I didn’t get smitten, so I must be right: he doesn’t exist. That opens the door to not being angry any more. You’ve lost the object of that anger. I’m happy for you that you’ve never been through that kind of crisis (though I’m not saying you’ve never had a crisis of faith). Faith being, in my mind, inherently irrational, rational arguments such as you make (she’s not singing to Vishnu) make no sense to the (un)believer.

      Reply to this comment.
    2. Jonathan
      2
      Author Comment

      Thanks Reg… that “in-between” stage you talk about seems to be a valid one for where this song would rationally take place. About there being no rational argument for faith… point taken. Those arguments assume a presupposition that God exists, which would only make sense in the “in-between” stage you talk about, but as soon as that stage is complete, that worldview is gone, and the rational argument I put forth is no longer valid. I guess it might be valid within the “in-between” context, but that depends on the person’s picture of God at that moment. I felt pretty lousy about the bad logic I was using at the end, plus it sounded a little harsh, so I decided just to delete it altogether.

      You are right – I never did have a crisis of faith, and that is why I’m confused. Thank you for explaining things and being patient with me. What you said made a lot of sense to me. This is an area I am very ignorant in, and so I should not come across so strong and arrogant when talking about it. I apologize if I came across that way – I feel very much like I was, and I want be more careful in the future.  I also re-wrote most of my argument to be less so, and tried to do a better job explaining things.
      After reading about John’s experiences and listening to yours, I don’t doubt for a second that I would have followed a similar path as the both of you did, were it not for God himself stepping in at an early age. After listening to John’s thoughts, I wrote up a post on how it was that I found faith and continued to believe in it – revealed truth (pt.1) and revealed truth (p.2) which basically said that I needed God himself to reveal to me in no uncertain way that He is real and loves me personally. Like you, listening to spiritual people and reading spiritual books was decidedly not going to be what convinced me.

      Reply to this comment.
    3. John Remy
      3

      Reg very eloquently said everything that I wanted to say (perhaps even better–I gained some insight into myself by reading her comment). It’s only in the past year or two that I’ve moved out of the anger stage myself.

      Reply to this comment.
    4. Muhammad Anwar
      4

      You will believe certainly as your eyes will get closed when death comes to you,and you will be close to him {God} and you can ask him the answers for all your questions. Nobody hurt from my family or close ones so, i can write you this comment if i loss someone i may be speak like you, but this is okay we are humans emotional with our heart so my brother May Allah guide you. And I want you know there will be nothing between the death and pradise for who you all lost in this disasters. He has reason to run this world he know we know not

      Jazak Allah Qair!

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