Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Names of God

The Names of God
By Quentin Smeltzer,, Oct-21-2010

Somehow of late, I find myself attending an adult confirmation class at my church.  You might think the reasons for signing up for a class that will examine God, religion and our place in the world might come from some deep philosophical bent or some mystical nexus of serendipity and fate, but actually it’s much simpler than that:  my wife told me I had to. 

I don’t even think she needs me to become more religious, per se.  I think she just wants me out of the house.  Any excuse will do.

My church is the Congregational Church, which, as far as I can tell, is a collection of pretty much anyone who wants to show up on Sunday morning for an hour of music and talk and then drink coffee and loiter about for twenty minutes or so afterwards.  Our group is made of Catholics, Jews and Protestants, as well as a healthy contingent of agnostics.  There are absolutely no standards to join our church which, of course, makes it the perfect church for me. 

Personally I am leaning towards the Bill Maher variety of atheism, except atheists, so far as I can tell, seldom get together for free coffee and cake.  The other reason I don’t go whole hog into the atheism camp is that every time I seriously screw up in life I find myself praying to God to get me out of it.  I rarely catch myself praying to Bill Maher. 

As I write in my book (shameless plug alert!) Self Help, Your Complete Book of Bad Advice for Situation in Life, there is a big difference between God and Religion.  If you read any of the holy books—the Bible, the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, Battlefield Earth—you will soon notice that religions try to control you; God doesn’t care what you do.  You can rape, murder, pillage, enslave; God is perfectly okay with all of it!  Religions, on the other hand, want to tell you when, where and how you can pray, eat, dress, sit, stand, kneel and make babies.  Other than that, they’re cool.

In a recent Adult Confirmation class we were handed a sheet to discuss which contained maybe seventy or eighty different names for God.  Apparently, this was the abridged version. 

One of the names that spoke to me was “LORD of Armies.”  I can’t imagine anything would make me religious faster than marching into battle.  I played paintball at a birthday party a few months ago and I couldn't keep a bunch of ten year olds from shooting my ass up, so I can’t imagine facing the real thing.

Another name was “LORD our Banner” which made me think of God as a local supermarket chain.  “Hiding Place” was an interesting name for God.  If Hiding Place appeals to you, you may just have some parental issues worth discussing with a professional. 

Other words for God included “Daddy,” “Father,” “Mother,” and “Husband,” which made me wonder why “Skip,” “Buddy” and “Chipper” weren’t in there. 

“I AM” was a popular name with the class as was the more loquacious, “I AM WHAT I AM.”  I looked on the sheet but could not find “I AM WHAT I AM AND THAT’S ALL THAT I AM, I’M POPEYE THE SAILOR MAN”, but it may have been there somewhere. 

One that bothered me was the must-not-even-be-spelled-out version:  “G_d.”  I understand that not saying the name of God out loud comes from understanding that God is too vast a concept to be named, but if we can’t say the name and we can’t spell it, well c’mon; this is just too damn difficult!  It’s like trying to write about the artist formerly known as Prince.

In the end, I suppose it doesn’t matter what you call god or how you think of he, she or it.  And if the entire subject has left you completely confused I have suggestion for you: join the Congregationalists.  We don’t have clue either.