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Your God is Not Here

barbara ehrenreich god quote

Several years ago, I watched the movie Dark Places. Based on Gillian Flynn’s novel with the same name, Dark Places tells the story of a girl who survived the murder of her mother and sisters. After the killings, the murderer scrawled a message in blood on the bedroom wall. The message said: YOUR GOD IS NOT HERE

Your God is not here . . . five little words, yet they succinctly summarize one of the reasons many people walk away from Evangelical Christianity. Evangelicals believe that God hears and answers prayers, and is intimately involved with the day-to-day machinations of life. This God is all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-powerful. For Evangelicals, they “see” God everywhere, even going so far as to say that God lives inside of them. He walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own, Evangelicals sing, rarely considering how often in their lives God is nowhere to be found.

Evangelicals are taught that God is everywhere, yet it seems — oh, so often — that the everywhere-God is AWOL. In 1 Kings 18, we find the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Elijah challenged the prophets to an Old Testament cook-off.  Verses 20-24 state:

So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel. And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word. Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God.

The prophets of Baal went first. As expected, their God was silent and no fire fell from Heaven. Then it was Elijah’s turn, and sure enough, God heard the prophet’s prayer and sent fire to burn up the sacrifice. Not only did God burn up Elijah’s ground chuck offering, but he also totally consumed the stone altar (imagine how hot the fire must have been to melt rock). Afterward, Elijah had the prophets of Baal restrained and taken to a nearby brook so he could murder them. All told, Elijah slaughtered 450 men.

I want to focus on one specific element of this story: Elijah’s mockery of the prophets of Baal. As these prophets called out to their God, Elijah began to mock them:

And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.

The Living Bible puts it this way:

“You’ll have to shout louder than that,” he scoffed, “to catch the attention of your god! Perhaps he is talking to someone, or is out sitting on the toilet, or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!”

Every time I read these words I think about the Evangelical God, a deity who is supposedly on the job 24/7. If this God is so intimately involved with his creation, why does it seem that he is nowhere to be found? This God is supposedly the Great Physician, yet Christians and atheists alike suffer and die. Where, oh where, is the God who heals? This God supposedly controls the weather, yet tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, floods, avalanches, and mudslides maim and kill countless people, leaving those who survive without homes, food, and potable water. This God supposedly causes plants to grow, yet countless children will starve due to droughts and crop failures. This God is supposedly the God of Peace, yet hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children are maimed and slaughtered in wars and terrorist attacks. This God is supposedly the Giver of Life, yet everywhere people look they see death — both human and animal.

Perhaps it is the Evangelical God that is — to quote the Living Bible — “talking to someone, or is out sitting on the toilet, or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!” Taking a big-picture view of life leads many of us to conclude that either the Evangelical God is a heartless, indifferent son of a bitch or he doesn’t exist. For atheists such as myself, our honest, rational observations make one thing clear: there is no God. Perhaps — throwing a bone to deists and universalists — there is a hand-off God, but is he worthy of worship? This God created the universe, yet he chooses, in the midst of our suffering, to do nothing. What good is such a God as this? Warm “feelings” will not suffice when there is so much pain, suffering, and death.

Imagine how different the world would be if the Evangelical God fed the hungry, gave water to thirsty, healed the sick, brought an end to violence and war, and made sure everyone had a roof over their head, clothes on their back, shoes in their feet, and an iPhone (the Devil uses Android) in their pockets. Imagine if this God tore the pages of the book of Revelation from the Bible and said, my perfect, eternal kingdom is now!

Christians have been promising for centuries that someday their God will make all things new. Evangelicals warn sinners that the second coming of Christ is nigh, after which God will make a new Heaven and a new Earth. In Revelation 21:3-5 we find these words:

I heard a loud shout from the throne saying, “Look, the home of God is now among men, and he will live with them and they will be his people; yes, God himself will be among them. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain. All of that has gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new!”

Yet, despite the promises of better days ahead, the world remains just as it always has been, an admixture of love, joy, kindness, hatred, heartache, and loss. I ask, where is God? 

I think the murderer was right when he scrawled on the bedroom wall, YOUR GOD IS NOT HERE. Surely, the cold reality and honesty of atheism is preferred to begging and pleading with a God who never answers. I spend each and every day of my life battling chronic pain and illness.  Gastroparesis, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritis dominate every waking moment.  My health problems started fifteen years before I walked away from Christianity. Countless prayers were uttered on my behalf. I pleaded with God, Help me, Lord. Heal my broken body. Take away my pain. God uttered not a word, nor did he lift a finger to help. As a pastor, I prayed for numerous dying Christians. I asked the churches I pastored to pray for the sick and the dying. Yet, despite our earnest petitions, all those we prayed for died.

The absence of God from the human narrative of life is but one of the reasons I no longer believe in the existence of God. I think Jimmy Stewart summed up my view best with his prayer on the movie Shenandoah:

Video Link

There is no God that is coming to deliver us from pain, suffering, and loss. We are on our own, so it is up to us to ease the suffering of humans and animals alike. Knowing that death always wins shouldn’t keep us from attempting to alleviate the misfortunes of others. We shouldn’t need promises of homes in Heaven to motivate us to help others.


Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar

    I made this short poem during my deconversion process:
    There is no God
    He’s not there
    But if He is
    He doesn’t seem to care

    It was difficult to write that but the more I kept reciting it to myself, it became easier to accept. And now as I live life without religion, it’s almost like atheist canon for me.

  2. Avatar

    In another post I got into discussion with Brandon regarding my assertion that the evidence supports my contention that God does not exist, a much more assertive atheism than simply saying there is no evidence as to his existence.

    This post is very much in that arena. Evangelicals, indeed I’d say believers of a hands on god the world over, believe God is constantly working to our ‘good’. The evidence you present suggests either God is not good, or he does not exist. It seems to me that it’s far simpler to accept the latter.

  3. Avatar

    Evangelicals respond by saying that God is here but allowing suffering as the world is under the curse. As you say he will one day intervene.

    But the question is – why does he hide? We could still inflict thr curse but show us a bit more of himself – like he did with Israel.

  4. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    ‘God’ might in fact be the most insidious invention ever created by bipeds, specifically to undermine our own responsibility for what goes down, obscure with ritual, with hymns and robes. When the preacher says, “Close your eyes and bow your heads,” run for your life! Run like the building is on fire and you are mortally wounded. Run! If you cannot muster the strength to do it for yourself, then think of your children: Run!

  5. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    This Sunday there will be evangelical Baptist preachers in the United States preaching about the murders perpetrated by a young Christian man in Atlanta. The preachers will be clear that it is wrong wrong wrrooong to take God’s Judgement into your own hands and grab a rifle. Then the preacher will talk about God’s right to harm and maim and do whatever the fuck it wants! He will use the murderer to justify God’s wrath on evil people. You go ahead and start a whorehouse, a massage parlor… go ahead but don’t expect God’s wrath to pass you by! Amen? Do I hear an Amen?

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    Karen the rock whisperer

    Isaiah had it right about Baal, and God undoubtedly suffers from the same thing. Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Can’t venture more than a dozen feet from the bathroom. God just needs a low-FODMAP diet!

    (If you’re thinking that I might have violated my own low-FODMAP diet and am paying the price today, well, yes. 🙂 )

  7. Avatar

    this is why i know my belief is leaving no matter how slow the process seems. it make less sense every day. especially since the events of last year and in my own family. i often think of the old george carlin joke about how god must be a man because a woman would not let things get this fucked up.

  8. Avatar

    This past week the mother of yet another childhood friend passed away. My friend and her family posted multiple prayer requests on social media, and hundreds of people said they were praying. I guess her God was having massive diarrhea and couldn’t focus on healing my friend’s mother.

    I actually feel pity for those who put all their faith in an invisible deity who is sketchy about its delivery.

  9. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    Thanks for being here, Mary. And if the experience of departure is similar to my own, then prepare yourself to be welcomed home (by yourself!) I can still feel that overwhelming homecoming in my feelings, knowing that I was being completely honest and true to myself. Glorious endorphins to you! I had no way to really know how much I had abandoned myself in belief until I allowed myself to say, “I do not believe…”

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Bruce Gerencser