I find it interesting that any public discussion about god and religion, is dominated by the small group of people who claim to believe in a Superior Being, yet their God acts like a spoiled, abusive, bastard.
In any private discussion on the same subject people will tend to talk about a Superior Being that is better than themselves even in temperament.
Consider this thought experiment: Let’s say your version of a God is real, and there is a person who has helped others all his life, on a few occasions he even directly saved a few peoples lives (Although he doesn’t consider it heroic just something anyone would do in his place). He totally believes in a modified version of “Do on to others as you would have them do on to you.” He has added “If you were in their place.” Because he knows not everyone likes the same thing he does.
Now let’s say this nice person who has never intentional harmed anyone goes to Red Lobster and orders Lobster.
Would your God turn him away from Heaven because eating shellfish is a sin?
Would you consider him a wicked person that shouldn’t be entitled to the same respect you give others, because he eats Lobster?
If you said yes to both you are a mean and petty person.
If you believe that your God would turn someone away for not following some arcane rule that you yourself wouldn’t punish someone for, then congratulations you are better than the God you worship.
If you believe that your God isn’t interested in those little things and only cares about if a person has intentionally done good throughout their lives and intentionally avoided harming anyone, then congratulations you are following a God worthy if your worship.
In a completely unscientific survey of people I know most Protestants (and all Catholics) believe in the second type of God. Although they are unsure if an Atheist can get into heaven. But in an equally unscientific survey of preachers on the airwaves they seem to all preach the first type of God that is so unsure about himself that he needs people to follow strange and arbitrary rules to “prove” they love him or else they are punished.
To make this thought experiment even stranger, lets pretend that you want the same qualities in a mate that you envision your God having.
There are boyfriends that insist their girlfriend follows strange and arbitrary rules to “prove” their love. They set up a system of arbitrary rewards and punishments for not obeying those rules or proving their love well enough. The name for those boyfriends is usually “The Accused.”
The point I’d like to make to believers is to think about the message that the preachers on the airwaves are sending out about your God. If they are right and your God is petty, abusive, spoiled bastard do you really want to spend eternity with him, because if he is this bad during the courting phase imagine what he’ll be like during the sit around the house in soiled underwear phase.
However if your God is better than you, all you have to do is do as much intentional Good to others as possible and as little intentional bad as possible and your God will welcome you with open arms.
And what if there is no God? If you believed in a God that was better than yourself then you’ve gone around a helped a lot of people and haven’t done anything that would cause you major regrets, and that is justification within itself.