There are no atheists in foxholes. — old Christian proverb
The first god I remember was a Santa Claus god, who you only
turned to around Christmas time,
who you tried to butter up, and then got mad at if you didn’t
get what you wanted.
That didn’t make sense. I knew if there was a god, he could see
through us, like we were made
out of cellophane, like he could stare directly into our hearts
the way we look into an aquarium,
like he’d know what was floating around in there, like he might be
the one feeding it.
Then there were those people who used god to threaten you,
saying you better
be careful– god’s watching, like god was a badass hillbilly
sitting in some cloud
with a pair of binoculars, a cotton candy beard, a six pack,
and a shotgun.
Then I saw people who had Jesus’ name on their bumper sticker,
like he was running for president.
And sometimes those people with Jesus on their bumper sticker
would cut you off
on the freeway and give you the finger, which is very different
from lending you a hand.
Then there were people on television, dressed in weird clothes
and scary make-up, swearing
they had the secret to god, like god was a keyhole and their eyeball
was pressed to it, and if I just
gave ‘em some money they’d let me look, and then I could see god
just hanging around in his boxer shorts,
and though I liked the idea of spying on god, I began to wonder
if the world would be a healthier place
if the Romans had just put up with Jesus and let him die of old age.
And then there were the football players, kneeling down in front
of everybody, thanking god,
like he was their best friend, but then they’d jump up and spike
the ball, yell I’m number one,
and I’d be confused, because if you’re number one, then
what number is god?
Then I saw politicians trotting god out on a leash, like a racehorse
they wanted to hop on
and ride to the finish line. But if they lost it would be god’s fault
and god would be the donkey
they’d pin all their problems on, and that was very nice of god:
to be both a race horse and a donkey.
And then there were those who said you better be good on Earth
if you wanna get into heaven,
like heaven was the United States, and Earth was Mexico, and angels
were border patrol. Like when you die
you sit in a parked car on the outskirts of heaven, the engine idling,
your soul in the back seat in one of those kennels
used to carry small dogs on airplanes, as you listen on the radio to all
the people you ever wronged testify against you.
And then there was the church which was like this cafeteria, where
they served god to you on these very
un-godlike plates, but I wanted my god pure, and not watered down
by human beings, so I just had one of those
catastrophe gods– you know, the one you only turned to in an emergency,
like god’s the national guard you call in
to clean up the earthquake of your life. So I got drunk one night,
drove home, passed out behind the wheel,
woke up, going sixty straight at a brick wall, slammed the brakes, heart
banging like a wrecking ball in my chest,
staring at death’s face in the bricks, close enough to see we had
the same cheekbones.
Now I have a god who’s like a mechanic who can fix anything,
so when I wanna chew somebody’s head off
like a saltwater taffy, or amputate my DNA, or open my wrists
like windows that have been painted shut,
I just put my soul into a box, like a busted computer, and haul it in.
And he never asks to see my paperwork,
or says my warranty has expired. And I walk out feeling better.
And I don’t care if he doesn’t exist.