Agnosticism, Atheism, Christianity, Faith, God, Religion

Is God a Good Father?

In my last post, discussion turned to the question of whether or not we need God. One of my regular contributors, William, posted the following comment, and I felt it deserved its own post:

I am just having problems understanding whether humans “need” a god.

Do humans “need” a father? it may be beneficial if it’s a good father, but we can see many who get along fine who have not had a father, so “need” is the wrong term.

And what if that father is never around, left before you were born, and only left a letter to you explaining (not always in the easiest or most direct of terms) how he expects you to behave and promises that he’ll take care of you and promises to severely punish you for disobedience or for leaving him?

is that a good father? is that a father we need? isn’t it laughable that such a father could even begin to threaten the child for “leaving him” (since the father clearly left the child) not to mention how absurd it is to think that such a father actually does anything to really take care of the child?

I’m having a hard time understanding how we’re ingrained to “need” such a father, or why we’d even call such a father good?

543 thoughts on “Is God a Good Father?”

  1. Being raised as a Christian, I have struggled with this myself. I am inclined to look to this “Father / God” figure instead as a “Creator” . I believe there is a “Creator” who caused the “Big Bang” to ocurr and I also believe our Soul has a Blueprint for our lives. Beyond that…..we’re on our own. I also try to be a good citizen of this planet including but not limited to the Golden Rule, because I am thankful for my existance here and now, not because of some reward that many religions teach you will receive if you jump through their hoops. If there is a reward beyond this life, great ! If not, I want to make my time here count in a positive way for me and those I effect around me. I think this world would be better off if we knew we had to make our life here count rather than being allowed to live any way we want as long as we make a confession of faith with our last breath in order to inherit a reward in the afterlife.

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  2. The tone of these questions implies that this ‘father’ left us, individually, alone. And under that guise, I think these would all be very relevant, imperative questions if we, as humans, were supposed to do this thing called ‘life’ solely on our own. Fortunately humans are meant (some would say ‘created’) to live lives in relationship with one another, and the answers to these questions can most often be found within those relationships that we choose to form (or keep).

    What the ‘father’ did when he left you, if you want to go with that premise, is to leave you in the hands of his (and your) ‘relatives’; with various gifts and abilities to take care of ourselves and each other. That’s how this whole thing is supposed to work. Whether you choose to ‘help your fellow man’ or not is your decision. Likewise, if you choose to refuse help, again, that’s your decision.

    Unfortunately, the degree of desire to take care of one another varies as does the degree of greed, self-righteousness, self-centeredness, etc. The ‘father’ who ‘left’ you under these conditions may well have had the best of intentions. Or, he may be a sadistic bastard. We really have no idea. That’s why, for better or worse, it’s called faith and belief and not sight and certainty.

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  3. The tone is correct, i think. Where is the father? I feel like asking the questions that the prophets of baal were asked. Where is your god? is he sleeping? perhaps you should shout your prayers so that he might hear you.

    I know this may sound harsh, but i don’t really mean for it to. But what about the bible makes anyone think it’s from god other than they were raised or told to believe that it was?

    And so if the originally blogged “father” left the child with many siblings, does that make him a better father?

    We may be better served to use reason over faith. If my fellow siblings need help, perhaps I should help them because we depend on one another, not because our “dear, loving father” left conflicting instructions to do so.

    If I need help, should my fellow siblings help me directly, or help me according to the father’s example?

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  4. And kent, I agree with you on how it’s supposed to work – I just don’t see where we need god for that. It’s like that old simpson episode where they were building the monorail and Spock was there for the grand opening. Everything went to crap but disaster was ultimately averted and Spock says, “my work here is done,” before beaming away.

    It was the punchline because speck had literally done nothing.

    So when people attribute the work of fellow man to god, maybe we should just be recognizing our fellow man. When I’m hugged, it’s an actual person. when I’m picked up, it’s the actual hand of an actual person I grab. We don’t even see god’s footsteps in the sand.

    we have a collection of letters and books under one binding that claim to be god’s (the father’s) inspired directions for us. the all powerful all loving father couldn’t even deliver his own instructions to us? Why should we be so quick to trust that messenger – especially when considering the portrait of a “good father” they paint?

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  5. But what if God is a Good Father, but has been misrepresented by the church. Here’s something I wonder about -some churches place copyrights and sell their sermons after the service.

    If their message is so vitally important for all of humanity to hear, (and God doesn’t want anyone to perish) then why don’t all churches place these messages on the internet for free, so they are available to all, or even copy them on CD to give out for those who want them?

    Some churches have done this, but I don’t understand that if a message is meant to be so important for the salvation of people’s lives, then why are these very same sermons sometimes then sold for a price?

    I mean when John from prison sent two disciples to ask Jesus if He really was the one to come, Jesus actually used as evidence that He was the one by reporting back that the gospel is preached to the poor (included in Luke 7:22).

    On a sidenote: I think it’s impossible to validate that we don’t need God, because if God exists He has given us everything.

    He has given us a heart, and the blood to pump through our body, and the oxygen as well as the lungs to function. So if God does exist, and provides everything, we are only aware of what people are lacking because He has given us eyes to see, a mind to consider and hands to type.

    Tragedy can only really be defined because we have something better to compare it to. If God has provided both, then is this biting the hand that feeds? since if God exists we function and are held together because of Him every second of our lives.

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  6. Very insightful stuff here in the responses. I would add a couple of things: 1) The Father analogy in scripture isn’t perfect. God is an “exactly” like a human father. See the parables of Jesus for various other analogies. 2) Secondly he did not leave us with only a letter. He left us with the church which has continuously for 2000 years taught, ministered, loved and healed from sin. It is the church’s role to be the body of Christ until his return. There are nearly 2 billion of us daily loving, encouraging and serving each other and the world (imperfectly I understand that). Therefore, I think your premise is flawed. Having said that, sure it is still difficult to understand and believe sometimes.

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  7. “I’m having a hard time understanding how we’re ingrained to “need” such a father, or why we’d even call such a father good?”

    I believe we “need” a father God on many levels:

    1. Without God, there’d be no universe, no world, no us.
    2. Without God we’d be unsure about truth and morality.
    3. Without God, we’d be on our own, there’d be no future hope.
    4. Without God there’d be no rescue plan for this poor suffering world.
    5. Without God, if we wanted to do better, we’d have to do it all ourselves, there’d be no forgiveness, no spiritual power to change.

    Without God, I for one would be a miserable failure, rarely living up to my aspirations, lost in the mire of my own guilt and shortcomings. I am very thankful he made me, gave me a good life and offers me a purpose in living it, and hope that it will all work out for good.

    I feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t have God and has to either do without those things that God offers, who thinks somehow they can make up themselves for not having God.

    Like you in the last post Nate, I mean no offence, I’m just sharing what is honestly in my heart.

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  8. @William: Thank you for your further comments and questions William. I truly enjoy the discussion.

    ~But what about the bible makes anyone think it’s from god other than they were raised or told to believe that it was?

    That’s a really great question and honestly one I can’t, by evidence, answer for you. What I can say is that whenever I come to an understanding of something within the Bible, it is usually something in confirmation of what I hold as the ‘right thing to do’; something simple, straightforward and what I would view as ‘common sense’. Do I need God to understand that? No. But it is a comfort to me to have the confirmation. That said, there is still a lot in the Bible I don’t understand.

    ~And so if the originally blogged “father” left the child with many siblings, does that make him a better father?

    As opposed to leaving the child on his own, to fend for himself? Yes.

    ~If my fellow siblings need help, perhaps I should help them because we depend on one another, not because our “dear, loving father” left conflicting instructions to do so.

    And I agree with you. For my own beliefs, this is where I say that most everyone already knows ‘the right thing to do’. As far as the ‘instructions’; I can’t help but think of the early Jews at the time of Jesus’ coming. They had so bogged down their religion with ‘laws’ that, when asked, Jesus simplified it to only two: Love God, love others. The Christian religion of today has done a really great job of bloating that simple message right back up again. Do we need God to understand that? No. But again, it’s good (at least for my own understanding) to have that confirmation.

    ~If I need help, should my fellow siblings help me directly, or help me according to the father’s example?…..When I’m hugged, it’s an actual person. When I’m picked up, it’s the actual hand of an actual person I grab. We don’t even see god’s footsteps in the sand.

    And yet you have no idea the motivation behind that person’s hug or extended hand. Is the other hand also extended to help, or is it holding a knife to stab you in the back? Are they actually helping themselves, or are they truly following their god’s example? And, if so, what is that to you? Like you, I don’t mean to sound harsh, I’m just saying; if some people are ‘instructed’ or ‘motivated’ or ‘confirmed’ to do ‘good’ by the words of an archaic book or a distant ‘father’, what does it matter to those who are not? As that book says, “You will know them by their fruits”. If those ‘fruits’ are self-serving, or are hate-filled they are no more serving the Christian God than they are Baal. And if they are doing these good deeds through their own motivation; more power to ‘em. The one thing I believe we all can agree on is that the world needs more “good” shining through—whether some feel need to attribute it to God or not.

    @portal001: Love the comments; particularly on the church. I totally agree!

    @Nate: Sorry for hogging up the bandwidth my friend!

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  9. Thanks again for all the great comments!

    portal (Ryan), I think the biggest problem doesn’t come from misrepresentation by the churches, but from the fact that God is so hidden. He could dispel so many misconceptions if he only made himself known.

    Ben, you make some good points that merit consideration. The only thing I’d say about the church is that it’s so splintered, it’s hard to find much value in it as a whole. And you do mention that it does its job imperfectly — in some instances, it performed it pretty heinously.

    unklee, thanks for sharing your perspective. It’s funny, you and I really seem to have a lot in common personality-wise, but we definitely part ways over the 5 things you listed. I don’t agree with a single one! But again, I am glad you added to the discussion. Thanks!

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  10. Kent, you’re always welcome here — no need to apologize for writing good comments! 😉

    I still side with William on this one, but I appreciate what you’re saying. I guess leaving us a bunch of siblings is better than being completely alone, but why should we assume God had to leave us completely alone at all? According to the Bible, there are many instances where he had close relationships with people. Did he just get tired of us?

    And I think for William’s last point, he was saying that when we see someone in need, we usually get personally involved and help them (or we should). But what would happen if we followed God’s example and disappeared?

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  11. @ unklee: You remind me so much of myself when I was “serving Christ.” I was certain my life would be in shambles if I didn’t have a “father god” to guide me. I totally believed in each of the five things you listed. And, like you, I felt sorry for those who didn’t see things the same way.

    Now, however, I must agree with Nate.

    In your list, you indicated that without God there’d be no rescue plan for this poor suffering world — and if we wanted to do better, we’d have to do it all ourselves, there’d be no forgiveness, no spiritual power to change.

    My question is why do we need a rescue plan? From what do we need to be forgiven? For living? And why do we need a “God” to live a better life? In my former life, I had pat answers to all of these questions. Today, however, I believe each of us is capable of making our lives whatever we want it to be. We don’t need to rely on the instructions left behind by an absent “father-god.” We’re grown-ups now.

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  12. “It’s funny, you and I really seem to have a lot in common personality-wise ….”

    Hi Nate, yes I think you are right. I think that is why I have stopped following many blogs, but continue following yours.

    “…. but we definitely part ways over the 5 things you listed. I don’t agree with a single one!”

    I’d write “LoL!” except i think it is more serious than that! I didn’t expect you to agree, I just wanted to share an alternative view, something more from my heart than my head for a change. Thanks for the opportunity.

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  13. You remind me so much of myself when I was “serving Christ.” I was certain my life would be in shambles if I didn’t have a “father god” to guide me. I totally believed in each of the five things you listed. And, like you, I felt sorry for those who didn’t see things the same way.”

    I hope the reminder wasn’t too painfull! 🙂 Yeah, I suppose I came off sounding like a regular marching band christian. But it isn’t actually like that. I am very critical about orthodox christian belief and the church, and very self critical. And I have come to see myself as a very flawed human being. I’m not just talking the standard “I am a woeful sinner” stuff (though I think that is true too) but flaws that make far less well-adjusted than I’d like to be.

    why do we need a rescue plan? From what do we need to be forgiven?”

    I need a rescue plan. If you don’t think you do, then I guess I have little to say. You must either have a different ethic to me, or a different standard, or (which may well be true) you are a much better person than I am.

    The world needs a rescue plan. It is clearly a beautiful place badly stuffed up on occasion, as Nate’s last two posts point out. I think there are reasons for both those facts, and I think undoing the bad needs God working with us. Do you believe we can do it on our own?

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  14. unklee, I admit the world is in a sorry state, but IMO trusting “God” to make things better … to put a “rescue plan” in place … is futile. The question that needs to be answered is why did “God” let it get to this stage in the first place?

    I highly doubt I’m a better person than you are (or anyone else for that matter). I just don’t buy into the idea that we need some supernatural power to become all that we can be.

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  15. Hi Nan,

    trusting “God” to make things better … to put a “rescue plan” in place … is futile”

    Well obviously if there’s no God then trusting him is futile. But if he does exist, why would it be futile then?

    why did “God” let it get to this stage in the first place?”

    If there’s no God then the question is meaningless. But if God does exist, then I think there’s no mystery. There’s the old saying: “If you love someone, set them free.” A good parent gives their teens some freedom and responsibility, even while knowing they won’t always get it right – it’s the only way they can grow to be all they can be. Same with the world. Take out human freedom and you take out most of the evil, but you reduce people to robots made of meat. (Take out God and it seems you might do the same!)

    I just don’t buy into the idea that we need some supernatural power to become all that we can be.”

    I understand that. Like I said, you must either have more faith in the power and willingness of humans, including yourself, to live up to your ideals, or you have much “lower” ideals than I do. Which do you think?

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  16. Ah, but there’s a difference between giving your teens some freedom and abandonment. The Christian god has clearly done the latter, since we’re able to question his very existence.

    I agree with Nan that I don’t think humanity needs saving. Certainly we have some “bad apples” from time to time, but broadly speaking, I don’t think being human is anything we have to apologize for. I don’t think, unklee, that you and I have different levels of ideals. I just don’t think it’s so terrible when we sometimes fall short of our goals.

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  17. there’s a difference between giving your teens some freedom and abandonment. The Christian god has clearly done the latter, since we’re able to question his very existence.”

    This is an unusually strong and certain statement for you Nate. I wonder how you’d justify the jump from questioning God’s existence to abandonment? Perhaps you can outline the logical steps.

    It hardly seems to be abandonment when 2 billion people believe in christianity and about 80% of the world believe in a God. And 300 million christians claim to have experienced or observed a miracle. And most christians pray to their “heavenly father” regularly.

    I don’t think, unklee, that you and I have different levels of ideals. I just don’t think it’s so terrible when we sometimes fall short of our goals.”

    Clearly we do have different levels of ideals. I don’t think it’s all that terrible either, and I don’t think we have to apologise for being human, but I seem to think it’s more important than you do.

    The holocaust and the two world wars and the communist atrocities, all in the 20th century, seem to me to be more than “some bad apples”, and I think show that something needs fixing. The gross imbalance between the riches of the west and the poverty of the third world, the rather severe mess the world environment is in, both seem to me to be problems that are caused by human greed and desperately need fixing. Likewise the problems of terrorism and anti-terrorism this century. And imagine if we were all living eternally with the present level of greed, anger and inequality.

    So I think things definitely need fixing, including me. If you don’t agree then we definitely have differences in our ideals.

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  18. Hey there Nate! I’ll try to keep it short ‘n sweet with this one, hehe!

    ~ I guess leaving us a bunch of siblings is better than being completely alone, but why should we assume God had to leave us completely alone at all? According to the Bible, there are many instances where he had close relationships with people. Did he just get tired of us?

    Therein lies the crux of the issue, doesn’t it? I don’t think He got tired of us and I don’t think He’s left us completely alone. So unfortunately I can’t answer your question. I also don’t know why he doesn’t answer everyone’s prayers (at least with a ‘yes’). I don’t know why he allows tornadoes to strike. I don’t know why he allows killers to enter elementary schools. I don’t know why he allowed my daughter to be born with a disability. But he did, and does, so I assume his plans are bigger and/or better than whatever I could dream up to try and answer these types of questions with my own feeble, little attempts at explanation.

    I have just as many questions about the Bible as anyone. I have just as many questions for God as anyone (maybe more). Yet my faith remains; and each example I could give you of why I believe he hasn’t left us alone would be just that—MY example; MY experiences. And unless a person is open to the faintest possibility that this ‘father’ we’re talking about exists, is not absent, is not tired of us, and actually does care, nothing that I say from personal experience is going to make a whit of difference.

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  19. It’s very late here, so I’ll keep this quick too.

    I agree that it ultimately boils down to personal experience. I’ve never had a personal experience of God, which is why I don’t believe in him/her/it. And while I’m aware that many people claim to have had such experiences, I’m very skeptical. I can think of many other possibilities that might explain their experiences without having to venture into the realm of the supernatural. That’s not to say their experiences aren’t genuine; they just don’t pass my personal threshold for faith. A genuine experience of my own would. So the fact that I continue to miss out on such an experience only reinforces my doubt. Especially since it’s often claimed that God is “no respecter of persons.”

    All that said, I don’t think it’s too strong a statement to say that God’s absence is a lot like abandonment. We can’t call into question the existence of Barack Obama, even though none of us has ever met him. Yet people have disagreed about God’s existence since the beginning of theism. Even if people agreed that one existed, they rarely agreed on which one it was. This is why his status remains faith-based and not fact-based.

    As far as morality goes, it’s true that my “a few bad apples” remark was putting it too mildly. At the same time, the human race is definitely showing progress. Just look at the rights of minorities, women, gays, etc. Mortality rates are better. Environmental efforts are much better now than they were 100 years ago. There is still a lot of improvement left to go, but we seem to be heading in the right direction. And I think this has more to do with secularism and inclusion than it does with religion.

    These things aren’t proofs, and I’m not saying that religion is necessarily a bad thing. It can have a really positive impact. And guys like you are perfect examples of when religion is done right. Here’s what I am saying: there are times when I’ve heard people say that Christianity is true because it’s the only religion that offers true forgiveness of sin. I don’t even know if that’s accurate; regardless, I disagree with the entire premise, because I don’t think simply being human is anything we need to be forgiven of.

    And now for some sleep! 🙂

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  20. Thanks for being gracious in your answer Nate. I didn’t mean to come across as short, as it may have sounded; though, when one is dealing with personal issues, the answers tend to get…well, personal. 😉 I’ve always appreciated the tone of commentary on your site, and hope to continue to for as long as you choose to “Find Truth”.

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  21. Hmmm. The question of do we even need a father really stopped me in my tracks. As I was thinking about what different people believe, the best answer is one that is given because of personal experience. It seems as though most people are always searching, wanting and striving for more; more time, a better job, a better position, more money, more respect, the list goes on and on. Only to realize when one reaches the ultimate goal the search never ends. A sense of disappointment dwells within because even after all of the hard work and “success” their still is a void left inside and longing for purpose and true fullfillment.
    Through life’s crazy journey, past hurts and disappointments linger and imperfect people let us down. Through all of these experience true peace that last, a joy and love that is overwhelming, and a fullness of purpose and passion can be experinced through a relationship with God, our Heavenly Father.

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  22. Sorry, I’ve been away enjoying my holiday weekend.

    What is this relationship with the Father and Son like and is it really better than the relationships we have with imperfect people?

    Does the Father or Son hug you when you’re hurting? Comfort you when you’re scared? Do they even bother to make a phone call when you’re lonely or fearful?

    They didn’t even write you a letter, instead they purportedly had random, imperfect people write you for them.

    And Melissa, that sense that something is missing is something i know very well. I felt it when I was a fervent believer also. I guess we could begin to speculate on whether I had the right faith, or whether it was genuine, and I guess I can only assure you that it was genuine, but… Why did I, and others, still feel a sense that something was missing when we had the “love of the father” and “forgiveness of sins” if that is the very thing that our souls long for?

    I think people, humans have something inside of us that propels us forward. That makes us want to grow, to learn, to improve. For me and for now, I think that sense of something missing is just that – a motivator.

    Our genes and the human heritage want us to grow and improve and to learn.

    I see what the bible says about god and then measure it against itself. I find that when doing that, it paints a fairly absurd picture of a perfect, loving father. Far from it. God and Jesus were really there for Moses, for Abraham, for Gideon, for David, Saul, for Thomas, and for many others when they suffered trials or when they experienced doubt. God isn’t a respecter of persons? Then where is he for the rest of mankind when they doubt or when they endure trials?

    I’m a father, and I cant imagine a single act that would make me cast my child into outer darkness. I cant fathom a single incident that would keep me from extending my own hand to save my child. And I am admittedly very imperfect.

    Now how can an imperfect father have more mercy and exercise more love than a perfect one?

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