God is not a good communicator

It is clear that god has been jerking the Republican party around. Many of the candidates vying for the nomination said that god had played a role in their decision to run. This article back in July of last year discussed god’s role in the decisions made by Scott Walker, John Kasich, Ben Carson, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee to run for president.

God is kind of shy and sometimes does not like to speak to a candidate directly, which is understandable when the candidate is Ted Cruz. Cruz’s father said that god had told Cruz’s wife that he should run

“My son Ted and his family spent six months in prayer seeking God’s will for this decision. But the day the final green light came on, the whole family was together. It was a Sunday. We were all at his church, First Baptist Church in Houston, including his senior staff. After the church service, we all gathered at the pastor’s office. We were on our knees for two hours seeking God’s will. At the end of that time, a word came through his wife, Heidi. And the word came, just saying, “Seek God’s face, not God’s hand.” And I’ll tell you, it was as if there was a cloud of the holy spirit filling that place. Some of us were weeping, and Ted just looked up and said, “Lord, here am I, use me. I surrender to you, whatever you want.” And he felt that was a green light to move forward.”

It is not clear why god is so obscure. “Seek God’s face, not God’s hand” seems cryptic to put it mildly. And why tell Heidi and not Ted? And since they were all together, how come no one else heard what she heard? I think the problem is that god is using voice commands which we know are prone to all manner of errors as anyone who has interacted with telephone menus that have voice commands will tell you. To avoid this problem, when god wants to tell his chosen folk what to do, he should do so in written form. We would have a lot fewer disappointed presidential candidates then.

This business of people hearing god’s voice telling them stuff is strange. I wrote before about how I once met this guy outside my office who was handing our religious tracts and we got into a good-natured discussion where I quizzed him closely on hearing voices.

This man said that he believed that only the Bible was true because god told him so. On further questioning he said that god spoke regularly to him, in English. I asked him if anyone else was around to hear the voice so that he would know it was real and not simply in his head and he said that his wife heard it too.

I asked him if he had made any recordings of god’s voice speaking to him. He was obviously unprepared for that question and you can understand why. Religious people can quite casually say that god told them this or that and no one asks them the details of exactly what was said and whether anyone else heard it. I have lost count of the number of politicians who say that god told them to run for office or to take some action and no one thinks to press them on the details of that experience. This is why the new atheists are ruffling feathers. They are breaking that taboo, the tacit agreement that has existed for so long that when people make claims about god, those claims must not be challenged.

My genial proselytizer, thinking quickly, said that he did not record god’s voice because he did not have a voice recorder, but he laughed as he said it since he knew that it was such a weak excuse since nowadays, even cell phones are capable of voice and video recording. I told him that the next time he should really record god speaking to him because that would be big news and he would not have to waste time handing tracts on street corners since we would all be able to hear the voice of god directly.

Even nonbelievers rarely challenge believers on the details of this hearing of voices even though it is quite an extraordinary claim. I recall a debate held in England between two groups, one of believers and another of skeptics. One of the believers was someone who said he had been in prison and heard god’s voice talking to him and this sustained him during his ordeal. I was hoping that a member of the other side would ask him if any of his cellmates had heard the voice too but no one did. It seems like we skeptics think that the idea of god talking to people is so absurd that we do not bother to ask the kinds of follow-up questions that should naturally come to mind.

Oddly, for someone who invoked god at every opportunity, Marco Rubio’s announcement speech did not say that god had asked him to run. But he suggested in his withdrawal speech that maybe god had been less than enthusiastic, saying “While it is not god’s plan that I be president in 2016 or maybe ever”. If he runs again and says that it is now god’s plan for him to do so, I hope someone will ask why he was ditched by god this time.

As the title TV character in the TV show House said, “You talk to god, you’re religious. God talks to you, you’re psychotic.” Do we really want to elect psychotic people as president?


  1. doublereed says

    Well, if a person says “God wants me to do such and such” what exactly would your response be? I certainly can’t think of a polite way to call them out on their nonsense (assuming you want to be polite). Even if you somehow avoid calling them a liar, you would still come across as a jerk.

    Asking if other people heard God’s voice is not helpful imo considering that the most likely answer is yes.

  2. Matt G says

    @2, maybe Heidi wanted Ted to run….

    I’m just disappointed that God lied to either all or all-but-one of those Republican candidates.

  3. sonofrojblake says

    Do we really want to elect psychotic people as president?

    Define “we”.

    If you mean “the entire electorate” -- I don’t think they care.

  4. Dunc says

    I’m just disappointed that God lied to either all or all-but-one of those Republican candidates.

    In fairness, as far as I can recall they’ve only claimed that he told them to run -- not that they would win. Maybe he just enjoys a good laugh?

  5. busterggi says

    God may have spoken to me once but it might have been my neighbor’s radio. They sound so alike.

  6. says

    When I was a Christian, there was no expectation that God would talk to somebody by vibrating the air so you and others and microphones could hear, but it was something that you could “hear” internally (in the same way that silent thought prayers are given to God, God would talk to you back in the same way). And, in that respect, as an internal thing, it is hard to investigate directly. Of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t press them with “So, if it’s something internal to you, how on earth do you expect me to believe it if I have no way of investigating?”

  7. Blood Knight in Sour Armor says

    So how many of these people are just making shit up? I mean, is there any real level of sincerity?

    It seems unlikely that they’re hallucinating in any fashion.

  8. says

    Remember Sam Kinison’s old sketch about god telling Pat Robertson to run for office.

    “heheh I got bored. Watch me wake him up and send him out to check the tire pressure on his car. Hey Pat? This is the lord. Yes, I want you to go check your tire pressure.”


  9. says

    And, in that respect, as an internal thing, it is hard to investigate directly. Of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t press them with “So, if it’s something internal to you, how on earth do you expect me to believe it if I have no way of investigating?”

    “How do you distinguish that from a dream or a delusion?” gives them less wiggle room.
    Sensus divinatus — aah the circular sense: it’s the sense of god that lets you know god is real because it senses gods.

  10. johnhodges says

    From THE AGE OF REASON, Part 2, section 20, by Thomas Paine:

    Revelation then, so far as the term has relation between God and man, can only be applied to something which God reveals of his will to man; but though the power of the Almighty to make such a communication is necessarily admitted, because to that power all things are possible, yet the thing so revealed (if anything ever was revealed, and which, bye the bye, it is impossible to prove), is revelation to the person only to whom it is made. His account of it to another person is not revelation; and whoever puts faith in that account, puts it in the man from whom the account comes; and that man may have been deceived, or may have dreamed it, or he may be an impostor and may lie. There is no possible criterion whereby to judge of the truth of what he tells, for even the morality of it would be no proof of revelation. In all such cases the proper answer would be, “When it is revealed to me, I will believe it to be a revelation; but it is not, and cannot be incumbent upon me to believe it to be revelation before; neither is it proper that I should take the word of a man as the word of God, and put man in the place of God.” This is the manner in which I have spoken of revelation in the former part of the Age of Reason; and which, while it reverentially admits revelation as a possible thing, because, as before said, to the Almighty all things are possible, it prevents the imposition of one man upon another, and precludes the wicked use of pretended revelation.

    But though, speaking for myself, I thus admit the possibility of revelation, I totally disbelieve that the Almighty ever did communicate anything to man, by any mode of speech, in any language, or by any kind of vision, or appearance, or by any means which our senses are capable of receiving, otherwise than by the universal display of himself in the works of the creation, and by that repugnance we feel in ourselves to bad actions, and the disposition to do good ones.

    The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion. It has been the most dishonorable belief against the character of the Divinity, the most destructive to morality and the peace and happiness of man, that ever was propagated since man began to exist. It is better, far better, that we admitted, if it were possible, a thousand devils to roam at large, and to preach publicly the doctrine of devils, if there were any such, than that we permitted one such impostor and monster as Moses, Joshua, Samuel, and the Bible prophets, to come with the pretended word of God in his mouth, and have credit among us.

    (End of quote by Paine.)

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