The Courtesy of God

by Garret Keizer
from Lapham’s Quarterly

The devil you say

These days what the Epistle of James says about believing in God—that the devils believe in him too, ergo beware of taking too much credit for your credos—is often on my mind. God may or may not be in his heaven, but on any given week he is likely to be enthroned at the top of that great chain of being known as the New York Times Best Sellers List. Like James and the devil, I am not impressed.

By that I do not mean that I consider myself beyond the God debate or beyond those of my fellow mortals who find it compelling. In fact, if there is any unifying notion in what you are about to read, it is my deep distrust of any human being who fancies himself “beyond” just about anything, be it money, jealousy (of best-selling authors, for instance), using a turn signal, or putting on a tie. I would never buy a book whose title began with Beyond, though I have known a few beyond-good-and-evil types who weren’t beyond stealing one.

If I am unimpressed with the God debate it is less for wanting to seem aloof than for needing to start with easier questions. Lacking the credentials, say, that entitle any expert on a nanolayer of slime covering a pebble called earth to give us the complete skinny on absolute being, a hubris beside which the nitwit ruling of a Kansas school board seems cautiously understated, I want questions better suited to my pay grade. Never mind does God exist—does the God debate exist? more

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