I was raised to believe God is a kind, loving, and compassionate being. Every Sunday my parents dragged me to church (literally – I did not want to go) where I had to listen to a monotone recitation of how powerful, forgiving, and full of love both God and Jesus are. Think Ben Stein in ridiculous robes.

According to the church (at least, the church I grew up in), we are all born sinners. Before any of us escape our mother’s womb, we are already sinners. We’ve yet to make a conscious decision. We’ve yet to take a breath. We’ve yet to behold the splendor of this world. Yet, somehow, we are already sinners. But God will forgive us if we ask. If we repent and ask for forgiveness we will still be accepted into Heaven when God calls us home.

Doesn’t that sound great? How generous God must be to forgive and welcome us into His kingdom despite somehow being a sinner before we were born. What a great guy. The very idea makes me feel all warm and tingly all over. Or perhaps that’s just a side-effect of all the coffee I just shotgunned. It feels good, either way.

Countless Christians refer to themselves as God-fearing, which is a term that has always struck me as odd. Why would anyone need to fear God? I have no reason to fear the God I learned of as a child. He loves us. He forgives us. He provides for us. What’s there to be afraid of other than being sent to Hell when you die? What else would God do that any sane person wouldn’t want? If you ask for forgiveness that won’t happen, though, so no biggie, right?

When I look out into the world I don’t see the God I was raised to believe in. His alleged kindness, love, and compassion are nowhere to be found when I examine the human condition. If I brave reading the news (which is a rare occurrence these days because my mental health simply can’t withstand the onslaught of negativity), finding news about forgiveness, love, and happiness are few and far between. I have to specifically search for “feel good” stories. Headlines are generally riddled with news of murder, rape, war, and hate. Is that why some folks are God-fearing? Is God not the generous being I’ve been led to believe? I mean, if God is all-powerful, benevolent, and controls everything why isn’t this world a reflection of his positive image?

For me, I don’t fear God. I find it hard to believe in Him at all. Frankly, there are so many gods and so many religions who is to say which one is the right one, if any of them? I’m not saying there’s no God. I’m not saying there is a God. I’m simply saying I don’t know. I’ll just keep living my life, being the best human I know how to be. I’ll be kind to strangers. I’ll help those I can. I’ll give if I can. I’ll personify (to the best of my ability) the ideal of God without religious hypocrisy.