Doctoring the Script

Ophelia Benson

Have you ever noticed how fundamentally boring God is? I think that’s a slightly neglected subhead under atheism and secular humanism. God is boring because perfection is boring—especially in a lite rary character, which is, after all, the God we’re all familiar with. God is like trying to think of a birthday present for someone who already has everything. Imagine trying to tell a story about a perfect being. What could the story be about? God can’t have a quest or an adventure because perfection has no truck with such things. God can’t have a problem to solve, a mystery to explore, a mistake to rectify, or a need to fulfill because all those possibilities depend on imperfection.

Take the Mars Rover for example. Like millions of other people, I watched the NASA channel that August night the Rover was successfully lowered to the surface, and like millions of others I was blown away by it. It was such a staggeringly difficult task—not just getting it all the way to Mars but engineering it so that the vehicle hovered above the surface and lowered the Rover on a crane to avoid dust kicked up by thrusters that would have ruined the Rover’s delicate instruments. Human beings did all that! But a perfect God could just put a Rover on Mars with no effort—except that a perfect God wouldn’t even want to, because a perfect God already knows everything there is to know about Mars. It knows how many grains of dust there are on Mars, how many atoms there are in each grain, and—you see how boring it becomes before you even get started. Perfection is indistinguishable from futility. Our pleasures and interests and motivations depend on our radical limitations. We dream up gods that don’t have our limitations, but we just make them alien to us in the process.

This article is available to subscribers only.
Subscribe now or log in to read this article.