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Copyright 2000 by J. Neil Schulman. All rights reserved.

Who Is God and What Was He Thinking, Anyway?

by J. Neil Schulman


I really should have considered just shutting the heck up. I should have known that if I started writing essays about basic principles, there would be someone with at least half a brain coming along and figuring out that I was holding back some of the premises upon which I was basing my writing.

Am I "a law unto myself," not accepting any authority except my own mind -- as I have been accused of being by more than one advocate of traditional religious scripture -- or do I have some other way of validating what I've been writing?

When I write that I have no fundamental objections to adult men and women engaging in sex play, even within their own gender, have I abandoned any possibility of sexual behavior adhering to a moral code -- and if that code is not derived from Jewish or Christian scripture, then from where?

If I ask a boundary question -- merely ask the question without providing my own answer -- whether all individual members of a sapient species have the rights accruing to the whole of that species, irrespective of whether sapience is present in an individual or subset -- have I opened myself up to permitting eugenics, genocide, and human vivisection on a scale practiced by the Nazis and the communists?

It's time for me to put up or shut up, right?

Okay, fine. I'll show my hand. If I'm going to be burned at the stake or nailed to a cross, I'll at least give you a good reason.

To begin with, I start with the assumption that the rest of you are often crazy. There it is. I don't trust any of you as far as I can throw you. As far as I can see, you're out of your freaking minds.

Some of you say you're followers of God, then demonstrate your devotion by endlessly murdering each other over a few square miles of desert real estate where God is reported to have made some personal appearances a couple of millennia ago. Well, I guess this shouldn't be any surprise. If Elvis fans and soccer fans act crazy, why shouldn't God's fans? I've seen film of the mob chaos at the Rolling Stones concert at Altamont and The Who concert in Cincinnati, and at soccer games. If people are going to act that crazy over musicians and athletes, why should I expect sanity from them when it comes to how they feel about God?

There it is. Bring out the stake and the gasoline. I think organized religions are no closer to being infallible than any other celebrity fan clubs. They collect relics, erect shrines, fantasize relationships with the object of their affection, are willing to go to war to defend their own idiosyncratic vision of the star.

But I have never made the mistake that atheists make of blaming God for the crazy things His fans do.

I also don't expect those journalistic writings called scriptures, including purported eyewitness accounts of God's personal appearances, actions, and sayings, to bear any close relationship to the reality of where God has been, what He has done, and what He said. I've seen what human reporters have done with more recent events to which I've been a personal participant or witness. I've seen how reporters spin. I know how rumors and propaganda get reported as established fact. I've seen history being written then rewritten.

Sorry. I place my trust in God, but not in the 'zines written by His fans.

But unlike atheists, just because the fanzines can't be trusted, it doesn't mean God never made those personal appearances, did at least some of the things He's said to have done, said some of the things He's reported to have said. Even The New York Times gets it right on occasion. But if a report doesn't make sense, I'm not going to believe it just because someone tells me to.

The thing is, God isn't dead and He isn't retired. Jews act as if God hasn't done anything worth reporting on for the last four or five thousand years; Christians act as if God hasn't done anything worth reporting on for two thousand years. Then they throw a fit if anyone says God's been around more recently.

I have news for you. God is still here among us, He is still talking to anyone who is actually curious enough to take the time to listen to Him, and you don't need any musty books to find out what He's thinking.

I know this because He's been in touch with me. More than once. Clear as a bell. Better connection than I've ever gotten from AT&T.

Bring out the cross-bars and the nails. Schulman's a blasphemer. Call the shrinks and get him restrained. Schulman thinks he's hearing God's voice. Schulman thinks the Bible is full of crap, but he knows what God is saying. This megalomaniac is so far removed from reality that he thinks he's sane and the rest of us are crazy. We'd better restrain him not only for his own good, but as a simple measure of public safety.

J. Neil Schulman is armed and dangerous, right?

Now you know why I haven't used my home address on correspondence for years, why I screen my phone calls, why I've never put a picture of any living family members on the web, why my preferred method of communication is email, why I'm armed to the teeth and have spent some effort learning how to shoot straight. I've been convinced that once I started letting you people know what was really going in my head, that the mobs of villagers with pitchforks were only a matter of time.

Let me get a few things straight before I get where I'm going.

I'm not setting myself up as a spokesman for God. God hasn't ordered me to deliver any prophecies to you. You have a question about what God thinks, ask Him, yourself. I'm not going to broker God's words.

I'm not guaranteeing that He'll feel like answering you, or will answer you the way you want Him to. That's between you and God. All I'm saying is that when I had questions and made it clear that I was really interested in His opinion, God had no problem at all getting inside my head and letting me know how He saw things.

So what you're getting from me is the opinions of J. Neil Schulman. You're free to consider what I have to say is the ravings of a diseased mind. I don't expect you to trust me any more than I trust you.

But if something I have to say makes sense to you, even if it doesn't go along with something you read in some book that some other men have told you is holy scripture, I'm here to tell you that you're empowered by God to use your own brain and decide for yourself what is true and what makes sense. If you're worried that you're not smart enough for this, take comfort in knowing that God is perfectly capable of getting inside your head, too, and helping you with your homework.

Don't expect me to believe you if you say He has spoken to you, any more than I expect you to believe me when I tell you that. I certainly don't believe Neale Donald Walsch who keeps on writing bestselling books about his Conversations With God. That guy is certainly not having conversations with the same God who I've been in touch with.

But if God wanted us all to have a universally consistent and self-evident experience of Him, God would go on Oprah.

What, you think God couldn't get the booking if He wanted it?

Let's move on.

God is a whole lot smarter than you think He is. You think He couldn't figure out that if He gave us brains, we would eventually use them to figure out how to fuse hydrogen atoms, or decode DNA sequences? You think He didn't know if He designed the male body to have a penis in the front and a rectum in the rear, that some men wouldn't figure out they could use the rectum as a surrogate vagina? You think God didn't pay any attention to what could happen if the hormonal balance during gestation got out of kilter on occasion and occasionally we ended up with brains that were oriented female in male bodies, and vice versa?

Give God a break.

Inserting semen into uterine accessways is how God designed the human mammal to conceive babies. That's why mammals have two sexes in the first place. Anything else we do with our sexual organs isn't making babies. To that extent, God favors heterosexuality over homosexuality.

But then you people go off the rails.

Listen. My mother hates rock music. She was raised listening mostly to classical music, and when she was a teenager popular music was Glenn Miller or Benny Goodman. So when she hears music with a rhythmic drum backbeat, or a standard E-A-B chord progression, she is repulsed by it.

My mother's revulsion by certain sorts of music doesn't make that music an abhomination in God's ears.

And J. Neil Schulman's revulsion upon seeing two men kissing each other doesn't make it an abhomination in God's eyes, either. That's my problem.

God designed all sorts of operating parameters for the human species which we alter all the time. If two men engaging in sexplay with each other is operating outside of what God intended, then so is transplanting a kidney from one human to another. Neither one is a "natural" act. Both are acts of invention. They are artificial in the sense that they require artifice.

And guess what. God knew when He gave us brains that we were going to be inventive, that we would be artists, artisans, and do the artificial.

Merely being artificial is not enough for something to be an abhomination in God's eyes. You have to do something evil.

You want to know what are abhominations in God's eyes? Murdering innocent people. Deriving pleasure from cruelty. Stealing or vandalizing what someone else has worked for. Getting someone else in trouble by lying about them.

But getting all bent out of shape just because some grown men or grown women enjoy rubbing their private parts against each other? God is not as irascible about that as my mother is when she hears rock music. He's not that pathologically obsessive. That, my fellow human beings, would be you.

Now I can see that you get particularly bent out of shape when you think people are breaking God's laws. We all have a bit of the hall monitor in us and can't wait for our chance to scream for the teacher.

God says "don't murder" -- and in this case I have no doubt that God really did say that -- and you decide that this includes unfinished human beings still in the womb.

You know what? You might be right. It's not a bad argument. Neither do I happen to know what God's personal opinion on this is. I had other things on my mind the last time we conversed and didn't get around to asking Him about this.

But you might be wrong. The question that you keep forgetting to ask is when a soul is present in a human being and when it isn't. I don't happen to know how souls are made. Do they grow out of a living body or are they created somewhere else and move into them? Are souls the same thing as spirits, or is there a clear distinction? Is soul merely a software program in a mortal body until it's ready to be uploaded into permanent media?

These are questions that, lacking a direct answer from God, I'm not prepared to accept anyone else's opinion as a final answer -- so the answer to the question of whether abortion is murder is not clear in my mind. But I suspect that if abortion was always murder, God would have been a lot more in my face about it up to now than He has been. I think this is just another one of those things that God wants us to figure out for ourselves.

And here we go with my main point.

God is father of the human race. He made us. He made us smarter than anything else we have encountered so far. He gave us brains that can figure out how to destroy all life on this planet and brains that are on the verge of designing new life forms. He gave us brains which will, by applying logic and imagination to our observations of the universe around us, eventually figure out how to control time and space.

Don't you get it yet? You keep on worrying that men are taking on the powers of God, that we play God, that we act as laws unto ourselves. Well, look at kids on a playground. They play at being grown-ups. They fight, they get unruly, they misbehave. Every once in a while a teacher needs to pull one of them off the playground and give him what-for. But that doesn't mean that this little snot-nose isn't going to grow up to be the fellow who figures out how to make a jelly that will regenerate broken spinal cords.

God has big plans for us when we grow up and become, like our father, gods. New and bigger worlds await our arrival on the scene.

We can’t remain children forever. We have got to grow into the responsibility of using our own brains to figure out hard problems, and we can't find all the answers by flipping through a textbook, even a textbook which has some lessons from the Teacher. Some of the things in scripture are deliberate mistakes that we're supposed to figure out for ourselves.

You think God gave you a brain and various moving parts because He doesn't want you to use them?

What, you think God couldn't come on TV and just settle the abortion controversy by telling us how souls are made, and when? If God wanted sexual behavior to be merely procreative, you don't think He couldn't have designed the ejaculation of spermatozoa to be no more pleasurable than sneezing?

You must think God is an idiot in the way He made us. You must think He's orphaned us, leaving nothing but some old books behind.

You want the gospel of J. Neil Schulman? I'm willing to tell you this much.

God is real. He thinks. He's smart. He's a lot like us in a lot of important ways. He comes across as human. The first thing He looks at about a human being is what desire is in his heart. And, He realizes that He is powerless to make us be good or evil; the most He can do is encourage us to be good and give us the keys to His house if we are.

You think of God as all-powerful. From God's point of view, His power ends at the frontiers of our own ability to choose for ourselves. … and that makes Him as powerless as any parent when it comes to dealing with their kids. When we were a younger race, God was more hands on in how He dealt with us. Now that we're a bit older, we have to handle more things by ourselves. That's the way of things.

Okay, you know how crazy I am now. You think I'm as nuts as I think you are. That's okay. I'm not looking for any followers. I don't believe in the New Age. I'm not about to get a TV show on the SciFi channel and start chatting up your dead relatives. I'll be happy if you just use your God-given brains to think a little more critically about what you're told you have to believe, and stop using scripture as a justification to act so crazy. It also wouldn't hurt if you grew up a bit, since that is our common destiny.

And don't worry that I haven't had a lot to say here about people who don't believe in God at all. I'm nowhere near being ready to shut up and have lots of words left for them.

But just because you've read a book, even a fancy book with gilded pages, don't expect me to follow you, either. I know way too much about how books are written and published.

One more thing. Happy Channukah and Merry Christmas!

J. Neil Schulman
December 22, 2000

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Updates: May 5, 2005

About ten months after I wrote the above, I finished my novel, Escape from Heaven. If you found what I had to say here interesting, you should check out the comments on the novel that I've been receiving from fellow authors, reviewers, and readers, listen to some of the radio interviews I've given on the book, and maybe read the first two chapters. All are linked from the novel's catalog page. Escape from Heaven is also being produced as a graphic novel and as a major motion picture!

In the above article, I wrote, "And don't worry that I haven't had a lot to say here about people who don't believe in God at all. I'm nowhere near being ready to shut up and have lots of words left for them."

Some of those words are in what will be my tenth book, I MET GOD, currently being edited. Excerpts from the forthcoming audiobook edition, and a radio interview with me talking about the upcoming book, are on the web at http://www.IMETGOD.com.

-- J. Neil Schulman


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