Is god on your side? And which side are you on? I ask because, whatever you intended to do, and whoever you are, if you were religious, you might ask god for help. After you’ve done something bad, you might say sorry to god and ask for forgiveness.

In the old testament, there are many stories of the persecution of the jewish people. I know this, because for eight or so years, I went to one of several classrooms on the ground floor of our local synagogue and was taught what I now know is called religious history. In these stories, kings and pharaohs persecute the jews, and god retaliates, protecting or helping them. From the plagues and smiting of the first born to the flood that led Noah to build his ark and the parting of the Red Sea, the jews seemed to be protected by god. God was on their side.

Fast forward to recent history, and we find Muslim suicide bombers shout “god is great” before detonating their charge. Does this mean god is on their side? Despite the fact that god supposedly said, “thou shalt not kill”?

God on trial

A BBC drama broadcast in 2008 showed a group of concentration camp prisoners who saw what their benevolent creator was allowing to happen in Nazi Germany, and wondered whether god had switched sides. One of the prisoners had seen a guard with a belt buckle which read gott mit uns, or god with us. If god is on the side of the guards, which the guard presumably believed, how can he also be on the side of the prisoners?

I believe the concept of god was invented by humans to explain the unexplainable. Why does the sun rise and set? Why do we exist? What are we here for? “It just does”, “no reason” and “no special reason” are not good enough answers. People believe we need to have a place.

We pray to a god to ask him to protect us, to help us; and yet both sides do the praying. Surely it’s more likely that god isn’t on anyone’s side. “I think of a little child in east Africa with a worm burrowing through his eyeball,” says Sir David Attenborough. “The worm cannot live in any other way, except by burrowing through eyeballs. I find that hard to reconcile with the notion of a divine and benevolent creator.”

So if god was only invented to explain the unexplainable, where does that leave the myriad odd practices humans carry out every day – from covering their heads (because god’s above them) to kissing a prayer book after they close it? And, of course, to circumcising their baby boys without anaesthetic and as close to the shaft as possible, because, as someone told me in a response to one of my first blog posts, if they didn’t, then god would stop doing them favours.

I’ve already made clear in this blog my objections to male circumcision. I believe it’s time we stopped doing what we think some deity wants us to do, and start doing the sensible thing. From not killing others, to not mutilating babies. If you believe, through your own superstition, that if you pray to your god, he will look after you, then I have no objection. But stop expecting protection, and start being pleasant to others.