Before you can sell the solution, you’ve got to sell the problem. Infomercial formula: Black and white reenactments of ham-fisted actors bumbling around trying desperately to do some difficult household chore like cut a tomato or eat a grape. Then, WHAMO!, the product of your dreams appears in Technicolor through the magic of television. Those days of frustration you felt for not having sleeves in your blanket are as outdated as a Dobie Gillis episode.
In order for you to buy a cure, you need to be convinced you’re sick. Beauty products aren’t beauty products anymore, they’ve been renamed health products. More urgent that way, and their advertisements reflect it. –Open with wide shot of our avatar sitting on the patio of a cafe, sunlight reflecting off the glassware. Opposite gendered person approaches in modern but professional apparrel. Camera zooms in close to reveal startling health concern. Everyone is so embarrassed!– These things usually involve a woman on a blind date with someone who looks like David Beckham if he tried harder and worked out some more. How did she get to this crucial moment in her life and not realize she has thinnish eyelashes, a skin blemish, and/or an intractable case of “not looking exactly like Sofia Vergara”. Then, she realizes, she can either become agoraphobic and ring church bells for the rest of her life or….
For me the first time I realized how marketing worked was teeth whitening. As a kid, I had no idea teeth were supposed to look as white as an 81/2 by 11. (Full disclosure, I’m male. I know I’ve got it easy when it comes to the media vs. body image thing.) But for me, as a coffee addict, the white teeth sales pitch got me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve plenty of other hang ups, but I wasn’t around the genesis of those. I got to see people go from archaic sepia-tones to sand-blasted porcelain in just a matter of a few years. It’s like carbon dating. You can tell how old a movie is by examining actor teeth. I remember thinking to myself, I’m being sold a disease and no amount of conscious effort can forestall it infecting my brain.
Enough preamble. The God-shaped hole is one of the laziest arguments you’ll ever encounter. So lazy you’ll swear Pascal must have thought it up. Oh wait. He did. (along with Augustine and CS Lewis). It states that we have a desire to experience greater things and to have order in the world, THEREFORE, there must be a greater experience than this one. Because we want more, there must be more. The proof is in the problem.
1. It’s not biblical. The evidence to support this claim is weak with regard to the holy book. Acts 22:27 is basically the one go to verse. It’s Paul’s pitch to the Greeks who have a statue to “an unknown god”. Guess what? That unknown god is God! He made you humans look all around for him (and then presumably give up and just call him unknown for a few thousand years). That’s promising. But wait… Romans 3:11 states that “no one is righteous, no one seeks god“. Oops. In using the sales pitch of sin, Paul screwed up his sales pitch of God searching.
2. It’s lazy as hell. Imagine a commercial that said you had a cheese pizza shaped hole in your life. You could try and fill it with hamburgers and tacos, but you will never be satisfied. That’s as subtle and well thought out as a Robin Williams punchline. BUY PIZZA, WHY? BECAUSE YOU WERE MADE TO EAT PIZZA! Na-Nu Na-Nu.
3. It’s condescending. Christians are whole. I’ve got a hole. They have joy, I’ve got to settle for being happy. Basically, christians have the Renee Zellweger of God to complete them. All I’ve got to settle for is “Kwan”.
4. It’s ineffectual. Christians don’t stop buying things. In fact, they LOVE shit. They can’t get enough of it. Bigger churches, houses, cars, everything. Step one in “planting” a new church is hiring a minister with designer jeans and an Ipad to stand up in front of an IMAX screen while rock music shakes the coffee in the cup holders. How am I the one who is desperately trying to fill my God shaped hole with what the material world has to offer? (Feel free to counter with Christians are imperfect or those are bad Christians. Or that they are using those tactics only to lure in non-believers. Sacrifice = For christians so love the world that they eat a free donut for you.)
5. CS Lewis (I like his writing) wrote one embarrassingly bad thing with this: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” Seriously. He used the word PROBABLE. Hey CS, those Occam’s Razors aren’t disposable.
6. (Anecdotal, I know) I’m happier now than when I was a christian.
7. It’s quite vague. People say that materialism and the fact that lots of cultures have established gods are proof of a god shaped hole. These seem really different to me. Which do you find more convincing? Then it’s that one.
8. Teeth whitening wouldn’t have worked if there wasn’t some truth to it. Social shame, a desire to be young, and sexual attractiveness are real things and when they are associated with bleach trays, it moves bleach trays. I’m not arguing that. But it’s backwards. Sexual attraction isn’t proof that bleach trays exist. As my blogmate John quoted, that fact that I desire something isn’t proof that it exists. I almost don’t have a problem with them using the fact that humans have problems and frustrations to sell god (if there was a god and he could demonstrate a decent percentage rate of fixing those problems). But showing me a problem and then using that problem as proof of the existence of a solution is naive and not very realistic. Just think. How did all those people live for thousands of years without Crest Whitening Toothpaste? Surely, their yellow teeth was a sign that gel exists with which to cure it!
All that said, sometimes I think people do have God shaped holes. And only christians fill them. We all have two of them, and they led to our eardrums. (I kid!)
Prove me wrong. Leave a comment!