The ancient Greeks believed that their gods had nothing better to do than to spend their time observing those fascinating and ridiculously vain human beings, while making sure that they behaved properly, such as by paying the gods their due homage for all the wonderful things and favours which they had done, and would continue to do, for them. Moreover, the Greeks believed the gods regularly intervened to protect, encourage, and advance their favourites, while they punished and thwarted those less fortunate mortals who had offended them in some way, or simply failed to gain their divine favour. Such a naive attitude towards life, fate or destiny, and the behaviour of the gods is no longer accepted by most people today. And yet, this ancient Greek belief still finds many echoes in today’s modern world, since there are many religious people who, secretly or not, believe that they personally enjoy God’s favour or blessing.
For example, there are many successful athletes and entertainers who believe that they have been blessed by God, and they express their gratitude for this supposedly divine blessing whenever they receive a prize or award or are able to win a competition. But it is completely ridiculous to suppose that God, who oversees something as vast as the Universe, could possibly care about which athlete or entertainer is successful or wins an award, prize, or competition. We should not forget that these artificial human events are designed so that there must be a winner, along with many losers. The idiotic gesture performed by some athletes of pointing upwards to the sky after making an important play or scoring a goal presumes that God exists in a certain place, namely Heaven, which many people believe is located somewhere above them in the sky. But these credulous fools fail to realize that this belief, which attributes a material existence to God, is heretical. One might just as well point downwards or sideways to indicate God’s presence.
There is a danger with prayer that, if by coincidence the thing one asks God for comes to pass, and if this experience is repeated – a course of events that will inevitably happen to some of those who pray regularly, one will be increasingly convinced that one is favoured by God. It is also common for credulous people to see significances in everyday events or coincidental occurrences, which they then interpret to be divine revelations or ordinations. Such individuals often become proud and arrogant, thinking that they can do as they please, by ignoring reality and the counsels of others, while they brook no criticism of themselves. However, these individuals would do well to remember that the Deadly Sin of Pride is one of the many ways in which the devil performs his work here on Earth, by deceiving and misleading us very gullible human beings.
In Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, there is a character named Jesse Bentley who, having read the Bible too frequently and intently, comes to believe that he is one of God’s chosen few who are destined to do great things in the world, and whose names will be forever honoured and revered among men.
In the school he had studied and thought of God and the Bible with his whole mind and heart. As time passed and he grew to know people better, he began to think of himself as an extraordinary man, one set apart from his fellows. He wanted terribly to make his life a thing of great importance, and as he looked about at his fellow men and saw how like clods they lived it seemed to him that he could not bear to become also such a clod.
[…] Jesse’s mind went back to the men of Old Testament days who had also owned lands and herds. He remembered how God had come down out of the skies and talked to these men and he wanted God to notice and to talk to him also. A kind of feverish boyish eagerness to in some way achieve in his own life the flavor of significance that had hung over these men took possession of him. […]
And so, having been born an imaginative child and having within him a great intellectual eagerness, Jesse Bentley had turned wholeheartedly toward God. When the [American Civil] war took his [four older] brothers away [that is, caused their deaths], he saw the hand of God in that. When his father became ill and could no longer attend to the running of the [family] farm, he took that also as a sign from God.
Many of these conceited religious individuals amount to little or nothing and, fortunately, they do not have the power to harm others by their foolish beliefs, although they may annoy those they know or make some of their lives miserable with their deluded vanity. Problems, and sometimes great problems, arise when such individuals are able to gain power over others, whether this power is political, legal, economic, military, personal, or imitative, as in the case of religious cults.
The desire to imitate prominent religious figures like Jesus, Mohammed, or Martin Luther can make one believe that one is also divinely chosen or inspired. The great danger with this belief is that one comes to believe that everything one thinks and does is ordained by God. And because most religious people attribute infallibility to God, they likewise come to believe that they too are infallible. Human history is rife with the examples of individuals who believed such nonsense about themselves. Another common tendency is to attribute to God one’s own enmity towards, or hatred or dislike of, someone, something, or another group of people. A recent example is George Bush, a fervent reader of the Bible who was the president of the United States from 2001 to 2009. Without the terrorist attacks in 2001 that so greatly traumatized and outraged the American people, most Americans would have soon recognized the younger Bush’s incompetence and his unfitness to occupy the most important political position in their country’s government.
The mere fact that you believe in God does not mean that God believes in you, in the sense that you are the Chosen of God, and therefore everything you do is ordained by God. Those who believe, as George Bush did, that they have a divine mandate to perform God’s will in the world, which often means believing that they have a divine sanction to do whatever they have a will or inclination to do, would do well to remember that Adolf Hitler also believed that he had a divine mission. Hitler took the failure of several assassination attempts on him as signs that God was indeed protecting him from his enemies so that he could fulfill his goal of establishing a thousand-year German Reich, thus ensuring the supremacy of the Aryan race forever on the Earth.
Another example of this false belief is that one’s particular group is God’s chosen people. For example, for millennia the Jews have believed that they are the chosen people of God. This religious belief has had a significant influence on their behaviour throughout the ages, as manifested in their sense of superiority over others, their reluctance, in contrast to the followers of other religions, to admit non-Jews into their faith, and their conviction that God would always protect them from harm. This is why the Holocaust, when roughly six million Jews were exterminated by the Nazis, was such a traumatic and disillusioning event for all the Jews that survived these human-inflicted horrors. In no way could they reconcile the belief in their special status as God’s chosen people and the senseless deaths of so many of their people, who were guilty of no wrongdoing.
There is an even more general instance of this delusion that is, unfortunately, held by much of the world’s human population. According to this widespread belief, we humans are the members of God’s chosen species that is meant to rule over, while doing whatever we like with, the rest of God’s Creation. It would be a very grave and foolish mistake to suppose that the fact that, until now, we have been permitted to do as we please, while our voracious numbers continue to multiply unchecked, is a sign that this belief is true, and therefore we do not need to change or curb our destructive behaviours, because, as many of us mistakenly believe, everything we do is in accordance with God’s divine plan for the Earth.
It must be remembered that God is a very ancient being, having been around even longer than the Universe, which itself is extremely ancient. In that time, God has seen many things unfold in the vast Universe, including on the miniscule part of it that is the Earth. Moreover, God has witnessed times innumerable the repeated rise and fall of various life forms on our planet, as well as their continual evolution, and so the present havoc that we are wreaking, though alarming, is nothing new in Its infinitely greater experience. However, it is my conviction that God will not tolerate indefinitely the global destruction that we are causing, and that God will eventually be roused to act in order to protect Its Living Creation from the increasingly dangerous menace that is posed to it by us humans, who, to our great shame, foolishly and erroneously believe that we are God’s chosen species. So long as we continue on this false path, I believe it will lead to our annihilation, as the only way to preserve God’s Glorious Creation from our extremely destructive tendencies.
 Those athletes who perform this gesture fail to realize that those who live on opposite sides of the Earth are pointing in diametrically opposite directions when they point upwards at the sky.