A Little Debate With George Carlin About God

I was flipping through Hulu Plus and noticed they have previous episodes of Saturday Night Live.  Actually, it appears, they have every episode for the last 38 years!  There was a time when I was a big fan of the show.  Still I remember many of the characters and even some of the skits.  So, I decided to check out the very first episode, from 1975.  Would I recognize many of the players?  Billy Preston was the musical guest, singing “Nothing From Nothing Leaves Nothing”.  His fro and flowery shirt were interesting, and I actually recall the song.  I saw Chevy Chase, John Belushi, and Jane Curtin.  Chase was poking fun at a bumbling President Ford.  He and Curtin did a tasteless skit about a rape victim- I think they were trying to be cutting edge, to step over the line in the name of creativity.  But I’ll just call it tasteless.  And George Carlin was the guest host.  Now I like Carlin; he is funny, and smart.  His passing in 2008 was sad.  Reading some comments on that very first show, rumor has it that George was stoned at the time.  While that conveniently fits his caricature, personally I doubt it.  He was smart and precise, and his timing was great.  Perhaps he could do this on autopilot.  But I’m thinking he was sober.

I understand Carlin was an outspoken critic of organized religion.   Perhaps he was an atheist.  I have not studied his comments to make a definitive judgment.  And even as he may say lots of things, who knows a guy’s heart?  But I do not think his comments on this episode of Saturday Night Live necessarily reveal an atheist.  Here is a link to his monolog about God.   I would like to interact with it a little bit.  I understand it is not a carefully crafted treatise of scholarly intent.  It is a four minute comic spiel.  But I do think it is a serious statement.  Likely he would not apologize.  Last night was the first time I viewed the presentation.  So I will respond with like brevity, without spending hours studying for just the right thoughts and words.  Carlin is smarter, and a better communicator.  And funnier.  Otherwise, I think I could whip him.

Carlin: Sunday is God’s day off
Me: I know, you’re saying that just for humor.  You goof.  God never takes a day off, never sleeps.

Carlin: We create God in our own image and likeness.  Then, he pokes fun at the silliness of having a plastic Jesus on the dashboard.
Me: I agree.  It is called idolatry.  Romans, chapter 1, tells us it a characteristic of human nature and a sin.  As far as the plastic Jesus on the dashboard- I’ve heard a lot of criticism about such, but I have never actually seen it.  The Christian tradition I am part of does not even have pictures of Jesus in the sanctuary.

 Carlin: Rants about the silliness of finite humans going about describing an infinite God.
Me: Well, it would be preposterous, unless God would choose to reveal Himself to us in a way we can understand.  And that is just what He has done in Jesus Christ.

Carlin: Talks about how everybody walks about claiming to be God.
Me: Now, where do you find these people?  I guess they are passengers, riding around in cars with plastic Jesus on the dashboard.

Carlin: Proposition- If God is like us, he should be subject to physical laws, physical limitation.
Me: You’ve got it backwards.  God is not like us- we are like God, but only as he chooses to make us.  He’s the Creator, not us.  We are tiny, miniscule.  He is so much bigger.

Carlin: God is not perfect.   Just look at his creation- it’s far from perfect.  And, everything dies.
Me:  Read your Bible, George.  It explains all this.  Sin entered the world and brought decay and death.  God provides the remedy- new life through Jesus Christ.  And this world is not all there is.

Carlin: Religion has a way of relieving yourself of any responsibility for your acts.
Me:  Yep.  I rant about this myself.  “God told me” is not sufficient reason.  To justify what you choose to do, you are going to have to do better.  And, Mr. Carlin, you make it a distinct point to separate religion from God.  Good for you!  A lot of bad things are done in the name of religion that God does not own, nor approve.

Carlin: Religion may be OK for a while.  But smart people outgrow it, and throw it away.

Me:  Again, you do not say that a person matures to the point he no longer needs God.  Maybe you say it somewhere else, but not here.  I would like to think that a personal walk with God, intimate and growing, would make a person more humble.  The more you know God, the more you realize how much you need Him.  You never outgrow God.

This little exercise is far from fair.   Carlin is a smart man.  He has written and said a lot.  And I appreciate that he would dare to broach such a touchy subject, and to do it in a somewhat respectful way.  Yeah, he implies that religious people- including Christians, are naïve and simplistic.  And he exudes that erudite, tongue-in-cheek dismissal of others who may see things differently.   But many Christians do the same.  And many, probably most, have not given proper consideration to the very stuff that Carlin presents.  We should.

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8 thoughts on “A Little Debate With George Carlin About God

  1. I’ve had a little bit of back and forth conversation with Tony Hendra, one of George Carlin’s best friends, and a Christian, by the way. (you might remember him as the band’s manager in “Spinal Tap”.) He’s written a few books over the years including a wonderful memoir, “Father Joe” and a novel about the return of Jesus in, “The Messiah of Morris Ave.” He also worked extensively with George on his final book, “Last Words.” You might enjoy it.

  2. I have always been a big fan of Carlin though I certainly don’t always agree 100% with his sentiments. He makes a lot more sense than not in my opinion on most topics.
    I also agree with surr, that “Last Words” is a great read. I haven’t heard of the other books, but I think I will add them to my own list to read when I have the chance.

  3. Reply to: surrogate
    I checked out Tony Hendra on the web. His daughter has written a book about him, accusing him of child molestation. He denies it. That’s a tough accusation, sure puts an ugly stain on everything about a person, even as you don’t know if it is true or not.

  4. Reply to: OldSchool
    He’s 70’s for sure. He can be nasty, but also can say some really smart things. I hate that combination!

  5. Reply to: surrogate
    I’ll never be close enough to know. Apparently, there is not enough evidence to prosecute. I think I will read/listen to his book about Carlin. I’ll probably skip the others.

  6. Reply to: PastorDave

    Something I’ve read about pedophile fathers is that they don’t tend to “skip” certain kids in the family, especially of the same sex – and they never quit. Seems if the allegation was true, some of the other kids would be crying foul too.

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