God, unlike, say, North Dakota, has an uncanny gift for staying in the headlines. Often enough He has His bitterest adversaries to thank for the press. Michael Newdow, the man who fought to excise "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, is suing yet again to cleanse the public square of all references to the deity, supplying further proof that bad head-cases make for bad law. This time around Newdow has decided that "In God We Trust" on our money has been a symbol of theocratic oppression all these years and we didn't even know it.
Another proud atheist, Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller fame, took to the air this week as part of NPR's revived "This I Believe" series to deliver a passionate and condescending renunciation of God's existence, mocking believers of all stripes for their faith in their "invisible little friend."
Still, even the faithful do their part to surround the Lord in public controversy, as we see in the efforts on behalf of "Intelligent Design," the belief that God takes time out of his schedule to nudge evolution along.
We'll have all year to gripe about the public policy issues on both sides of the God divide. But since this is Thanksgiving, I thought maybe we could take the discussion in another direction. Thanksgiving, after all, is first and foremost about giving thanks (a close second is the tradition of lying on the couch eating super-nummy turkey sandwiches off your belly like a sea otter munching a crab leg).
And if you're going to give thanks, you'll need someone to give thanks to. Typically, that would be God - although, no doubt, if Messrs. Newdow and Jillette got their way, we'd direct our thanks to a large coalition of benefactors, including everything from a random universe and primordial ooze to the guy who delivered the turkey. But God himself? He'd be left off the thank you card list.
In the current issue of The Atlantic, Paul Bloom, a professor of psychology and linguistics at that New Haven trade school otherwise known as Yale, offers an interesting perspective on the whole God thing. He makes a very powerful case that belief - or a tendency toward belief - in the supernatural in general and God in particular is hardwired into our systems from birth. His article is titled "Is God an Accident?"