My Designer God
by Pilliard Dickle
Illustration by Pilliard Dickle
I had a religious epiphany in a Piccadilly Cafeteria the other day. Sort of.
I had just sat down and unfurled my silverware when I spotted a family in the booth across the
aisle with their heads slightly lowered. They were either looking at the buttons on their shirts or
saying a prayer. When I heard the word “thankful” waft through the din of people chattering and
the tinkling of silverware, I knew it was a blessing.
Sitting there with fork in one hand, knife in the other, ready to dig in like Homer Simpson at the
Frying Dutchman, I suddenly felt like an ungrateful glutton. It seemed like the only polite thing
to do, to say “Hey, thanks, dude” before you start shoveling it in.
I, too, wanted to say thanks. But, religionless heathen that I am, I didn’t have a dude to say
How nice it must be to walk around believing you’ve got an invisible friend you can dial up
any time and say “Thumbs up on the chow.” Or, “Listen, man, things aren’t going too well, li’l
help?” Or, better yet, “Can you help out a friend?”
If I tried to say a blessing, the best I could do would be: “Oh heavenly Father, whom you know
full well I don’t believe exists (and if you do, I have a few beefs), thank you for this lovely
meal...although, I must say, in all honesty, the meatloaf is a tad on the dry side.”
That’s not a prayer I’d want to be overheard mumbling in the old family feedbag.
I’ve always felt a tinge of envy over those who are able to live such a blissful existence,
walking around believing they have an unseen benefactor who is going to make sure everything
is going to be ok. But there’s no way in hell I can by into that.
And many of them don’t buy into it. They’re just phoning it in. They go to church on Sunday
and stand there with their hymnals, half-heartedly singing “Bringing in the Sheaves,” not
really knowing or caring what the heck a “sheave” is (or maybe even thinking they’re saying
“Bringing in the Sheets,” which makes about as much sense).
I always said if I were going to be a religious type, I’d be a juicy one. A Holy Roller. Or else I
wouldn’t bother. None of this half-ass upper middle class white people crap. You’d find me in
the black church down the road, in the choir, clapping my hands and swaying back and forth
(slightly out of synch, I’m sure), my pasty white face shining like a lightning bug on a moonless
“The only church I’d join is The Church of Sexual
Depravity, and even then primarily for tax purposes.”
It seems like the whiter the church is, the more layers of bureaucracy there are between you and
the big guy. But I’m not interested in a labyrinth of intellectual dogma, I want a direct connection with the fellow.
Now I’m not joining any black church. Or a white one, either. The only church I’d join is The
Church of Sexual Depravity, and even then primarily for tax purposes.
But I want my invisible friend, dammit! I want a man in the sky who is always there, watching
over me from above, night and day. Every move I make, He’ll be watching me.
Wait a minute. That’s not sounding so appealing all of a sudden. When you go out skanking and
boozing...there He is, logging it in your celestial dossier. Take a second look at that teenage girl
who works at the mall...duly noted.
But wait. Maybe my invisible friend wouldn’t have to be a 24/7 hall monitor. Maybe I could
activate or deactivate Him at will. Maybe my designer God could have an on/off button.
Or maybe He simply wouldn’t give a damn if I smoked a joint every now and then or spent a
wanton weekend with that married woman across the street. (Calm down, I’m speaking metaphorically.)
Of course, all these concepts are based on the classical Western myths I grew up with. The
jotting stuff down in a journal thing. (Or is it more of a tote board? I’m not exactly up on my
Biblical knowledge.) But that’s only the yin. There’s that other hemisphere. The East has a
whole different take on the global fairy tale.
Trouble is, my knowledge of the great thinkers of Eastern metaphysical thought is quite a bit
less than my familiarity with St. Peter and that crowd—which is pretty sketchy in itself, seeing
as how I never did any of the assignments my Sunday School teacher sent us home with, nor
did any of my other little heathen friends. (We all figured five days of homework a week was
I do know Lu Tsu said some pretty cool stuff. And who was the guy with the really long name?
Yogi something? What was that thing he said about reality?
Oh, wait, there is one swami I can quote ver betim. George Harrison. First album, track four,
line twelve. “Chant in the name of the Lord and you’ll be free.” (I figure all those wise guys are
saying basically the same thing over and over. The pop music Cliff Notes version will do just
Yeah. That’s what I’m looking for. An altered state of consciousness. Acid without the acid. But
I’m not about to go chanting some longass name some guy over in India made up 3000 years
“Can you convince yourself you’ve got an all-powerful
friend in the sky, even if your friend is a product of your
Hmmm...I wonder if you can just make up your own name for the Lord? Would it still work if
his name were, say, Steve? Or Earl D. Porker?
Just how much can you finagle with the concept of designing your own God? Can you order up
special features? A sense of humor? Anti-lock brakes? Can He be a She? Can She have a nice
ass? Can She wear Prada?
Look at it this way: If every religion is different, and each one is undoubtedly wrong—or at best
a paltry misrepresentation of what is—then you might as well just make stuff up.
Here’s what it all boils down to: Can you convince yourself you’ve got an all-powerful friend
in the sky, even if your friend is a product of your own invention? Can you truly convince your
brain to believe it, like that family in that booth across the aisle...who, by the way, is now guiltlessly digging in like Norm Peterson at the Hungry Heifer (despite the fact that the meatloaf is a
tad on the dry side)?
Well, there’s one way to find out. Stay tuned as I try to get religion by Frankensteining together
my own designer God.