by Johnny Townsend
In the life of every atheist raised in a religious household, there comes a moment when we encounter our first question that can’t be answered. For me, it was when as a young Mormon teen reading lots of science fiction novels, I encountered aliens with amazing abilities. I’d think, “Wouldn’t it be great if humans had that feature?” Nature programs added non-fiction traits other species already had, species inferior to God—according to God—yet obviously superior in some of their physical attributes. If God was the ultimate being, how could that be?
Why, for instance, didn’t humans display more attractive coloring? Blue, red, green, purple? We were mostly drab beiges and browns. We colored our hair and tattooed ourselves and wore flashy clothes because we understood the need to improve upon nature.
Often when I was trying to nail or tape or cut something, I’d think, “Boy, wouldn’t it be great to have an extra arm or two?” What if we could tell ourselves, “Put your finger there so I can tie this”?
When bullies crept up behind me at school, how could I not wonder why humans, made in the image of a perfect God, didn’t have eyes in the back of our head?
Why did we have unprotected shins?
If shivering generated heat when we were cold, why did people who still had adequate stores of fat freeze to death before burning up their reserves?
Why couldn’t we breathe in both air and water?
Why couldn’t we fly?
Why couldn’t we regenerate lost appendages?
Why didn’t we have a mouth on the end of some new appendage that we could manipulate more freely than we could move our head?
I had lots of questions, but the biggest was why a being that clearly didn’t have the best of all possible bodies was still able to label itself the Supreme Being in the universe. And if we as Mormons had the opportunity to become gods ourselves, with the same bodies we had on Earth, only “perfected,” wasn’t it a bit unfair that we beat out other species that scored so much higher on any objective evaluation of overall traits?
Something wasn’t right.
Of course, I would eventually decide that the issue of physical attributes was the least of the problems most theologians created.
Why, for instance, did other animals and insects need to suffer when their moral character wasn’t being tested to determine if they qualified for godhood? They just suffered.
Why was suffering the only method for helping humans progress to the next level? The most intelligent being in the entire universe couldn’t come up with anything better than that? If God himself is bound by “natural” laws, who made up those laws? Atoms and molecules did that all by themselves?
The questions didn’t stop there. After reaching a certain threshold, though, there wasn’t much point even asking anything else.
Despite the dangers of unregulated genetic manipulation, I now accept that our fate is in our own hands, and we have to be proactive in ensuring our advancement. Perhaps soon we can create features to turn us into the superior beings we want to be. More intelligent, more compassionate, more altruistic. Maybe we’ll be able to individually choose specific genes for ourselves. On the issue of sex alone, I can think of quite a few improvements I could make to my body.
Don’t tell me you don’t have a fantasy wish list, too.
The possibilities are as endless as the number of people out there.
But no, we’re stuck with two eyes, two arms, two legs, and—sadly—just the one penis.
If God is the most intelligent, most powerful being in the universe, why can’t he figure out safe genetic engineering?
I don’t need Noah’s flood to make me doubt. I don’t need anachronisms in the Book of Mormon. I don’t need any of the vast multitude of theological issues debated regularly to open my eyes to the implausibility of God’s existence. The eyes in the front of my head are enough for that.