(Jeff Wolfert ponders as we all do or have at some time; yet, he wonders aloud. Dare we join him? – promoted by Betsy L. Angert)
Life is an Acronym
In Re: God
“My atheism, like that of Spinoza, is true piety towards the universe
and denies only Gods fashioned by men in their own image, to be servants of their human interests.”
~ George Santayana
[Warning: This chapter is rated RF-1. Religious fanatics may be offended.]
I just hate the concept of the “food chain.” Would it not have been kinder, simpler, and well, more equitable to make all forms of life, for instance, solar powered? Why must some forms of life exist only as potential sources of protein for another? Imagine, if you can, that instead of our being at the top of the food chain, we were, for instance, the third order from the top. Ponder this “perspective” for a moment. Interesting vantage point, isn’t it? All of life’s experiences are skewed according to which end of the microscope you’re peering through.
I have affinity for the Buddhist belief that all forms of life (down to the lowliest bacterium) have a sacred nature about them. I’m not saying that I never swipe at a mosquito anymore, or never obliterate a spider found in my home. But if I do, and there are times that I do not, for whatever little it may mean, it’s with reluctance and an unspoken apology. Yet believe the bible, and we’re made in God’s image (all of us?). God is in all of us as well, right? So, as a whimsical flight of fancy, conjecture what the world might be like if you were God. Approach this meditation with a poet’s soul and from the architectural perspective as opposed to the egocentric one. If you start thinking “I’ll be fabulously wealthy, have beautiful companions vying for my attentions, and never three putt again,” for example, even though I can appreciate the reverie, you’d be missing the spirit of this exercise completely!
As a primer, follow me on my “mind trip” as I think about how I might have designed the universe, I’d begin by eliminating the need for viruses, germs and the like to require a host in order to live and thrive. Therefore, there’d be no disease. Now, what could I further implement that would ensure a general happiness amongst the population? Of course, our fantasies are somewhat constrained by our own physical and intellectual limitations. For instance, we experience the world through our five senses, and are just beginning to give credulity to a sixth (extra-sensory). What if there were, just as a for instance, twelve senses! Can you even speculate what the others might be? What if there were four sexes, all capable of mixing and mingling (A “menage a cinq”?). Is there any way to imagine this? Can you conjecture what it might be like if we had a collective consciousness? Unless you’re blessed with an imagination extraordinaire, I don’t think so. These are but a couple of examples of just how limited we are in a universe of infinite possibilities.
For my next trick, I’d give everyone on our planet a counterpart to love and cherish, who returned the feelings completely and in kind! I reason that if one has love and happiness (here on earth and while we’re still alive, thank you) all the base, ugly impulses that seem to dominate our behavior would be ludicrous. Why spend even a moment on such senseless acts when life’s most exquisite experiences are already yours to savor? One could turn his efforts instead to the arts, parenting, acquiring more knowledge or the myriad other things that are constructive, enlightening, and elevating. Or maybe just to simply enjoying the wonder of his Kismet.
Ah, yes, if I were God. Well, what I’d like most to effectuate is what I clumsily refer to as the “mirror concept of human interaction.” Simply stated, if you do something good or kind for another living being, the kindness comes full circle and returns somehow to you. If, however, you attempt to strike another, he’ll feel nothing, but your jaw will be broken! Fire a bullet at another (of course, guns and weaponry in general would be totally unknown in my world) and his skin will not be pierced but yours will! This seems so wonderfully equitable. So fail-safe. So certain to suppress the cruelty and unkindness’ – the general inhumanity we see so rampant in our world today. Why ever attempt to harm another when you’ll only wind up hurting yourself? If I could make this a law of nature, there couldn’t be any “hunters” or “predators” in my world, and that’d suit me just fine!
Why did the “real” God, if he’s out there, miss this concept so completely?
In “my” universe, no parent would ever know the despair of an unhealthy child. No person would feel in any way inferior to any other. No “accidents” or twists of fate that bring misery. No glaring inequities where by simple happenstance or birthright one thrives while another languishes. Yes, it’s only a wistful daydream; but, oh, how powerful such dreams can be.
Isn’t man but a collection of “starstuff” who still faintly remembers his primal birthplace? Did you know that all the heavier elements are manufactured only in the cores of exploding stars? The simple specks of iron around which your hemoglobin binds as it courses through your circulatory system, and saint seducing gold itself, as examples, were begotten light years from here, countless eons ago.
I have no idea whether there’s a God or not. I like the term “agnostic,” for it simply means “I don’t know.” Sort of an intellectual escape hatch in case I’m wrong. I believe that when we’re dead, we enter a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, though stories about near-death experiences and astral projection instill in me a faint wisp of hope. Still, almost every organized religion (is it really in the true spirit of religion that the Vatican’s art collection rivals that of the Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum of Art?) will repudiate my skepticism. It astonishes me that Islamic militants, Kamikaze pilots, and others will volunteer to die for a belief, certain of the fact (putting far more than their money where their mouths are) that the life we experience through our consciousness is but a waystation to greater plateaus. Good thing, I guess, that if they’re wrong, they’ll never know that they’ve given their lives in vain! And if they’re right, then I, with my “doubting Thomas” way of thinking, will have a wonderful surprise in store.
I don’t know. Could Woody Allen have been right when he said, “If there is a God, the best you can say about him is that he’s an underachiever”? Is it possible that God evolves just as we do? I can almost hear the gasps. Sacrilege? Blasphemy?
Lighten up, they’re just thoughts, which are neither any less nor any more valid than anyone else’s. In an enlightened world, individuals have an unfettered right to express what they think; it’s called a democracy. Sometimes, people are even allowed to discuss pious and profound topics with an irreverent tongue-in-cheek! Of course, then there are the holier-than-thous who have been raining on everyone’s parade since the dawn of man because they are convinced that what they believe is the (only) universal truth.
These people are called religious fanatics (Santayana said, “fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have long since forgotten your aim”) and are, perhaps, the most intolerable, terrifying and dangerous human beings alive. When people are willing to “die for God’s cause,” whether the inspiration has a divine or an internal origin, their armies are virtually unbeatable! It’s the age-old conflict of the rational vs. the zealous. This is why an Israel cannot defend against suicide bombings. It’s also, why not all political assassinations can be prevented and why the anti-abortionists are so alarming.
Ordering the death of author Salman Rushdie because he “offended” some religious beliefs is a contemporary example of this “beyond the fringe” extremism. But we do owe a debt to these religious fanatics. We can thank them for the darkages, the crusades, the Spanish inquisition, and, well you get the picture. How many countless millions have died in the name of “religion”? Sadly, however, history clearly shows that, in religious crusades at least, “gold” was the “God” most worshipped above all!
Yet, having said all this, here’s the major riddle. As much difficulty as I have believing in the concept of a deity, a Supreme Being or whatever, it may be uncomfortably inescapable. Follow me on this. Step back and coldly and logically broach the question “Is or isn’t there a God?” My first inclination is to argue that no “God” (as we’ve imagined him, at least) would allow war, famine, disease, babies with missing limbs, plane crashes, and a thousand other horrors.
The cliched retort that “God works in strange and mysterious ways” seems a feeble, ignorant and absurd rationalization. Would any benevolent God allow us to suffer such miseries during our brief existence on Earth for some grander purpose that, at least during this lifetime, remains completely hidden from us? Would any sane God ask a father to put his son on the sacrificial altar simply to “test” the depth of his faith? I think not. I don’t like a Supreme Being who gets his jollies by making us run through his Godly gauntlet any more than I like a human being who fries ants under a magnifying glass. In both instances, there’s a disquieting abuse of hegemony!
I loathe the concept of absolute and blind faith for it flies in the face of reason and robs man of his ability to exercise his own, subjective rational thought . I like the metaphor of God as our “creator” for that’s a word comfortably synonymous with “parent.” Had I ever found either of my children wandering off toward the middle of traffic, I’d not have thought something akin to ‘well it’s their free will and while I hope that they don’t get hurt, I must not interfere’. I’d have been out in the middle of that street retrieving them at any risk to my own well-being , explaining to them, excitedly I’m sure, that the reason I told them never to do this is because I love them so much that if anything ever happened to them, I’d be inconsolable for the rest of my life. Protecting. Nurturing. Loving. Ensuring not only their survival but also their accumulation of knowledge and wisdom. That’s my concept of what a God (or a parent) should be.
I’m ready to believe that the real person we call Jesus Christ was both fascinating and compelling. If I could go back in history to meet any one person, it would be he. I guess I’d like him to know what incredible “staying power” he’s had and try to find out for myself why. Can you imagine if Christ himself were actually to arrive in our present day world and observe the plethora of “caricaturish”, show-biz wannabes and con-men who have converted his name, on TV and elsewhere, for the sole (not soul) benefit of their own bank accounts? Despite their assertions that they’re carrying out the work of Jesus at his behest, I’d bet that the real Jesus Christ wouldn’t have a clue as to who any of these “crusaders” were (and that includes the ones with the Lear jets).
Sorry for the digression and now back to the enigma. I can accept, with some latitude for future scientific discoveries, the concept of our universe and time and space itself beginning with an event science now refers to as the “Big Bang.” And whether or not it was the very first such “Big Bang” or one in an infinite series of expansions and contractions, the inevitable question is how can something come from nothing! This is the rub! Perhaps we just think that there was nothingness (the truth is we can never be certain about this, either way) but, obviously, there had to be “somethingness” because our entire universe came out of it. And this leads us to another ineluctable question.
If there was something, where did it come from? And, if there truly was nothing, then nothing short of a supernatural event can provide an explanation! So, you see, even though it would be infinitely more comforting to me if someone could put forth a scientifically plausible construction, I just don’t see how to avoid either the riddle of where did everything come from, or, in the alternative, if God made it and has always existed, where did he come from?
If there really is a God, I wish he’d indulge us with some new revelations that answer some of the age-old questions mankind has been posing since we developed enough of a neo-cortex to seek explanations. Surely, God knows that ignorance is not bliss; it’s frustrating and controlling. Perhaps God wishes to continue subjugation of those he’s created by keeping them substantially “in the dark.” Maybe the reason why the world has inherent uncertainties and problems in the first place is because if the world were perfect, what “need” would there be for a “God”? Interesting question to ponder!
The biblical God got really bent out of shape when we ate of the tree of knowledge. Was it because we were no longer as tractable as the beasts and animals? Did we render ourselves dangerous (or an annoyance) because, all of a sudden, we had a “little bit” of knowledge? Sort of enough to create nuclear weapons but not enough to stop us from destroying the planet? Did we become one giant step closer to comprehending God?
Remember the wizard of Oz? He lost almost all of his awesome power when stripped of his “curtain of mystery.” Will we eventually find that we are indeed somewhat God-like after all . . .? or that God himself is “only human”? It all boils down to the $64 question. Did God create man . . . or did man create God? And where did the Universe, and/or God, come from?
Perhaps our intellectual inability to comprehend the infinite in anything other than mathematical or abstract terms will doom us to forever remain ignorant of an answer that is more substantial than those provided by “blind faith” alone. On the other hand, we’re still evolving and history has shown that what we’ll “understand” tomorrow, we may not even be able to conceive of today. Yesterday, crystal spheres. Today, black holes and quantum mechanics. Tomorrow????
Like a never-ending spiral or that wheel within a wheel, it’s all quite a puzzlement!