Sunday, April 15, 2007

what might be God?

It occurs to me that it might be nice, after the Blog Against Theocracy, if I were to explain why, despite being raised in the Church, despite believing in some sort of Higher Being, despite thinking that Jesus and his philosphy are both pretty good, why despite all that I dont consider myself to be a Christian.

I've thought about it a lot, actually. I think that I can sum it up in one simple sentence:

Might does not make right.

Doesnt this seem like an obvious truth? Otherwise, if it is not true, then why shouldnt the playground bully push the other kids around? Why shouldnt the man with the gun take your money outside the ATM? Why shouldnt people own slaves to do their bidding? Why shouldnt strong nations build empires? Why shouldnt corporations exploit third-world populations?

Dont tell me it's more complicated than that, because it's not, it's simple.

Might does not make right.

There is Right, there is Wrong, and even though it's often tricky to tell which is which sometimes, we can say that whatever makes something right, it is not how strong it is. The days of trial by combat have been left behind with the Dark Ages, or should have been. The same goes for the Divine Right of Kings. Even the American doctrine of Manifest Destiny is no longer refered to (at least not openly).

The idea the Might Does Not Make Right is a basic tenet of the U.S. Constitution. All through that document are provisions that curb power, sometimes by pitting them against each other, sometimes by simply saying that the underdogs can have their say and sometimes by just saying "no".

On the other hand, we have Christianity.

What is the basic truth of the Christian Church? That in order to be saved from an eternity of pain and torture at the hands of Satan and his minions, you must give yourself to God by way of Jesus. There is a code of conduct, but that isnt nearly as important as pledging your soul to God. Even if you've lived a life of sin, all you have to do is repent at the end, and give yourself up to Jesus, and hey! presto! you're saved from the fiery pit.
Unfortunately, if you're one of the poor schmucks who's never even heard of Jesus, well, that's too bad for you, you're no different from those who have heard, but chose to not pay attention. It's the pit for you.

Do you know why? Because God says so.

Why does that matter?
Because if you dont obey, He will put you in Hell, where you will endure an eternity of torture, torment and burning flesh.

Why? Because God says so, and He's bigger than you.

Oh yeah, and because it's part of a plan. Can you know that plan? Of course not, puny human. Only God can know the plan. Why, because he's bigger and smarter than you. Now shut up and do as you're told. And tomorrow, make sure your mom puts a pudding in your lunch, or you're gonna get it.

See, I refuse to believe that ordinary humans can have a more highly developed moral sense than God, and yet that is exactly what appears to be true with the Fundamentalist God; because He is a complete asshole. We are expected to follow absolutely rules that simple observation will tell you are completely unnatural. And yet, dogmatic christians will tell you that the impulses of our bodies are to be ignored in order to satisfy God, even though He created these bodies and their impulses.
Does this make sense? Are we to believe that the creator of this incredible, complex, infinitely astonishing universe, is a sadistic fiend who hardwired us to be one way, then tells us to behave in the opposite way?
Oh, they'll say, that's the Devil's Work, these impulses.
So now I'm to believe that God's handiwork can be undone by a former minion with a grudge? And if Satan does so as part of some plan of God's, then we're back to the sadistic asshole point again. It doesnt matter whether God does it to us Himself, or allows it to be done to us as part of some plan; the results, and the wrongness of the action, are the same.

Can you hear the Fundies howling? Oh! Another Non-believer dissing Our Lord! Yeah, yeah, now tell me how you know that I'm going to burn in Hell.

And I'll tell you that you're full of shit. You dont know anything. You believe a great deal, and you use that as a guide to live your life and raise your children. It provides a moral grounding and a set of rules for (generally) peaceful co-existance with your neighbors. It provides you with a basis for relating to God, to understanding your place in the world. That's all good... for you.

Care to tell me why I should follow your rules?

Because if I dont, I'll burn eternally in Hell? Why? Third Base!

Listen, suppose I follow all the rules that any "good" christian does, except that I dont believe in God. I dont say so to anyone, but that's how I feel. Will I go to Hell? I mean, I treated everybody the same way a True Believer did, but because I cannot accept the existance of God without some sort of proof...?

So why Hell?
Because an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-everything Being requires unswerving worship from each and every puny, helpless, ignorant human during their short, confused life or he will throw them into a pit of torment FOREVER.

Like I said, an asshole.

Now, I'm not a terribly enlightened being, but I dont feel that I need devotion from, say, my children. I want them to love me, I want them to do more or less what I tell them to do (at least until they're grown up), and I want a bit of respect. But I dont have an exact manner in which I want this done.
Yes, sometimes I say, "because I told you so", but this is my failing, that I cannot make them understand just exactly why I want them to do something, though I know that it's good for them. I feel bad about this inability of mine, but then again, I'm not omniscient.
God is, right? So that's no excuse. If he wants something from me, let him tell me. I'm quite sure that he can make it crystal clear.

Here's what I think: God, whatever It is, has better things to do than micro-manage a bunch of beings in an obscure corner of the universe whose brief lives can be no more than a tiny flash in the corner of the infinite Pan of the Universe. Yes, It may be aware of us, may love us, may wish us well in this incredible place It's created.
But I refuse to believe that it is so petty as to mark a difficult path in the beach sand and expect us to follow that line despite the tides, broken glass, occasional crabs snapping at our toes and the fact that the tide came in 10 minutes before we arrived and washed the marks away.
The need for unthinking devotion sounds less god-like, and more insecure-of-themselves-humans-like. God is not some management type who needs constant sucking up just so he wont fire us and give the plum office to that bitch who's always bringing him homemade cookies.

You know, an asshole.

And if I die, and find myself standing in front of a golden throne, with angels all around, and trumpets and intolerable light and all that stuff, well, I'll feel...

Angry, because I'll know then, that God really is an asshole. And I'll give him a piece of my mind then, boy howdy. After all, if I'm gonna burn in hell anyway because God's an arbitrary dickhead, well, I'm gonna make it count.

But he could've saved everybody a lot of trouble. Especially since, being omniscient, he'll know what I'm gonna say to him.

See? Asshole.

Seriously, the idea that we could know anything about God strikes me as a lot like saying that a cell from the lining of a vein in your leg can understand what it is to be human.
Oh, but the cell says, I got this thing here, this DNA chain. Look, see, it tells me everything about the Human. It was written in the beginning, and will last until the end of time. All I have to do is follow the code, and I can someday be Human too.

Now go ahead, tell me about Cancer, and how that proves your point.

Idiot! It's just an analogy.

But let's take it a bit farther. Maybe we are merely cells in some unimaginable body. We cannot know that though, and if you try to tell me that you do, I'm gonna have to say you're wrong.

If you need to believe that you're not wrong in order to survive, that's okay by me. After all, it's not my problem if you need a Big Daddy God to smack you around to keep you in line. But (to take this analogy further), supposing that you took it upon yourself to tell your brother what to do, and to hand out punishment in the place of your Big Daddy? I dont know how it works in your family, but in my family, that tends to result in the "punisher" getting back at least what they dished out.

In some form or other.

Bear that in mind, next time you try and tell me what God wants. Maybe I will be going to Hell. Maybe you will.

Choose wisely. Choose carefully. And try to remember that whatever God may be, he's a damn sight stronger, smarter, fairer, and better than you are.

I'll finish with one of my favorite descriptions of God:
...God moves in mysterious not to say, circuitous ways. God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an inefffable game of his own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any other players (i.e., everybody), to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a dealer who wont tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.

from "Good Omens" by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett


Saur♥Kraut said...

Ahhh yes. These are the same arguments that my best friend Zen Buddhist makes, and I certainly admit that it's a horrible conflict. And I don't like the pat answer I get from fundies when I bring them up myself: "Who are we to question God" and "God's ways are inexplicable". If that's so, why are we given the ability to question and examine?

I don't have answers, though I believe myself to be a Christian. I'm probably one of the weirder "Christian" out there: Great knowlege of the scriptures, and still questioning them.

BTW, you'll love this ACLU ad. Check it out.

daveawayfromhome said...