"The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank". - Dante Gabriel Rossetti. A friend of mine posted this on Facebook a while back. That and Voltaire's quote "If God didn't exist, it would be necessary to invent Him*" got me to thinking. Why do I believe in God?
This blog post is mainly for me, to sort out a few things in print and put it out where it is public. It is not intended as a challenge, nor as proselytizing. Many of the blogs I read (because the writers care about people, about justice, about health care and decent wages, about good education and adequate pensions, about workplace safety) are written by people who are declared Atheist or Agnostic, with one Apatheist. I don’t blame them for their non-belief.
They, by and large, escaped from authoritarian fundamentalist “Christian” organizations. Trust me, I don’t believe in the God these organizations represent either. Theirs is a political God used to enforce positions of power. A God who hates women, people of colour, the poor, the sick, the powerless, the gay. A God who loves war, money, and (mainly) white males. In a bait and switch tactic, billed as a God of love and forgiveness, but delivered as a God of fear and guilt. No thanks.
At least they could escape, sometimes with loss of their family, support system, community, sometimes with nothing more than “phone calls from their mother”. There are other religions where one is lucky to escape with their life. Their God hates women with a passion and everyone else too that doesn’t fully subscribe their very narrow definitions of “Godly”. Again, a political God, used to enforce power positions. No thanks.
Part of the problem of believing in God is that we think too small. We look for some kind of Zeus, a human-like being with super powers. Michelangelo’s God. God is often pictured, though likely unknowingly by the speaker, as an angry old man, peering down through a knothole at the world and pounding his fist in anger if he sees a bare patch of skin or people having a good time. I can't prove God exists in any "scientific" manner and if I could then it really wouldn't be a God I would want to believe in anyhow. Too small.
Being trained in the sciences, I am well aware of the many "natural laws" that govern physics, chemistry, biology, life itself. The whole universe pretty much operates on its own, following all these natural laws. Where there are laws, there must be a law giver. All else can and does follow as a consequence of these laws. I have to admit that as science traced the origins of the current universe back multi-billions of years to the split second at which it began, that on the other side, they would find the only explanation was God. I should have known better. Too small.
Stephen Hawking's latest book, “The Grand Design”, which I haven’t read yet, explains how the Universe came into being without a creative moment as we would understand it. That makes God bigger than Steven Hawking and that takes some doing as Hawking likely has a better grasp of what exactly is infinity than any one. Now we know that the universe is finite, we need a new measure to try to imagine infinity. Trying to get my mind around infinity hurts as it doesn't quite stretch that far.
Eternity is another word that is too big to measure. God is eternal. How long is eternal? Longer than the age of our current universe at any rate. (Apparently Heaven and Hell are supposed to be eternal, too. That scares hell out of me. Not the Heaven and Hell part, the eternal part. I cannot imagine doing anything eternally. I mean, imagine living in Hawaii, waking up and looking out the window “Damn, another nice day” and playing two more rounds of golf. For eternity…)
Most of the reasons I believe in God are pretty simple and selfish. When I am thankful and I so often am, for life in general and some things in particular, I need someone to thank, so I thank God. When I wake up at night and worry about friends and loved ones who are far away or with problems I can’t deal with, I leave them with God. I also thank people and I also help people but “knowing” there is a God, makes things much less complicated and eases my mind.
I like to think there is Someone in charge of the universe, of this earth and of everything in it; that life has a purpose. I am not sure what in charge means, certainly not day to day operation and manipulation but maybe a plan of some kind. Humans evolved to the top of the food chain through the functioning of natural laws over a long period of time. Whether it was preprogrammed into the system or occurred randomly is neither here nor there. I prefer preprogrammed. Others can disagree. Like the existence of God, it cannot be proven either way. One is Who and Why, the other is How.
But the things humans do to each other, (never mind what the earth can do to humans; as I write this, NZ is dealing with results of a 6.3 earthquake in the Christchurch area) it is easy to dismiss God for allowing these things to happen, since God obviously doesn’t love creation. Without the existence of an over all long term (eternal) plan, life would be pretty horrible to contemplate and one wonders why people continue to reproduce, struggle to exist, etc. Other than I guess that is programmed in as well. So I believe there is a plan. And maybe even justice somewhere some time, somehow.
I like to think and that there is something beyond the grave for all life – humans, cows, dogs, trees, flowers. They are all alive, they all have life. When one shuts off a car engine, nothing changes except there is no longer a spark. No electricity flows to the plugs, nor to the controls system. The car is dead. I like to think that life does not stop at the time of death on earth. Not just human life but all life, plant and animal. That the spark which is life came from God and goes back to God. What happens to it there is unknowable.
This is pretty long and rambling so I am going to leave it. I have several short essays, written over the years, of things I believe, things I value, my philosophy of life as it were. Interesting to go back and reread them and see what changes and what does not. And I refuse to think about infinity or eternity, other than Tanya needs infinite patience as I take an eternity to get ready to go when she is ready (and of course vice versa).
*I apologize for using the male pronoun Him in reference to God. That was simply the quote. We need a better pronoun to describe God, who is not a He nor a She. God should be referenced accurately in English as IT (neither male nor female) but some will say that demeans God. Really? Then the fact that we say "he, she, it" in that order would mean that God is also demeaned if referred to as She. The implications of that are quite disgusting.