I like the idea of a lovingly protective personal god, the shepherd in the sky who benevolently bestows blessings right, left and center. I like the concept of faith, of believing in something larger than ourselves, something larger than anything we can imagine.
All the evidence I’ve ever seen—can you say starvation, slavery, sexual predation, genocide?—suggests that the former is a pipe dream. I don’t see god in the image of man (or man in the image of god). If you read your history, you know that ancient civilizations created a god for the thunder they didn’t understand. And a god for the winds that they couldn’t figure out. And a god for the oceans they could not fathom (sorry, couldn’t help myself).
That which was beyond our ken was assigned a god. Don’t get it? God. Can’t figure it out? God. (That and the fact that the more you try to sell me on miracles, cathedrals, Papal power and/or money power, the more I distrust the sales pitch. Empathy, and caring for others? Those I’ll buy into.)
Eventually, of course, science came to the rescue—as we might well hope it will again in the current (bad pun coming) climate. Empirical evidence was brought to bear on each problem in its place. Thunder had to do with electricity. When we learned about barometric pressure differences, wind became a lessor god (and then no god at all). Even the oceans have been plumbed to their very depths. We know more about our outer world and, seemingly, less about our inner world.
Perhaps that’s where faith comes in. Maybe if we look at “god” as everything, and everything as god, maybe we can come to a better understanding of ourselves. If we see “god” as less a likeness of ourselves and more as the essence of all things, perhaps we shall then be on a better path towards enlightenment.
I’ve always loved the sage adage, “God helps those who help themselves.” Which is, if you think about it, a roundabout way of suggesting that “god” is within and not without.
Theologian Reza Aslan wrote a whole book to promote that notion. Entitled God: A Human History, it suggests that multiple gods miss the point, a point which falls under the heading of pantheism. Aslan’s simple explanation of pantheism is that god is all and all is god. “In its simplest form,” he writes, “pantheism is the belief that God and the universe are one and the same—that nothing exists outside of God’s necessary existence. As the pantheistic philosopher Michael P. Levine puts it: ‘Nothing can be substantially independent of God because there is nothing else but God.’ In other words, what we call the world and what we call God are not independent or discrete. Rather, the world is God’s self-expression. It is God’s essence realized and experienced.”
(Aslan also talks about burial of the physical body as a sign of our belief in an afterlife. Again, I’d like to believe in something after this life, an awareness of some sort, but cannot yet buy that one, either. So, I’ll not waste space with my corporal presence. Scatter my ashes to offer nutrients to some Pinot Noir vineyard. That will be quite sufficient, thanks.)
The greatest benefit of this belief system, in my mind, is that it puts the responsibility for honorable and moral behavior back squarely where it belongs. It’s on us. It’s all on us. Making sure that the air is clean and the rivers clear? It’s on us. Instituting civil society. Yep, that’s in our court as well. We are all; all is us.
©2018 Richard Paul Hinkle