Conceptions of God: An Easter Sermon

I am not religious, although I admire people of true faith.  I usually can’t be bothered with institutions or dogmas more interested in perpetuating themselves than in finding truth and comfort in the universe.  I consider myself an agnostic with spiritual leanings.  I’m not an atheist because I can neither believe nor disbelieve in a power greater than myself. Absence of proof is simply not proof of absence.  Whether that power is a sentient father figure wagging his finger at us silly apes, or a cold, indifferent, but sometimes ironic universe that creates order out of perceived chaos, I know not.  I tend to lean more toward the universe theory.  Too often, it feels like man creates God in his own image, and that is just as much a sign of hubris as the theory of a geocentric universe was. I prefer my God to have more complexity than that, whatever it/he/she happens to be  Why would any being or force, especially one that is supposed to be omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent, need to keep things simple?

Case in point.  I can see a world in which Genesis and Darwin can coexist.  Evolution posits that species develop traits over time that lead to net reproductive success, and those traits are passed down to offspring and become ubiquitous to a species.  These traits are usually the result of genetic mutation, accidents of nature that allow certain traits in a species to increase their individual rate of reproduction. The phrase “Survival of the Fittest” quite literally means survival of the genes most likely to be passed down.

This process takes millions and millions and millions of years, but the Earth was created in six days (don’t even get me started on the fact that it was made twice in the bible).  First there was the word, but how do we measure a day when there is no earth and no sun?  Why would a being of the infinite need a twenty-four hour cycle, when such a span would be less than an infinitesimal fraction of a heartbeat to him?  Why can’t that word, that logos, that idea, be a big bang, the universe expanding from some ur singularity? Why would a being of the infinite need to just plop down figures on the planet, like an old man setting up a chess board, when it would be more fun and more complex and more satisfying to plant them in a garden and watch them grow on their own? That garden image is quite apt for my conception of man.  Why couldn’t a day be millions of years?

There are those who say the fossil record is faked or that God planted the bones of dinosaurs to test our faith or that man rode dinosaurs like horses. Again why do we have to subscribe to a being who would keep things simple just for us?

Finally, there is my conception of man and God.  While I’m really not a big fan of Adam and Eve (Lilith was way cooler in my book), I do see the metaphor of the garden and the serpent as apt for a creation myth.  A garden exists to grow things, to cultivate, to see the beauty and variation of flower and fruit and even fauna in a controlled chaos.  Man was allegedly created in God’s image, but I refuse to believe that a sentient God would be an incurious God.  I refuse to believe that a being of the infinite, who knows every possible outcome, would not be curious to see which outcome becomes the one true outcome.  So he set up a little experiment.  He set up his people.  He set up his tree.  He set up his serpent.  He said, “the whole garden is yours to do with as you please.  I give you dominion over it.  But that tree?  That tree is mine.  Don’t touch.”  He set up the serpent to say, “Why should he tell you what to touch and what not to touch?”  He set up man and woman with a natural curiosity about the world (again, if we are in his image, from whence did our curiosity come?).  If the outcome had been obedience, then Adam and Eve would have lived forever in paradise, in the garden, penned animals, pets really.  If they ate the fruit, then they were truly beings capable of reasoning, of thinking, of making decisions for themselves, beings of free will.

Which sounds more interesting to a God of complexity?  Obedient animals or complex, autonomous people?  I would go for people.

Now, I see all of this as metaphor.  Whether this is just a way of understanding how the natural laws of the universe led to the infinitely small chance of our species, or not, is not the point.  The point is that I refuse to believe in a universe based on simplicity.

I believe that God is the order and the chaos in the universe.  I believe that good and evil are constructs of man.  I believe that there probably was a good man, a wise philosopher named Joshua who had a lot of good things to say about treating each other well and separating commerce from the spiritual.  (Mega Churches with ATMs inside feel a bit like letting the money lenders back into the temple, if you ask me.)  I believe that his teachings have been perverted (Fucking Paul).  I believe that living a good life and being a good person has nothing to do with which book you follow.  I believe faith should be a warm blanket, and despair when people use it as a cold hammer.

I believe in people.

Thus endeth the lesson.

But let me post script this sermon with my own story of faith.

I’ve been gushing this last month over S and the amazing woman I’ve discovered her to be.  I’ve been deliriously happy these last two weeks.  On April 5 we decided to see each other exclusively, and it feels like the right decision.  This is my first real feeling of faith in my life.  I believe that things will work out.  I have no doubt about her and my abilities to communicate, to compromise, to love, and to live.  As I said in my last post, I’ve always approached relationships with trepidation, fear at their premature end, fear of rejection, fear of the unknown.  For once, I walk without that fear.  I have faith that things will work out, because I have faith in us as people. I described it to a friend of mine as my having the certainty of youth coupled with the wisdom of age and experience. I look forward to discovering what life will look like three, six, twelve months down the road.  That is a miracle.  That is how the universe works.  Sometimes it shits on you.  Sometimes it cleans you up.

Happy Easter, Everyone.

~Prof. Fearless