Dear God (or Goddess; I am at least mostly pagan). I'd like to start by raising some issues in the hope of your answering a few of my questions, if I may be so presumptuous. There are things about the world that I don't yet understand, despite my living in and on it for fifty-odd years, and I'd like to get a better understanding.
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." - Genesis 1:1
For one thing, I never quite understood how the world, and for that matter the Universe, came into being. The Scientist in my head tells me that there was a Big Bang
or something like it, and that raises as many questions as it gives answers. The Spiritual part of me rather likes the idea of a Creator God dropping a creation bomb into the void and watching it grow - this seems to me to be overly simplistic.
You see, I have read about virtual particles springing into being, and handedness and singularities and so on, and that was how the thing got rolling. One moment there was no Space or Time or Dimension, and the next, there was, and from some negative maelstrom of matter and energy, finally the Universe was formed. Then the religious folk will say that God created it, formed the Earth and its biosphere and planted mud-made mankind into it. Then there's the bit about ribs, and that just seems too weird to me.
One story is of an accident of sorts, ending up with a massive, expanding place containing all sorts of things that still fill me with a sense of childlike wonder. The other tells of a god who made it for us, and gives us free will but (depending on who I listen to) throws us into a fiery Hell if we don't do as He (and it's almost always "He") says. One lot of folk tells me that dinosaurs lived millions and millions of years ago and that they were killed off by a meteorite or something, and the other says that there are no dinosaurs because they died out in a catastrophic flood. One says we evolved from some ape-like creature, the other tells of our being made from dirt and dropped into a paradisaic garden to be tested. Both sides mostly claim that we have free will, but only one group talks about the consequences of that. Me, I like the first tale here.
The religious folk talk about Faith and the Bible or the Qur'an, and how I need to have faith and Believe in Someone and that someone will "save" me or grant me passage into the greater paradise garden. Older myths have gods who seem almost human in their ways and behaviour, what with the sex and the incest and the wrath (yes, Norse and Greek mythology, I am looking at you!)¹ Now here, I have a fondness for the nature of the Nature gods and their pettiness, wars and whatnot. I note that the Bible starts out with such a god, whacking people left and right if they are not "righteous" enough, and even forming a nation and having them comimit ethnic cleansing in a land that he planned for them. Funny how Jesus stopped all that, with his talk of love and forgiveness and such.
Yes, I know that believing in science has its issues of faith too - Physicists are still trying to make sense of the world and refining their theories with presumably ever-more-complex equations and squiggly lines. I can understand "E=mc²" and, if I squint, Feynman diagrams make some sort of sense, but once I even approach the idea of a single quark, I run out of brains or patience, sometimes both. As for evolution, like all such matters of faith ,we may never get to the bottom of the rabbit hole.
Hm. Now that I think about it, it comes down to which side one has faith in. Creator God, or equations and funny diagrams. I admit that the simpler and nicer concept is the Divine Intervention, but for the life of me, I cannot bring myself to go there. Nice try, religionists, but your Holy Wars and such belie your spiritual heart. I'll stick with the scientists.
"Any belief worth having must survive doubt"
- Isaac Bashevis Singer
I hear you ask "So where do you stand?" Well in terms of deities, spiritual beings and demons, let me say that I talk about a Mother Goddess of the Earth, a Father God of the Sky and various lesser gods or possibly avatars like the Green Man. Do I believe that they exists? Well, no, no more than I Believe in Mickey Mouse. They are characters of the imagination, whom we have formed to try to make sense of the world, divide it into parts that we can understand.
In philosophical terms, I am content with the understanding that I just am, that the world just is. I recognise that I do not have the wherewithal to work out the Truth of it all, and am content to leave that to the greater thinkers, and leave them to have their arguments about it. The whole thing is too big for me to worry about it, though I admit to poking at it from time to time.
In my daily life, I respect principles laid out in the Tao Te Ching and Buddhist philosophies. I read and meditate and try to honour the path that does not fight against the flow of the nature of the world, whilst upholding personal principles that make life easier and simpler, both for myself and those whose lives I touch. I respect the beliefs of others' and acknowledge wisdom in the Bible. I believe that there was a man whom we nowadays call Jesus (or Isa or Yeshua), and that he said and did some things that improved upon the old blood-and-fire religion that we now know as the Old Testament. I believe there were other people, who laid out better ways of interacting with a sometimes-hostile and oft difficult world. I apply their wisdom too.
I used to go to church, was an Anglican and then a Jehovah's Witness. I keep some of their ethics, and am old-fashioned enough to honour some of their morals, but they are ultimately too
materialistic legalistic for me. I have a problem with "Thou Shalt Not..."and suchlike, because the world is a fast-changing place, and some of the Old Rules cannot always be applied, in my opinion. I prefer to live my life by Principle, rather than Law. It seems more balanced that way, and there is the Way of the Tao, to accept the nature of things.
I mentioned materialism earlier. Whether a Freudian slip or an error, I want to discuss that. If there is a God, I hope He or She is disgusted with the way we have screwed up our home. "Fill the earth and subdue it" seems to have been taken too literally. Raping the minerals, subduing and exterminating other life. I seek sustainable growth, and am working to meet that, trying to make my footprint fairly small. And yes, I contribute to the rape by consuming such things as computers, petrol and the like, but By the Deities, I am moving away from that. One day I hope to achieve it, and on that day, wertperch will quit the internet and become a subsistence farmer.
"An Indian elder once said, 'Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time'. When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, 'The one I feed the most'."
Why can't people just be nice to one another?
There are people who are viewed as Good, and those seen as Evil. What are these things, what do these words mean? Religious folk talk of the two sides of the world, as in God and Satan. They speak of Heaven and Hell (and in some cases, Purgatory). Only if a person is aligned with Good can he get to Heaven, for everyone else, they join the other evil monkeys in some place of punishment.
We make our own good and evil, and we do it with our words and deeds. Please, if You are out there, sort this one out. Rewrite the Bible, the Qu'ran and take out the bloody laws. Laws create the divisions. Of course, Mankind has made a few more of his own by reading these books and legalising the good principles laid down in there. And yes, "Saint Paul", I am talking about you. This is how wars can get started.
"Well, we can't say any more than we can say there is no god, there is no afterlife. We can only say there is no persuasive evidence for or argument for it."
- Christopher Hitchens
Now here I get unstuck. If there is no God, is there an afterlife? And if there is, what's it like?
I have stumbled around this one, and cannot defend either side. I suppose that when I am honest, I like the idea. I like the feeling I get when I think of my mother and father in some heavenly place, meeting their old family and friends for a helluva reunion. The thought of my sweet Christine living another existence removed from me gives me a warm glow - that she is getting her reward for a too-short lifetime of good work and loving humanity.
Of course, I cannot know, and I lack evidence or faith to support either concept. My inner Scientist tells me that after the last breath, our life just goes out, that we are simply no more. To quote Stephen Hawking:
I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark."
Perhaps this is so, yet there's a romantic hope deep within that tells me there is Somewhere Else.
It seems odd to me that I ask these questions - after all, they are written to a Deity that I do not believe exists. I do not believe in Prayer, at least not in the traditional sense of the word, though I acknowledge the power that good thoughts can have; after all, in the past years Christine, Tessie and I have all been the subject of prayers for our well-being. Knowing that others prayed, and did so in many ways, was a strengthening thing for us. Prayers did not cure her cancer, any more than they kept Tessie in Davis, but the good thoughts and fine intentions behind those prayers were a succour and support to us all.
Perhaps the writing down of these few thoughts will be of benefit to me, in the same way that recording our experiences in journal form has helped alleviate the strain of keeping our pain and anxiety within us. I can but hope.
Deities, if you are out there, thank you for listening.
alex says: You're unfairly depriving the Old Testament of credit for the sort of "sex and incest and wrath" that Zeus and Odin could only dream of. At least [the pagans] did not compensate for their god's inability to fuck his sister etc. by making it alright for all sorts of righteous humans to do it.