Star Trek V
is almost universally recognized as the worst of the Star Trek flicks, but it does raise a pivotal ecumenical question. This arises in a scene wherein a powerful entity claiming to be "God
," which has lured the Enterprise
and her crew to the center of the Milky Way
, requests that the starship
be moved closer, that it might board to be transported away from there. So Kirk initiates the obvious colloquy:
Kirk: What does God need with a starship?
McCoy: Jim, what are you doing?
Kirk: I'm asking a question.
"God": Who is this creature?
Kirk: Who am I? Don't you know? Aren't you God?
Sybok: He has his doubts.
"God": You doubt me?
Kirk: I seek proof.
McCoy: Jim! You don't ask the Almighty for his ID!
"God": Then here is the proof you seek.
(Hits Kirk with lightning)
Kirk: Why is God angry?
Sybok: Why? Why have you done this to my friend?
"God": He doubts me.
Spock: You have not answered his question. What does God need with a starship?
"God": (hits Spock with lightning; then addresses McCoy) Do you doubt me?
McCoy: I doubt any God who inflicts pain for his own pleasure.
A similar question arises from various theistic faiths which envision a supposedly omnipotent
"all"-mighty as having an army
(typically manned by some sort of servient created beings), a fighting force replete with the inefficiencies of a non-unitary existence, designed to wage battles on literal battlefields on behalf of the entity which logically would have the least need or rational want for such a thing.
Is it simply that the Creator supposed in such faiths finds it entertaining to engage in eternal matches of pawns led to the slaughter? Or does the concern cleave deeper into the heart of the presupposition demanded? Consider the proposition that a Creator would create something of which it has no rational need, no sensible want. I might insist that I have the power
without limit, to traverse the space to Modesto
or Messier 32
upon my whim, but that I choose
not to exercise this power, that I choose
to take a bus and spend uncomfortable hours wending towards sundry destinations. You may be able to prove it unlikely in the extreme that I have the power claimed, but you cannot absolutely disprove it. But, you could point to the illogic of my acting inconsistently with my claimed powers.
Now, just to bring this to the fullest level of conceit, suppose I demonstrate some level of the power I've claimed, using a device of my invention to teleport across the room, or to the roof
of my house, or the end of my driveway
. Suppose I do this minor technological miracle
, and then claim the power to transport myself across the Universe
-- and yet I still pay to ride the bus to Modesto
, claiming to do this because I simply don't wish to use my powers. Fantastical as my demonstration, all I have proved is the ability to teleport the length of my driveway. My bus trip remains inconsistent with my own claims, and is a rational basis for questioning what I need with a bus.
And so is the basis for questioning what gods need with armies wearing sandals and bearing shields, bearing swords. The repetition of this proposition seems to speak, more than anything else, to the notion that the deities described in ancient scriptures are fancifully imagined by the scribes who write these sorts of things to reflect the characteristics of the parochial leaders of local nations. Instead of informing us about the nature of deities, such representations simply inform us that the deities so described in human writings are themselves fictional.