For some time, I’ve had the urge to write down what I believe, to see what it turns out to be. Not easy. First, because most of my writing is storytelling, not essay. Second, because posts here attract a swarm of hornets whose sniffers are out for fascists, sheeple, or driveling idiots. Third, because “belief” usually starts with “God.”
Among my friends, God isn’t popular. In some circles, He still has clout, and some friends feel He’d be OK with a sex change. But popularity is dimmed by (a) politicians who want to shove Him down our throats, (b) friends whose childhoods were steeped in guilt, and (c) evangelical entrepreneurs claiming a 5G line to Heaven.
Some see sacred myth as a worm bin of lies. On my feed, anyway, God is the subject of infinite jest or rage, second only to Mitch McConnell. God took His life in His hands when He authorized the birth of Mark Zuckerberg.
Personally, I don’t believe in an anthropomorphic God, that is, a God who hovers over us like a supernatural parent. But I see no sin in belief in God. Surely, history is replete with religious wars, burnings, genocides with “God” as the watchword. Yet Stalin, Hitler, Mao and Genghis Kahn did their deeds without heavenly assistance. In my view, God is a convenient flag to wave if you want to rile people up, but others will do.
We should have a different name for “God,” as we all bring a swirl of meanings to the word. There are those—both Fundamentalists and Atheists—who argue vehemently that “God” can mean only “Jehovah”—the Big Guy who kicked us out of Eden and let Job get fucked and gave His Son to be killed to placate Himself. That stuff brings out the comedian in all of us.
But to me, a literal reading of the Bible or any other “sacred” myth flattens it. I have an enormous respect for myth—it mirrors ourselves—but only when we see it with curious eyes. In the Bible, the expulsion from the garden, the exodus, the Akedah, the crucifixion, etc., are all enormously provocative, but for me conventional religion cheapens them (a) by insisting on their historicity and (b) interpreting them, like morals tacked onto Aesop’s fables, as having a single, established meaning.
I believe in the vast “commandments” of the Universe: the law of gravity, the speed of light, the forces our sciences have begun to comprehend, the astonishing processes of evolution and interdependence, all that. It all transcends my head. We’re a single flea on the elephant, the barnacle on a whale, managing only to chart a fragment of an ear. The more we comprehend, the deeper grows the mystery. To me, the mystery is way beyond knowing, deserving of the deepest reverence.
I’m no philosopher, so i wish others with more brainpower would (a) see what’s valuable and constructive in all religions (including Marxism and atheism), (b) address the dilemma of the remnants of tribalism (both positive aspects and negative) in a new world order of seven billion people, and (c) cool it. To those who’d like to impose primitive desert tribal law, sanctioned by their idea of God, on me, get out of my face. To those who feel all evil on Earth would be cured by purging religion, get out of my face.
I grew up Presbyterian though with utterly heterodox views; attended a Unitarian church, a Quaker meeting, and Neopagan festivals. We’ve performed for many religious communities who found our work relevant to ethical issues, and I have great respect for all who’ve given themselves in service to their fellow humans, whatever their beliefs. Perhaps the question to ask is that of the Existentialists: if there is no God, never was, never will be, how would you order your life? If the answer is, I’d kill my neighbor and steal his car, then whether you quote scripture or DAS KAPITAL, I don’t want to live next door.