A friend posed a serious Facebook question: Is God involved with suffering? My friend is an atheist, I’m a Neopagan/Unitarian/Quaker/Atheist with a statue of Dionysus on my altar—though neither of us being intrinsically anti-Christian. He asked for serious answers, though it’s a bit of a Zen koan: Is a God I don’t believe in responsible for anything?
Like a koan, its answer can only be found in a seismic shock to your definitions—in this case of “God” and “belief.” Certainly I believe those are words in the English language, but like many words—such as “love”—they’re slippery, wormy things with as many meanings as there are tongues to waggle.
For me, “God” is what is. You might call that pantheism, but for me that’s always conjured the image of little rocks with neuroses. The Gaia Hypothesis posits that Earth is a conscious organic being, with a vast interplay of forces promoting its life. Yet again, as soon as we say “conscious,” we’re drawn into another shell game. Our puny consciousness is our model of all we define as consciousness.
And we have an instinctive urge to project our own experience of consciousness onto the outside world, whether it’s “God loves me” or “my computer hates me.” No problem with that as long as we don’t live too rigidly by the metaphor or try to pound it into another’s head like a railroad spike.
I believe there are commandments, though no voice to utter them. The law of gravity is a big one: even if my dream takes me flying, my head stays firmly on the pillow and my butt in place. “Entropy” sounds pretty bad, as does “Death,” but it’s part of the deal. Is there conscious will behind these, or behind ebola, AIDS, Covid-19, or bubonic plague, or are those just Nature’s way of culling the burgeoning herd?
Some would seek to propitiate the god of the volcanic eruption by sacrificing a goat; I’d just run like hell. That’s the ultimate test of belief.
To my mind, the greatest disservice that monotheisms have rendered us (among many arguable gifts) is that they’ve perpetuated a primitive image of a humanoid god with a high IQ and lots of fire-power, when—to me—an unknowable Universe very slowly becoming known is immeasurably more awe-inspiring. Scientists with their methodology and artists with theirs are groping toward it, though like snails on I-80 aspiring to reach New York.
Like it or not, we all live within it. And yes, it’s created some range of behaviors called “Love,” at least among the higher Earth vertebrates, though it may extend to slugs or fishes who just piss on the other fish’s eggs. But if a rock falls on your head, that’s God too.
Call it God, call it Nature, call it the All, or just say “Wow!”