Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What if God is Irrelevant?

On the one hand, I don't need Jesus of Nazareth to be my friend. I'm not that interested in his actions while he was here, and most of his first century Palestine story is irrelevant to me today.

On the other hand, a distant ghost who judges our world from the sky isn't all that helpful, either. But that's not a new thought - many of the people who think of God think of a God who is closely involved in our world. But can that theology hold onto the polarities of God without imploding into ambiguity?

Let me push the boat out from the dock: 

What if God is irrelevant?

The word is dead.
I'm more and more disillusioned by religious organizations, by conversations that use our parents' vocabularies, framed in our grandparents' structures. And I'm part of a statistically significant group that will compose a third of US adults in ten years.

I think the word "God" is done. At least, I think a large swath of people no longer find any meaning in that word, and another large swath abuse the word to promote violent absolutism.

If not "God", if not an Abrahamic belief system, then what? Let's get totally clear about sources of meaning in the world. Starting from scratch.

We know something about how the universe actually works. Not much, and really the word "know" might be too strong. But it's clear that Earth is part of a big big big BIG system. The system is changing, and Earth is not at the center of it. Just about everything we learn about the universe just explodes my brain like a drug, and I want more.  

And we know something about  how people work. We know that we prosper by working together, that every group of people experiences similar pains, pleasures, and problems. We know that the future of human achievement is attainable by ignoring national divisions (CERN, all major universities, and the future of spaceflight). The problems that divide us personally and globally are dramatically insignificant  compared to the goals we achieve by working together, which is easy when we remember that we really are organic stuff on the same space rock. 

And we live in a unique time. I can write this and you can read it... on a boat outside of Palau, or in Khartoum, if you want. Within a month my information could spread to millions of people, and we could live-stream conversations, and you could watch me on your phone on a bus in Beijing. And no one would freak out, because this sort of sharing is normal now. Hold that in your imaginations for fourteen seconds: you - your identity, emotions, research, information - can be experienced by almost every other person, and you can experience them back. We now have truly global relationships that are easy. 

That's why I think that sharing and expanding should be the most basic human goals.

Thus God is love, literally. The force that acted on both our personal lives and on the cosmos, that force that some people used to call God but don't anymore, is one and the same as the evolution towards international cooperation, global relationships, and even cosmic principles that force us together physically. 

Why organize around imaginary stories from long ago when our stories from today are so much better?
Why make metaphors and personalize a force we actually have words for, a force we are starting to understand?


  1. "Thus, God is love...." Great love exists as a force in this world, so does great evil. Why arbitrarily define 'God' as love and evil as existing as a force of anti-god, or the failing of man, etc. If one is envisioning a 'god' (directive force, creative energy, greater power, whatever...)why limit oneself to such a traditional view? Why not envision a god that encompases good and evil, chaos and order, cooperation and division?

    1. I believe strongly that the universe is pushing us together, removing our vain boundaries and personal divisions. I choose to call that force "God" because this universal force mirrors the value system traditionally assigned to "God." I want to dramatically redefine the word "God" while still drawing on its historical meaning. I don't mean to deny the existence of chaos, just to broaden the word "God" to the breaking point.

  2. Great stuff! I'm a regular subscriber now, and you always make me think. You were talking about daily visits to prayerful spaces, and I don't necessarily have a physical place, but I get my coffee during the kids naptime and catch up with reader feeds daily, including yours. So that's a ritual that puts me in a spiritual frame of mind. ...aaand then I read tosh.o and cakewrecks. :)Don't hate me, they are but passing indulgences, your thoughts stick with me and accumulate. In a year or so, you will probably come across the dilemma that faces me this very afternoon: religious education for Emma. Content is mild, but Bible-centric. I can't personally reconcile the story of Noah's Ark with the message that God loves you always. I worry about creating the same two-faced God I grew up with. My simple answer is God=Universal Love. Sin is a church word for any action or thought that harms myself or others. The consequences of sin aren't wrought by an exterior power, putting me on the naughty list and keeping score. The consequences are that I harmed myself or others, emotionally or otherwise, damaging relationships or well-being. To get there every time I think through it is to wade through the quagmire of ingrained oxymorons that I was taught. And yet, Emma goes to class this afternoon. She says she doesn't like it. Why are we baptising our kids? We don't go to church, I don't want her innocence taken away by the curriculum; what's it all for? Most importantly, and please answer this, what do we replace it with for Emma's spiritual growth?