Thursday, July 23, 2015

Who is God?

“The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Rembrandt
When you’re waiting for something spiritual to happen is precisely when it’s not going to happen. Deus ex machinas are fine for plays like Sophocles’ Philoctetes or The Threepenny Opera where Macheath is miraculously spared the gallows by a reprieve from the divinely ordained Queen. That’s why so many people are disappointed in God. Foxhole praying rarely works. Instead of using unanswered prayers as a proof of the nonexistence of God, you might try praying in a different way. Praying for things is the telephone operator view of divinity. Remember those old l930’s movies, which preceded the rotary phone, when a character would pick up the receiver and speak directly to an operator. Some of them even featured shots of phone lines or banks of wires, or consoles to show where the call was going to or coming from. That’s tantamount to the anthropomorphic notion of a God or higher being that listens and reacts. But what if God doesn’t have time to field all these requests? What if it has better things to do like attend to dark matter and energy, quasars, pulsars and supernovae or to such eternal questions as how something can coming out of nothing? What if God simply doesn’t work in human ways? What if it’s an emotionlessly immaterial force a kind of sinuous version of Kant’s categorical imperative which implacably seeks to align living matter with a force of multiversal duty? What if God is value neutral and doesn’t weigh in on the side of what we would call good or evil but is rather a juggernaut of torrential will, an unimaginable version of the Shavian “life force?” What then? Do you pray for the knowledge of its will? Do you pray to align yourself with it?

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