Wednesday, December 5, 2007

If God's so Great. . .

As the high holy days approach, I find myself even more estranged than usual from Judeo-Christian belief. All in all, having road tested it, I'd have to rate it as only somewhat helpful in the bumpy parts and likely to fly off the road on sharp turns. Whatever the reasons, lately I find myself questioning the basic tenets more and more often.

The most basic tenet of Judeo-Christian faith is that there is only one god. Yet there are times I think there must be at least two -- a masculine being in charge of war and poverty, and a feminine entity in charge of decorating-- mountains, streams, storms and sunsets -- and perhaps romance.

If there is only one god, it must be like those Greek gods who donned different forms for different occasions like a debutante with an endless wardrobe.

Then, if you can get past the one god problem, there's the ridiculous notion that god made humans in her/his image. Okay, homo sapiens have our endearingly goofy moments (most noticeable when we overreach ourselves -- engineers and the clergy are among the goofiest), but I'd hardly describe us as godlike. Ask yourself, is my dog more compassionate than I am? Does s/he love more fully and devotedly than I? If you take seriously the idea that god = love, or forgiveness, or equanimity in the face of adversity, my dog was far closer to god than I can ever hope to be. And a better rabbit hunter, to boot.

Ask yourself, What is the nature of god? The essence of grace, beauty, creativity? Playful and savage? Comforting, whimsical, ever changing?

Then take a close look at your cat.

If god is perfection, humans are the definition of flawed -- aspiring but distractable; kind, but selfish; generous, but not that generous; brave, but so often misguided.

And speaking of misguided, whose fault is that? What kind of shepherd lets a flock go as far astray as the human flock has gone? What kind of mother puts up with the insults old Mom Earth has endured from us her kids? (Is god an environmentalist? Will St. Peter confront each of us one day with all those paper plates and Pampers, mercury batteries and used motor oil?)

If god is all-powerful, why can't s/he communicate with us in our first languages? Why does s/he seem to be limited to communicating through uneven works of literature, unearthly taps on the shoulder, blackbirds flying west and pinholes in latex? There are people who have felt a tap on the shoulder, who have dropped everything and gone off to become missionaries, when what they probably felt was a muscle spasm or pigeon dropping.

More and more I ascribe to the belief that we -- humans and our pets and pests -- are just germs on the epidermis of the universe; god is an infinitely complex Rachmaninoff piano concerto, indifferent to our daily worries; and it's up to us to get with the beat.

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