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A Believer and an Atheist

Posted on April 18, 2006 in Agnosticism

square338An interesting perspective on God was presented to me over the weekend. You know the old question: is God so powerful that He can create a boulder heavier than He can lift? Her answer says “No”. God is not that powerful and, in fact, God is not all that powerful at all. Omnipotence is a human construct, she insists. We ask more of God than He can handle.

This view answers certain liberal Christian concerns like “why doesn’t God smite Bush, Falwell, and Robertson?” very nicely. He can’t do it. He’s too busy using His power to run Heaven and build the massive amphitheatre He must need for the Last Judgement. God’s got to have some good purpose, right? Retribution can wait until the end, the reasoning goes. In the meantime, God has plopped a few holy books in our laps and saves His best lines for the Pope.

I find this reduction of God interesting. It blames us not only for the state of affairs in the country (which is dead on) but also for the state of affairs in the Universe. We have projected our lust for omnipotence and desire for control of a spiritual being on the cosmos itself. So we fail to see Reality which is that God is a wimp.

I think a case can be made for omnipotence. Power exists everywhere — in the bees, in the house finches, in your obnoxious neighbor, in the stucco on the walls of your houses, etc. There is no separation between these things as you can see on the subatomic level. Of course, the phrase omnipotence suggests that you have power to work with what you’ve got. If the All has limits, then so does God.

I don’t see Intelligence in this greater design, necessarily. Perhaps something else holds together the cosmos. Scientists have calculated the mass of the Universe. When they aim their telescopes at the galaxies, they cannot account for more than half of what is supposed to be there. Is there something else out there? Obviously. And I suggest that whatever it is, it consists of something which is not substance, not detectable by our senses. I don’t think it is intelligent or concerned about us, but I think it is there. But I could be wrong. That is why I call myself an agnostic.

Others prefer to call themselves atheists. As I had the conversation about God, the American Atheists were wrapping up their annual Anti-Easter event. This event seems to draw people who drink too much, fight like theologians with each other over doctrinal matters, and practising (I hope safe) sex.

I don’t call atheists skeptics because, as a lot, they are pretty credulous about the claim that we have everything we need to detect what is out there. I counter that we are creatures of our senses. Science can help us understand a great deal about the Universe, but if there are things which cannot be sensed, then no amount of reason or experiment will uncover them. I take the claim that Science can know all with skepticism, but this does not make me a Fundamentalist, a Creationist, or a yokel. I trust Science to explain the story of the earth and the Universe. As a bipolar, I have a huge stake in the ability of modern pharmacology to design medications to alleviate my symptoms. (Scientology be damned!) What I don’t grant to Science is the same thing I don’t grant to Religion: omniscience. Science cannot answer every question. It just does a better job than Religion.

Too much of what atheists do amounts to mere discordianism. They get together to drink, for example, mostly because they believe it will piss off the Christians if they do it on Easter. I yawn at this. It betrays their lack of true scientific spirit. Overdrinking has been shown to wreak harm on a body, disrupt sleep cycles (I went to a talk about this last night), etc. But they throw this out because of Christians and 12-Step programs it seems to me. I don’t call that heretical: I call it puerile.

Which brings me back to the loneliness of the agnostic on Easter. Christians celebrate this huge religious holiday, the most significant of their calendar. Atheists counter by having a gigantic flamefest and boozer. I’m not impressed with either style. I prefer nonsectarian being. This is why I attend DBSA: we’re not yoked to a schemata of religious dogma as we are in a Twelve Step program. Nor are we expected to draw a divide between believers and nonbelievers because what unites us is that we suffer from mood disorders.

It is not worth my while to worry about whether there is a God or not. The games people play to deny or invent a version of a personified Universe (or piece thereof) bore me. So do the Easter pageants and wild parties. So what I am left with is the loneliness of not having anyone on Resurrection Sunday. And the knowledge that my separateness from everything and everyone around me is an illusion.

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