Tuesday, June 26, 2007


This is a post about a post about a post. The circle will be completed when they post about this post, which is really about the ultimate answer to the great question of life, the universe, and everything. For a very long time -- since 1978 -- we have all known the answer is 42.

But this is not about the answer. Unlike Chani or perhaps Sober Briquette, I harbor profound doubts concerning that which we have called God, Allah, Deus, Theos, YHWH (go ahead, zap me for writing it!) and so on.

Instead, this is about what the answers to the question about God are really unlikely to be.

Like Sober, whose reference to "Veggietales" flies completely past my head, I have found Joan Osborne's "If God was One of Us" an intriguing song. I even found the TV show "Joan of Arcadia" reasonably charming. Both avoid crossing the line into preaching what we all "should" believe and instead offer some possibilities.

Karl Marx thought the word "god" and theism would disappear; a century later, Karl Rahner argued that the word would survive as a question, even if theism disappeared, because without it human beings could never face the whole of reality.

We might not agree whether God exists, but we might reasonably agree on what God might not be like if She did. The scholastics called this sort of inquiry, the study of the attributes of God.

One need not hew to any particular philosophical school, however, to agree that if She existed, God would not be the sum of all things, immanent in everything. The essential problem with pantheism (Greek, pan = all; theos = god; "all is god") is that it amounts to something similar to italicizing everything.

Emphasize everything and you emphasize nothing.

Pantheism ultimately means that She does not exist except as some quality or entity so pervasive as not to be seen or heard or even be meaningful in any discernible way. I call that an atheist, which is fine insofar as I am concerned; just let's not pretend otherwise.

Similarly, I think it's very, very unlikely that She is more than one. Anyone who is the bestest and the mostest can't have peers. It's lonely at the top.

When you have a whole bunch of gods on Mount Olympus, you get to the point where everyone starts begetting demigods and sprites and heroes and who knows what and eventually Zeus has to come out, throw a thunderbolt and say "stop effing around, ch'all!" (Of course, he carefully writes an escape codicil for himself.)

She would not be a capricious bearded man on Mount Olympus. Not likely.

If God existed, She would be just your regular one-of-a-kind god next door. The Supreme! (Take that, Martha and the Vandellas!)

Oh, of course, She would not really be a she -- nor a he. I use She merely to offset some 20,000 years of masculine misattribution of a sex. (I'd say we've got about 19,965 years of saying She before we get into trouble.)

From my perspective, gynomorphizing God makes eminent sense. I have as much chance of understanding women as I do of ever understanding God. Even if I sometimes feel I "get" them.

I could go on, but you get the idea. The principle is that the really clear thing about God is that you can't really say too much about Her without falling into a serious logical rabbit hole.

God, in any case, is such a charged name. She would probably prefer being called 42.


anne said...

Is a name so important?

thailandchani said...

I've never thought a name is important... or a gender. Just the acknowledgment that there's something bigger than me in the universe is satisfying enough.

What really baffles me is the "vending machine" concept of God. Ask and receive. Reward and punishment.

Somehow, it seems absurd.

Anne said...

"Ask and receive" doesn't bother me at all.

anne said...

p.s. To be sure, sometimes it's "ask and not recieve".

Julie Pippert said...

That has to be one of the most unique and intersting interpretations of the face of God I've ever read.

I don't think one person has tell another who or what God is. if the idea is that we are from him/her and he/she is in us, then wouldn't each experience be unique?

That's why I said I think if I saw the face it might be like looking into a mirror, maybe even with other mirrors behind it so you see about 8 million of yourself.

Cecilieaux said...

Anne and TGal, I'm already writing a response on the name issue, so stay tuned ...

As to Julie's point regarding experience as the source of knowledge:

Is something (anything) what we experience it as, or is it something on its own?

If there is no commonality of experience, do we really communicate at all?

Or are we living in utterly uncommunicable separate universes, in which there are worlds that merely appear to be similar one to the other?