Common Thoughts 5


Religion, what is it?

Google defines it this way when you look up the word: “the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.” Very biased definition when they say “superhuman controlling power.” Merriam-Webster defines religion this way: “the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance.” Encyclopedia Britannica defines it this way: “relation to that which they regard as holy, sacred, absolute, spiritual, divine, or worthy of especial reverence.”

When someone asks what is your religion you typically respond: Christianity (broken into many denominations), Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and Confucianism, (although many think of Confucianism as a religion, K’ung Fu-tzu (Confucius) never considered his writings as religious, he considered himself a social philosopher), among a long list.

The Sumerian/Mesopotamian and Egyptian Empires are the first recorded civilizations forming sometime in 5,000 BC. We find that the gods of these civilization each have control over parts of the natural world, i.e., Ahad (storm and rain god), Ashur (god of air), Anu (god of heaven and the sky, lord of constellations, and father of the gods), and a host of others. The Egyptians had their own list of gods to include Ra, Isis, and Seth. We find empires from around the world with religion playing a major part in the lives of the empire and the people.

Ancient Greek philosophers going back to Thales (624-545 BC), looking at all those natural process that up to then were attributable to various gods who had to be appeased or cajoled, began to posit that in fact they operated under natural processes, not by any divine will. One didn’t need to offer sacrifices, just understand how they operated and adjust one’s behavior according. And this behavior of nature wasn’t arbitrary but operated under what they would call “laws of nature.” And if this was true about physical nature it would also be true about human nature.

Against all this the Bible gives us a completely different worldview. All the objects of nature—sun, moon, water, air, land, animals, humans—as well as the natural forces of those objects were created by God and there are no other gods to be put in charge of all this. Nowhere in the first three chapters of Genesis, the story of creation, are there instructions for the man he placed in the Garden of Eden, or the women he created from Adam, to cajole or appease, burn incense or any other form of manipulating of God to act in nature as Adam and Eve thought he should for their benefit. What we do learn in Genesis 1:26 is that man (humanity) is to “rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” It’s the simplest, straightforward creation account found anywhere among the people of the world.

What it tells me is if I build a house where every year a hurricane comes in and blows it down I don’t have to make sacrifices to whatever god is in control of hurricanes so he/she looks favorably upon me and stops the wind. All I have to do is move to a spot where the hurricane doesn’t blow my house down. Pretty simple unless we want to defy nature and build where nature plays harsh with us. Interesting how we always blame God for natural disasters when we stick our noses in the air at these natural forces hoping that God will take pity on us and save us, and he doesn’t. I don’t think we understand who God is and the world we live in and our responsibilities in this world.

Did everything begin in perfection as Genesis 1 & 2 tells it or imperfection, systemically flawed? Is there God or not-God? Is the Judeo/Christian message nothing more than an attempt to explain these imperfections and flaws, just one story among hundreds, thousands?

I must begin understanding and accepting that I exist in a limited reality (knowledge of) cased inside a larger reality (experience with) that explains everything, including my limited reality. If I am of not-God there is no bubble that limits my knowledge and experience on purpose (sin) but I am every day evolving and will evolve into something new. Yuval Noah Harari writing in Homo Deus says this:

“Sapiens evolved in the African savannah tens of thousands of years ago, and their algorithms are just not built to handle twenty-first century data flows. We might try to upgrade the human data-processing system, but this may not be enough. The Internet-of-All-Things may soon create such huge and rapid data flows that even upgraded human algorithms would not be able to handle them. When cars replaced horse-drawn carriages, we didn’t upgrade the horses—we retired them. Perhaps it is time to do the same with Homo sapiens.”

My attempt to find meaning may just be an exercise in futility. Unless I am right and there is a God.