Fearing God

Like many of my posts, this one started as a Facebook thread. This one was generated by a short video in which British actor Stephen Fry gives frank and, to me, compelling reasons why he dismisses the God who underpins the Judeo-Christian religions, YHWH or Jehovah by name. I include a link to that video clip at the end of this post.

I am always struck by the straightforward correctness Fry provides here. Given the constraints of the question (“When you approach the Pearly Gates, how will you answer for your beliefs”, etc; that is, given the standard description of Jehovah as Creator of the Universe), then I must emphatically state that, “Yes, these thoughts resonate COMPLETELY with my personal views.”

But then, I utterly reject the Pearly Gates and the whole White-bearded Father myth, a story which in no way is an actual description of How the Universe Works. It has served well as an age-old excuse for male domination and suppression of women. Cloaked in the trappings of the modern Christian Church, it has continued in that function, and widened its rationalizations to include crusades, inquisitions, hierarchical dominance and a host of other human miseries. And there is no possibility that these myths represent any valid mechanism of how the Earth (much less the Universe) came into being, nor how the underlying mechanisms operate, or have ever operated. In short, the world was not created by an old man with poor vision, limited omniscience and a bad disposition.

Don’t get me wrong. On most alternate weekdays, I lean toward the idea of a Creator, of some sort. Creation ex nihilo, combined with purely random processes as an explanation for the Universe, is an idea that runs counter to my sensibilities and experience. What I suspect (without proof) is that Creation is a sort of cosmic joint enterprise, in which all sentient (and even non-sentient) beings cooperate. regardless of an individual’s awareness of their contribution. If you ever read “Stranger In a Strange Land”, this “mutual participation creation” is somewhat akin to “Thou Art God. I am God. We Are God.” With vague notions of quantum mechanics and Uncertainty Principles thrown in for good measure.

But my world view is a LOT more complicated than that, and impossible to detail (or even properly outline) in a single blog post. I have outlined various aspects at other times and other guises. Suffice it to say that, for me, ontology and teleology are vapid and stupid when weighed against Right Living. It’s not how we got here, nor where it all ends up, that is important. What is important is how we comport ourselves while we’re here. One of the best answers is to do as Jesus (and Buddha and Lao Tse) taught to do. And especially to Live Rightly without fear of the consequence if you do not. Dharma rather than Karma. Love is the central principle, the only one worth committing to.

The worst facet of the Edenic creation myth may well be the way Christian theology twisted the (fairly simple) story into a basis for the idea of Original Sin. But take a look at how the Genesis story goes. You will not find a single statement, or anything resembling it, that refers to Original Sin, neither there, nor anywhere in the Old or New Testament.

What Jesus brought to the game was of course redemptive, but not of or from Jehovah. His message was redemptive by explaining what it takes to live ones life in a way that transcends fear as the prime motivator, and instead substitutes the “greatest of these”: Love.

The Eden myth is as good as any for a Creation myth. And I do admit that it at least makes a stab at trying to explain the old philosophical conundrum of how a perfect God created an imperfect world. So the Creator makes an arbitrary rule, without clarification, and walks off. The WOMAN (note please, it is the WOMAN who is weak, and who receives our cultural blame for all time) listens to the SNAKE (so now the notion of evil was just back-walked a step; why is the snake is “bad”? No fair referring to Milton, he’s several millennia, or billenia, depending on your science, in the future). She listens to the snake, eats the fruit, seduces the man (oh, THAT was hard!) and now imperfection exists. And the capacity to recognize it (“Knowledge of Good & Evil”). Then the Creator comes strolling through the garden, discovers (GASP!) that the two mortals have fallen in the trap, and summarily kicks them out of Paradise.

It took St. Augustine to twist the whole episode into the notion of Original Sin, thus justifying Jesus’ innocent death as a sort of spiritual jujitsu, applying the Hebrew notion of lamb’s blood as atonement, and voila! The unblemished God-in-Man (Emmanuel), by his death and blood, suddenly blots the stain of Original Sin, which humanity has carried since Eden. Except (remember!) Augustine also concocted Original Sin. So he manages to solve a cosmic problem that he himself created. It’s a nice trick.

The Bible itself says nothing about Original Sin. In any case, using the Bible as a handbook for theology is not something I ever plan to do. I’ll use the New Testament “words in red” (I.e, Jesus’ words) as a very good handbook for ethics. There’s none better. But my whole point here has been that using the Bible to justify one’s world view, as a creation explanation or how the Creator of the Universe “works” is a non-starter for me. Give me something reasonable as “explanation”, we’re good. Tell me to get the answer from the Bible, we’re not even asking the same question.

Stephen Fry answers a question about God

© 2016 Chuck Puckett