Saturday, March 01, 2008
God's mysteries: don't ask, don't tell
I heard a little squib of news on National Public Radio the other day. I don't remember the exact figure, but something like 75% of the American public say they are religious or "very" religious. I guess that puts me squarely in the minority--again--but I'd describe myself as being in the 25% that isn't religious. I don't like this sort of label, but for some reason in this country if you're not religious then you must be an atheist or at the least an agnostic, but I go back and forth. Sometimes I think I'm not a believer, sometimes I don't know what I believe, sometimes I go back to the superstitions of my youth, and my indoctrination to the religion into which I was born.
I don't want to knock it; lots of great people are part of that religion, but I also see a lot of religious-sounding people who aren't necessarily religious acting. A lot of religious posing seems like hypocrisy to me.
This week I've been reading Bill Bryson's excellent *A Short History Of Nearly Everything, specifically the part about the creation of the universe. To be honest, some of that I don't believe any more than I believe religious creation stories. I guess it's because scientists seems to keep changing their minds as new things are discovered. That's OK, but it means you shouldn't bet the ranch on something like the Big Bang theory, because next week it could be something else. I'm interested in scientific reasoning based on current understanding of the nature of the materials the universe is comprised of, but there is also a lot of theorizing going on. Many scientists use that word, "theory," but some sound so positive their theory is correct they are really saying to the public "this is the way it is; this is true."
On the religious side you meet people who are intractable. The word "theory" is unknown. The planet Earth was created exactly as it says in the Bible, and don't confuse them with science. Some say the Earth was created in six days just 6000 years ago and all of that other stuff--dinosaur bones, geology dating back billions of years, etc.--is just there to look like the world is older than 6000 years, but it isn't. Uh-huh. Find me a presidential candidate who really believes that. Huckabee? You want a guy with his finger on the nuclear trigger who believes dinosaur bones were planted on earth to look like the planet is really old?
The mysteries of the universe are easily explained if they just stay mysteries. If a person is taught that their God works in mysterious ways, then they don't have to question anything or believe anything someone tells them, do they?
A few years ago I was in a thrift store looking at books. On the other side of the rack two old men were arguing. One said, "I want to know if when we die we find out the answer to some mysteries I wonder about."
"Well, does God have a mother?" (I assume he was speaking of the head of the Godhood, and not Jesus.)
"Those are mysteries we don't know the answers to, and we're not supposed to question them."
"I still want to know."
The two old men got loud about what questions men were to discuss or even wonder about, and then the fellow who was "answering" his friend's question in such a hot manner yelled, "Shut up! Just shut up!"
He suddenly came around the rack, glaring. He looked at me and muttered, "…Wants to know if God has a mother…"
I don't see the problem. If the human mind is made to question, made to seek enlightenment and answers, then why are there mysteries we're not allowed to explore? I think the old boy was being unreasonable, but then that's why he's in the 75% and I'm in the 25%.