19 January 2005

3. God

Dear God,

I can't send this letter for obvious reasons, but I probably shouldn't even be writing it at all because frankly, I don't really believe in you. Which is not, as far too many people seem to think, that I think nothing is sacred — more on that in a bit — it's just that I'm sick and tired of people shaping that sacred in their own image, and not even all that well, or maybe too well, I don't know.

Fact is, as far as I'm concerned the universe is just too big and awesome and complex for our puny little human minds to understand, but we don't like to admit it, so we invent order for it, even if it's an order that can't possibly be big or complex enough to be anywhere near the truth and simultaneously something we're capable of understanding. That complexity thing's a bugger for sure and I had more to say about it which I've already forgotten. Maybe I'll remember and add it in later, or maybe I'll just have to write a sequel to this letter, even if Alice Walker already did the "letters to God" thing way better than I'll ever be able to in The Color Purple. For now, I'm done with the part of the letter that addresses the idea of the god I don't believe in, a guy in the sky who's all-powerful, all-seeing, and all-knowing, though it's a little unclear if he's all-caring or even a little caring, and people somehow still keep going to church and fighting wars and making each other's lives miserable over it.

The next part of this letter is addressed to what I do believe is sacred, and when I say what that is it'll be clear why this is a letter I can't send. See, as far as I'm concerned at the end of the day the only truly sacred thing is our human capacity to be good to one another and bring out the best in one another. If you want, you can call that love, and then you can say that God is love if you like to quote the Bible and banter around with really loaded words. There ya go. If anything is sacred to me, if anything gives life meaning or whatever — which is probably fodder for at least another paragraph — it's the fact that despite all the awful things that people do on a daily basis, to each other, provoked and unprovoked, so on and so forth, we also do good to each other, just as reasonably and unreasonably. Who needs an ineffable, inscrutable Lord that moves in mysterious ways when we have each other, friends? Not me.

And so yeah. Dear goodness which I sincerely hope is inherent in all us humans — please don't stop. Please don't go away. Please, continue to give me signs that you exist, because stupid little things like that are ultimately what give me hope that maybe the human race won't destroy itself and maybe it actually shouldn't destroy itself. Please, let me continue to find that God-nature or Buddha-nature, or love, or whatever, in real people. And maybe let me continue to hope that we can all begin or continue to find that goodness and love in each other, instead of projecting all our hopes and dreams and fears into an imaginary friend in the sky. Let me continue to dream that people are capable of being good and loving without priests who tell them to impose their beliefs on each other, and that someday maybe we can all at least act as though there's magic and sacredness in all of us, and there's no need to complicate things with a not-so-shared hallucination of holiness separate from this physical world we inhabit. If you ask me, not that anyone did, that idea of a god that I don't believe in is at once too simple to explain the universe and overcomplicates human affairs all at once.

I don't know how to end this letter. I don't want to go back to addressing the idea of the god I don't believe in, much as I'd like to ask protection from Its followers. Nor do I want to address specific gods I don't believe in, or the religions that claim to follow them, because this letter is probably offensive enough without getting personal. The one idea I keep coming back to is a sentence I've seen attributed to the radical Catholic priest Daniel Berrigan, one of those people whose story makes me think that maybe organized religion isn't always all bad, but I digress. "Deliver us unto each other," he prayed, and that I think is a hope worth praying and dreaming for. Imagine freedom from the guy in the sky, the great cosmic daddy who tells us how to behave or else, and instead living with the knowledge that all we've got is each other. Is it a bleak way of looking at the universe, this thought that we're the only god we've got? I think maybe it explains a lot that's wrong with the world: We humans kinda suck at being God. The good news is that we're all that's stopping us from getting better.

I guess that means it's go time.


Started 22 November 2004, posted 19 January 2005, last updated 6 June 2014.