All around America we see people extraneously praying for things one would think would be too trivial for the attention of a God who has created this amazingly, infinite Universe. We see football players scoring touchdowns and praising the Lord. We see people winning entertainment awards and thanking Jesus. No doubt Muslims thank Allah in the same way. Yet none of these “religious” people comprehend that most of their Godly praise actually diminishes their Creator and in doing so actually amounts to blasphemy.
Without getting into the argument about the actual existence of a God, let us for the sake of discussion imagine there is a God (Gods), that has created this infinite Universe. The first question then, as sentient beings, is what is the relationship of that Creator to us? If that creative force merely set things in motion, then realistically that force has no relevance to our personal existence. However, almost all religions require that their conception of that Creator is totally central to each of our daily existences, or else why bother? This would mean that right now the Creator must keep intimate track of the more than 6 billion human beings that inhabit our planet. Since the Universe is made up of billions of planets, some of whom no doubt have sentient beings as well, imagine the task involved for that singular Creator. Let us for the sake of argument though, posit that the only sentient beings the Creator cares to keep track of is us. All 6 billion+ of us. What is then the nature of that Creator’s attention to individual detail?
This brings up an either or question, that exists at the heart of most religious doctrine. Does God, the Creator control our lives, or do we have free will in our lives? My guess would be that in order for the idea of religion and God to work, we must have free will. Without free will, humans become mere puppets of God, playing out the roles God has individually established for us. The question of whether there is a heavenly reward for a life well lived becomes moot, because then we would have no choice in the matter and so no behavior to reward, or punish. It would all be pre-ordained. If one believes our lives are pre-ordained by our Creator, then to my mind that person has a blasphemous view of God. In their view God is merely a master puppeteer, manipulating all of us for personal enjoyment. This demeans the idea of God and certainly makes our lives as puppets worthless. By the lights of all major religions I can think of, God being a mere puppeteer, no matter how powerful, makes God into a childish being at play.
That being the case, let’s say that the idea of human free will is integral to all the major Western Religions. Therefore, they have all created canons of what is and what isn’t acceptable behavior. In Christianity, for instance, we have “immutable” rules, that if broken make us sinners. This is true of Judaism as well, except Jews don’t call the lawbreaking sins, as Christians do. Now in Christianity and in Islam, though not so clearly in Judaism, there is the idea of the eternal afterlife, heaven. If one leads a life unblemished by sin and following “God’s rules”, as laid down in the Holy Books, than God will reward you with eternal life. However, the problem with rules and with sin, is that invariably we frail humans will manage to somehow fail to live up to God’s standards of behavior. If our transgression(s) once performed could never be forgiven, then after one has transgressed once, why bother?
So religious thinkers had to provide a “get out of jail free card”, which is repentance. In Christianity, if you accept Jesus sincerely, your sins are forgiven. In Judaism during the High Holy Days there is an opportunity to atone for ones sins and this is no doubt true for Islam. In specific sects their are different mechanisms for repentance. In Roman Catholicism for instance, one can repent and be forgiven for their sins by going into confession. Now fancy this to complicate that issue. Let us say that as the ashes of NAZI Germany arose around him, Hitler a Roman Catholic, realized the error of his ways and thus truly sorry, confessed all of his sins to a Priest. Would Hitler have been forgiven and thus admitted to Heaven, or at least Purgatory? When a Fundamentalist Christian is re-baptized and re-accepted into Jesus arms, his past sins of let’s say pedophilia, or adultery are then washed away. The answer some religious people would give me, is that God knows each of our “hearts,” and would weed out the unrepentant, from those actually repentant.
All well and good though, until you examine God’s knowledge of our “hearts”. What that must mean is God knows our thoughts…..all of our thoughts. Taken further this means that God is intimately involved in the consciousness of all 6 billion+ human beings on this planet. For Catholics, for instance, “impure thoughts” are venial sins. Every time then that some pimply teen male looks at nude pictures, God is there and God sees and judges. Really? Is God the eavesdropper, any more improbable than God the Puppeteer?
The point I’m getting to is this. I have lain in a sleeping bag at night in the middle of The Great Plains, looking up at a clear night sky, contemplating the vastness and the wonder of this Universe. It was simply so much more in scope than I could ever fully grasp, such are the wonders of this Universe. I consider myself a Deist, as were most of this nations Founding Fathers. What that means is that I suspect there might well be a “creative force” informing this Universe. This is because of certain personal experiences that I have had, that have left a lasting impression on me. However, what I see around me in the expressions of people who claim religiosity and would enforce their views upon the rest of us, is simply unbelievable.
If Jesus existed, to think that he would care about the result of your football game, whether your wealth increases, or whether your lover remains faithful, is to diminish your God figure. If indeed “God is great”, than the idea that God cares about what all six billion of us does with our vaginas, or our penises, is to posit a petty deity. To posit a petty deity, is to my mind blasphemy laid upon the idea of a Universal Creator. By diminishing the concept of God, the creator of the entirety of reality, many have committed the sin of Blasphemy, as expressed in the Third Commandment. “Thou shall not take the name of the Lord in vain”.
How many of our publicly religious leaders and politicians do just that? To reduce the creator of the Universe to either a puppeteer, or a voyeur is to commit blasphemy against what people purportedly believe. How sad that they are unable to realize that fact.