An essay donated by Susan Humphreys
"Why has God / The All / The Source left
us uninformed about what life is all about?"
To Life, La Chaim:
A friend asked me a very good question and I will try to give him a good answer. Sometimes I think we don’t ask the right questions and the answers we get are then not the rights answers and they lead us astray.
Since the dawn of time humans have asked:
- Why am I here?
- What makes me different from the other animals and other humans?
- Where am I going and why am I going there?
- How did the world come to be the way it is and not some other way?
That last question was easily answered, God created the world as it is and as he wanted it. We were all supposed to just accept that as the gospel truth and stop asking questions!
If you are good, you will go to heaven when you die and be with God. 1 If you are bad, you will go to hell. End of story, no more questions!
God created us in his image and that is why we are different from other animals. God loves us more than all others, we are his chosen people, better than all others, and that is just the way that it is. Don’t ask any more questions!
BUT WHY? I ask. IF heaven is such a great place and IF God loves us why create this world and put us down here in the first place?
"Theirs is not to reason why, Theirs is but to do or die," we are told in the Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. If you want to maintain control over someone or a group you can’t let them ask questions that you might not or don’t want to answer.
I don’t know of any theologian, religious leader, or scholar who has ever addressed the question: "WHY did God create everything?" They simply insist that he did.
I think it is our ability to question WHY that sets us apart from other living things. When I yell at my dog to stop annoying the cat he just looks at me as though I am crazy. After all cats were born to be chased by dogs, everyone knows that. He never stops to wonder why I don’t want him to chase the cat.
When faced with a barrier across their path, my dogs don’t stop to think why that barrier was placed there. They just push their way through it or go around it. Maybe if they stopped to think about why that barrier was placed there they’d get in less trouble!
What question do politicians hate to hear? "Why did you do that, Senator?" What is the most annoying question that young children ask over and over again? "Why?"
I think it is our ability to question "Why" that allows us to survive and thrive, to live another day, to eat rather than be eaten. But I digress.
Why did God create the heavens and earth and all things? Forget for the time being how he did it, IF he did it. I want to know why he did it. What did he get out of it? A bunch of people to worship him and sing his praises? Is that all that he thinks we are good for? How narcissistic can he get?
I had a friend, a young man who was going through a difficult time and he said that he felt the only reason he was here was to worship and glorify God. I thought how sad, he had so many talents and abilities. It also made me angry at the people who taught him that was all he was good for. I told him that IF God is as perfect as the young man claimed he is, he wouldn’t need nor want to be worshipped. He would be above all of that. He’d want the young man to develop his abilities and special talents, to become the best possible person he could be.
Did God create us because he was lonely; did he want some company? If so why didn’t he just keep us in heaven with him? Why create our world and put us down here?
Did he want something to play with? Are we nothing more than Gods toys, tin soldiers to move around on a toy battlefield? Are we pawns on a giant chess board? Something to play with for a while and then discard when he gets bored?
The question my friend asked is, "Why has the Source left us ignorant of what it’s all about?"
He used the word "Source" because I told him I don’t like to use the word "God." That brings up the image of an anthropomorphic being, an old man that is all knowing, seeing, wise, loving, powerful, and PERFECT with consciousness and a will and ability to act (to create things and to intervene in human affairs.
This really is a good question, it gets to the "source" of our dilemma. What does God (the Source) want us to do, or expect from us?
Some people claim that God does speak to them. But from what history has shown us many that have made that claim have done actions that weren’t "godly", they were evil, and how can a PERFECT God be the source of Evil? I addressed this question about Perfection and the problem of Theodicy in an earlier essay. I think many make these claims simply to justify and sanctify their actions, to relieve them of guilt and responsibility.
People claim that God speaks to us in the Bible. YET we know the Bible was written by men who claimed though they may not necessarily have had divine inspiration. AND to be honest from some of the action it calls for; rape, genocide, slavery, with some of the outright errors and contradictions, no one can honestly keep insisting that it is the literal word of a PERFECT God. I addressed this issue about the Bible in another essay.
There are so many different religions each claiming they possess the TRUTH, different claims from people about what God has told them, different rules to follow and rituals to practice, it makes one wonder why all the confusion, why can’t God can’t get his message through to us? This is the question my friend has asked, "Why has the Source left us ignorant of what it’s all about?" AND I would add ignorant about what we are to do.
There are three possible answers to his question:
- The Source can’t communicate with us. It doesn’t have the physical or psychic ability to do so. It has neither consciousness nor will needed to communicate. We might say IT is simply energy, like an electrical current.
This answer is problematical for folks who have been raised to believe in a transcendent Deity. Even for my friend who raised the question that is pointing directly to this answer. He has been able to move beyond the doctrine and dogma of religion but is unable to move beyond the idea of some sort of deity -- a supra consciousness that is in control of the world.
This however isn’t a new idea, as Karen Armstrong points out in her book, "The Battle For God, A History of Fundamentalism," such a position was proposed by Jewish and Muslim scholars a long time ago. She wrote:
"It was not religiously useful, since it was doubtful that the First Cause even knew that human beings existed, as it could contemplate nothing short of perfection. Such a God had nothing to say to human pain or sorrow." 2
People -- or most people -- need mythos. More about Mythos and Logos in another essay.
- The Source refuses to communicate with us. Two possible reasons here. The Source doesn’t like us and refuses to talk to us because we have been bad, committed some unforgivable sin, OR the Source is waiting to see if we can figure it out on our own. But then why so many different messages to people when he does communicate with humans? This still doesn’t answer the question.
- The Source "speaks" in images, or you might say metaphorically, through the creation. But again this presents the same problems for folks that I mentioned under #1: it is an impersonal force.
Artists speak to us through the images they create, the painting, the piece of pottery, the music, the dance,….. IF and this is a BIG IF, IF God created the world than perhaps he is speaking to us through his creation. AND it is up to us to interpret what he is trying to say.
I have learned from watching the natural world that LIFE in all of its wonderful diversity is what IT is all about. I am constantly amazed at the will to survive, from withered pines clinging to a tiny bit of soil on a rocky mountain slope, to the life teaming in a drop of pond water, to the life that springs up after flood waters drain away or after a forest fire sweeps through.
I have realized that LIFE with all of its joys and sorrows, its ups and downs, its good times and not so good times is what IT is all about for us. There is great suffering in this world, some people get more than their fare share of tragedy and hardships, but life isn’t all suffering, there is also great joy and for most of us the good times outweigh the bad. You can’t have one without the other. They are parts of one whole, a bit of joy in suffering and suffering in joy.
I am a gardener, so using gardening and growing ideas to explain my points comes naturally. If I take a kernel of corn from a seed packet to a laboratory and ask them to give me a chemical analysis they could do so. If I then take that "list of ingredients" to another lab, they should in theory, be able to put all the chemicals together and hand me something that is identical in every way to that kernel of corn I removed from the seed packet.
BUT, if I plant another kernel of corn from the seed packet in the ground alongside the product I got from the lab what do you think will happen? The kernel from the seed packet will sprout and produce a new corn plant the product from the lab will just rot. That is because there is something within that seed from the packet that we can’t artificially create, at least at this moment in time. We may eventually figure out the "recipe". Scientists have now created peptides which are part of the building blocks of living organisms. For now I recognize that we are more than just our chemical parts.
That something more is what I call the spark of life or IT. AND that is what IT is all about. The words "God", "The Source" or (my favorite) "IT", are simply names for this spark of LIFE within all living things. To communicate with each other we have to have a name for things. Our problems arise when we try to give this "name" human characteristics (both good and bad) and abilities.
I might add that it is recognition of this commonality between ourselves and other living things, this spark of LIFE within us, that leads to the development of compassion and respect for others as well as a sense of responsibility for caring for this planet that sustains all living things and us.
Did "God" set off the Big Bang? If so it seems to me that it was done in order to create life and to give life a place where it could develop and thrive, multiply and diversify.
I believe that LIFE willed itself into existence, metaphorically speaking. It wasn’t created by some other separate intelligence. It did so for no other reason than the pure joy of being alive. Raw energy can’t sit still for long. Any grade school teacher can attest to that fact.
In that Black Hole where our Universe originated, there is no time, no space, no matter, no differentiation between things, no feelings, no emotions, no sense of me or other, no consciousness, just raw pent up energy waiting to burst forth and do its thing. And wow it did just that!
That is WHY we are here and WHY the world came into being. We weren’t created to sing Gods praises, or to entertain him. We are here to live, to grow, to survive, to become the best that we can possibly be.
It is our task to decide what we will do with the LIFE that we have and how we can best help others do the most with the LIFE they have so that together we can try to alleviate as much hardship and suffering as we can in the lives of others.
- Although most Christians agree that good people get to Heaven and bad people go to Hell, there is little agreement on what specific criteria define good and bad:
- Some believe that the sole criteria is whether one believes that Jesus was the son of God.
- Others believe that the criteria is whether one believes in Jesus' resurrection.
- Others believe that it depends solely on whether one reacts to people in need with love and compassion (Matthew 25).
- Still others say that the determining factor is related to the partaking of church sacraments such as baptism and confession.
There are biblical passages that support all four criteria. While there is often agreement within a specific denomination or tradition, there is massive disagreement among faith groups.
- Karen Armstrong, "The Battle For God, A History of Fundamentalism", Ballentine Books, (2011), Page 10. Available in paperback or Kindle versions: Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
"About 40 years ago popular opinion assumed that religion would become a weaker force and people would certainly become less zealous as the world became more modern and morals more relaxed. But the opposite has proven true, according to theologian and author Karen Armstrong, ... who documents how fundamentalism has taken root and grown in many of the world's major religions, such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Even Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism have developed fundamentalist factions. Reacting to a technologically driven world with liberal Western values, fundamentalists have not only increased in numbers, they have become more desperate, claims Armstrong, who points to the Oklahoma City bombing, violent anti-abortion crusades, and the assassination of President Yitzak Rabin as evidence of dangerous extremes.
Yet she also acknowledges the irony of how fundamentalism and Western materialism seem to urge each other on to greater excesses. To 'prevent an escalation of the conflict, we must try and understand the pain and perception of the other side,' she pleads. With her gift for clear, engaging writing and her integrity as a thorough researcher, Armstrong delivers a powerful discussion of a globally heated issue. Part history lesson, part wake-up call, and mostly a plea for healing, Armstrong's writing continues to offer a religious mirror and a cultural vision."
Originally posted: 2012-DEC-31
Latest update: 2012-DEC-31
Author: Susan Humphreys