Thursday, October 23, 2008

got gott? a definition.

I thought the writing I linked to in the earlier format of this discussion might serve the discussion better posted in full here. At the very least, if we'll be discussing any of these sorts of things, this will serve as a good introduction on my part. And so...

I think, if you're going to conceptualize an all powerful god of some sort, a pantheist view would be the most graceful way to get at what that even means...

The world's preeminent religious text, wikipedia, explains: Pantheism is the view that everything is of an all-encompassing immanent abstract God; or that the Universe, or nature, and God are equivalent. More detailed definitions tend to emphasize the idea that natural law, existence, and the Universe (the sum total of all that is, was, and shall be) is represented in the theological principle of an abstract 'god' rather than a personal, creative deity or deities of any kind.

At first glance, this might seem to cheapen the idea of god, reduce it even. But really this is like going a step higher than monotheism, a true monotheism, one in which it's just silly to describe the idea of god as seperate entities like Yahweh, Allah, the sun, the son, etc... To me, THAT seems like a cheapening of the beauty of the thing, the concept ideal.

I came upon these ideas many years ago, though it took me a little while to understand what it was exactly that I was thinking... Sitting in church, I would be thinking how completely absurd it was to explain that "Yes, we are monotheists, but OUR god is the best, the only one that really counts"... that sort of thinking only necessitates more gods of that sort. I knew that there was definitely something I and most of the rest of the world were thinking of when we thought of this "god" thing, but it seemed pretty obvious that all different gods were just a matter of what you saw when you perceived this idea from your own cultural reference point.

That's the reason why Jesus, in our culture, is pictured as a white, tall, thin European-looking man. I imagine people picture him a little differently in the middle east. Likewise, for the warlike tribes of Judea, god was envisioned not too much differently than a Spartan might envision god. Yahweh was a spiteful, jealous god who took revenge for every wrongdoing and who led them into their battles. Being of this nature, he of course saw no problems with the killing of anyone not of those tribes, even encouraged complete genocide, advocating the destruction of everything save the spoils of war. Yahweh was also of course, a man. THE ultimate man really, an all powerful king ruling those under him by fear of punishment. This easily explains why the early civilizations who most cherished ideals such as peace and cooperation, pictured god as a woman, being the ultimate creative force and also a loving, caring mother.

It's no surprise that simplifying the idea of god makes it easily communicated to absolutely anyone, whether they've ever pondered such ideas or not. But this is not a simple idea (or rather, a different sort of simple idea). The truth is, the more the idea of god is simplified, equated to the drama of human life, the less being god really means. This is exemplified in polytheism. In the mythos of the Greeks or Hindus, the god-stage was filled with god-soap-operas in which the gods lived lives almost identical to men, just on a higher level, being a little more powerful than regular humans. The idea of god as an old man with a long grey beard, a wise old man in the sky, seems to be one of the easiest ways of conceptualizing and relating to something like this, and therefore, the most common manner of thinking from what I can tell. I'm not sure most christians of any intelligence really believe this when it comes down to the issue, but it's a sort of shortcut used in explaining the idea to a child, and one that seems to stick with us no matter how much more complicated things might seem to get later on.

Personally, when I really try to think of what's really meant by the word "god," the simplest, ultimate definition is that god is a sort of ultimate, overall creative force. The sort of thing that might explain things like the difference between a dead, and a live human being, both being physically identical... The kind of thing that causes simple elements to organize into amino acids on their own... these things are just what the universe does, and it's beautiful. Really, considering god as a "force," I've found, is a little closer to what I'd really mean if I were to use the word "god" at all.

Gravity needn't necessarily be thanked for being around everyday, but it's really a pretty nice thing to have around, so I really appreciate it. Only, by my definition, "god" would have to operate a level higher than something like gravitational force, that is to say, gravity is a property of "god." As is perhpas already becoming apparent, "god" starts to look curiously like the universe itself. If that sort of idea seems somewhat less than the romanticized version, it's only because people imagine a sort of "thing..." out there... (wait, where?)... when they picture the universe itself. The universe is itself, almost indescribable. The word "universe" is derived from Old French univers, from Latin universum, which combines uni- (the combining form of unus, or "one") with versus (perfect passive participle of vertere, or "turn"). The word, therefore, means "all turned into one" or "revolving as one." That shows precisely the god / religion (or perhaps simply personal spiritual... whatevers) relationship I'm describing.

Here, is the photograph of the largest portion, of the largest portion that lies within the visible-light spectrum, of the universe.

That photograph was the ultimate achievement of the Hubble Telescope. The angle of here shows a selection of space appoximately 5 Billion light years across. It is determined that this picture shows an exposure of 1/88,000,000th of the whole spherical "sky." Considering that each dot of light seen is a seperate galaxy, some of which are millions of light years across... Each of which contains countless stars, stars which all have orbiting systems like our own... This is as beautiful as any photograph of god might hope to be.

Perhaps, if there is one day a "theory of everything," an elegant mathematical formula, possibly fairly short, that describes every force in the universe, that would be as good a name for god as any. Until then, I'm content to just let most people assume I'm an atheist, and leave it as that. As I'm sure you can tell, this kind of thing takes a while to explain to someone raised to think of god in the way most westerners do. I was however, surprised to find that plenty of easterners have thought of god in this manner, with texts describing such having existed since before all western religious ideas were recorded. The ideas of Taoism, or Buddhism are basically the same, with Hinduism taking a panDeistic view instead. A notion which basically just establishes the ideas of god and the universe as nouns having, officially, different names. The idea being that, out of god, became the universe, which will return to the state of god... much like the big-bang / big-crunch theory.

1 comment:

WithoutVoid said...

I really like this entry. I've basically thought all those things before. The older views seem to be better because they're simpler, I guess...views such as pantheism.