Monday, December 17, 2007
Tell Me Again What You Think
God either exists or doesn’t exist. There is no median possibility. God, however one might conceptualize such an entity, is either truth or fiction. Conviction in either direction is some combination of faith, conjecture, logic, socialization—and ultimately free will—but there are only two directions to go: yay or nay. That’s why the God issue is so simple, and why long, agonizing theological conversations completely escape me: there are but two possible realities, and neither can be proved. Arguing about whether or not God exists is like a 35-year-old arguing over whether he’ll live to see 90. There are only two possible outcomes, and both are speculative. It’s a profoundly idiotic thing to argue about, and I wish people would stop doing it.
I have no problem with theological discourse. I have no problem with abstract posturing. I have no problem with wanting to pursue universal and cosmic truths. But I have a problem with people who impose their God know-it-allness on others, who masquerade their spiritual guesswork as inarguable fact.
I met one such girl at a group dinner at my college. A bunch of us spilled outside after the meal, only to be met by the girl (whose name I forget, and most probably never knew) who was all-too-eager to tell us the deal. God exists, she said. She knows He does. He DOES. No, she can’t prove it, and, moreover, she only came to that conclusion after deciding, a few weeks earlier, to start Believing. It was beyond her to realize that you can’t decide on objective reality; in essence, the very idea of her trying to convince us of her truth is proof enough that her efforts were futile from the outset. If something is obviously true—say, that the sun rises every morning—you don’t have to accost people in the street to convince them. They just know. If something is not true—say, that the sun exploded 1,000 years ago and hasn’t existed since—people will simply know you’re wrong. In both cases, people don’t need to be told in order to know.
Anything else, then, exists in ambiguity. So, the second one finds oneself arguing for the obviousness of something, it’s clear that the thing in question isn’t so obvious. It’s also clear, then, that people can’t simply be convinced. People need charming, charismatic idea salesmen in order to buy into sub-obvious concepts. Eons of credulity have been assigned prophets—purportedly real and fake—because there was a particularly beckoning flair to their soapbox. They didn’t yell so much as they coaxed, and their coaxing always led the audience up to the precipice of the incredible, and then offered an ultimatum in the form of an option: benefit or suffer. Of course, the subtext was “be saved/repent or die,” and that’s exactly the point—if cloaked in attractive semantics, the most unbelievable, threatening, and too-large-to-fathom ideas become embraceable.
To be embraceable, and to be embraced; to have our ideas accepted as facts, to be revered as purveyors of wisdom. That's what we all want, and the girl outside the cafeteria wanted it bad. She could have had it if she'd have curbed the close-talking theological aggression and offered a rhetoric more cozy, lazy, and yielding. Something like, “God loves you, just do what you can to reciprocate, but anything is fine,” and I would have told her how right she was, that I wished more people would get hip to the enlightenment.
As it is, with that statement wrapped back up in the ether of my wishes, I will continue to suffer the philosophy bullies. Maybe they go away after college.
Stay Self-Satisfied, After-Dinner Theology Girl