Here’s a question for the ages: is there a god? What of this one: what happens when we die? Even better: why should we care? For many, these questions do not enter their minds until they are lying awake at 2.13 am on a Saturday morning staring at their ceiling in the shroud of night. For some, the questions come when they get tired of being forced into churches which seem, on the whole, boring and dour- often discriminatory even. Yet still for others, these are questions which we ponder as we go about day to day life in some sort of effort to find meaning, or lack thereof, both of which are greater than ourselves.
In ancient Celtic culture the druids worshipped spirits of nature, believing in a life force that extends and flows through all. On the other side of the world, in Japan, people followed Shinto and worshipped kami, spirits of nature, believing in a life force that extends and flows through all. Wait, something sounds rather similar there.
In some Native American tribes the Great Spirit was worshipped. Half way across the world the Jews worshipped the god YHWH. In Norse culture Odin was honoured as the All-Father. In Christianity God the Father is revered. Again, similarities.
One step further takes us to similarities in other Eastern cultures, from Hinduism to Zen Buddhism. And anywhere we look, especially in Africa, we find some sort of ancestor worship.
… and so?
Well firstly we see a need to answer the previously posed questions. Secondly we find commonalities in the methods of answering those questions. But with what relevance to us? Why should an atheist, for example, care about any of this?
I’d like to forward the argument that we are all seeking something greater than ourselves not to comfort us, but to hold us accountable for our actions and to combat the little points of vain pride which cause our downfall. Some chase after money and feed their pride in an attempt to be happy, but so often we hear stories of how these people fail. Instead, it always seems to be the humble who are happiest.
To the theist, God reigns supreme and guides us and holds us to account. For the theist, God is an ultimate expression of our utter helplessness. To the animist, we are connected to all that exists, and thus to harm something is to harm ourselves in the process. To the atheist, the knowledge that nothing supernatural exists confirms the complete meaninglessness of life and forces them to hold themselves accountable to the greater purpose of serving humanity. It is a sad reflection of humanity that we take such noble ideas and turn them into means for hatred and conflict. Indeed the Ones that Watch, be they YHWH and the angels, or Vishnu and Krishna, or even the great intellectuals of the past, must feel great sadness at watching humanity divide itself.
From my own theology, traditional though it is, I look out and see the fruits of eclecticism. Even when I was atheist I could see the immense beauty that shone from religion and human fortitude- a light bright enough to shine even through the wars and deaths that we had tainted it with.
Should we all come together one day before some cosmic jury, our kind will be found wanting. More than that, our religious and non-religious prophets, who claimed to speak truth to us, would be guilty of our sorry state for warping and corrupting the Image of God. And when I say the Image of God I mean the purity that exists in all those ideas I spoke of earlier.
But, you may say, what is pure about recognising yourself as flawed? What is pure about believing yourself to be inconsequential in the universe? Conversely, what is pure about believing yourself to be an intrinsic part of the universe?
The purity and importance of these ideas manifest in two ways. The first, is the ability to give your life meaning by placing it in relation to the world and those around you. If you treat yourself as a servant, thinking of others before yourself, you can come to a state where instead of asking “Why me?” when things go wrong, you instead can ask “Why not me?” This, far from being negative and self-destructive, is empowering and liberating because not only can you use your suffering to help others, but you can also fully appreciate and empathise with others when they suffer. If all humanity regarded each other in this manner, I dare say we would have a far more equal and beautiful society.
The second, is the ability to defeat yourself. Now, what I mean here is the ability to defeat your ego, I say ‘yourself’ because, for most of us, our ego is the self that we portray to others and the self which attacks our inner self. When you recognise yourself as intrinsically flawed you begin to deconstruct the pride of your ego which causes you to harm others and yourself. I’ll probably dedicate another post to pride somewhere along the line.
Ultimately, purity is found first in ideas and ideals. Through careful thought, and sometimes acceptance, of these ideas we begin to transform ourselves into purer, happier beings. There is no reason that we can’t believe that gods and spirits both exist and don’t exist at the same time. Why? Because we can all be certain that, at the very least, they exist in our minds and in our textbooks. Dedicating one’s life to science, dying as a warrior defending one’s clan, and giving to the poor are all acts of surrender to some greater ideal which we ourselves seek to become a part of.
So, this was really just me writing as thoughts came to mind, but hopefully it was at least interesting, if not helpful in some way. Peace be with you.