Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sorry, No Magic Genie

“I do believe in God. I do believe in God. I think God has given so much power to people, and intelligence, and said ‘Well, you are on your own. Maybe I’m tired. I need a nap. You are mature. Why don’t you look after yourselves?’…and I think he’s been sleeping too much.”
- From Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder (page 186)

There are parts of the God I used to believe in that I wish were actually true. Having a God that is external from humanity and unaffected by free will and human desires means God has the potential to actually be all powerful. It means miracles really can happen. And that means I have a wishing well - a real life genie - on whom to cast all my desires. And maybe, if I pray hard enough and long enough and if I'm good enough and believe enough, God will actually throw me a bone. I never realized how much solace I found in that - not until I finally came to understand it as a lie.

The affect of this belief can be devastating. Faced with a difficult situation, people often turn to prayer as a means to rid themselves of the circumstances.  On a similar note, one of the most despicable outcomes I've seen from religion is using God as an excuse to absolve personal responsibility.  I know people who voted a particular way during the last presidential election because the church told them to.  Imagine how many days and weeks they saved by not having to educate themselves and make their own decision based on their personal values!  In the same way, I am personally guilty of praying for financial freedom while continuing to rack up credit card debt because "God will provide".

The truth is, when the going gets rough, hope can be a powerful tool.  Our culture uses prayer to manifest hope, because our logic requires that it come from somewhere.  Remove God and hope dissipates.  This is what I used to believe anyway.  I used to think of my atheist friends and wonder why they even bothered to get out of bed in the morning.

But, cut out the magic genie and what are you left with?  Well, as it turns out, the hope is still there. The difference is I have a greater sense of my own contributions and responsibilities around the problem, which may sound like a burden but is actually quite liberating.  I means I'm not at the mercy of waiting on some giant untouchable guy in the clouds to cast down his predestined end game.  It means I actually have a choice in the matter.  It means my decisions have consequences, good and bad.  And it means I have the opportunity to learn from those choices...that I will always have the opportunity to try again and learn more.  Which brings me back to my earlier post, that each experience is a step in the never-ending evolution of humanity - the epitome of divinity.

And the hope?  The faith?  In the light of this being an infinite process towards a perfection that is constantly being redefined...it's stronger than ever.

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