Some people don’t have a problem with ‘God’. I’m not writing for them, but for people who do .…
The early chapters of the Bible are not about the creation of the Universe. Firstly, they’re not about ‘creation’, but a reshaping of what already existed. Secondly, what that reshaping resulted in, wasn’t so much a universe as a ‘mini-verse’ – a flat earth ; a sky-dome above, with little doors to let “the waters above the earth” fall as rain ; a sun and moon that moved against a background of stars ; and the throne of God, out of sight, ‘up top’.
Such a close-knit set up allowed for a staircase between earth and sky, for angels to go up and down. It made it easy for God to take note of what was going on beneath, so that human good deeds could be rewarded, and bad deeds punished, courtesy of a place of burning flames also out of sight, (apart from the occasional volcanic eruption), this time ‘down below’. Now and again, we’re told, “God rides across the heavens – he rides on the clouds in his glory”, and sometimes he popped down to chat to favoured people. The earth occupied centre stage, and everything had been set up for human beings to take pride of place.
Then along came Copernicus, and the earth lost its central place. Along came Galileo and, in a now expanding universe, planets became spheres with satellites going round them, and the stars were very much further away. Along came Newton, and the ‘great mover’ of the universe proved to be mathematically precise laws. Along came Darwin, and human beings became a very late arrival on the scene, the chance product of millennia of random genetic mutation and natural selection. Along came Freud and Jung, and the ‘mind’ became a tiny ego, unaware of the control exercised over human behaviour by an underlying personal and collective unconscious. Along came Cosmology, with its radio and satellite telescopes, and the earth was now a dot in the solar system, which was a dot in the Milky Way galaxy, which was a dot among unknown trillions of other galaxies, themselves part of the ‘observable universe’ which may well be another dot compared to the rest of the universe beyond that horizon. Feeling a bit small and lost?
If, as in traditional religious dualistic thinking, God is separate from, and outside of the universe (whatever that means), where is God located? Is it credible that, 14 billion years ago, God brought into being this unfathomably immense universe so that, 9.5 billion years later, a tiny planet called the ‘Earth’ would somewhere appear, and that after a further 4.5 billion years God ‘arranged’ for human beings to ‘arrive’ as the result of a ‘random’ process of evolution (which is still in progress!). In this limitless ocean of inconceivable vastness, would God have placed supreme importance on the existence of planet Earth and, even if so, why would it matter what the human beings on it believed, or what they ate, or what clothing they wore, or who they had sex with and how? It would appear that this no longer makes sense to a growing number of people, if they even think about it at all, which many, if not most, of them don’t.
For me and, it would seem, for these many others, the word ‘God’ can no longer sustain a traditional or orthodox meaning founded formerly on the myths, legends and folktales included in ancient books, and latterly on creeds, confessions, catechisms, prayer books and hymns that seem to continue to take most of these at face value. This is not to say that all of the foregoing are now worthless, but that they need to be de-mythologised, re-interpreted, re-evaluated and reformulated so that they become credible, and make sense, to people who live in the world of today.
Oh dear, the number of words in this post is 666 …..