May 31, 2002 (Ira Pilgrim)

Why God?

If God did not exist it would be necessary to invent Him.

Voltaire (1694-1778)

Or Her?

Every human being, without exception, is completely helpless when born and spends his early years completely at the mercy of his parents, usually his mother. His(or her) life is guided by forces beyond his control. He has control over almost nothing. While a newborn infant is unaware of it, the fact is that his life or death is under the control of his mother or whomever feeds him and shelters him. There are other forces in play, that he is also unaware of, that could bring about his death. As he grows, he acquires more and more power over his life and, before too long, he can survive on his own. This is true of all mammals and, whether we like it or not, we are mammal. While everyone of us has had the experience of being a totally helpless infant, we don't remember it.

The world of the infant is under the complete control of forces beyond his comprehension. Often, as that helpless infant grows, he decides that he himself is in control and that he has power. What has been referred to as "the terrible twos," is a manifestation of the illusion that he himself is in control. That period in his life is characterized by the frequent use of the word "no!" It usually doesn't take him long to find out that he is still relatively powerless. However, in variable degrees throughout his life, he maintains the illusion that he himself has a good deal of power. As death approaches, he may becomes aware that this feeling that he has power over his life, is an illusion. He may believe, as most organized religions tell him to, that when he dies, he doesn't really die at all.

As the child approaches adulthood, he comes to realize that his parents were infants themselves and were, at that time of their lives, as helpless as he was and that this helplessness applies to everyone, without exception. When he comes to realize that his parents are as helpless as he is, he is forced to face the fact that all people are virtually powerless. The feeling that he must have had as an infant, that someone has power over him, may stays with him for most of his life. Since his parents are also powerless, the next step is an immensely powerful god or gods. Someone has to have power. An examination of world religions produces gods that deal with the total range of human experience. There are gods that love, hate, destroy, nurture, kill, reproduce and so on. God is often a kind, nurturing and protecting parent. Just about any kind of god that a person might imagine can be found somewhere in a world religion. It seems to me that a person's attitude toward his god is similar to his attitude toward his parents. It could be worshipful, loving, hating, deceiving and the whole range of human feelings and behaviors.

In 1954 Frederic Brown published a one page science fiction story called "Answer." It tells about how all of the computers of all of the 96 billion planets in the universe were linked. At the end of the story, the protagonist Dwar Ev asks the question that no single cybernetics machine has been able to answer.

He turned to face the machine. "Is there a God?"

The mighty voice answered without hesitation, without the clicking of single relay.

"Yes, now there is a God."

Sudden fear flashed on the face of Dwar Ev. He leaped to grab the switch.

A bolt of lightning from the cloudless sky struck him down and fused the switch shut.

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