Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Questioning God

At some point in almost everyone's life, the question of the existence of God moves from a rosy sentiment to an intellectual briar patch. The shiny world of youth makes it easy to rely on the claims of one's parents that God is real, personable, and knowable. Or the equal, yet opposite simplicity that God is a quaint mythology fit for a pre-scientific world, but no more real than Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, or the Easter Bunny.

Soon, however, maturity intrudes on our winsome innocence. We start asking harder questions. For example, just what kind of God is it that looks on as countless millions are slaughtered in religio-political pograms? Wouldn't God be just the right arbiter in human affairs to help us avoid senseless killings? Or, if God isn't real, how do we account for morality, conscience, or the seeming uniformity of nature? Given our moral inclinations, why haven't we come up with a solution to the horrors we perpetrate on ourselves? And what are the empirical sciences doing to advance our moral status in the alleged absence of deity?

On the other hand, it would be easy, even practical to dismiss the question of God altogether. Afterall, neither religious nor secular metanarratives can ultimately prove their claims regarding the divine. So why be bothered with something that cannot be proven conclusively, or conclusively disproven? Why pursue a subject that, given its ultimate non-conclusion, will require faith in either the propositions of the world's religions, or faith in the evolving world of the sciences?

But how practical is it to dismiss questions that help us – individually, and collectively – form a sense of our place in the universe? Is it practical to eschew religious claims when many of those claims have helped shape the cultures, and perceptions we participate in today? Is it practical to disregard the findings of the sciences? Would gravity be less binding if we were unconcerned to pay attention to its effect in our lives? Would God be less of a question if we found it practical to disregard the effects of religion around the world? Would this kind of practicality even be honest?

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