To put this in context this is a lengthy response to Peacebang in her
"God loves You, you Know It" post. She wrote "Another reader shared
some deep doubts about some of the essential claims made by liberal
religion, saying, 'I am a part of a liberal religion because it's the
way I think things should be, but that doesn't mean I believe it.' I
found this comment intriguing and honest, and had the sense that many
of us would like to hear more about these ideas if Jason (my name
is John) was willing to write more about them."
As they say, you asked for it....
There is a story by Dr. Suess called "Horton Hatches the Egg". In the
story Horton sits on top of an egg at the request of Mayzie, the lazy
bird who doesn't want to do the work. Horton suffers many ordeals for
his troubles, and in the end the egg produces an "Elephant-Bird"
instead of a bird. On the page where the elephant-bird is produced,
Dr. Suess throws in the lines "And it should be, it should be,
it SHOULD be like that! Because Horton was faithful! He sat and he
sat!" and it has always bugged me every time I have read the page. I
have yet to figure out why Dr. Suess chose to emphasize what anyone
with a basic understanding of biology knows — It wouldn't be like that.
If by some absurd circumstance an elephant found itself perched on a
bird's egg it would not create a new species. Like the reassuring
repeated lie of a parent during a tornado "Everything is going to be
ok, everything is going to be ok, ..." it is the lie we want to
believe, but don't know if it's true. No matter how much we hope,
think or feel things should be different that won't change reality.
One night I sat, staying up late, reading a debate between some folks
on a religious Bulletin Board. The topic was the acceptability of
homosexuality, and in particular the translation of the Greek word
"Arsenokoites". I was rooting for the fellow who was arguing in favor
of God's acceptance of homosexuality. And then it struck me. I
didn't care who was right, I didn't care how God felt.
This was in the south, with honest to goodness hell fire and brimstone
preachers making appearances on campus. Hell was a very popular
concept, and not to be dismissed. What I realized at that instant was
this. If the hell fire and brimstone line of thought was indeed
correct then I felt that God was more deserving of my contempt than
worship. Anyone who could inflict an eternity of torture upon people
was more a monster than Hitler, the folks who perpetuated Abu Ghraib,
and Jeffrey Dahmer combined. And if God hated homosexuals because
they are the way God created them, then God be damned.
I knew why I was rooting for the person who argued against the hell
fire and brimstone God, because it made sense. It was right. It no
longer mattered to me who had the better argument, the deeper
theological understanding, the more extensive reading list, the better
understanding of ancient Greek, etc. basically the truer understanding
of God. None of it mattered. I wasn't sure about God, but by golly I
knew I was right. I knew the way things should be.
Unfortunatly belief is a feeling and not a conclusion. Sure I think
it makes sense. But my way of thinking doesn't change the universe.
Every so often I feel like God is the egg, and I am looking at it
thinking "it should be, it should be, it SHOULD be like that"
waiting for the elephant-bird to pop out of the egg. But some deeper
part of me expects to see the bird pop out.
What I do know is that if the bird does pop out, and I am faced with
the hell fire and brimstone God, all I will say is "it should be like
that". And most often I take solace in knowing that it's all just
going to end, and I will have lived my life by what I thought was
I am no longer trying to understand God, and live by that
understanding. I am doing what I think is right and hoping that if
there is a God, that God approves. It is simply not necessary for me
to believe God and the universe conform to my way of thinking. What I
do with my life matters to me, and that is enough.