Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Something I've Been Thinking About

I was piddling around the Houghton Mifflin website the other day, trying to make them post information on the soon-to-be-released Best American Series 2007 by the sheer force of will, and I stumbled upon a page of interviews and videos featuring many of their authors. I checked out a rather childish bit by Jonathan Safron Foer, and then I thought I'd see what Richard Dawkins had to say concerning his most recent book, The God Delusion.

I won't really go into a discussion of his rhetorical technique or the integrity of his logic—but something he said reminded me of something I've been thinking about off and on recently. He made the point that all of us are atheists in the sense that we've written off as false more or less all of the historical gods, guys and girls like Zeus, Baal, Dagon, Thor, Ra, Aphrodite, and whoever. Says he: "We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further."

And there it is. God (our God? the God? God God?) calls himself Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Most of the time we take that as some kind of sweeping statement of his timelessness or his knowledge or something, an existential limitlessness merely hinted at in crude words that kids unknowingly poke at when they take the crescent moon to be his toenail—"God is BIG," they say. But I've been thinking about taking that statement literally, chonologically even. God was the first god, in the sense that when he created the earth and plopped Adam and Eve down on it he was the only god they knew about. Man hadn't gotten around to creating any others just yet. And when it all comes to an end, he will be the only god left standing. All the others will have been discredited or disproven or whatever it is you can do to do a god in, and God will be the last god. Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. It's kind of a creepy cool thought (and according to Dawkins, it's about that time).

(I've become kind of a long poster, but I love thinking these kind of thoughts through one or two more steps than is natural.)

It makes me think of two other things. One, it's like science in that we seemed to have all these possible theories, these explanations for the way things are, and now we've narrowed it down to just a few. On the one hand people take that to mean a showdown between the last two—science and God—is upon us. Or, on the other hand, we might take that to mean that the true God will finally be revealed (in this scenario science isn't a competing theory but a method).

But that begs the other thought, that if God indeed set up Adam and Eve in the garden and more or less said, "Here I am," how did we get to the point where we're just now getting back to one possible god? (Though it is comforting to think of God starting man off in the know rather than in doubt as to whether he was even around.) How did truth get so fractured over time that we can't even recognize how all the pieces came from the same original whole? How did we go from God talking face to face with the first man to not only ninety-nine imaginary gods masquerading as the one but also to the possibility that there might not have been one in the first place? Perhaps the glory of God is in the big picture—the biggest picture of all, in fact.

Who knows?

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