Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Busybody God

Now and then I wonder why it is that some of us believe the God who created the unimaginably vast universe is so small.

"Small" as in petty, mean, paltry, pettifogging.  God as busybody, consumed with the thought that someone somewhere is doing something sinful, which is to say something prohibited, something that we his creatures shall not do on pain of penalty, even eternal damnation, and eager to ferret it out.  A God who peers through keyholes, as it were, or watches us balefully through heavenly binoculars when we think he's not looking.  A God who is an omnipotent version of Santa Claus but who does not merely withhold gifts when we're naughty, and instead punishes us either directly or through his agents on earth, or through the manipulation of natural phenomena as such as Pat Robertson would have it, hurling hurricanes at those who displease him and anyone else who happens to be in the way.

A God who requires that we wear or not wear certain clothes, eat or not eat certain food, attend particular and regular ceremonies at designated locations, sleep only with certain other humans in certain circumstances, say certain prayers, worship only him, make others worship only him, or failing that persecute those who do not worship only him in a variety of ways.  Read or not read certain books, see only certain things.  The list is nearly as endless as this endlessly demanding and jealous God is said to be.

We may speculate that this Busybody God is one it should be expected we would envision, being busybodies ourselves.  Or that the concept of such a God would occur to us inevitably if we presume that God must be concerned with humans primarily or exclusively.  As to the latter, I don't think the Busybody God is necessarily one we would choose to worship if we make such a presumption.  Such a God of limited concern need not be excessively mean, only of much restricted scope and majesty.

If we accept a Divinity creating or pervading the entire universe, how is it even possible for us to conceive it as being so concerned with such trivial matters?  It would seem a profoundly stupid conceit, even delusional, unless we thought for some reason at this point in time that the universe is, in fact, immeasurably smaller than we know it to be.  Absent that it's as if we thought God created the universe all for the equivalent of a speck of sand he perpetually studies and manipulates to the exclusion of all else.  It is a kind of insanity, a super-narcissism.

It is also, however, a stunning diminishment of the Deity.  Why would the God of this astounding universe be at all concerned with the minutiae some say is of such significance as to merit his retribution?  Why, indeed, would an all-powerful, all-knowing God seek retribution, or be jealous (of what?) or angry?  God would have to be neurotic at best in order to be fascinated with such things or to harbor such feelings.

Clearly, those who believe in a Busybody God do the Deity no credit; they may even be said to defame him.  The Busybody God is not merely anthropomorphic.  The Busybody God does not merely have human characteristics; he is attributed some of the characteristics of humans that make us most unworthy.  The Busybody God is unseemly.

I maintain that some conceptions of God are more reasonable than others.  This may not please the atheists among us, who sometimes seem inclined to claim that any belief in God is so absurd it is meaningless to say one form of belief is better than another.  But I think it is more reasonable to think that the Deity is not troubled by sexual preferences, clothes, food and such other matters it is said consume him, which are more properly considered concerns appropriate only to what Christopher Hitchens called the childhood of our species.

Belief in God is not necessarily childish; but it is all too possible to hold beliefs regarding God which are childish.  Thus the Busybody God and his adherents.

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