Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The battle against superstition -

Sitting at a coffee shop, studying for an Economics class, a rather straight-laced man walks in and sits down at the table beside me. He must be about thirty-five, but his manners seem decidedly middle aged in their routine. He sets down a battered brown leather book bag next to his chair, and a book sits on the table near his sandwich and his bag of chips. He's dressed all in blue, his attire entirely unremarkable: light blue jeans, a darker, zippered blue fleece, and a bluish-gray polo shirt underneath. I barely notice him.

Then, he does something that most coffee shop patrons do not. Opening the sandwich and resting it in front of him on the table, he proceeds to fold his hands and stare off into space for a few moments. Then, he taps his outstretched fingers on his forehead, his chest, his left shoulder, and his right. Again, a few strange seconds of silence, only this time his lips move in some sort of sub-vocal recitation. Once more, he repeats the gesture with his fingers. Forehead, chest, shoulder, shoulder. Then he grabs holds of the sandwich and bites into it aggressively.

I'll admit: I'm a little befuddled by these strange gestures. It's said that the ancestors of America, since the days before its colonization, have practiced this sort of ritual as a part of their mythology, some sort of superstitious warding off of evil. In an Age of not only Enlightenment, but the microchip and the Internet, I wonder why such superstitions are so pernicious. I can come to no satisfactory answer. It is equally strange, then, that such a large element of popular culture supports, even glorifies, this sort of superstition. Surely, you have known people who will not walk beneath a ladder! Yet even they must chuckle at themselves.

I've been asked countless times if I believe in God. I've never had a great way to answer that inevitably loaded question until today. Of course I do. It's impossible not to. Simply by the utterance of the word "GOD," its existence as a concept is proved.

GOD, in the context I'm asked whether I believe in or no, is an especially vague construct centered around one thing: the creation of the world.

If you were to ask me if I believed in Zeus, I would say, 'Probably not.' Zeus has the fortune of being personified. I mean, the guy's a character! Throwing lightning bolts, fits of rage, and a legendary promiscuity, a deity like that would pop down from Olympus from time to time if he existed. Heck, he's arrogant enough he'd probably keep a website going, and occasionally answer e-mails. I'm sure Hephaestus would hook him up.

But the word GOD, in this context, is also a reference to a particular 'entity'. It's funny. It's not simply a god we're talking about but the god, who has, as I understand it, a few special properties, among which are Omniscience, Omnipresence, and Omnipotence. Since I believe that I am here, 'Cogito Ergo Sum' and all of that jazz, and that the world I experience is NOT a myth in of itself, then I have no choice but to 'believe' in 'god.' God is everything, everywhere, and has the ability to do anything. Since you've defined something that has all the knowledge and all the power in the universe, the often described 'supreme being,' it can be the only version of this ultimate power in existence, and encompasses all of reality.

You with me?

To deny the existence of god in such a vague, literally all-encompassing context is to deny EXISTENCE.

Here's the funny part.

By corollary, believing in God doesn't really mean ANYTHING. It's just a word for all of the forces in existence. To conceive 'GOD' in this complete form would be envisioning all reality. Being human, natrually, I cannot do that, except as an extremely distant abstration. Once any attributes are assigned to God, any at all, it ceases to be 'omni-' anything. So the existence of God doesn't prove, nor does it disprove, the existence of Zeus, for instance. I think that a certain mythology, when describing this God, says, "Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me." Because you CAN'T. There can only be one version of everything. Another version of infinity is simply infinity. They all describe all possible things that could fall into such a set, whether numbers or religions. Infinity, plus one, minus one, is infinity. But infinity, plus one, minus two, is also infinity. Infinity can never be diminished, it can never be reduced, it simply is. Infinity is the God of mathematics. Asking whether I believe in infinity is the same thing as asking if I believe in God, I've discovered. Yes, of course. You can never create an equation which will divide infinity into two, nor arrive at it, and then leave. Any SET OF ALL THINGS is like this!

So, the existence of God neither endorses nor rejects any particular religion. If you're a member of religion believing in God by one name, and you encounter another group that believes in an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent entity, you'd have to conclude that you were talking with different words about the same being, because there can only be one EVERYTHING.

How, then, does this apply to anything? What does an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent entity WANT? Clearly, everything that is. Otherwise, it would be ... some other way, and not this way.

I could go on, but it's pointless, really. Reality, existence, infinity, and God, are all just words we use to describe what IS.

And there you have it. The existence of existence is safe for another day.

Now, will everyone please, PLEASE stop using that as a justification for war, or intolerance, or anything else?


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