For the last week I've been reading Astronomy magazine's special issue, "The Immensity of the Cosmos." And it, in combination with recent news events, has got me thinking about the concept of God.
When humans first came up with the idea that an invisible Higher Power or Powers existed, the known universe consisted of all the places to which one could sail in a ship, and then return. The job of supervising all of Creation was a vast one, but it was finite. God could hold the Earth in the palm of His hand.
But now what is God's purview? Still just our Earth, or the rest of our solar system as well? Comets? Asteroids? Dwarf planets? Or what if God controls the whole Milky Way galaxy? It contains about 400 billion stars, only one of which is the Sun around which our solar system revolves. How may of those 400 billion stars form the centers of their own planetary systems, and on how many of those planets is there life? Does God watch over all of those too, or did we Earthlings just get incredibly lucky in the Higher Power department? If God is focused entirely on our planet, do all those other planets out there have their own watchers? And once that question is answered, what's the story with all the other galaxies in our cosmos? Who's keeping an eye out for them?
You see the problem. Knowing so much more about our universe than our distant ancestors did, it's hard to maintain their geocentric perspective. And yet we know so pitifully little. Are there a billion Earths revolving around their suns out there in the unimaginable distances of space? Given the sheer immensity of the cosmos, it does seem more likely than not, although we will never know. But could our own tiny, insignificant speck of a planet really be assigned an immortal, omniscient Ruler who keeps track of everything each of us humans does so that we can be rewarded or punished accordingly after this earthly phase of our lives ends?
It seems to me very difficult in the 21st century to teach this theory to children and expect them to accept it. Astonishing, really, that so many do both teach and accept in this way. But what I find most astonishing of all is the number of people on our tiny wisp of a planet who are able to convince thousands of others that (1) there is a God watching us with a scorecard, (2) this God demands to be worshipped by us in one precise way, and no other, and (3) this God will choose to reward those of us who kill as many other people as possible because they do not worship Him in the one correct way.
Those teachers/demagogues only pretend to love God. What they really love is having and exploiting the power to create havoc. Instead of God having created these teachers in His/Her own image, they have created a God in their own image: a supreme hatemonger, a superhero of murder, a vampire who lusts for the taste of human blood. To the poor, the disenfranchised, the children of despair, they cynically teach a religion of immolation, of annihilation. On a tiny rock circling a tiny sun in a vast and uncaring universe, they devote their lives to teaching the hopeless that hope lies only in destruction and that human life doesn't matter.
But it does matter. Our lives might not matter to a God who may or may not even exist, but our lives do, and must, matter to each other. The people in Paris who two nights ago rushed to help, to tweet their addresses out to strangers in need of shelter, knew the truth: each other is all we have.