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simple answers, G od’s our man. Do you
feel that the world has lost its moral
compass? It is not surprising that a god
who dema nd s
apostates be stoned to death is
probably the most popular god
of all time. Jehovah, the spiritual
fountainhead of three great religions,
still has hundreds of millions of devoted
follower s, and you can see why. You
know where he sta nds. He can’t be
accused of being wishy washy like so
many other forms of God.
Do you find life particularly unfair?
God a nd his Ea stern equivalents
provide an excellent answer for this. It is
sometimes called the “Just World Fallacy ”.
This i s the fantasy that because God
must be just, all wrongs that occ ur in this
world a re bound to be righted in the next.
If you are good you will be rewarded
in he aven, or by climbing higher on the
ladder of rei nca rnation. If you are bad,
you go to hell, or get reborn lower in the
chain of being. If you are having a hard
time now, it is be cause you a re being
punished for your pa st sins.
If this belief makes your stomach turn,
as it does mine, then God e xplains this
a s wel l. God is often invoked to describe
that gut sense of right and wrong that
guides our day-to- day behaviour towa rds
others, that is our conscience and
morality. Similarly, God can e asily be felt
as a kind of internal guardian angel or
soul – a personification of the self
prote ctive instincts that guide us from
below the radar of consciousness.
We stay alive thank s to body-mind
feedback mechanisms of immense
complexity. There are now good re asons
for thinking that science m ay never be
able to g rasp the whole picture. It may
be altogether too complicated, too fa st
and too unpredictable. Faced with this
boundless uncertainty, we could choose
to see the whole dynamic as the work of
God, but this really adds nothing to our
underst a nding.
God has always b een evoked to
explain what we can’t understa nd, the
so-called “God of the gaps”. How did the
world begin? God. How did all the life
forms come about? God. Why do good
people suffer and bad people thrive?
God. Why does someone recover f rom
illness? God. Why does an earthquake
kill thousands of people? The vengeance
of God. Why does a baby survive an
earthquake? The mercy of God. Why did
a sport tea m win? God, once again.
Yet some things remai n forever
une xplainable. Ever since childhood, I’ve
occasionally been dumbst r uck by the
beauty of some sm all aspect of nature.
Why, sometimes, given the simplicity of
its function, c an a f lower or the plumage
of a bird seem so exquisite, r ight down to
the smallest detail? It strikes me as
ext ravag ant beyond belief. A s Je sus said,
“Consider the lilies of the field. I tell you
that not even S olomon in all his glory
was arrayed like one of these.” Why, when
seen in the right frame of mind, is the
natural world a thousand times lovelier
than it needs to be? Not even God’s son
can answer that one.
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