Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Conversation with God (Part Three)

(N.B. This series is a work of fiction and not an expression of my own beliefs.)

Hello, hello!

You know, the more I do this, the more I come to dislike my tone of forced bravado. It's not disrespect, God. It's...awkwardness more than anything else. Have you ever noticed that some people use swear-words as euphemisms? Really, they do. If they want to name a body part that's taboo, or a bodily function that's taboo, they kind of get over the awkwardness by being much blunter than they need to be. They're being crude because just using the proper word seems even cruder. Well, that's what this is like.

But it's beginning to seem embarrassing now. Juvenile.

The more I speak to you, God, the less I question whether You are there. I mean, I'm not really sure if there is a God in the-- in the normal sense. I'm not so sure you're out there. Oh, I don't mean that you're within me in some kind of narcissistic way. I just mean...that when we use the word "God", I can't help feeling that we're talking about something that's real. The word doesn't refer to nothing at all. How could it? It wouldn't even exist as a word if it referred to nothing.

You're something, God. That's as far as I can get. As for what you are exactly, it beats me. Maybe a permanent feature of our mental landscape. Maybe the ghost that haunts humankind. I know that sounds pretentious. But what the heck. Maybe you're something so far beyond our understanding that the only thing we can do is attach a tag to it-- "God"-- which will do as well as any other word.

The thing is, I don't think we can ever get past you. I don't think we can ever get over you. Atheists? Give me a break. I've never met anyone more God-obsessed than anyone who goes around calling himself an atheist.

Put it like this, God. I walk into a gallery and I look at a landscape, or a still life, or maybe a...well, an animal picture, let's a picture of a horse, a chestnut horse. And maybe there isn't a single human figure inside the frame, and yet...and yet the artist is in every single brushstroke, every single square inch of that picture. The whole thing is full of his emotions, his view of the world, his ideas...his whole soul. That's what You're like. You're nowhere to be seen, nowhere to be encountered, and haunt everything.

God, I'm going to use one of my favourite clich├ęs. You're the elephant in the room. But you're an invisible elephant. It's awkward for everybody. The atheists and secularists and bright cheerful scientific materialists try to ignore you completely. And as for the religious people, they want to ignore the fact that you're invisible. "What about the elephant?", say the religious people. "Well, what about the fact that we can't see him or touch him or smell him?" say the secularists. And everybody takes turns coughing and shuffling their feet.

And you know what the worst part of it is? You can't just leave it at that. At least, I can't just leave it like that. I don't know how to be an agnostic. That's like writing "case closed" on the ultimate riddle of existence, and putting it away in the filing cabinet. And then-- what? Move on to something else? Take up ornithology? Read all of Charles Dickens? Work on your bucket list? What wouldn't be an anti-climax, after this?

I know what they'd say, the agnostics, if they were here now. They'd say, "We're just being intellectually honest. The data is insufficient. The human mind isn't up to the job. It's like trying to break into Fort Knox using nothing but a hair clip and a charming smile. Let it go and concentrate on what's humanly possible. Oh, and drive safe, and stay away from drugs."

But you know, I don't think there is really such an agnostic. I think agnostics are just cosmic fence-sitters. I think they like dithering about You. I think they want to live in a universe that's kind of balanced between atheism and God. Don't get me wrong. I see the appeal. I very much see the appeal. You get the best of both universes that way. All the freedom and...and all the clean straight-forwardness of the atheist universe, and all the mystery and meaning of the God-made universe.

But it's so maddening, at the same time. It would be like having an itch on the front of your nose for your whole life and never to be able to scratch it.

And the thing do these agnostics know what counts as data? How can they really say they've ever put the matter to bed, that they've ever exhausted all the evidence? Who the heck knows what might count as evidence, anyway? It's not a detective story. It's not a crossword puzzle. It's not a court of law. You don't have to play by our rules, do You, God? The nature of this case is that anything at all might be relevant. You might have left Your DNA anywhere. We'd have to send every blade of grass and every paperclip and every strand of hair to the lab to be tested. For a start.

My poor brain. Well, sleep doesn't have any respect for the mysteries of the cosmos. I have to submit to the agnosticism of the duvet... if You're really out there, God, I have to say, this whole sleep thing was a masterstroke of Yours. Limited liability, every single day. Can you imagine what we'd have made this world into if we didn't run out of battery every sixteen hours or so? And we get annother roll of the dice, every night. Well, I'm going to roll mine now. Keep an eye on me, OK? Bye for now.

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