By Robert W. Dillon
True believers -- and I am mostly talking about right-wing Christians, even though they do not hold a monopoly on such things -- build intellectual straw houses that cannot stand up to the powerful wind of our growing knowledge of the universe and its workings.
For instance, if people believe that God cured their friend's lupus when she was prayed for, then they must also believe that God ignored similar petitions from many other people before, during and after this -- as they like to style such things -- miracle.
Logically, these folks must also believe that these prayers failed because -- what? The petitioners didn't pray correctly? They weren't right with God? Or maybe God is just a sort of whimsical father, randomly dealing out rewards and punishments. Or maybe not being cured of lupus is a reward of some kind.
In any case, such beliefs only seem benign and Christ-like on first examination. Subsequent, more critical looks may reveal the canker of self-righteousness and selfishness at their cores. Likewise, these beliefs demand belief in a God that cures those friends who don't get prayed for but end up cured anyway, and that agnostics and atheists who are blessed with healing ... well, you get the idea.
Medical documentation of such cases, furthermore, never suggests anything beyond the medical fact that such and such a person's condition improved. Medical documents cannot prove that God cured anyone, nor would reputable medical documents even attempt to do so. How would doctors document such a claim?
None of this faith-healing mumbo-jumbo seems reasonable or logical. No matter what sort of special pleading to the mysterious nature of God one throws at it, it makes little or no sense. There simply is no credible evidence for the existence of God (in the sense that some fraction of Christians, a tad right of center, use the word), no matter how firm claims of faith may be, and there are always less mysterious explanations for so-called miracles.
In any case, I know that for my own intellectual honesty, beliefs and faith must be tested always against available evidence and available fact and subject to the laws of nature, physics and logic. Based on this assertion, I suggest a more reasonable and logical concept for what some folks call God might be found in the notion that it-she-he is nowhere separate from the fabric of the universe itself, that he may be just glimpsed in the laws of physics as mankind uncovers them, that God conceived of as all-knowing, all-seeing, all-transcendent, all-immanent, equally and fully everywhere and everywhen, nowhere and nowhen cannot be just a large person, hidden somewhere else, but must be the coterminous, omnipresent, omnipotent body, mind and spirit unfolding as the cosmos itself.
Such a concept of God suggests perfect impartiality in healing and affliction and that punishment and reward are merely human constructs transcended but included as part of the nature of existence.
Such a concept suggests a God that both transcends human tastes, judgments and preferences and includes them.
Such a God wants nothing because he is fully in and of and with everything there is.
Such a God does not prefer birth to death, light to dark, good to evil, Christian over Muslim, Buddhist over Zoroastrian but is fully present and acting through all of our human preferences and pleasures and pains with transcendent and perfect equanimity.
Such a God is best glimpsed without the obscuring lens of certainty in belief. In fact, beliefs have to be bracketed, carefully transcended and carefully included, to get a clear glimpse of such a God.
Such a God sickens, heals, cures, kills, traps, frees, stops, goes on without end without ever starting, now erupting miraculously into a flower bud, now erupting miraculously into a universe or into a "not-a-universe" -- who created the creator, what intelligence designed the intelligent designer? -- and without human pain or pleasure even while he is immanent in all pain and all pleasure.
Such a God is indeed life, but life defined as the whole ebb and flow of the whole cosmos. That is the God, not some self-centered monarch conceived in Bronze Age terms and acting merely like some bigger version of passionate and preferential man, who without separating from the fabric of "all-that-is-or-ever-shall-be" by even the width of a cosmic super-string indeed "cures" our enemy and kills our friend.
That God is simply the unfolding cosmos itself. That God is known through reason and logic balanced with spirit and science. And empirical-experiential, Show Me reasoning remains his strongest ally.
Robert W. Dillon is a Cape Girardeau resident.