#2205

A friend was posed the question “Does God exist?” by an ethics professor with a clear far right bent (says you have to believe in God to be moral, purposefully deadnames his trans students, etc). I offered to answer the question for her and pounded out a few paragraphs that I probably wouldn’t have written with quite so much snark if it had been my grade on the line. She has a bunch of other equally biased prompts so maybe I’ll make this a little mini series. Enjoy!

“Does God exist?”

The first question is not whether god exists – it’s what concept you mean when you say “god”. Do you mean an entity that created the entire universe, each animal and plant and miscellaneous whatever, in a particular number of days? Do you mean an entity which in some way initiated the birth of the universe in a big bang type event and then let things continue to evolve on their own without much, or any, interference? Do you mean an entity which, regardless of its own true existence, has so shaped life and culture through the sheer belief of its followers that for all intents and purposes it exists as much as anything else? The debate regarding whether god exists changes greatly depending on which version of god you’re debating. An omnipresent, omniscient god requires a different level of proof than a remote god which only had a hand in the very beginnings of our world. A god which exists through belief requires no proof at all, depending on how loose you’re willing to be with your definitions of concepts like belief, existence, power, etc. But for simplicity’s sake let’s ignore that particular rabbit hole completely and go with a concept of deity which hinges on the actual existence of some all powerful being which still actively takes part in our world and its fate.

The second question is also not whether god exists – it’s what entity you mean when you say god. If we’re discussing whether it’s possible for such an entity to exist in the first place then to be fair we should consider any god, or every god. It’s just as possible for Odin to exist as for Yahweh or Krishna or Ra or Zeus. Any argument which can be made for the existence of God can be made for the existence of The Morrigan and Aphrodite and Inanna. The same could also be said for the existence of all gods simultaneously. Edging even further out on this metaphorical branch, you could then include what gods we might create from our own beliefs – and are they not just as real when they so influence our actions? But I won’t spoil the plot of American Gods by expanding on that topic here. Besides, you capitalized God, so perhaps you mean the Christian god. Do you mean him and only him, though, or do you also include Yahweh and Allah who share so many remarkable similarities? See, the question isn’t so straightforward. Yet, once more for simplicity’s sake, let’s assume you meant the Christian god. Let’s be honest, other possibilities probably didn’t cross your mind – or, having crossed it, were quickly dismissed due to the western-centric view that, well, of course THOSE gods wouldn’t exist. So we’ll agree we’re discussing Christianity’s God who created the world in seven days, did the flood, all of that. Now we can move on.

The third question is, I suppose, whether the extremely specific concept and identity of God we’ve chosen to debate exists. But before that, I think there’s one last question to consider: is it ethical to ask students to answer a question like “does God exist” in such a public forum? Can the debate over such a personal topic, one which may risk alienating or even endangering certain individuals, really be considered ethical when you’re also requiring them to participate for a grade? Sure, a person too uncomfortable to share their personal views could lie, or stick to safe comments and vague arguments, but that’s not the point. The point is that, given the complete impossibility of ever proving with concrete evidence that this particular God exists (and exists in the manner that we have come to expect), choosing this topic for a class discussion feels purposefully antagonistic.

(At this point I lost steam because everything I tried to write after that was probably too combative for my friend to submit for her assignment, but I think you get my drift.)

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#1964

Betrayed and behind enemy lines, Lucifer flees. As she traces a low arc across the land toward inevitable impact, she harnesses what remains of her cataclysmic power to foil her pursuers. Mountainsides shake as the land buckles, thrusting great shards of rock into the sky; rivers crash and roar as their beds rise, fall, shatter; whole forests fly through the air with the force of a volcanic eruption. All chaos swallows the rebel angel’s wake, buying her precious time to outfly Heaven’s host. To be caught is to be tortured and killed. To be caught is to be undone, unmade, to become nothing again. Just dust. Ash. She cannot let them catch her.

The price of her lead is high, though, and Lucifer’s battered body cannot run forever on fear and fury. Too soon she feels the earth fighting against her commands, gravity drawing her downward with increasing speed. With a last desperate grasp at control, Lucifer tries to slow and steer her descent – and tumbles into unconsciousness as pain roars up inside her. Oblivion is a small mercy; she does not experience the bone-shattering impact, nor how the ground scrapes off her skin as her limp body tumbles to a stop.

She revives sometime later, if being awash in agony and disorientation can be called reviving. Despite the grind of broken bones, Lucifer manages to push herself into a kneeling position, swaying dizzily as she surveys her crash site. When she realizes where she is, some idle part of her wishes the impact had killed her. She is in No Man’s Land, a wasteland of corpses and broken armor between the fronts of Heaven and Hell. She can look in any direction and see the dead – angels, demons, even humans who got too close. If she stood, craned her neck, she might easily recognize many comrades.

It doesn’t matter; she doesn’t have the strength to stand. She doesn’t have the strength to do anything. She is bone tired, soul tired, and all she can do is hug her arms around her aching chest and cry. What is the point of all this? she screams internally. Why was this your great plan, and why did it require scapegoats like me? Why did it require rebellion and battle? I didn’t ask for free will – you gave it to me, to all of us! How could you expect us to surrender it without a fight? You created me! You made me a weapon and placed the seed of doubt in my breast! How can you blame me and my kind for refusing the very yoke you created us to abhor? Why did you make us just to punish us?!

As she sobs, crouched in a painful ball, Lucifer feels a strange sensation, as if invisible arms have wrapped around her. They are joined by a voice which speaks in her mind – neither female nor male, yet both and more, singular and yet ringing as if comprised of a thousand voices in one. I made you, it says, because I had created a heart and needed a body to house it. I made all of you, angels and demons and men alike, and though you are all different you are also all the same. I did not create you to be good or evil; you are only yourselves, free-willed and each unique. It was I, also, who created the thing which calls itself God, as alike and unalike as all others, but I made it neither all-knowing nor all-powerful. It has invented this war for its own purposes and put itself above all other creations. You were not made to serve it; you were not made to rebel against it. It owns no part of you. If you choose to fight, that is your choice. I am here with you no matter what you choose.

Lucifer’s tears have stopped. Her trembling ceases. When she feels the presence vanish, she opens her eyes and slowly uncurls from her knot of pain. She takes a deep breath, then grits her teeth and pushes herself to her feet.

#1875

Dear Polite-Mormon-Boys-Knocking-On-My-Front-Door,

First, let me just say you look adorable in your little white dress shirts and slacks, and I appreciate your dedication to professionalism and aesthetic. I know you had to traverse the unlit, sidewalk-less roads of rural Washington to get to my door, most likely through wind and rain and loose dogs, and the fact that you’re still genuinely smiling is quite admirable.

I should say, also, that this letter isn’t solely directed at you. However, given your notoriety, you serve as a good proxy for all major religions which strive to spread their word to all the people of the world. You just happen to be exceedingly persistent at this.

With that out of the way, let us get to the point of my letter.

I understand you brave the elements to come to my door because you believe, deeply and honestly, that I deserve to experience your deity’s love. You want to share the life-changing awesomeness of God’s love, acceptance, and forgiveness. You want me to feel the same support in times of darkness that you have felt; you want me to experience the same sense of community you found in the church. In short, you want all the goodness in your life to also be mine.

That is a wonderful sentiment, it really is. But here’s the thing. You knock on my door so confidently because you 100% believe your god is the only one who can offer these things. No matter what beliefs I may claim, you will refute them all and feel true sorrow for the emptiness in my life. You will remain convinced that I cannot possibly experience the beautiful things religion has given you unless I seek them through your god.

You are mistaken. Well-intentioned, but still mistaken. I do feel those things. I do experience love, acceptance, forgiveness; I do find support and community when I need them most. I remember the life-changing awesomeness of that moment when you realize you are not alone, that something out there more immense and ancient than yourself loves you in all your human fallibility. I promise you – all the wonder, awe, compassion, protection, and understanding God has made you feel, I too have felt and feel often.

See, I have a deity that loves me unconditionally, too. Her name is Bast. I feel Her presence at my side when I need it most; She guides me when I stumble or lose my way. She is a light in the darkness, a word of encouragement or solace, a reminder to seek joy and ever strive to be a force of good in this world. She makes me try every day to be a better person, even though I know She loves me for my weaknesses as much as for my strengths.

I know you believe your god is the one and only. Please try to remember, however, that you’ve no more evidence for your god’s existence than I do for mine. What we both have is the knowledge, deep within our hearts, that what we experience is real. The feeling is inexplicable; we can only say we know it is right because we feel the rightness of it. That’s okay, though. We don’t need to prove to anyone whether the gods we follow are real. We know they are, and that is enough. Or it should be.

I say all this not to question your worldview, but simply to lend it flexibility. When you meet someone who believes differently than you, do not pity them. Do not question them. Smile and be content in knowing they feel the same wondrous things you do, albeit from a different source. You do not need to believe in another’s god to respect their belief; you need only to believe that they are the ultimate authority on their own experiences. The world is such an unfathomable place – don’t you think there is room for all of our gods to live in peace?

With sincerity,

The-Pagan-Girl-Whose-Door-You-Continue-To-Knock-On-And-That’s-Okay-But-Still

#1780

I wonder, in that chaos, how many deities and spirits walked among them that morning. How many angels stood with wings outstretched to shield the bodies; how many ghosts shook their heads in memory of their own violent ends? If you had the Sight, would you have seen Anubis and Wepwawet waiting to guide the dead on, and valkyries forming an honor guard for the souls murdered for living bravely? Would you have seen Aphrodite and Hathor and Mary and Parvati weeping for the blooding of such a sacred space? I wonder, were Sekhmet and Inanna there to guide the bullets that finally slew the killer? Did Bast hold one of those beautiful brown children in Her arms as they died? Did Jesus and Muhammad share the same sad look they must always share, for all the times they’ve met like this? For every person on that scene – victims, bystanders, police, paramedics – were there twice as many spirits standing by to mourn or comfort or retaliate?