by Michael Maciel
You’ve heard the complaint before – “If God is all-powerful, then why did he allow this terrible thing to happen?” It’s a reasonable question, especially since the Bible is full of stories of God rushing in to save the Israelites from certain destruction. If God did it for them, why not for us?
But the real head-scratcher is the seemingly random catastrophe. It’s when we’re hit out-of-the-blue with some terrible event – the death of a child, an earthquake, a flood, a tornado, or a devastating fire. All “acts of God,” or so the insurance industry would have us believe. The more random the event, the more God is suspect.
Such events make God look like a mean drunk. The human family knows that when he gets angry, all hell’s gonna break loose. Religion, then, becomes a coping mechanism. If I beat myself up, maybe God won’t hurt me. If I stand really still and not look him in the eye, maybe he’ll leave me alone and pick on someone else. Keeping the peace becomes paramount, because you never know when the pots and pans are going to start flying, so you make long lists of rules, hoping to keep the devil at bay.
Doesn’t this approach strike you as the reasoning of a child? How can truth be born out of trauma? How can peace be had by holding your breath? Such a God is a monster, a “feckless thug,” as Martin Sheen called him in The West Wing, an arrogant, uncaring despot who makes bets with Satan on just how far his servant Job can be pushed before his spirit breaks. Who could love that? Fear him, yes. But love? You would have to hate yourself first, then maybe.
Science changed all that. Science was the rebellious teenager who stood up to his abusive father and left home, vowing never to return. It was humanity’s first step towards adulthood. And as with all rebellious children, we went out of our way to be the opposite of our parents. God was thrown out with the bathwater, along with everything that looked or sounded like God, especially the Bible.
In denying an “all-powerful” God, we set about discovering our own power, and the more we found it, the less we needed miracles to fix our problems. Science became the miracle, and the better we got at it, the more miraculous it seemed. But the power went to our heads, and before anyone realized, we became our abusive father, and like him we discovered that the more randomly we used our newfound knowledge, the more powerful we felt, the more godlike we felt.
Our random use of scientific knowledge became epitomized in the saying, “If it can be done, it should be done.” And since we were all-powerful, if any negative consequences should arise, we would fix them. That’s how powerful we are. Knowledge is power, and it had made us drunk. The world was just going to have to conform to our designs, not God’s. As long as we kept calling God “nature,” the more we felt justified in competing with him. But this was still the same ‘ole thinking, the thinking of a child. We were still in the same paradigm, only now WE were God, and all of the nonsense we had ascribed to him we started believing about ourselves.
But science has revealed one life-altering fact: the universe runs itself according to certain laws, laws that even the universe itself cannot break. The order that we sought when we turned our backs on our supposed capriciousness of God has revealed itself in greater and greater detail. Everywhere we look, we see that matter, energy systems, and natural processes are embedded with an ordered intelligence. It’s almost as if matter itself were intelligence made visible. And, it’s all connected. The notion that we can do whatever we want is slowly being unmasked as the “gimme” mentality of a two-year-old. Now we know that when we pluck a single string in the web of life, the whole thing vibrates.
Our understanding of God is changing.
Instead of living like serfs outside the castle walls, our relationship with this new God is more like growing up in a family business. Mom and Dad are the boss, but it’s the business that’s the important thing, not their egos. As children and heirs, we are constantly being groomed for success, not servitude. The more we learn the ropes, the more responsibility we can take on. And with greater responsibility comes greater opportunities for self-expression. As we grow, the business grows, and as the business grows, we grow. It’s a living system, and we are integral to it.
It’s through self-expression that we discover the truth about ourselves – the truth within ourselves. Only by letting it out can we tell what it is. As long as we keep ourselves separate from the intelligence inherent in the cosmos and in nature, as long as we behave as though we have to dodge the bullets of an angry God, and as long as we see the random events in our lives as the diddling of a bored, “all-powerful,” divine dictator, we will never feel free enough to bring that which is within us out into the world. And that which is within us can save us, because that which is within us is infinitely wise.