I get a gnawing sense that when I talk about God, my secular Jewish friends hear, “la la la la la la la la”. When I read atheist blogs, or comments on religious Facebook posts, I see this wild disconnect between what people of faith mean by God, and what atheist think we mean about God.
To put it simply: a believer talks about believing in apples, and a non-believer sets out to argue that oranges are just as foolish as a flying spaghetti monster. And just like my strange metaphor, the whole darn thing becomes a mess.
The problem is really two-fold.
When believers talk about God, they use the poetic, artistic, emotional language of scripture…and that’s a problem for Secular Jews.
Believers talk about “feeling God” or “having a sense of God”. The way people talk about God is the same way that musicians talk about playing guitar, or that nerds talk about the new Star Wars movies, or that any sane person talks about Chuck Norris.
That doesn’t line up well with the empirical, scientific method, and so for non-believers, it just doesn’t work. And rightly so.
Proving the existence of God is like trying to prove that Eric Clapton sucks. There’s no way to measure Eric Clapton scientifically against, say, Black Flag, but on a certain level…yeah…Eric Clapton just isn’t that cool.
It’s emotional. It’s subjective. But it’s also very real. Like love, and hate.
On the other hand, believers can be pretty bad communicators.
When we hear about something like the God Particle (which is neither God, nor much of a particle), we start blabbing on and on about how finally, those moron scientists understand what we have been talking about this entire time! Reality check: we were never talking about science. But science is real, and to us, God is real. So we jump the shark and start flame wars on Facebook. We can’t help ourselves. Our passion makes us do really silly things.
Our universe is ruled by some pretty basic rules. Throw a ball in the air, and it’s going to come back down. It’s simple really.
And yet, it’s not, if we read about quantum mechanics.
Sure, ball goes up and comes back down. So never mind the fact that the ball may not actually exist, or that the very act of viewing the ball may be the reason why it fell, or that the ball may exist as potential balls in multiple universes all at once.
It appears like we have a rational, no-nonsense universe, that is built on some wild, inconsistent, bizarre-o land of rules that make no sense. Yet, the darn ball still falls when you throw it up in the air.
God, through the consistency of the laws of nature, keeps faith with us that reality is real, that we can know reality, and that by having a universe that appears silent to us, we are actually better off. Like children, we crave consistency. And God gives it to us. So the Bible reads, “your faithfulness continues to all generations; you established the earth, and it stands” (Psalm 119:89-90).
The universe does not waste anything, or anyone. The same stuff that made up the Big Bang makes up who you are. God does not discard anything.
We used to believe that if you burned paper, it simply went away and was never more. Now, we know that a burned piece of paper still exists, albeit in a new way: as ash, as the chemicals released in the air, as the transference of heat energy. While the paper as we understood it is gone, the fundamentals of the paper are still there. They simply become something else.
Human beings have mastered resurrection through legacy. Through our impact on people when we are alive, we have the ability to live eternally. We still read books by people who lived hundreds and thousands of years ago. Like the piece of paper, their consciousness never went away — it just became something else, something that lasts into eternity.
If a piece of paper never goes away, then I have to believe that human beings do not, either.
Even the intangible never goes away. Love is the greatest of eternity’s blessings. Today, you are alive because someone loved you. And they were alive because someone loved them. There is a chain that goes back to the beginning of time: and love is what it is all rooted in. We may die, but the love that was given to us, and that we give to others, never goes away. “I have loved you with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn you” (Jeremiah 31:2).
Living in a reality where things remain consistant and constant is pretty cool. When I step out my door, I don’t have to worry that the laws of gravity are going to cease to exist, and that I am going to float off in the sky.
And because I live in the modern world, much of what I need is readily available to me.
That gives me a lot of free time to pursue the creative. And that’s another place where I believe God rests.
When we think of the Garden of Eden story, we tend to think of a place that is wild, with two wild humans laying around in luxury eating, sleeping and playing naked without a care in the world.
But really, the Garden of Eden was work. Adam (a Hebrew metaphor meaning “humanity”) was commanded to work this garden as the steward of it (Genesis 2:15). Gardens, back in the old days, were not the wildflower front lawns of hippies with gnomes and Buddha statues. They were orderly. God’s world is orderly, at least according to the Book of Genesis, and humanity is tasked with continuing that order.
It begs the question: what did God want the Garden of Eden to look like? I would suggest that God was leaving that up to Adam to figure out. Adam was given the tools to do the job, but his vision of the garden was up to him. No rule book: just some seeds, some dirt, some trees, and the responsibility to make it pleasing to God.
Creativity is not an empty vacuum. The color of paint is pre-determined, until we mix the paints together to reflect our own design. A musical instrument is already assembled, until we figure out cool, new ways to make sounds out of it. The stuff we need is already there, like the Garden of Eden. It’s our responsibility, from God, to take the stuff and turn it into something that is sacred.
So there you go. When I say God, I’m talking about Consistency, Eternity and Creativity.
What do you think?
This piece was written by Patrick Aleph, founder and Executive Director of PunkTorah. He’s addicted to coffee, tattoos and loud garage rock. Friend him on Facebook.