left biblioblography: THE FOLLOWED ITSELF

Sunday, September 03, 2006

THE FOLLOWED ITSELF

I am asked this on occasion, and it is a fair question indeed: “What would it take, for you to believe in God?”

It is a tough one: what indeed? Extract a small essence of the divine, in a tube, to be tested, probed, burnt over a Bunsen burner? What would qualify? How then, would a spiritual or incorporeal entity be encapsulated in a manner that would satisfy the most cynical amongst us? Could we view such a thing under a microscope, or capture it via the Hubble telescope? Is there some mysterious code written on every molecule, atom, muon or quark of creation itself? A signature, a magic word properly pronounced that would unweave the very core of the universe, as the ancient Cabbalists would claim? Or is it some Deistic construct, a distant uncaring entity that has done its work, and now rests on the seventh day, one day eternal?

I am quite sure that any deity composed in the imagination of man is simply an effort to cast the universe in the shape of our tiny shadow, an egotistical endeavor, a hubris hope born of our intense self-involvement.

What then, would change my atheism to theism?

This then, is what I require:


To quote Thomas Paine, from his Age of Reason, Chapter II, Of Missions and Revelations:

“Revelation then, so far as the term has relation between God and man, can only be applied to something which God reveals of his will to man; but though the power of the Almighty to make such a communication is necessarily admitted, because to that power all things are possible, yet, the thing so revealed (if any thing ever was revealed, and which, by the bye, it is impossible to prove) is revelation to the person only to whom it is made. His account of it to another is not revelation; and whoever puts faith in that account, puts it in the man from whom the account comes; and that man may have been deceived, or may have dreamed it; or he may be an impostor and may lie. There is no possible criterion whereby to judge of the truth of what he tells; for even the morality of it would be no proof of revelation.”

That is your answer. I require a revelation. If it is only confined to me, then so be it.

When I was struggling with the question, years ago, I was praying, I’d lay in bed, asking, begging for some sort of sign, a revelation.

At one point, I recall hearing a voice in my skull. It was a deep, sonorous voice that one would normally associate with an All-Father. I cannot recall the words verbatim, only that Cecil B. DeMille-style bass tone.

And I told that voice NO.

I told it that I was only a man, a finite man, and that I, like any other human being, was capable of self-deception. I am as capable of delusion as anyone else. That that voice could very well be my subconscious, duping me for complex reasons that I could not parse out, being as they were mine, and so blinded by them.

Of course, being a divine, omnipotent being, it would know that, right?

And so I waited. For what, you might ask? For a sign, a real sign, not some obscure face in cuisine, or a structure of man or nature that just happened to bear some vague resemblance to a divine portent. Something with breadth and depth and length, identifiable by the three dimensions, and perceivable by the five senses. Even if it was confined to me, and me alone.

I waited for a miracle, an augur, a frith or omen. It did not have to be a large one: a small one, a miniscule one would have done nicely. An appearance, a vision, something personal, that would intaglio on my brain once and for all the existence of this deity the bible called God.

I had some dreams, but the first one went not well at all. The second was mostly jagged imagery.

There will be those theists, who say I asked too much. That only a ‘sinful generation will demand a sign’, or that I counted myself too important in the grand scheme of things. I did not fancy myself Saul of Tarsus, to be blinded in the desert, or a Stephen, to be buried beneath thrown stones. I needed no burning bush, or a parting of the heavens. That would’ve been nice, but not necessary.

A loving, caring father would not withhold his hand from such a deed, would he? Being omnipotent, omniscient, omni-whatever, such a being would know exactly my need, and provide for it, no? A simple pointing in the proper direction would’ve done nicely, thanks much.

And there I stood, waiting. For something, anything that would validate my desire to believe. Rest assured, I wanted to. I’d spent much of my wastrel youth on fripperies such as Tarot cards and witchcraft (which I gave up, because of the bible no less), discussed theological matters intently (and getting as worked up as a Baptist preacher on Sunday), studied comparative religions, read the bible, read all sorts of books on the subject, from the sublime to the ridiculous, and anyone who knew me better than a passing acquaintance would’ve told you: “He’s a believer, all right.” Certainly, I’d been to the occasional church, but I’ve always viewed religious belief as a private affair – sharing only with those willing, respecting those who would not. I’d always had an innate respect for all things religious – those Hallmark specials about the apostles, or some saccharine offering from Hollyweird or the glass teat almost always managed to make me daub my eye. I’d even played with the thought of entering a religious order. Which one? Never quite decided. I even read the book of Revelation, and found myself weeping in fear.

And rest assured, had that sign been sent, that revelation revealed, a minor miracle mandated, what you would be reading now would be the complete opposite. I am a passionate person, and a sharing one, and I would have shouted it from the rooftops: I could very well have been pounding a bible on a pulpit, bellowing brimstone and fishing for souls, spreading the good news for all and sundry.

Alas, such was not to be. There will be those critics who claim that I hardened my heart, or that I simply didn’t wish for the ‘good times’ to end (I was on hard times then, and still am, so that’s out the window), or any number of excuses for why this small mendication was neglected, ignored, choose the verb of your choice.

Why then, did I not consult with someone with some experience in this matter? After forty-some odd years on this planet (going on fifty very soon), I was and am well acquainted with my species, and I know that men lie. Not all, but some, and an investigation of religion has proved this to me: it does not make anyone wiser, or more honest.

And so I still wait. For that event that will once and for all burn indelibly into my brain and heart the existence of this amorphous being that some are willing to kill for, die for, wage war over, shackle the heart and manacle the mind for.

Make me a miracle. Send me a sign. Smite me, or soothe me. Write your name in the crackling heavens with lightning bolts, or grant me Daniel’s vision: Mene, mene, tekel upharsin, a ghostly hand or even a ghost. Whisper in my ear the sweet nothings of the netherworld, or have demons dance in my dreams. There are a million methods by which I can be convinced. But like Didymus, I will need to see and touch the wounds.

I place the burden of proof squarely, not on the followers, but on the followed itself.

Come then, and show me. Else, to my grave I go, convinced that this flesh is all that there is, and naught comes after.

Show me you love me.

Or just show me.

Show me.

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19 comments:

Maggie Rosethorn said...

I agree with you 100% on this post.

Show me. Show me in a way that I cannot question, that I can test and accept as proof. Then I will believe.

say no to christ said...

Same here! Back in my more agnostic days I spent a lot of time praying for a sign to convince me and NOTHING.

Krystalline Apostate said...

SNTC:
Back in my more agnostic days I spent a lot of time praying for a sign to convince me and NOTHING.
Not even that face of jebus in the taco you ordered at Taco Bell? ;)

remy said...

A friend called me when her dog died; a dog I was very close to. I went over and saw Molly dead. Very sad. Part way home I thought I heard her breathing in the back seat of the car.(hairs on end)

Were I of a religious bent, this might have been proof of the supernatural. Fortunately, I have read enough about brain function to know differently.

Proof of god? He/she/it would have to come over and smack me around a bit before I'd accept it. Actually, even then I think I'd question my sanity.

Krystalline Apostate said...

remy:
Part way home I thought I heard her breathing in the back seat of the car.(hairs on end)
I've had a similar experience, which I will share on a future post.
Actually, even then I think I'd question my sanity.
T. Jefferson once said: "Question everything, even the existence of god."

Mesoforte said...

"If god has spoken, why is the universe not convinced?"

I'd first settle on a non-contradictory definition, after that, lots of testable, observable evidence.

Krystalline Apostate said...

MF:
"If god has spoken, why is the universe not convinced?"
Interesting quote. Who said that?
I'd first settle on a non-contradictory definition, after that, lots of testable, observable evidence.
Well, that's you. I require perhaps less. Maybe not a big neon sign flashing "HERE I AM!": a revelation, in the way Paine put it. Like most people, I interpret the world according to how it's presented to me.
If it was personal, albeit unprovable to anyone else, I'd take it.
Here's a fer instance:
A while back on the NGB, someone asked (I think it was YCF), if anyone there would believe if the Rapture DID happen (of course, the old "Can I have your stuff" joke was made).
I admit it freely: if a 3rd of the world's populace vanished simultaneously, that'd be VERY difficult to explain. Maybe impossible.
That would definitely throw a monkey wrench into my epistomology, honestly.

Mesoforte said...

Interesting quote. Who said that?

Ingersoll, Asimov or some other old guy. ^_^;

. Maybe not a big neon sign flashing "HERE I AM!":

-_- Might be a prank.

It would kind of be cool of a third of the world's populace would dissapear. The first day would see a huge reduction in polution.

Krystalline Apostate said...

MF:
Ingersoll, Asimov or some other old guy. ^_^;
I BEG your pardon? ;)
-_- Might be a prank.
Oy, I think you've been arguin' w/Goose too long. ;)
It would kind of be cool of a third of the world's populace would dissapear. The first day would see a huge reduction in polution.
You see my point, though.
If it happened like that episode of the Simpsons, 'left below'? People vanished, clothes left 'behind', that's sorta drivel?
It'd be hard to explain, a mass 'exodus' of that sort.

Matt Talamini said...

Ah... I identify with your longing for God to show Himself.

But if you won't believe the voice in your own mind, why would you believe the evidence of your senses, interpreted as it must be by your own mind?

It's not hard for a lunatic to imagine that 1/3 of the world's population has vanished... And you already sort of think you're a lunatic - Imagining voices in your head in the night... You already doubt your own mind.

I wish I could convince you - But one can't argue this sort of thing. Good luck. I hope He gives you your sign.

Krystalline Apostate said...

Matt:
But if you won't believe the voice in your own mind, why would you believe the evidence of your senses, interpreted as it must be by your own mind?
I think I covered this already. I’m pretty positive that was my subconscious, trying to fill the gap my ego was struggling to deal w/. We’re talking many, many hours of wrestling w/the issue. & we are all familiar w/humanity’s ability to rationalize anything. Besides which, if someone hears a voice in their head, & it’s named ‘Bob’, they get medication: they hear ‘god’, & it’s a free pass? I say it’s all right to listen to your right hemisphere: but we don’t let it dictate our lives to us 100%.
It's not hard for a lunatic to imagine that 1/3 of the world's population has vanished... And you already sort of think you're a lunatic - Imagining voices in your head in the night... You already doubt your own mind.
Ah, but the difference between the delusion & the reality – something like that, I would check against other interpretations (the populace vanishing). I maintain we’re all lunatics; there are just some of us a little more benign than others.
For the record, I heard voices thru most of my early 20’s – as my substance abuse habits diminished, so did they. I’d sporadically hear them – when I lived alone, interesting, that – but once they became an irritant, rather than frightening, they diminished some more. Coupla times, nodding off, I’d hear my name shouted, right next to me: I’d roll my eyes, & turn over, ignore it.
Been voice-free since 2004. Ever since I said NO to that one voice.
I wish I could convince you - But one can't argue this sort of thing. Good luck. I hope He gives you your sign.
I’m confident that’ll never happen.

Aviaa said...

Remy,
Proof of god? He/she/it would have to come over and smack me around a bit before I'd accept it. Actually, even then I think I'd question my sanity.

Yeah… in order to not wonder about my own sanity, I think I’d need him to smack me around a bit and THEN give me something tangible that I could take back and show my friends… maybe tablets? But not stone or gold or anything that’s been done before. None of that hieroglyph or commandment or holy book text stuff either. How trite. I want tablets made of rubies and immortal snakes then etched with SAT math problems and the winning lottery numbers for the next thirteen years and six months. That would convince me.

(waits patiently for her tablets)

Krystalline Apostate said...

aviaa:
None of that hieroglyph or commandment or holy book text stuff either. How trite. I want tablets made of rubies and immortal snakes then etched with SAT math problems and the winning lottery numbers for the next thirteen years and six months. That would convince me.
Yeesh, sure don't want much, do ya? ;)

Aviaa said...

KA,

Yeesh, sure don't want much, do ya?

Nothing that an omnipotent deity shouldn’t be able to provide with ease. I insist on only the best from MY deities. ;P

Krystalline Apostate said...

aviaa:
Nothing that an omnipotent deity shouldn’t be able to provide with ease. I insist on only the best from MY deities. ;P
Plural? Not a pantheist, are we? ;)

Aviaa said...

KA,
Plural? Not a pantheist, are we?

I'm a pan-atheist. However, if I'm going to welcome offers from one deity I don’t believe in, I might as well welcome offers from all of the deities I don’t believe in. I'm an equal opportunity non-believer. ;P

Krystalline Apostate said...

aviaa:
However, if I'm going to welcome offers from one deity I don’t believe in, I might as well welcome offers from all of the deities I don’t believe in. I'm an equal opportunity non-believer. ;P
Wow, that's a great idea! "Calling all gods, calling all gods! Anybody OUT there?"
;)

Bacon Eating Atheist Jew said...

I would believe in God if I could actually see a man be created from dirt and a female being created from a rib.

Krystalline Apostate said...

BEAJ:
I would believe in God if I could actually see a man be created from dirt and a female being created from a rib.
Check back for my Sabbath sermon. I think you'll like it, then. ;)