Updated: July 13, 2014 2:01AM
What would our world be like without God, or even the belief in a god, any god?
Would it be a better place? Fewer wars fueled by religion, dogma and godly justification? Less judgment, hypocrisy and self-righteousness in the name of Jesus? If God created us after we created him, did it backfire, causing more pain than joy?
Or would our world be a worse place in the feeble, oh-so-flawed hands of humankind? No purpose, no meaning, no eternity. Less hope, love and faith. A life with no promise of heaven, which eventually descends into a living hell. Chaos. Carnage. Anarchy.
“Apart from God, it’s anything goes,” wrote Kevin Reisinger, a reader who posed this timeless hypothetical to me after reading a recent column.
“If there is no God’s word, if there are no commandments, if there are no teachings from Jesus (who died on the cross for you, Jerry), if it is all blah, blah, blah ... then anything goes,” he told me. “Rape, pillage, plunder, use people to get what you want, marry who you want, mow people over to get that last Xbox, sue everyone for anything and get rich.”
“If there are no consequences for what is in people’s hearts, how can you be so surprised about how people act and how they think? And how can you fault them for doing these things?” he said rhetorically.
Reisinger was referring, in part, to my stance on same-sex marriage, a police blotter news item and my “blah, blah, blah” comment about those Christians who conveniently cherry-pick from the Bible to support their prejudices or bigotry.
But he also expanded this issue from micro to macro by pointing out a world without God, without faith, without obedience. A profound separation between Jesus and man.
“This issue is not (about) homosexuality, frivolous lawsuits or gay marriage,” Reisinger said. “Rather, the issue is, separate from God, man is left to his own devices.”
And left to our own devices, humans can be, well, quite animalistic, he rightly suggests. Worse yet, sinful.
“By our sinful nature, we as people do not want to hear that what we do is wrong, but you and I know there is a wrong and right,” he said, humbly noting that he is simply reflecting what Jesus teaches us. “My opinion means nothing. Religion means nothing. Popular sentiment means nothing. God showing you what his word is in the bible means everything — for eternity.”
Some believe that God is a puppet-master, pulling all the strings in our world. Others believe that God created the puppet called mankind but has no strings attached to our actions. Which is it?
This “meta-question” can be a tricky one, resonating with Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle of the quantum world that says if you know where something is, you don’t know what it’s doing. And if you know what it’s doing, you don’t know where it is.
However, this question can be viewed through the binoculars of duality thinking: science and spirituality, faith and facts, truth and proof, experience and experimentation, theories and testimonies.
Scientists cling to the constructs of, say, string theory, quantum mechanics and a big bang belief how the universe started roughly 13.7 billion years ago.
Believers cling to their Creator for all answers to such complex yet irrelevant questions. Adam came first, they preach, not an atom. It’s that simple. It’s that mysterious. It’s that wonderful. And our planet is merely the theater where this all plays out.
Even many scientific-minded souls believe our world is a “put-up job,” meaning it was not some serendipitous accident from a cosmic chemistry experiment. Poof! Here we are, from nothing to something through roughly 30 elements, most importantly carbon.
Does this explanation sound just as unworldly and unimaginable as what the Bible says? I say the difference between proof and truth can be the difference between higher learning and a higher intelligence, respectively.
As philosopher of science Michael Polanyi wrote in a preface to one of his books (paraphrased): I am writing this book to show how I commit myself to what I believe to be true knowing that it might be false.
How many others in our tribe can be as honest, as vulnerable, as open-minded about the human condition? Not many people I know, whether it’s believers, atheists or agnostics.
I posed my initial question to readers. This sampling of responses best reflects their collective feedback:
“We are given free choice, so, by default, we are left to our own devices,” said Roger H. of Gary.
Melissa N. of Valparaiso added, “I wouldn’t want to live in a world without faith in God or whatever higher power people believe in. There would be no good to be had.”
Randy D. of Dyer said, “On a world scale, organized religion has more blood spilled and lives taken in its name than any combined political conflict through the ages.”
Raul R. of Hammond countered by saying, “A belief in a higher power brings comfort, strength and hope to millions of people all around the world.”
Jerry B. of Chesterton noted, “No matter whether or not you believe in God or said higher power, life on earth is holy and sacred. And most of us fail miserably to listen to that God within we call a conscience, and to honor that God we profess to belief in.”
Once again, I have more questions than answers. Like other armchair philosophers and sociologists, I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go ’round and ’round. So I will leave you with another insight from Reisinger, who got this wheel rolling in my mind.
“Reality is reality. Would you spend time debating water is wet?” he said.
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