Now that more folk seem to have come out of the woodwork, I thought I’d put this essay up.
I used to hold the idea…the belief if you will…that I was following the “right” religion. I was Episcopalian, a devout Christian, and I believed Jesus was my savior. And of course, pretty much everyone around me at the time confirmed that yes, this was not only an accurate, acceptable way of thinking, but more importantly it was TRUE and the only CORRECT way of thinking! To contrast it, I (well…really…“we”, that is, the congregation in the church I went to) were reminded from time to time that “others” who did not accept such were not only wrong, but (and admittedly this was someone softened in many cases, which I now find rather odd) DAMNED! So, in other words, for years I bought into the idea that “I’m Special” because, of course, I was one of God’s chosen, loved, and forgiven people and…well…there were other folk who…well…weren’t.
There are a number of the things I find particularly head-slapping about this thinking when I look back on it now: the arrogance of it, for one, and the conceit, for two, but mostly the ridiculous anthropocentrism.
Here is an analogy to illustrate my thinking:
Let’s pretend for a moment that the entire Earth is the universe. Everything about the current Earth is there: rivers, lakes, massive oceans, abundant and diverse flora and fauna, powerful weather systems and geological forces like earthquakes, volcanoes, and subduction molding and changing areas of the planet, and so forth. And of course, us humans, with all our creations like cars and planes and houses and skyscrapers and farms and malls and tanks and missiles and satellites and movies and, and, and…and so on.
One day the Creator of the Earth-Universe comes down to admire His Grand Work. He looks around, placing his hands upon his hips and taking in a deep breath, he nods in appreciation. And then, for all the world to see, He floats over to a tiny, tiny, tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and drops a small air gun BB in the sand on the beach. He looks down upon that BB, tears lightly streaking His cheeks, and declares, “this…this is the most beautiful, most important thing to Me in all of My vast creation! All else I can ignore, for this is where I shall focus my attention!” And then, He takes out a tiny, tiny, tiny, infinitesimally small pin and etches a tiny, 0.0001 percent area of BB and declares, “And this portion shall be the special focus of My most important creation and shall be in my likeness!” And taking the pin again, He pokes a dot in a part of the tiny etched area and says, “And this portion of special focus shall be the Chosen of My Creation! This I shall nurture and give great abundance and in return for its faithfulness, I will grant it everlasting life!” Really?? C’mon!
We now have some pretty good indications of how massive the universe is. It is unimaginably enormous. With all our probing and peering and unmanned exploring, we’ve barely appreciated even a millionth of a percentage of the entire enchilada. Given the amazing and wondrous vastness of creation, I cannot reasonably accept that the Creator has a preference for any particular part of it, let alone a tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny BB on the far-flung arm of one out of several billion galaxies. I find it even more absurd to think that this Creator then not only has a special place in His heart for one particular form of life out of literally billions of life forms on this BB (and quite likely, billions upon trillions of life forms throughout the entire universe), but then would chose some ridiculously small percentage of THAT life form and go, “yeah…them’s my besties!” I just cannot buy into such an absurdly disproportionate perspective.
And don’t get me wrong, I totally get the theology. I even, to some extent, get the history of our developing (and developed) ego-centrism and anthropocentrism. Back when our understanding of the “universe” was roughly 200 – 500 square miles, of course our ancestors thought everything was about them. And yeah…every event, every phenomenon, every disaster and death…felt personal. And our ancestors thought that maybe…just maybe…they could come up with a way to sway the spirits and gods who reigned over their 200 – 500 square miles and believed that they could woo and impress and worship these beings into not only ceasing their malevolence against our ancestors, but maybe turning them from malevolence to benevolence and protecting and loving our ancestors who practiced the correct rituals and held to their sacred traditions. I can certainly understand the thinking there. But that’s not the case any longer. We now have knowledge not only beyond the 500 square miles that we hunt and till, we have knowledge of 500 square miles of worlds trillions upon trillions of miles beyond our world. And sure, most faithful folk no longer think that sacrificing the first born lamb of the season will appease the omni-gods some now believe in, but many still do subscribe to the idea that such gods are not only appeasable, but would happily drink a few beers and hang with folk for a backyard bar-b-que. As chummy and comforting an idea as that is, I just can’t buy into such a God.
And mostly, I think, I’m disappointed and a little angry with myself for even buying into this type of thinking in the first place. Not just because I find it arrogant and self-centered now, but because even the Bible notes that this is a rather absurd way to view the universe, the world, and people in general. “Love thy neighbor as thy self” is pretty specific in its point that we should view all people equally. No one is special if everyone is equal, right? And I freely now admit that I don’t feel special compared to other people around the world. I don’t feel or think I’m special compared to believe the variety of things that are believed around the world. I certainly don’t think a God that created an entire universe thinks I’m special.
Maybe that’s what makes me special…