Nature’s God

Nature’s God September 9, 2012

Colored photo of outer space.

I’m often asked what I believe now, and I often answer that I’m blissfully uncommitted. Having spent my whole youth being warned about the Rapture and the need to “make a decision for Christ” right now (indeed, I was always pretty sure that I was already too late), it’s great not to feel rushed. I feel certain that no God of quality would hold my soul to account for cautious indecision. As a teacher, I know I’ve failed if my students tell me what they think I want to hear. Being a good person, like being an educated person, goes far beyond spitting out the right theological answers.

I think there’s an enormous truth to this statement in Doctor Who, A Good Man Goes to War: Good men don’t need rules.

Nonetheless, as an agnostic, here’s what I think the real God would look like if he or she turned out to be real:

1. Not human. I was raised not to be a political dominionist, but to see Creation as God’s gift to humans. We were supposed to take control of it, take advantage of it. Not doing so was negligence. To be concerned about climate change was to doubt God’s providence and to be poor, fearful stewards of our inheritance. As a child, I always had a very hard time reconciling a God of Love with one who wanted us to dominate and destroy the earth. Huge parts of my childhood consisted of raising kittens and nurturing them when they had their own kittens. (My parents spayed our cats, but sometimes too late.)

I grew up watching the deer, birds, rabbits, squirrels, turtles, and fish outside my house. I felt in harmony with this world of creatures, intricately and beautifully manifesting the intelligence of the universe. And then I went to church and heard a human story – a story that felt so limited sometimes, because it acknowledged nothing of the God who created animals, plants, rivers and stars. If they were ever acknowledged, it was as a token of God’s love for us humans. But this attitude seemed arrogant to me. Why should God love us and only us? Why weren’t dogs going to heaven unless we loved them? Why did God insist on flooding and burning up the enormous, diverse, fascinating world he made because of us? What did the fish do to deserve the apocalypse?

Now, I think, if there is a God, that God is spirit. Not a human spirit. Not even a spirit that resembles humans or centers the universe around them. I think the world is much bigger than us and that a God who designed it must be bigger than us, too.

2. Gender neutral. This rather goes without saying. Sex differentiation is for diversifying the gene pool. The gene pool is for reproduction. I no longer believe that reproduction is all that life’s about. Reproduction serves life, not the other way around. Not only should gender be unimportant to God, but God should be truly genderless. Without male pronouns. Without male-only incarnation.

3. Comfortable with incompleteness and evolution. Because the world changes. Animals change. Bugs and viruses and bacteria change. Geology changes. Human cultures change. A real God must have a more nuanced mind than to demand that human beings defy the natural growth of the world and themselves to cling to a set of words on paper outlining finite rules.

4. Thoroughly uninterested in managing anybody’s daily life. A God I could believe in has bigger fish to fry than what you wear, listen to or watch.

5. Sex-neutral. I say neutral deliberately. The God of Christian fundamentalism is both sex-negative (non-marital, gay, non-procreative) and sex-positive (be fruitful and multiply; the secret to saving your Christian marriage is to do it more; it’s a marital duty that must be regularly exercised for a healthy marriage). I don’t believe sex should belong anywhere near the center of God’s priorities. I believe that if there is a God, that being is more concerned with how the people on earth treat each other, animals and their environment than how they get there.

6. Preoccupied with more than just Earth. What about the worlds beyond our solar system? What about the solar system itself? Why focus only on one little planet when so many fascinating things are happening outside it, too?

7. Uncommitted to particular human causes and interests. I don’t believe God is political – at least in terms of partisanship, pet causes, nationhood or identity. I believe that moral concerns supersede politics but also know how to work within them. I believe that if there is a God active in the world, that person is both above politics and intelligent enough to see through them.

8. Communicating by spirit rather than words. I don’t believe in scriptures anymore, at least insofar as they are used as rulebooks. I believe that real spirituality is practice. It’s not a stance or a dogma or a membership or a belief. It is the discipline by which you become connected with the divine things in the universe.

If I can be fascinated with the world, with the stars and the intricacies of animal life and the amazing power of evolution and life itself – why isn’t God? Why would God reduce himself to such petty concerns as our skirt length or our courtship rituals? If God made our bodies, then he knows what they do and what they’re for. Why would he obsess over the manner of our reproduction? Our lives are so much more than that. Why would God claim a political party? Why would he claim any particular church? Why would God even be a he?

I don’t believe in a God whose plan is comprehensible. I don’t believe in a God who destroys his own creation to punish a tiny piece of it. I don’t believe in a God for whom the right words and rituals mean more than the orientation of our hearts. I don’t believe in a God who demands that I know it all or that I be right or that I do what he says. I believe that the presence in my life that I’ve called God has been present whenever I’ve had to grow. I’ve never felt that presence tell me to keep still, submit or be silent.

I do believe in love as a force that binds the world – not exclusively humans. We’re honestly not all that good at it. But dogs have packs, birds have flocks and the principle of loving and helping exists far beyond us and the rules we write down to remind ourselves to be better. Love is bigger than humanity. Love saves all kinds of lives.

So I relish not knowing the answers, because only a foolish kind of God would judge my worth as his creation based on what my little brain knows. What I know isn’t important. What’s important is what is. Maybe after reading this post you still only have a few pieces of what I believe, but to be honest, that’s all I have too. And for now, I’m totally okay with that.

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