Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Two Eons Hate

What is worth a great deal among people is hated by God.
It's a simple enough sentiment, and one that I've encountered time and again. Living in the United States, it's nearly inescapable. But, I find it nonsensical. Why would God hate anything? Or, to put it a bit differently, what could possibly inspire an omnipotent deity to as strong an emotion as hatred?

Of course, as someone who doesn't myself believe in deities, it's mainly an academic question. But I think that it's one that's worth considering because for many followers of Abrahamic religions, God's emotionality (especially it's "negative" aspects) is an important factor in their belief system, and thus can often be a driving force in certain behaviors that others (believers or not) find problematic. In my own understanding, the combination of omnipotence and omniscience would mean that a deity is perfectly capable of having the universe look precisely the way they wish it to. And while a common objection to this is that it violates human free will (to the degree that one does not believe in a deterministic universe), I'm not so sure of that.

With the universe as it is currently structured, I cannot walk on the ocean floor unprotected. Without some serious underwater gear, I'd be crushed before I made it that far, assuming that I didn't simply suffocate first. I have yet to meet anyone who considers this a check on my free will - it's simply a limitation of the human condition. Likewise the fact that humans are unable to fly, unaided, in the manner of birds. Or the idea that there are only Thirty-six Dramatic Situations, and that while one can mix and match them in nearly infinite varieties, there aren't any others to be found. None of these things is considered sinful - we simply haven't found a way to transcend those limits, and might not ever manage it. And, in theory, if one understands that the universe was the work of a designing intelligence, then it stands to reason that these limitations were deliberately built in (or at least not obviated) by that intelligence.

So given an understanding that humanity has limits, and that those limits do not impinge upon free will, having to deal with the whims of a deity can also be construed as a limitation of the human condition. And so if some factor of the universe roused God to hatred, why would he not simply expunge it as if it had never existed? A deity that is capable of literally anything (whether we could conceive of it or not) could easily make wholesale alterations to the fabric of reality without humanity being any the wiser. In other words, once you assume that literally everything is controlled by divine whim, it's perfectly conceivable that the day before yesterday, the Sun was a rather soothing shade of violet, and that in the intervening time not only was it altered to "yellow," but the entire universe was altered so that as far as every bit of matter and energy in all of reality is concerned, the Sun has always been "yellow." Would we consider such an alteration to be a violation of our free will? How?

Given this, it seems odd that a deity, when roused to hatred, would simply, well... hate. Rather, they would simply remove the offending bit of reality, and replace it with one more to their liking. So rather than "What is worth a great deal among people is hated by God," it is likely more accurate to say that "What is worth a great deal among other[, morally impaired,] people is hated by me." Because we don't have the capability to alter reality to suit us. We are, to reference Doctor Who ("The Face of Evil"), neither powerful nor stupid enough. Attributing hatred of things that we find morally or ethically problematic to God is a way of dealing with that powerlessness that simultaneously accepts and rejects it. We resign ourselves to the world as it is, yet align ourselves with an ineffable force that dislikes it, and will mete out justice at a later date.

Our hatred is a sign of "inserenity;" or anxiety, if you will; something that we cannot change and will not accept. In this regard it cannot be the sign of an omnipotent deity, which, by definition, can change whatever it chooses. So we are left with have no other options than to accept that the Universe does not owe us anything, and in this, to be at peace - or to rage uselessly against a reality that is not of our making.

No comments: