Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Has God Evolved?
Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," a site dedicated to polytheism, ancestor worship, totemic worship, culturally specific worship, and all deities driven to the margins by the monotheistic menace! Grab your Goddess and go with me, strange countries for to see!
First, a little business. My three readers have asked for a photo of Shrine of the Mists. Alas, I have no digital camera, my DVD drive is broken, and just now I simply cannot ask my computer Yoda for help. So this is the next best thing. My apologies to the creator of this Roman Catholic shrine, but it serves as a fabulous model for mine. This is the photo I used to create Shrine of the Mists. Take away the statues, and voila!
More fun with the Shrine will be forthcoming, when I have to write shorter posts due to my workload.
I've been hearing a good deal lately about a book called The Evolution of God, by Robert Wright. I was going to pick up a copy, but at today's book prices one must think twice about this. Also, after reading a completely incomprehensible Op-ed piece by Wright in last Sunday's New York Times, I'm wondering if I could even understand the book if I bought it.
Can't even trust me to get the author's thesis completely, but I think it's something like this: The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has evolved from a warlike and jealous regional deity into a more loving and user-friendly model who transcends the boundaries of tribe, caste, and politics. In short, Yahweh has gotten his stuff together and is behaving himself. He has grown, so to speak.
Certainly you might think this is the case if you go to some big Methodist church, where half the budget goes to the creation of parlors worthy of Versailles Palace. You won't hear a Methodist minister preach about selling excess children into slavery, or quoting the passage from Paul in which he wishes his captors would be castrated.
Trouble is, evolution means change, and the Bible and Koran have not changed since they were stitched together. I pity the fool who would have the nerve to say, "Why don't we edit the Bible and take out all this crap about stoning homosexuals and women who aren't virgins on their wedding day?" And as long as that stuff is in the Bible, you can say what you want about Jesus shoving it aside, but the fact remains ... it's in the Bible.
If something is in writing, it can be interpreted, but it cannot be ignored. Inevitably, some people will interpret it literally. With the Bible as a guide, we could actually regress to a time when people would be stoned to death.
What really sticks in my craw about Wright's thesis, however, is his dismissal of polytheism as an extinction event. Sisters and brothers, I've given this topic a great deal of thought. I've had my share of mystical experiences and long periods of reflection on those experiences. To me, the very idea of a single male god is a giant step backward from the idea of a Holy Family in which Father, Mother, and Children support and defend those who worship Them.
I tried for decades to accept the "highly-evolved" Yahweh, and it didn't get easier. It got harder. Even when I factored in the Blessed Mother, courtesy of my Roman Catholic in-laws, it just didn't seem fair that Mary got a seat in the rear of the bus.
God has not evolved. People are using his records selectively, ignoring the ugly stuff and accenting the good stuff. So it's people who have evolved their use of God. This is probably Wright's thesis, though I can't say for sure.
My thesis is this: As long as the ugly stuff is there, it can rear its head again any time. Ask any Palestinian or al-Qaeda. This is not evolution, it's a lightly-sleeping dog.
Conversely, the existence of polytheistic religions consisting mostly of story-like "myths" allows for a great deal of fluidity in modern worship. Saint Mary can't change. Danu can. From Her space outside a firmly written-and-sealed-in-time canon, Danu can offer guidance on everything from stem cell research to mountain top removal mining.
The Gods Beyond Words can evolve, unless and until someone foolishly codifies Them, and all their followers agree with the codification. Then They too will be stuck eating words 2,000 years from now.
My final point: On what planet is a single male considered more evolved than a family unit? In strictly Darwinian terms, God Almighty is destined for extinction, unless his son finds a wife and begets some little gods and goddesses.
Okay, so I'm not the world's deepest thinker. But I'm not a fool either. I'll cast my lot with polytheism, because it allows for change.
The hymn says it best: "On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is shifting sand." If the sand shifts, you can move with it. That rock ain't going nowhere.
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