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.

Our operators are standing by to take your call.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

Hear, hear! (And love the flexible grotto design).

Lady Grace Dreamweaver said...

I think you make a marvelous point and state it very well. Certainly growth occurs between the old and new testament. In the old testament, God wipes out almost an entire population, and then has to create a rainbow as a promise to not do it again. That's a substantial thing to grow past! Rather than judgement and damnation, his son teaches grace and forgiveness. Tells me that God grew up and figured out that punitive punishment was ineffective. If God has room to grow, why would his teaching stagnate?


yup..i does the Goddess..
i remember once i was at st. mary's doing my candle lighting and prayer asking...and was asking mary to intercede with her exact words..'hey mary...ask your kid, just this one time... and what ever it was i wanted her to intrcede for...faarther ed said he'd like to make that a prayer..
holy mary, ask your kid...

Maebius said...

What a lovely little shrine! (I think you have more than 3 readers though).

I agree, and as an almost Ordained Protestant (Luthran) minister, I agree with your thesis. I like how the Jewish community has stuck around for over 2000 years (forgive nay inaccuracies her eabout Jewish culture) because it seems Judeo-culture is about good Lifestyle and community fellowshipo rather than punative guilt-tripping like the Old Testiment Catholics seem to me.

Times have changed quite a lot in 2k years, yet the Pope and a fair number of old-scriptures are taken as literal truth and modern wisdom. Wisdom, perhaps, if taken as Myth and teachings, less useful if taken as Commandment in my humble opinion.

We think therefore we Are, and we are therefor we live. Taking away all that thought to bliundly follow something, is not really living a sacred lifestyle.
Here's to shifting sands indeed.

Anonymous said...

Yes, God has evolved if you look at the Methodists, Lutherans, and other mainstream denominations and sects.

But then you have to look at the premillennial dispensationalists (and if the sales records of the Left Behind series, there's a disconcerting number of them even if they're still a minority). And when you look at them, you get the idea that God hasn't evolved so much as He's decided to go on an extended holiday to get rested up for the Real Nasty Business(tm).

I think another part of the whole problem with the "God has evolved" argument is that Wright and those like him consider evolution a thing of the past, a done deal. God evolved and now he's perfect. The problem is, that's not how evolution works. The only way evolution stops is with one of those extinction events you mentioned.

And therein lies the problem, I think, with claiming that God is perfect. Where does a perfect god go from there? There's only one way to go once you're at the top of the hill.

Thomas said...

I think the point isn't so much about God as about the memetics of religion.

There's a popular idea within the study of idea that "self-sustaining meme complexes" like religions, have a life-cycle. In the case of major world faiths this cycle can be thousands of years long.

Judeo-Xianity has reached a phase in it's development where the concept of the vengeful god is no longer advantageous to the religion's continued prosperity.

For a thought provoking example think for a moment about Islam, a faith some five or six hundred years younger that Xianity, that seems to be going through a period not dissimilar to that of the Church half a millennium ago.

labsurferdude said...

G/god has not evolved, but the way humans THINK about G/god has. And it is time for the idea of G/god as a real entity (as opposed to a fictitious creation of the human mind) to become extinct.

The notion of G/god was invented by humans as a way to comprehend the world. There are unseen forces that act in complex ways and affect our lives. Take weather, for example. By putting G/god in control of the weather, the absence of much needed rain, for example, could be attributed to the anger of G/god. With a simple solution - appease the G/god and rain will come.

G/god's influence in human affairs has decreased as our understanding of the world we live in has increased. Yes, there is still much that is not understood about the world that we live in. But there is a physical explanation for every aspect of the world as we know it, even if we do not, at this point in time, have a complete understanding of particular phenomena. To postulate the existence of a G/god who actually controls those aspects of the world that are not yet fully understood is shear lunacy.

And religion is simply a human invention that only helps to keep our little leaders fat.