Friday, February 19, 2016

"Is There a God" and "Is God Mindful of Us"--George's Post

1.    “Is There a God?” and “Is God Mindful of Us?”

Whatever else they may stand far, all religions—Christian and non-Christian—start from one basic premise—that is, there is a god, or there are gods, in heaven who are somehow involved or concerned with the affairs of men.   While much of the next discussion may be generally applicable, I will focus solely on questions of faith as it relates to Christianity.   A single question is frequently posited as a way of distinguishing believers from non-believers---those who seek God from religious sceptics—the faithful from the atheists and the agnostics--and that question is simple--“Is there a God,” whatever God’s nature or character may be and whatever God’s relationship may be to men and women.   From centuries arguments about the existence of God and the role God plays in the affairs of men and women have generated passionate debate, and all too frequently violence and persecution, and while the vehemence of the debate has abated in today’s ever-increasingly secular world, the lines between believers and non-believers are harshly drawn.   Some find arguments in favor of God little more than non-sense; they claim no one can know whether or not there is God, and that such a question, though frequently asked, is not even fruitful or for that matter meaningful, because there are simply no tools or instruments or tests that can be devised to allow men to ascertain the existence of God, to measure the level of God’s engagement with mankind, or for that matter to know anything about God.     Nor do they find persuasive any of the commonly-advanced theological arguments in favor of the existence of God.  They do not find the scriptures to constitute evidence of God’s involvement with mankind.   To them it is silly to believe in something that is intrinsically unprovable.   Instead, they are quick to dismiss believers as naïve, gullible, unscientific, and prone to cling to primitive pre-scientific beliefs about deity owing to their fears about the unknown and the unknowable.  
Believers, on the other hand, find evidence of God everywhere, take comfort in the notion that God has a plan for mankind, making life meaningful, and see life as a constant, but vital, struggle between the forces of good and evil.   God has revealed, through the commandments, how men should act, and their moral conduct is critical to their spiritual well-being, both here in this life and in the world to come.   God requires men to be obedient, and obedience is the sacrifice they bring to the altar.   They see God’s will being revealed through the scriptures found in the Old and New Testament, and accept “faith” as the active principle whereby men approach and please God.  They are not embarrassed or apologetic about being “faithful” and the need to exercise faith in the face of world’s uncertainties.     
Perhaps the reason the question about the existence of God is so commonly asked, and so consistently  occupies our attention, is that it is invariably tied up with two other questions--each of which goes to the core of the human experience:   What is the purpose of this life?  And, how should men conduct themselves—what is moral conduct—and does it matter whether or not men act morally?   Indeed, some may think of these two questions as being even more germane than an abstract question about the existence or nature of God—since they go directly to the daily affairs of life.   But since the questions are intermingled, it is impossible to consider one without considering the other two.   The believer’s view of the universe puts God at the center of these two questions: God has a plan for mankind, and the purpose of human life is to understand what God has in mind for each individual and for that individual to fulfill his/her purpose in that general plan; and God mandates moral conduct—obedience with which is part of God’s plan.    Without a belief in God, life is without purpose and moral conduct meaningless.[1]   
Those who are neither believers nor existentialists must somehow fashion “meaning” for life, and a justification for moral conduct, without resorting to a belief in the existence of God.  
While the existence of God may be the “threshold” question before the believer, it is surely just one of many questions the believer may consider—and all of other questions only make sense if one starts with the premise that there is a God in Heaven.     If there is a God in heaven: is God our creator; if so, why did God create men and women; does God have a plan for mankind; what is the purpose of life; is it possible to have a relationship with God and what is the nature of that relationship; what is the character of God; does God care about what happens to his creations; how does one communicate with God?   The list of questions is almost endless.   And all religions, Christian and non-Christian, provide answers to these questions, however satisfying or frustrating, complete or incomplete, those answers may be.
As I have gotten older, I have come to think there is one question—above all others—that we care the most about.   That question can best be expressed with the simple phrase:  “is God mindful of us?”   Of course, we may have interest in the character and nature of God, in how we communicate with Him, whether there is a plan for mankind, etc.   All of those inquiries have a place, providing context to what we believe and think, but in the end our focus comes back to ourselves.   How do we fit into whatever plan God may have for mankind?  What does God have in store for us and those we care most about?   Is God mindful of us; does He care about what we do?   Does He answer our prayers?   Is He aware of our struggles, and mourn with us when we mourn?   The reason this question (i.e., is God mindful of us) and all related questions are so prominent in our consciousness is the unyielding arrogance that each of us has—the feeling that each of us is, despite all appearances to the contrary, at the center of the universe.   Everything we experience says over and over to us that we are “inconsequential,” less than nothing--we are just one individual among the billions who have and will come to earth; not even a single mote of dust; insignificant by any conceivable form of measurement; not worthy of attention or consideration; imperfect and flawed.    Even those most accomplished recognize that their accomplishments are quickly forgotten or eclipsed by the deeds of others.   “For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass.  The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falled away.”[2]  Yet, despite this, each of us comes with a pre-wired self-centric view of the universe—placing us squarely in the center of the world as we know it.   This comes as no surprise—indeed, how else could we possibly view the universe, since it is solely through that consciousness that we apprehend the universe and learn or know anything about God.   It is as though the world—and all things under, on and above it—were created solely for our purpose and benefit.   No other perspective is available to us, nor for that matter, at one level, do we really care about anything else.   Our consciousness is the sole lens through which we are capable of thinking or of exercising rational (“intentional”) action.   When and if that lens were to shut, the universe for us ceases to exist—even though it may exist for others--and we simply don’t care or perhaps better put are incapable of caring further about anyone or further about anything else.  

[1] One thinks of Christianity and existentialism as polar opposites and yet at one level they share a common intellectual framework.    For the existentialist life is full of despair, precisely because it has no meaning, and there is no rational basis for justifying moral conduct.
[2] 1 Pet. 1: 24.