A question by a fellow blogger was: If there is no God; how ought we to live?
The first thought that passed through my mind was the trite response: “If there is a God; how ought we to live?” Sorta depends on the God, doesn’t it?
Ever study the Aztec religion? They believed a god sacrificed himself to become the sun. Only the trick was that in order to sustain the sun, all the other gods had to provide their blood. To replenish the god blood, human blood was provided. Which meant sacrifice. Lots and lots of sacrifice.
The blood of humans was believed to be the source of the sun’s movement. Blood of warriors killed in battle was an offering. Sacrificed captives provided blood. Even women who died in childbirth were thought to provide appropriate reparations.
If the Aztec pantheon was the actual god, then the way in which we “ought” to live would be a great deal more bloody! Of course, no one reading this blog would ever think that such a god is feasible.
But imagine convincing an Aztec of this. “If we stopped sacrificing humans, how would the sun move?” Oh, you could argue about planetary movement, and stars and orbits, but they come back with the undefeatable, “What if you are wrong? Millions of us have been sacrificing humans for centuries. And the sun has been moving as long as we have done it. If we stop, and you are wrong—we all will die! Safer to keep doing what we have always done, isn’t it?”
Is that much different than the common notion of a God? That millions believe, and somehow it seems “safer” doing so?
In America, we have “In God we Trust” in our pocket, “Under God” in our schools, “You shall have no other Gods before me” at our capitals. “So help you God” in our courtrooms. “God bless America” on our bumpers. “Oh God; You Devil” in our DVD players.
We even hear “God Bless You!” when we sneeze. At countless corners we have churches, temples, synagogues, and mosques. Entire channels dedicated to God. Billboards, stickers, books, a genre of music, and days off from work, all thanks to God.
I am not huge on arguing for a proposition based on statistics, but I think I am on very safe ground to state that the vast majority of people within my community believe in a God.
And let’s face it—the God that most Americans believe is a pretty “safe” God. A sort of Grand Administrator who’s job it is to keep the Earth spinning appropriately around the sun, leave us alone as long as we are doing well, step in if we get a little too rowdy so as to bring us back in line, and occasionally reward us with a cure for cancer. Or a good parking spot.
By believing in this vague notion of an Executive Benefactor, we can continue to live out our lives as we desire to do with a sporadic thought of “Wonder if S/He could help out on this one?” Either by giving that person who just cut us off a flat tire, or rewarding us with a green light for NOT giving said person the finger.
Yes, there are some who are more engrossed in their belief of God. No passing fancy for them! Yet even they get sick and go to the doctor, work and worry about money, get hurt and look for human comfort. Are they much different? Pragmatically, is God really that much more than a glorified ATM?
But living without a God? That seems a little…well…dangerous! That means when we hurt someone, there is no “Grand Righter-of-Wrongs” who can swoop in and take care of the problem we created. Nope—we have to do it ourselves. How easy is that?
Or while careening down a hill of snow on a pair of fiberglass sticks, there are no angels guiding us away from the ever-present maples. Nope—we could become a red stain on bark all by ourselves.
In fact, stating one does not believe in a god generates more curious looks and questions, rather than shrugs. It makes one stick out. “Don’t you want to go to heaven?” “You hate god.” (The equivalent of hating puppy dogs and tiny kittens.) “How can you be moral?” “How do you explain all those millions of other people that believe in God?”
The word “atheist” produces a picture of a grumpy old man shooing kids out of his yard. No atheist could possibly be fun—they must all be miserable. (Ironically, the other image is that of a hedonistic orgy organizer who is into sex, drugs and rock-n-roll with complete abandonment. No atheist could ever be the middle ground of just a normal human with normal idiosyncrasies)
Either way, they are sure to not be on God’s good side.
Somehow the picture that there is no God seems “unsafe.” As if God will be especially put-out by those who say he does not exist. We know saying “God Dammit” invites possible admonishment. Bad Karma. But “God is nonexistent” invites disaster. The sun may stop!
Without a God, we must work out our own lives, determine our own morals, explain and attempt to persuade others why those morals should be imposed, listen and learn from others as to why their position may be more appropriate, and no longer rest in the hope that “someday, somehow” everything will be all right.
Without a God, we may need to take a deep breath, and actually do the right thing even though society around us is alarmed that the sun will stop moving.
How ought we to live? Dangerously.