Sunday, July 23, 2006


What God wants

I've said some of this before, but I'd like to revisit just this topic, as it relates to science and technology: If there be an omnipotent, sentient being in the sense of the Judeo-Christian God (or, for that matter, even a set of gods, as the Greeks and Romans believed), how on Earth do we know what that God "wants" or "likes", and how do we have the crust to speak on that God's behalf?

"It's written in scripture" doesn't work for relating it to science and technology, because none of that was around when the scriptures were written, regardless of who you believe wrote them or inspired them. And so we get wild interpretations that have no particular basis, apart from that the interpretations support the moral values of those doing the interpreting (really: no one opens the Bible, reads a passage, and says, "Oh, my, what I've been lobbying Congress for for all these years is... well, I had it backwards!").

Stem-cell research was not around in biblical times, so when Jesus healed the sick he was their only hope. When David slew Goliath we lacked medical procedures to keep Goliath alive in a persistent vegetative state. When Sarah became pregnant in her dotage there was no pill to prevent it, whether she'd have wanted to or not. Noah needed all the animals in viable mating pairs because repopulation by cloning wasn't an option.

So today we pull out the ancient texts to find support for what we want people to do. And some say, "Lo! It says here that God does not like contraception," and they make pronouncements that helping a terminal patient die peacefully, or cloning an animal is interfering with God. They say that abortion is murder and that the "morning-after pill" violates God's will. Embryonic stem-cell research, some say, is wrong because it requires the death of one of God's creations.

Now, what if God meant for us to learn how to do this stuff? Maybe God's been sitting up there for thousands of years saying, "My human! When are these beings going to get the lead out and discover the cloning thing? And I put those stem cells right there in front of them; are they blind?" See, all along, God, who, it is said, gave us the intelligence and curiousity that we have, has wanted us to figure all this out and will delight in watching us as we develop into what we've had the potential for from the start, as we delight in seeing a child learn and develop.

Put another way, what makes us think God's a right-wing conservative? If I have to have an image of God, I rather think of someone sort of like Eric Clapton, or Jerry Garcia, actually.


Anonymous said...

Who thinks God is a right-wing conservative? Many groups like to profess that what they do and think is "in the name of God" but that doesn't make it so.

I rather like the bumper stickers I have seen, "God is not a Republican ...or a Democrat".

Barry Leiba said...

Yea, verily, Jim. What I meant was that the ones who are vocal about saying what they claim God thinks... are the right-wing conservatives who say that God agrees with them.

Of course, as Bob Dylan writes, everyone thinks he has God on his side. I prefer the bumper sticker too! "God" ought to represent a fundamental morality that transcends "your" politics or "mine".