Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday and God

As I walked through the plaza in the middle of campus this afternoon a young street preacher was speaking to a crowd about God and Jesus and the old "us and them" routine. He described what we in the crowd needed to do to attain salvation. How we needed to trust in Jesus so we could live forever in heaven.

When I asked him to describe the creation and tell me whether or not he believed God created the universe in 6 days some 6,000 years ago he got a little squeamish and said he didn't want to to talk about that but instead wanted to focus on discussing Jesus.

After having some discussion with others in the crowd about the semantics surrounding the trinity he got to talking about the holy spirit. I asked him to qualify and describe this human-like god and what "he" was like before the physical manifestation of Jesus. I asked several questions about what the holy spirit is. He had to come back to the same answer in each case: I don't know. The only answer he had a sure idea of was about God looking like a man but not having male genitalia.

I asked "does God have a penis?"

The young preacher replied flatly.


I had some more questions that were discussed with his ilk on the side. These were questions of what God's body looks like and is made of. If God does not need to eat then does he have no bacteria in his gut or teeth in his mouth? If God can be everywhere all at once does he have muscles and bones? The answer was always no, or I don't know. If the physical pieces of a man are stripped away and all the symbiotic relationships that exist between him and the bacteria within him removed then that body can not live. And these folks continued to say that if I went to heaven I would have no need for the bacteria in my gut.

Well I say that the struggle to sustain our bodies on this planet is what makes us human and our drive to pass on our genes and our values is also part of that. So what good is it to go to a place where you are missing all those traits and faculties that make life so entertaining?

When Galileo demonstrated that the earth was not located in the privileged location the church thought it should be he was branded a heretic. When Darwin suggested that humans had descended from "lower" forms of life he was committing the same sin as Galileo. Except this time it was a transgression against every man's ego. Darwin removed humanity from its special ranking among life forms.

Knowing the truth of how our bodies came to exist and house our minds is far more rewarding I would argue. When you sit and think of all the events that had to transpire in just the right way to give you the opportunity to live your life, you can appreciate it far more even if everything is not perfect. The atoms that make up your physical form were generated on the inside of a star billions of years ago. And every single one of your direct ancestors had the fortune of loving every other ancestor you have, even if only for a moment. And all those infinite moments combined to allow you to live and thrive on this intricately decorated blue ball.

As we study life more and more we realize that we are not so alone even in our own bodies. A human body is made of approximately 1 trillion cells, but the number of bacterial cells that live in and on each human can exceed ten times that number. Bonnie Bassler from Princeton University illustrates this well in the following TED talk.

As my father always said. "Never kick a horse ball for it may be your uncle."

It becomes more clear with age.


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Barnabus Sackett said...

I think that it takes courage to ask questions like that to a Priest especially in front of an audience and I am impressed. What you did TPG is what many more should be doing, with the evidence for evolution overwhelming the church from any religion really should be required to address how their religion would tie into evolution. When I have talked about evolution outside of the science community the room gets quiet and awkward because many do not think its true but they don't want argue. The gap between the sciences and the rest of society is ever present and only honest and true communication between the two will fill that gap. That will take many forms of media, traditional and new, and just plain open dialogue to bring the public up to date with science. However, I do feel the old saying "Never talk about religion or politics" has and will slow progress on this topic.