At times I experience periods of heightened creativity which is how I know I’m beginning a manic depressive cycle. I read once that this was because a person was actually receiving communication from the divine during their mania. I don’t believe this but it was such a whimsical thought that I tucked it away in my hat for occasions when I am inclined to ponder such things.
I’m probably the most peculiar atheist you’ll ever meet. I don’t believe ‘God’ exists but I hold a deep fascination about the idea and its accompanying mythologies. Perhaps it is the writer in me but there is something seductively peculiar about the way that we, as human beings, feel the need to rationalize the existence of our world and the obsessive need to hide our complete ignorance about it.
Though I was finally able to break free of religion, remnants of its trappings still cling to me like the strands of a broken spider web. I believe in a soul (for want of a better word) but I don’t believe in a supernatural power. I believe that everything that exists in this world is the product of a very natural source. Us. More specifically, our imagination.
I was speaking with a co-worker about whether or not he believed in ‘God’. I’m always interested in what other’s have to say about this subject, though my current feeling is that not many people have taken the time to examine their beliefs, what they mean or how they came across them. His response allowed me to speculate that ‘God’ is the culmination and representation of all the positive aspects of our nature. Likewise ‘Satan’ stands at the other end of the spectrum as the scapegoat for all the negative ones.
I have a book titled, ‘The Book of Gods and Goddesses’ by Eric Chaline. It’s a little thing, about 8 x 6 and no more than 125 pages. The information held between its covers, though, is very revealing. Mr. Chaline gives a small blurb about all the deities that have been worshipped throughout the centuries and civilizations. About a quarter of the way through the book, I recognized a pattern. All of these gods and goddesses have very human characteristics.
In Norse Mythology, Odin, the king of the gods, sacrificed an eye for wisdom and knowledge representing our quest to quench our thirst for information about the world we live in. He was also known to instigate wars which symbolizes our propensity for conflict. Likewise in Christian Mythology, God is depicted as being, benevolent, forgiving, vengeful and jealous. All traits you can observe in one episode of American Idol.
This led me to theorize that these icons exist because we imagined them. Most likely as a means to help bring the world around us into focus. But somewhere along the line, one these gods and goddesses ceased to be an ideological symbol and have evolved into living, breathing entity who demands absolute fidelity and is intolerant of about 70% of the world’s population. I believe this development is the result of one human (or a group of humans) who came up with an imaginative way to control the population at large, gain power and make money.
For most people, as in my case, ‘God’ is inherited. We were taught this concept from our parents who were taught by their parents and so on down the generational line. The religious beliefs are reinforced through contact with others of similar minds. Questioning of dogma is generally discouraged and those that do are usually pointed to books that rationalize the belief system in the face of evidence that contradicts it. No one seems to realize that the whole foundation of the religion is based on hearsay.
There is no verifiable evidence that ‘God’ is nothing more than a figment of an overactive imagination. Those who do believe in God would refute that statement by saying that they have felt the actual presence of the being they worship. But how real is this experience? Our minds have a nasty way of playing tricks on us. Is it not possible that our expectations could produce corresponding emotional and physiology reactions?
The Placebo Effect is a phenomenon in the medical community where a group of test subjects given a sugar pill report improvements in their health conditions even though the treatment they receive has no medical benefits whatsoever. It is the expectations of improvement, both on the part of the patient and the doctor, that seem to inspire healing. Likewise the Nocebo Effect is the worsening of symptoms due to the patient’s belief that they will not get better despite the fact that the drug they consume is a neutral substance.
So applying this to the theory of belief, a person who prays for the spirit of ‘God’ to fill them and holding the expectation of receiving it could, in fact, be producing their own results. Their quickening heartbeat, feelings of serenity and connectedness could be the be the physical response to mental stimulation.
Also coming into play is this little problem of perspective. Three people witness an accident. The officer collects three statements all of which differ from each other based on where the person was, what they saw, their experience with accidents and a host of other influences both inner and outer. They differ because each person brings to the table a unique perspective resulting from the things they have learned and experienced in their life. Likewise a person who believes God is real is going to interpret emotional and physiological signals differently than someone who does not.
This doesn’t mean that the experience isn’t valid. It is. What a person feels and experience is very real. To them. No one can impose their point of view on another without the recipient first accepting it. I cannot convince another person that ‘God’ is a purple singing dinosaur unless they want, or are otherwise willing, to believe what I say.
Our creativity is something to marvel at, however, ‘God’ must be brought back into the proper perspective as a symbol of an ideology rather than as an actual being. Perhaps then we’ll be able to move forward into a better future for all.