God a zombie?
Up in our silent night, in the wee wee little hours of the morning I chuckled, Robin. And shivered. You and I share the scare. You and I share it with hundreds of millions of grandparents. All over the world.
I was pondering over the question of Breanna. May I share my thoughts? What would be my answer? What would be the answer of a Shia Muslim, Sunni Muslim, evangelical Christian, orthodox Jew, Methodist, jehovah, Hindi, Buddhist, Christian humanist, orthodox Christian, orthodox Roman Christian, atheist humanist, etc. etc.? I am sure their answer will not only depend on the strength of their beliefs, but also on the degree of freedom they have to speak out.
Let me answer for myself. I live in a country -the Netherlands-where freedom of speech and religion have become almost maximal and I am not part of a religious group that will punish me for defection. I have been lucky enough to be raised as a liberal Protestant. The pressure to join the church was low. The question was always: do you really believe, what do you believe in, what does that mean?
After learning about the multitude of creeds, the functions of religion and the behavior of the believers, I started loosing my belief in the existence of gods. One day I wrote in the margin of lecture notes on sociology: ‘if praying means to lay myself in the hands of God, I will stop praying.’ In other words, if there are no gods, praying is useless. We, human beings, are on our own together. We have to manage our lives ourselves. (I must add that praying is not useless for people who do believe. It gives them strength to manage their lives and to keep believing. Of course it doesn’t have any influence on reality, other than their own behavior, but that can help.)
If one of my grandchildren pops the question, I will say: God is what you wish him or her to be. A lot of people believe he is alive. Look at what they do and you know what that means. Do they act like zombies, then their God must be a zombie too.
- And you, grandfather, what do you believe?
- I think there is no God whatsoever. What isn’t, is not dead, nor alive, nor a zombie. It just isn’t. And by the way, zombies don’t exist either. People can act like zombies though, like I said.
And I would continue: but you are alive and smart as a whip! You are no zombie! You are free to choose what to believe, but first of all what to do. God or no God, the essential question is what you do with your belief. Believing in yourself and the people around you will be a big first step.
Or something like that. My grandchildren are raised to be tolerant, rational people. I am lucky my children try to achieve this.