A note to any potential readers – this is going to seem like absolute nonsense of the highest order. This post is a picture in my head from a very high level, on how I wish to view the use of god and the way we have moved forward as a species – so if you fancy something wittier, something about my travels or something that isn’t total conjecture from a 24 year old wanderer who used to work in IT, then I’d recommend moving on.
If you find you’re interested in my nonsensical ramblings, step this way…
It is my belief that man had created God, and not the other way round. It is also my belief that we did so subconsciously, and we did so for a number of curious reasons.
The first was one of understanding. We created the divine, and the idea of gods and beings beyond us to explain the stars, the mountains and the oceans. We did it to define the wind, to find reason when nature threw us under the waves, and we used it to bless our lands and hunts for progress.
The second was out of a desire for power and control. Many in power could use the idea of religion and god as a placeholder for their own power and wealth, and utilise the first point as a mechanism for their own power and ascension in society. This is probably the point many modern day atheists raise when discussing religion as a bad thing. By modern atheist I mean a wide selection of people who have an issue with religion for historical reasons, and not the fedora tipping asshats on the internet making a damn fool of themselves.
The third point is the one I have recently discovered to be an interesting phenomena, one that matches certain trends in recent history that explains a great deal. The third is use of divinity to define a higher purpose of man, in order to excel and drive mankind into the future, not by technology (reason doesn’t factor in belief much) but by morality, beauty and the pursuit of better living.
For mankind, God is a pedestal. God is a being that defined and created our world, and defines and creates a way of life. God is the arbiter of life, of law, of justice and of that which mankind has descended from. It represents, in the eyes of an otherwise uncaring universe, the rule of law, and the rule of justice. What you do today will have a consequence, and what that consequence is has been designed and created by mankind via the use of God, Gods, heaven, hell and all sorts.
But divinity has also been used to represent high ideals of people at the time. Ideals such as freedom, equality, and, OK, historical ones that don’t really measure up any more. But the land of God, and paradise, and heaven, has existed to present to the leaders and the people of a given society, a promised land to head towards. A land which represents the true “freedom” of people at the time.
God represents the success, the promise, but also the failures of a given culture and time. These failures will build up in a given society as inequality, unrest and discovery expand into the domains established by church, state and religion. That last point is absolutely vital to understanding the modern day, and the recent history we live in.
In this capacity, God is a creature borne from Man’s desire to achieve more with itself. It is also used as a point of rebellion. God, representing all there is in a philosophical manner, also begins to represent injustice, intolerance and regressive thinking. As mankind has grown, as its understanding has grown, God has yielded more and more ground to humanity and its thinkers and leaders. And as it does so, the issues with a society are held alongside God.
Not explicitly, mind you – Its simply that Man’s own vision of the future begins to overtake those established via religious ideas. And by that notion, I mean that Man begins to define for itself its own responsibilities and mantle without the assistance of a deity to absorb the responsibility.
God is a placeholder for the dignity and responsibility that mankind, in its infancy, is unable to define for itself in the face of a cruel, harsh and difficult land and universe.
And in that moment, mankind desires to strike down God and replace him with something new – something borne of a desire to change the nature of mankind and bring a new dignity into the world. A new promised land, if you will, to be built on the ashes of the old world once the deities representing old fashioned ways are cast aside.
Mankind has always pursued solace and a place of safety – both in terms of physical needs and in terms of spiritual. A person cannot constantly be confronted with phenomena they do not understand and expect to respond rationally to it. Neither can a person adopt the scientific method and determine, quickly, what that phenomenon in nature is.
So the main defence mechanism is define it as something beyond mankind’s scope, and in that area it becomes a part of the realm of God. If God owns it, and controls it, then God is a sentient entity that desires worship, in order to appease its nature and hope the phenomena avoids placing its wrath upon a person.
As others observe this behaviour, and the understanding grows, God is effectively “Killed” and replaced with human understanding. This is not an explicit casting down of a deity – God simply shifts and moves towards other, less explained phenomena. And considering the scale of the universe (and we do not know if that is all there is or if something else exists beyond the borders of what we believe to be all we know), God will inherently play a part of people’s lives.
The form of this God (or gods) will change but the purpose will remain the same – to exist in a gap of understanding where there is none, to allow a person to sleep at night.
Of course, you aren’t seeing textbooks in physics appearing saying “Black Holes – we don’t know, So we asked God!”. Instead we have theories, and ideas, and possibilities. We also are far more willing to say “We haven’t got any damn idea”. Today, we are a lot more comfortable with the unknown than we were previously.
Is this because the unknown is definitively “Out There” and not immediately a threat or danger to us today? Are we now wiser, and do not require a spiritual replacement to fulfil that space that worries us?
Or, does it tie into what happened in the last 300 years? Where we killed God via politics and history, in the name of a better way of living?
A strange point, but God is not just a notion of pure science and explanation. God also represented justice, morality and the living standard for many years across almost every institution.
Again, I am using the word “God” to represent every deity, because its easier for a kid raised in a christian country to write about it in that sense than to constantly refer to every single damn God out there. So, for all you fundamentalist pagans about to rag on me, you’ve been told.
We int the west destroyed God as a political force in the 18th Century, during the French revolution. The UK attempted to do so when we beheaded a King in the 17th Century. The US removed God from power when it aimed for a republic. The Soviet Union cast down God in a bloody revolution. Nazi Germany attempted to rebuild themselves and their nation in the image of Gods.
When we removed the divine right of Kings, when we removed the Gods from our world of leadership and moral principles, we began to replace him with our own ideals and adopt our own responsibility. It is an ongoing act of rebellion, one which has provided its blessings, but also some of the worst violence we have ever seen as a species.
We rebelled against God, and in its place built revolutions which fed themselves a cycle of despair and violence. We also re-discovered democracy and rule of law away from kings – so its been a bit of a zig zag.
The French Revolution experienced The Terror, where thousands fell under the guillotine to preserve the revolution and the spirit of it, and to cast down the kings and queens and their perceived injustices. The Russians created secret police and enforced industrialisation, aiming to continue the revolution by relentlessly rebelling and finding further injustices to persecute – killing their own people in the process.
The Nazis did the same, only aiming at specific racial groups and finding them unfit in their new Paradise, and decided to employ modern industry to commit the worst acts of barbarism yet seen on this Earth.
In the West, revolution has been averted mostly, simply by adopting some of the reforms that came about in the wake of other events. People mass rising and destroying their gods and kings did not occur – and as such, remained stable and avoided descents into authoritarianism.
These are just some examples, but a re-occurring theme appears throughout the last 200 years – the attempt to replace the divine and the City of God with one of our own creation. It is an ongoing act of rebellion against God and the old establishments, one that continues in the west, in one capacity or another.
Revolution is the act that has defined the 20th Century. From Russia to Cambodia, to even the Arab Springs in the 21st Century, revolution and revolt against perceived injustice is in the air.
What to replace it with though, is often where these rebellions fall and become not the Kingdom of Heaven as promised by a revolution, but the misery and terror of the leaders with something far worse than what was there before.
So why does that occur? These high ideals, raised aloft by leaders of a frustrated people, lost to low methods and self enforced misery? Why did the Gulag and the Guillotine come do define the idealistic regimes of two separate nations, after removing the Mandate of Kings to rule by Divinity?
Was it that in our rage against an injustice, one which we wished to build a new future on, we decided to legalise murder, and use murder as an instrument of our liberation?
If that was the case, that’s why these revolutions failed. When you forget all else in human existence, when the end of your enemy is considered the beginning of new future, then all that can be is murder. This means that instead of Heaven in God’s absence, we deliver Hell on Earth.
Trump gaining the popularity, the victory of Brexit, Greeks “Oxi” moment to the EU….these are symbols of a time where unrest and rebellious sentiment is brewing. But it isn’t done out of logic, but out of frustration that man has been humiliated and wishes to restore dignity. Or, even more primal than that, people are simply raging against a machine via any mechanism they can.
Many will seek to capture this enthusiasm in order to further their own ends. Which will only fuel a desire for change. This force can be one of incredible good if used correctly.
When man adopts a responsibility for its own nature, for its own morality and its own future, it transcends what it once was. So long as it replaces God, or at least the representation of authority and responsibility, with something that belongs to themselves, then transcendence is inevitable. This happens both on a personal and societal level.
Just look at the moon landings for proof, or the development of the human genome, or the works of Shakespeare, or Beethoven. In fact any great achievement or act throughout history has been through the adoption of responsibility on the shoulders of people and society, instead of resting them on God’s authority. When we either remove God or define him such that ourselves are to be the ones driving us forward, we achieve great things.
And by God, I can mean anything. Anything that represses our instincts, our failures; God can represent not only authority, but the reason for our failures. When we outsource those failures as people, we give up on our responsibility, and end up making mistakes, and not chasing the things that truly matter in our hearts.
So long as we have an excuse, people can continue to fail to do the things that, often, they know they should do, or act upon. God has historically allowed this to happen, and today, other things and other deities take this mantle.
So what happens when we slay this beast? What do we replace them with, and why do we cast it aside?
I often feel people do so out of frustration, and out of disgust at what they’ve become, or made to become. On a societal level, we become angry at authority and figures of authority when our dignity is robbed and we feel injustice has taken root and become law. So we become angry, and aim to fight this with revolution. This has happened historically, and continues to happen today.
When we kill God in the name of injustice and inequality and fail to build anything else in its wake, we become entrenched in our own hatred. Often, the cause is forgotten and only the act of violent revolt is remembered. If there is a victory, it will continue to sustain its own existence via a permanent state of revolution, and aim to purge any remnant of the former representation of injustice.
This is seen most predominantly in communist states throughout the 20th Century. This was also seen in certain countries during the Arab Spring, as certain groups took control and started to impose their own control and forget the cause of rebellion in the first place. It has to – because to allow the cause to be remembered jeopardises the power of those who “won” the revolution. When violence is employed, the murderers who overthrow tyrants must also be thrown into the spotlight. If they are legitimised into power via direct violence, then direct violence, in effect, becomes justified.
This is what I fear in the next few years. The world is only going to get more unstable. As inequality surges, countries start looking inwards and the likes of Trump are allowed to gain traction, people will start to revolt. And when they see the option for change, its up to us to make sure that when we kill God, or whatever authority hangs over our head, that we build something worthwhile in its place.
Because its all to easy to see the world in black and white, and see a promised land by purging injustice. But we cannot lose ourselves down this road. Injustice may be solved by law and punishment, but a civilisation where people live cannot be built on a mountain of prisons or graves.
To avert this, we have to look at what else casting down God allows us. We have to remember the dignity of humanity, that co-operation that allows us to build Pyramids and cities and works of art. We have to remember that when we revolt, we don’t just want to tear the old world down. We need to build one again, in our own image, far removed from the troubled times and aiming for something greater.
To do so we’ll need those things in life many of us feel are superfluous. We’ll need poetry, and art, and science. We’ll need those who bring colour and imagination into the world, because we cannot just use history and precedent to built the future – we’ll just keep imitating the past in different ways.
No, the future, if we are to improve it for ourselves and our descendants, needs to built on something better than anger and frustration. It needs hope, it needs love, and it needs compassion, alongside that of justice, and alongside that desire for something greater.
God will continue to retreat as man steps forward and does its thing. And when society and life comes to a crossroads and encourages resentment and anger, we’ll need to build ourselves a better place. But it cannot be through violence.
Before us lies a future, one we need to build and take care of. It is up to us to decide how that future should pan out.
We should learn the lessons of history, take our ingenuity and creativity, and build something better. We can build something better, something brighter, more knowledgeable and more beautiful than what came before. The universe is there, to be learned, to be explored. The scale of the thing is so vast and incomprehensible it will be a long time before we can ever claim to know it, so lets continue that process.
I believe we should continue to push the boundaries of what we know so that we can better understand ourselves, and from that understanding, make our lives better for ourselves.
We’ll figure it out. And as we do, we’ll have little excuse to require gods or kings to shield us from our failures.We are all responsible for our future.
If you enjoyed this kind of thinking and writing let me know. It’s way up in the sky thinking but its something that’s been stoked due to reading a little bit of Albert Camus. I love thinking about things like this, and seldom publish my thoughts on subjects like this, so if ain’t up to much, I’d like it skewered so I can direct my attention elsewhere.