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Monday, February 16, 2009

When the World was Flat, God had it Easy.

Last month we began a discussion about when “Science meets Religion.” I was taken by the conversations that followed and continue to be inspired by your questions. The thought that presses on my mind is one Miriam presented, “When we allow Religion and Science to educate each other, they each evolve. If we allow ourselves to update our religious views based on our scientific learning, the toughest question remains, “What is God?” Thus, an essay:

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When the World was Flat, God had it Easy.

When the world was flat God had it easy. God could wake up just before sunrise, and have plenty of time to put a pot of coffee on to brew, before getting the sun started rising through the sky. Then He would take down the moon and stars and tuck them away until He needed them again the next night.

Next God would pour a nice big mug of coffee (organic shade grown of course. God has always advocated protecting the earth). God would sit down in His favorite celestial easy chair and read the paper. God needed to keep up with all the goings-on down on earth, but back when the world was flat there were not so many people, so it didn’t take too long.

God had given the people an instruction book, so they knew what was expected of them. He liked to call it the Good Book because it taught you how to be good. If the people obeyed the rules, God gave them rain in its season, autumn and spring, so their crops would grow. But when they did not obey the rules there was pestilence, drought, blight, bareness and whole host of retributions.

Some people complained that God lacked patience. For example, back in Noah’s day, God got so fed up with everyone’s mishagas that He decided to flood the entire world. But word on the street was that God was so annoyed when He got the water bill that He promised never to flood the world again. From that point forward God stuck to more available (read: inexpensive) punishments such as locust and frogs.

It’s not that God wasn't reasonable. When God got word about what was going on in Soddom and Gemorrah, he decided to destroy the whole place. But Abraham convinced him to hold off if there were 10 righteous people. Which there wasn’t. So he torched the place.

My point is, back then you knew what was expected of you. Only to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. And 613 other dos and don’ts.

Life could have remained simple if Ferdinand Magellan had sailed off the end of the earth. But once he proved the earth was spherical by sailing around it, all sorts of things feel apart for God. Before you knew it, earth ceased to be the center of the universe, the earth eastward rotation took on responsibility for the sun rise, and all sorts of thing that used to be the domain of God were outsourced.

Soon draught was caused by climatic fluctuation, sickness was created by genetic mutation, ice storms were due to a layer of warm air being trapped between two layers of cold air, and the common cold was inflicted by touching infected shopping carts handles.

Soon there was little left for God to do, so he moved south to Florida, bought a condo in Century Village and now spends His days playing golf and catching early bird dinner specials. (Sometimes he takes half his portion home to have for lunch the next day. It’s a lot of work to cook for one.)

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When we did not understand how the world worked, we committed these functions to the realm of God. But as we have come to understand the natural workings of our universe of our world, we must rethink, “What is God?”

While it made sense for our ancestors to believe in a God that causes rain, snow, and fertility, what makes sense to us?

Does God begin where science ends? Meaning science explains the creation of the universe with the big bang, but what or who set the big bang in motion?

Or are science and religion layers of the same experience, one that educates the other? For example, science can explain the enhanced red and orange colors at sunrise and sunset with the mathematically explanation of the Mie Solution or the discrete dipole approximation. At the same time religion can help express the sense of awe we experience and provide us with ritual and community in which to place the experience.

What happens when science and religion meet is an intriguing and ongoing conversation. Let’s continue to explore it together.

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