Religion 101: God as Superhero, & a Case of Species Exceptionalism to go, please…

American Exceptionalism? Meh, I’ll pass on that, sounds like a weak concept from the get-go, the definition of ‘American’ subject to the shifting southwestern sands of borders and politics and vaguely articulated definitions… to say nothing of the continents from which we ALL came: Asia, Europe, and Africa. But ‘species exceptionalism’? I’ll buy that. We are certainly exceptional, for better or worse, all contradictions considered…

We are the love monkeys, we are the hate monkeys, we are the smart monkeys, we are the stupid monkeys, we are the happy monkeys, we are the sad monkeys, we are the f*ck monkeys, we are the abstinence monkeys, we are the drunk monkeys, we are the abstinence monkeys, we are the drug monkeys, we are the sober monkeys, we are the music monkeys, we are the sober monkeys, etc…

Cut the DNA deck, re-shuffle, and the results would likely never be the same—humanity. Re-arrange the continents and it would’ve all been different. Out of nowhere comes a butterfly to flutter by and there goes the neighborhood—pure chaos. Cue Mandelbrot. This is something routinely overlooked in almost all discussions of extra-terrestrial life: the odds of intelligent life on THIS planet are infinitesimally small, yet—here we are. Cue Darwin.

Some—no, MANY—people sense a ‘master plan’ to all this, and some—no, MANY—postulate a ‘Creator’ behind it all, pulling the strings and clipping our wings as clipping and pulling seem appropriate, tweaking the meds and trimming the threads, as if ‘by design’. All that’s cool, as long as we know that metaphors are just metaphors, incapable of really capturing the essence of the divine, and are approximations at best, you can guess the rest, much like science…

I prefer to leave all anthropomorphisms behind, hopefully, as they tend to posit some Superman at the helm of our collective species, which not only relieves us of individual responsibility—not good—but just aren’t likely accurate. I f*ck*ng love science, too, and prefer to make it explicit that superstition and fantasy are not at the heart of religion. And that science and religion are not mutually exclusive…

The most obvious anthropomorphisms are depictions of God as the white-haired Father, with angry scowl and lightning bolt in hand, or God the son with puppy-dog sighs and bedroom eyes turned upwards, long locks flowing over well-turned head and shoulders, attempting—and failing—to give the lie to our collective tribal animistic animalistic roots…

But the idea of a ‘Creator’ or ‘intelligent design’ are still anthropomorphisms, albeit with better dental habits and bathroom skills than the old white-haired guy, more like Superman with book in hand; forget the thunderbolts. But is this necessary? Let’s be clear: God is not a person—Father or Son. On the one hand those are metaphors and convenient approximations for the sake of convenience—cool. On the other hand that is an insult to any concept of true divinity, and is human hubris to a pathetic extreme—oops.

The impossibility of depicting divinity is a good reason to forego depictions altogether—as does Islam. Prayer does not require it. Neither does meditation. But many people do, and those romantic pics of JC gazing lovingly upward certainly fit the passion-based nature of Christianity. And the various interpretations of the Buddha-image, fat and sassy for the Chinese, lithe and androgynous for the Thais, certainly don’t seem out-of-place in the family-based patriarchies and ancestor-worship that form the basis of belief systems over there.

But it’s no accident that Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad all came along when they did, from the mid-millenniums prior to and after 0 C.E. This was that crucial period in our collective species’ (‘special’) history, when we still had memories of our tribal ‘primitive’ pasts, yet were rapidly transforming into the citified sedentary lifestyles that now define us. I don’t think that is any accident. Jesus’ healing methods clearly had elements of shamanism, and his teachings a raw poetic genius, while Buddha was the more scholarly philosopher, and Muhammad combined elements of both…

And yet here we are again, at another critical juncture of history, with memories of a common past quickly fading and a future that is almost unimaginable. Once again, like the famous ‘generation gap’ of the 1960’s, grandparents and grand-kids can barely communicate, not so much because of any mistrust, but because their worlds are simply so vastly different. Cue Zuckerberg…

Religion is like marriage: it’s not a perfect system, but… with some patience, dedication and perseverance, there are plenty of rewards to be reaped, depending on what you sow, of course. The dogma and doctrines are the minutiae of religion, and not always crucial to grasping its heart and soul. To a very real extent, for me at least, they are all part and parcel of one overriding uber-dimensional super-religion—including Science—that reveals all, bit by bit. And that beats Superman any day. But can you dance to it? You can do more than that. It’s an acquired taste.

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