“In God we trust.” “God bless America.” “So help me God.” God plays an important part in the life of most Americans. But this column is not about a real Creator. If you cannot accept the idea that there is a difference between a real God who we cannot know and the one we invented, I suggest that you don’t read any further. When Nietzsche proclaimed that “god is dead”, he was referring to the invented god; the topic of this column.
I believe we created our own version of god in our image and then projected that image onto an imaginary man who lives in another world. When we did this we took the sacred in ourselves and gave it to our invented god. As a result, we unconsciously disowned the sacredness in each other. In doing so, we gave responsibility for our morality to someone else. We made something natural into something supernatural.
This displacement allowed the birth of mythologies that in turn evolved into religions with all the many theologies that became irreconcilable. This irreconcilability has caused more suffering than any other human invention. But make no mistake. It is a human invention. Let me repeat that: our theologies are human inventions and our differences as to who’s right and who’s wrong would be comical if they weren’t so painfully damaging to humanity.
In this simple act of displacement, we gave birth to inhumanity. We allowed evil to be justified on religious grounds. We allowed wars to be fought and millions of humans to be killed and maimed. We allowed uncomprehending, innocent children to starve to death. We allowed the degradation of our only home, planet Earth. We allowed personal greed and ambition to overpower the common good.
It has been claimed, “when god is dead, everything becomes sacred.” This god is the small invented god with human characteristics. I believe inhumanity becomes easier to comprehend when we really consider that claim. As long as the sacred is in someplace or someone else, we won’t see it in each other. As long as it remains in the supernatural, our constant arguments about whose god is the real and true god will go unresolved.
For if we recognized the sacred in each other, how could we tolerate the damage that we do to one another? If we treated each other with the reverence that we reserve for our invented god, what kind of world could we build?
Today, our country is in moral turmoil. Some call it a culture war. Whatever it is, it hides the real problem. We’re arguing about whose morality is the right one. Once again, that displacement of the sacred is the issue that fuels the arguments. Because our theologies and consequently our morality depends on displacing our sacredness onto an imaginary god. When we do this, we only continue to argue about whose moral positions are correct.
If you read this far, you might think I’m an atheist. I’m not. I’m an agnostic, I believe that a real God, if “It” exists, cannot be understood by humans. I believe neither atheist nor theist can prove their arguments. Neither can provide the evidence for their opinions. So the whole discourse only distracts us from what we really need to do. We need to see the sacred in others, nature, and ourselves. When we do this, we can begin to eliminate the misery within which far too many humans live. We can eliminate the judgment that allows us to see suffering and blame it on the victims. Regarding the existence of a real God, we’ll all find out for sure soon enough. In the meantime, we might reclaim responsibility for our own morality. We might quit arguing about whose holy book is true. In the process we might create a better world.