Sooner or later the question of God raises its troubling head for most of us. Does he exist or doesn’t he? Or has he died, as Nietzsche postulated? And if he exists, where exactly does he? In the old days, one could, as Browning did, aver “in his Heaven,” i.e., in the sky. But nowadays, as we have crisscrossed the heavens in any number of directions, either in person or by NASA contraptions, even photographed Mars from up close, we would have been likely to bump into him if he existed, and wasted our time looking for him if he didn’t..
Atheists have some potent arguments for his nonexistence. All-merciful his believers declare him, but could even a moderately merciful God have condoned the Holocaust? Could all those Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals deserve it all? Among those millions of victims, would there not have been some innocent ones?
Forget about all-merciful, but how about at least communicative? If only there were some consistency about his nature, never mind unanimity. Let us assume that there are or were three hundred different religions, including varieties among Christians, should there not still be some, if only unintentional, overlapping or coinciding? The portrayal by Renaissance or Byzantine artists would have us believe in a white-haired, bearded, patriarchal, enthroned figure, but that version has by now been sufficiently ridiculed and scuttled. And why if he had talked to some believers in biblical times, would he have stopped to even though need for his guidance has nowise decreased? Or could there have been a first and a second God, equitably one for each Testament, one conversational and one not?
The Virgin Mary has made some appearances—admittedly in out-of-the-way venues and mostly to children--but from God the father or son Jesus there is not even that much. From Jesus, only a shroud, and that, like all relics, uncertifiable. Personally, I have more sympathy for (as opposed to belief in) the Greco-Roman polytheist divinities, whose myths have charm and even some humor, scant if not unheard ot commodities in monasteries and convents. Excepting the vagantes, the wandering, drinking and wenching monks, also making up songs like the Carmina Burana.
What I find especially baffling is the belief of even intellectuals in an afterlife, as when, for instance, Bill Buckley, my onetime boss, declared that if he did not believe in someday rejoining his predeceased wife, he could not go on. I am not sure whether that meant suicide, disallowed by his Christianity, or total collapse. Nancy Regan, smart but admittedly no intellectual, was identically confident of reunion in Heaven with her Ronald. I am sure that one could easily find similar convictions in any number of artists, sages, even scientists and, apparently, Republicans--Buckley, Regan, etc. Yet not even the innards of the earth, despite volcanic emissions, would have enough space to accommodate the remains of all the sinners who have trodden its surface. The other, upper place for the righteous would have fewer dwellers, but even it, since time immemorial, would have ended up overflowing.
There are some who try to validate the Scriptures by arguing that most of them are to be understood as symbolic rather than realistic. But what can symbols do if there are no verities for them to symbolize? Because there are such things, say, as good marriages, we can believe that a tale of unending love can symbolize something potential. But how do you symbolize something that exists exclusively as a concept?
Yet just because there have been, and still are, saintly people around, to conclude from that that their God exists, is a leap of faith of fantastic proportions. Mother Teresas are one thing, evidence of God the Father quite another. Can the dragging to Hell of Don Juan or Giovanni at his death by emerging demons be credited just because a genius composer has envisioned it?
Now, can a God who is supposedly all-seeing and all-hearing of billions of mortals--masses of them simultaneously praying--no matter how divine he is, manage such ubiquity and undivided attention? It does not make sense, and without sense there is chaos—surely not a good thing and not created by God. In fact, how the universe was created, and how it evolved, does remain incomprehensible, especially given such illogical diversity and glaring inconsistencies.
That is the one great mystery, and calling it God or any other complaisant name does not make it any less mysterious. The Apostle Paul was shrewd. The wary Greeks, to keep themselves covered, maintained a shrine to the Unknown God, and Paul simply proclaimed him the Christian God for whom he was proselytizing. And when you come down to it, God is a flexible concept, and all Gods are really unknown, whether they exist or not.