Did you know that God was on trial? Not the one he’s been on for years in my head but the one that occurred in a more corporeal realm this Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 7-9 p.m. in Rackham Auditorium. The time was within my schedule, the price of free was within my range and the topic is always relevant so I made the adventurous trek.
The first night’s discussion dealt with the existence of God and why that question is important. The speaker, while very eloquent, gave the philosophical arguments heard by those who have ever partaken in the goodness that is a philosophy course. Then the really sexy part of the discussion came – the question and answer. The questions ranged from obscure Steven Hawking negative universe theories, to pertinent questions of everyday existence. The closest question to the one I didn’t get to ask from the line was about the purpose of life and the entire paradox of God. The lecturer agreed with the basic givens of God. If there was a God, he would be all knowing, all-powerful and perhaps all-good. He also said God would have created life for the creations to enjoy it. So why would or how could an all-knowing God punish someone for sins they commit when their path is immutable? With the acceptance of God, as he is defined one also accepts the view that their life is all but determined. Maybe statements of “That’s the way God wanted it to be” have incensed you as much as they have me. Although I may not know the plan would have, if there were one it leaves little reason to be alive. There is little purpose to live a fatalistic life.
If one juxtaposes fate with the quaint notion of free will then you believe that one can act in a way that will surprise God? Pretty vain thought. So I asked Dr. William Lane Craig this. He explained with a pretty good analogy that God is a perfect barometer, he or she can tell you the weather but God doesn’t directly affect the weather, whereas the sun, clouds, rain and such actually determine the weather. Good analogy, or so I thought until that pesky free thought started to seep in.
Cut to Tuesday’s lecture where the topic was secularism and pluralistic truth or religion’s role in society. His lecture was quality and all but the question and answer is what I paid the big money for. The questions were fairly intelligent with the highlight being the Muslim student who tried to point out the divisiveness that is inherent in Christianity. Hmmm, is that a fight you really want to get into? There are so many inconsistencies within any religion that the only time they can unite is to fight another religion. The speaker easily dismantled the student’s argument. During their discourse the tension of Muslim v. Christian became palpable. One mental giant proceeded to yell “Amen!” in conjunction with a retort from the speaker. And that’s when I remembered that religious people scare me.
I was at an event sponsored by a myriad of Ann Arbor churches and University Christian groups. Visions of excommunication and fatwas passed through my head. I realized the error in holding a philosophical trial of God where the judge and jury are all Christian. God will get off with apologies from the court. I realized the question and answer session, while very scholarly, was tantamount to asking your heathen question, get your holy answer and move on. Without question, I appreciate the organization, effort and progressive thinking that went into this event and this was one of the most intellectual ways I have seen religion discussed. However, I did not attend the forum to be proselytized, and without a strong counter presence the mood inevitably shifts to this direction.
At the end of the second night I asked this speaker my question from the previous night. Why be punished for a path I can’t alter? I told him the barometer analogy but this time I said that God is the perfect barometer that can predict and control the weather. So if he can’t be surprised, why give life? He said it comes down to two things: Either man is something totally differently or God is not all-knowing. A powerful being with that is not all-knowing: I know him – he’s the president, and that thought was even more disturbing. Maybe the only answer is that there is none and that the purpose is to enjoy it and live. I skipped Wednesday’s lecture. Too much thinking, I should go pray.
Rahim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.