Wednesday, December 05, 2007

For an agnostic/atheist I seem to have had God on the mind a lot recently. Certainly I have a moment of religious weakness each year around this time, or a little later. If I happen to stumble across a Christmas carol concert on TV or radio (and, if I go to stay with my parents for the period then that probability becomes a near-certainty as my Dad, similarly irreligious, seems to enjoy them) then I tend to have the briefest, five-second flutter, in my stomach as the CofE gene that all English boys have tucked away in their genetic code tries to fire and persuade me that that is His voice. Fortunately, as you can prove the monster in the corner of the room is just a pile of clothes by turning the light on, the holy terror never lasts. There are no atheists in foxholes though, and seventy-two hours without sleep makes a desperate man say foolish things, as I found earlier this year.

Anyways, I've just finished Towing Jehovah by James Morrow. God's dead body has been found in the Atlantic, a disgraced former oil-tanker skipper has to command a crew and see the huge corpse safely transported to it's Arctic tomb before radical atheists, the Catholic Church or just the development of a post-Deus morality can destroy it. It's both a funny and thought-provoking book, though I'm a bit annoyed that, yet again, there is the suggestion that belief in a higher power is necessary for good behaviour, and this comes from a humanist author. When are we going to have the good guy who is explicitly a non-believer?

Towards the end of the book, there is a discussion about God's motives for suicide. One character suggests that, looking down on His creation, God sees Himself as a block on humanity's progress, the Stern Father stopping his children from becoming adults, His death acting to confirm that He existed then forcing humanity to stand up for itself. It's a point of view that I have some sympathy for, I've felt that all the nonsense I was taught as a child about how God would love to come down to Earth on a cloud and tell us to stop being beastly to one another but gave us free will so feels obliged to stay away and let us make our own mistakes is a big pile of guff, and that He qualifies as the biggest Deadbeat Dad in all of creation, unworthy of our praise. By chance I had an idea for a story last week, before I started reading this book, which is the opposite of that philosophical point, and ends with, effectively, God rerunning creation and staying alongside humanity, not in any metaphorical way, or the way that some Christians insist "God is always with me, inside " but in a real and direct way, corporeal and present. The difficulty I have is that I've no idea how to direct the story to this conclusion and, as I'm much more in favour of the parent standing aside rather than towering over his children watching what they do, it's beyond my meagre storytelling powers to think of how to argue the point convincingly.

Anyway, I'm off to read In God we Doubt: Confessions of a Failed Atheist by grumpy morning microphone botherer John Humphrys.

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