Friday, March 31, 2017

God & The Devil: The Anthropomorphisis of Abstractions

God and the Devil are ideas that work like training wheels on our understanding, by allowing us to reduce vague abstractions to personifications. Like Santa Clause who lives in the North Pole and the Bogey Man who hides under our bed or in our closet, we characterize our abstract hopes and fears about life and death, and good and evil, in terms that very much look like exaggerated personifications of ourselves. And in the same way religion convinces us we must subscribe to its stories to have any hope or find any meaning in life, so it has convinced us that we must believe these personifications are actual "beings," so that we will continually run to it for every problem under the sun.

 We rely on such personifications because it's a hell of a lot easier for us to think of a friend or an enemy named Dick or Jane, than it is to think about disembodied abstractions about everything we hope and fear. By personifying such abstract ideas into humanistic form, we "anthropomorphize" them from mere ideas into actual "beings" that we can either depend on or oppose and overcome.

As it say sin Ephesians 6:12: 

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

But notice that the descriptions in this passage all relate to "forces" in ways that are all too familiar to our human condition, including "rulers," "authorities," and "cosmic powers." Humanity, in these terms, can see itself as defenders of the galaxy, by opposing those forces that operate in exactly the kinds of terms that any human being can understand, no matter how intelligent or unintelligent a person may be. 

These forces are infinitely more clever and complex than we are, by the way, if for no other reason than that they have been around since the beginning of time. Just imagine how smart you'd be if you'd been around since the beginning of time, and we are merely human beings. But despite their superiority to us, they have nothing better to do than fret about us and us alone. 

More than that, however, the "cosmic powers" and "spiritual forces in heavenly places" that the Bible wants us to believe in, are far more than we could ever hope to be. One is an Omnipotent, omniscient, God, who is eternal and infinite in every way, and who is therefore infinitely more superior to humanity or any artificial intelligence we could ever hope to design. The other is God's arch nemesis Satan,  a devilish rascal responsible for all of the evil that has ever befallen mankind, and who indeed seems a far better strategist at luring souls to hell than God is at seducing them with the pleasures of heaven. (God, it should be noted, is apparently indifferent to the suffering of animals, of course, especially at the hands of that superior class of species who may just happen to be reading this.)  

 Yet none of this ever causes the "believer" to doubt that anyone, no matter how addled in their thinking they may be, can understand such complex "beings" as easily as they can understand right from wrong, regardless of how superior in intelligence and opposite in physical composition such "beings" may be from ourselves. How ironic, then, that the same people who claim to know so very much about such "beings" who are so very different from ourselves, and with near infallible certainly at that, have such difficulty understanding their own spouses or family, their own friends and even fellow "believers," or even other members of their same human species, with whom they so often violently disagree over the most trivial of differences. 

 None of this ever suggests to the true "believer" that God and the Devil are only as clever as we are, because they are only projections of ourselves, and our hopes and fears, in spiritual forms. It does not occur to the Christian or the Muslim, that we are the demons and the angles, who see others as "devils" out to prevent us from aspiring to be like God.  God and the Devil, in other words, are simply an incorporation of the holy "us" and the evil "them."

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