unidentified flying opinions

Der gefesselte Prometheus, painted by Jacob Jordaens (1593–1678)Do I believe in Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs)? It depends what you mean by "believe in". I strongly believe that some objects fly, and that some flying objects have not yet been identified.

If "believe in" means "worship" or "obey", then no -- I don't believe in UFOs. And when I do my believing, I am not in a UFO. Nor do I need to be -- I can do my believing just as well inside as outside a UFO.

Do I believe in a god? It depends what you mean by "believe in". I don't worship anything, let alone a god. But if I were forced to adopt a god, and if I had any choice in the matter, I would choose one that doesn't require worship or obedience. I would choose one who is not wrathful and vindictive.

I wouldn't, for example, choose Zeus, who condemned the immortal titan Prometheus to be chained to a rock while an eagle pecks at his liver for all eternity (as depicted in the Jordaens painting above). Prometheus' "crime" was to provide humankind with the gift of fire.

Nor would I choose Jehovah, who turns people into pillars of salt for no good reason; who sends his angel of death to kill the first-born sons of the ancient Egyptians for the crimes committed by one man, the Pharoah.

Nor would I choose Jesus, who "withers" a fig tree that fails to produce fruit on demand, out of season. Allowing a tree to make you lose your temper? Talk about anger management issues.

So, do I believe in a god? I'm willing to admit that when I do my believing, I am inside a god. One known by many different names including "Reality", "Everything" and "Al" (or "All" if you prefer). In fact, I'm never outside of a god come to think of it.

"Do you believe in God?" is a stupid question. It's stupid in the trivial hair-splitting sense that equates the word "in" with the word "inside". So that the question becomes "When you do your believing, are you inside God?". But it is also stupid in a more significant sense related to the meaning of words, and the differences between the sign, the signified and the signifier.

If you were to ask an ancient Greek, "do you believe in an entity called Zeus who hurls thunderbolts?" the reply would be in the affirmative. If you were to ask that same question of a Christian, the reply would be in the negative. If you were to ask a Hindu, "Do you believe in an old man with a long white beard who made the universe and everything in it?" the reply would be, "of course not".

"Do you believe in God?" is a stupid question. "Do you believe that God [insert attribute]?" is a more productive question because it at least enables a discussion on what the attributes of God may or may not be. Another example of the ship of meaning crashing into the rocks of language.


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Karen said...

If I were the Sistine Chapel I would say, "An old man with a long white beard made the Universe and everything in it."

masterymistery said...

Karen, alternatively, feeling inspired by the Sistine Chapel, the Universe made the old man and everything in it! Huh? Thanks for stopping by, cheers, MM

Karen said...

Actually, Michaelangelo made the old man and everything on the ceiling?

masterymistery said...

Karen, The old men with long white beards tend to stick together!