For the consideration of both believers and unbelievers alike, my most recent post raised a personal question – do you have need for God? – that sparked an interesting exchange of views on the subject in a newspaper where it was also published. Although there were many fair comments on both ‘sides’, 30% of the religious people and 25% of the atheist ones used scathing phrases to refer to their ‘opponents’.
“Any hybrid blend can come out from a hypocritical man who claims to believe in a God simply because he lacks any level of self-confidence,” wrote a non believer. Faithful to Jesus (“He who is not with me is against me” Luke 11:23), various religious readers labeled this writer as atheist. “So much nonsense that you write now will soon be history … While God will live forever,” said a fervent reader.
The reciprocal question comes to my mind now, as a complementary subject: Does God need us? To answer this we must turn to the sacred texts that, by definition, are divinely inspired: The Torah, the Gospels and the Koran clearly describe a Higher Being that demands allegiance and exclusivity of their faithful, that is, He seems to need us.
“I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before me. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God,” says the Lord in Exodus 20. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,” Jesus commands in Matthew 22:37. “Truly it is only associating others with Allah in His divinity that Allah does not forgive; he who associates others with Allah has certainly gone far astray”, establishes Sura An-Nisa 4:116.
For Judaism, the Torah contains the divine revelation to the people of Israel; for Catholicism, “Sacred Scripture is the word of God as it is put down in writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit” (Paul VI); for Islam, the Quran is the word of Allah revealed to Muhammad through Archangel Gabriel.
Unlike the sacred books of monotheistic religions, the teachings of the Buddha are not of heavenly origin. The discourses of the Sage were preserved by oral transmission through thousands of monks over four centuries, with a reasonable degree of reliability, until when they were first written in monasteries of what is now Sri Lanka.
There are no gods in the teachings. References to deities who appear in the original discourses are allegories ‘borrowed’ from Hinduism. In his purpose to eliminating anxiety and stress, the only goal of his doctrine, the Buddha was agnostic millennia before that word was coined. The thought of the Buddha has been the ‘inspiration’ of my agnosticism.
We, agnostics, do not know whether the omnipresence and eternity of an Almighty Being are true or not; God may well exist or not exist, depending on how you define the word. Despite such duality, my answer to the question of this note is negative. The God that the sacred texts of the monotheistic religions describe, a God who punishes and rewards, and that demands worship and homage, is meaningless for any unbiased mind, whether religious or not; since such a god does not exist, there is no entity to need us.
An alternate approximation – God as the Supreme principle of which all laws depend on – has a growing acceptance in the contemporary world. The yet unfinished theory of everything, whose math I doubt scientific geniuses will ever be able to complete, is the preamble of this different ‘unmythological’ interpretation.
The super-theory of everything – the eternal and omnipresent Principle that, according to Einstein, “does not play dice” – must contain all the math (most likely unreachable to the human brain) that would explain the hundred billion galaxies, the Milky Way, the Solar System, Earth, life, the evolution of species and consciousness. Of course, this ‘God’, the permanent macro and micro ruler of everything, does not demand devotion or allegiance or adherence… And this principle, the silent doer and ruler of all law, obviously does not need us. Nevertheless, it is impossible not to marvel at ‘Him’.
Atlanta, May 29, 2015