My Hamster Created Freddie Starr
A week ago a debate was raging in The Guardian about Intelligent Design. No, nothing to do with the paper's new format but the ongoing conflict between Creationists and Darwinists.
But what caught my eye was this from a letter from a Rev. Alec Mitchell:
"......A further moment's theological reflection might suggest that God is not really best conceived of as an "entity" at all, but is possibly much more akin to those evolutionary processes, continuously at work throughout all creation. As Heidegger might have put it, not "a" being, but being itself."
It seems to me that there's no more reason to label the process of evolution 'God' than the process by which beaten eggs and sugar become a meringue.
Of course, if it makes them happy people can choose to label anything 'God' - the 'Life Force', 'Love' or even 'Humour'. I think Peter Berger in his book 'A Rumour of Angels' cited humour as one of the things that differentiates us from animals and is therefore a gateway to spirituality. It isn't strictly true. Dogs have a very primitive sense of humour, just a few points down the scale from people who go to Jim Davidson shows. Yes, canine humour is mostly related to playing games, but millions of people used to laugh at The Generation Game on Saturday night television.
There was once a man on the Jerry Springer Show who regarded his hamster as God. For once, the frustrated cries of relatives "He worships that bloody hamster" were literally true. The hamster proved a disappointing guest because it just shuffled round the set sniffing the carpet and didn't launch itself at its owner screaming "All this time I thought you were a woman, you cheating, fucking white trash bitch."
But from an atheist perspective it was no more extraordinary than a man in a cassock producing a consecrated wafer of unleavened bread from his pocket and assuring Jerry Springer that it was literally the body of Jesus Christ.
The problem I have with labelling a process like evolution or an abstract like love 'God' is that I can't see what possible purpose it serves.
What intrigues me about the Guardian letter is that it's from a clergyman. It is proposing a form of pantheism, whereas Christianity is a deist religion, based on a personal God who is 'worshipped' and who can intervene in human affairs.
Christians who find themselves intellectually unable to accept the idea of a personal, creationist God but who still crave the comfort of religion are surely guilty of dishonesty. Do such clergymen tell their congregations that when they recite the Lord's Prayer they are doing no more than worshipping 'being itself'? Because if that is what they are doing they might as well don long, flowing robes and stand in a circle in the local woods at full moon.