There are a lot of phony divine I.D.s out there.  You would need more than one enormous pantheon to house statues of history’s pretenders to the title of Deity, even if you left out the millions of gods worshipped by Hindus.  Buddha may not have claimed to be God, but the way he is revered one could be excused for thinking he did.  To stick with just Greek-Latin tradition, the list, to understate the fact, is long.

Judaism changed all that.  Our God, Yahweh, is One God; He, and He alone, who is.  Christianity naturally adopted and continued the same monotheism, with the essential nuance, unacceptable to believers in the two other expressions of belief in a single God, that God is One and Three.  That does not make four.  It makes the Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost (“the three men I admire most; they caught the last train to the coast, the day the music died”).

Most people consider monotheism an improvement on polytheism.  But it is just as incredible, absurd and unfounded.  Theologians, notably those of the Golden Age, the 13th century of the Dominican Aquinas and the Franciscan Bonaventure, wrote heavy tomes, copied, recopied and treasured until Gütenberg made them generally accessible, at least to those who could read Latin, with interminable discourses on the divine attributes.  It came down to the fact that we cannot state positively what God is like, but we sure as hell can tell you what He’s not.  A great help.

The trouble, of course, is that it did not occur to them that the only problem was that He didn’t and doesn’t exist.  They knew that some benighted idiots did not believe He existed, so they offered “proofs” that He did.  Anselm, before them, had gone so far as to say that the fact that we can conceive of a Godhead is evidence, per se, that it exists.  Thomas’ Five “Proofs” are not much better, but they were enough, for the last seven centuries, to convince seminarians, including myself, who studied his “Summa Theologica”, that there could be no doubt that He who gave His name as “He who is”, is.

A 19th century, non-Catholic Archdeacon, William Paley, did his bit in bolstering belief in an Intelligent Designer, obviously without using the current expression, by his authoritative argument about finding a watch and KNOWING that it had to have been made by a watchmaker.  Watches do not just happen.  Q.E.D.  (Quite Enough : Deity !).

Darwin’s thesis should have definitively demolished all this, but for the vast majority, 80% of Americans for example, belief in God is still alive and well and not about to disappear.  We know why.  All of us need a comfort zone.  And Darwin makes many people feel uncomfortable.  Even his wife could not buy his invitation to remove the scales accumulated on human eyes for millennia.  But some of us, mirabile dictu, (“strange to say”), have learned to see.  Theologians still discuss what God is like.  It’s a bit like asking how much does Santa Claus weigh, how long is his beard, and how does he manage to produce all those toys (the secret being, of course, delocalization of production lines in countries where labor, especially elves’, is cheap).  The rest of us have more serious problems on our hands.

RIDENDA      RELIGIO

 

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