By Michel-Camille Bordeau
I’ve never been entirely satisfied with radical views that reject the possibility that a higher entity ‘exists’ (stick with me, this is still a freethinking argument, I haven’t lost it… yet). Complete denial of such an important cultural creation as God is no less problematic than blind devotion to it. ‘How about God as a fig Newton of our imagination?’ My kid would ask. I couldn’t blame him: how about God as a re-presented, fictionalized entity?
It would be dishonest, shameful, and delusional to deny centuries of anthropological ‘evidence’ of the divine. If we respect Humanity and we work toward its steady survival, can we really ignore Goddesses and Gods, this incredibly rich, anthropo-cultural collage of paintings, writings, sculptures, songs, stories, impulses, etc.? Hardly.
This über-representation of the Divine is undeniably evident, tangible, visible, appreciable, even when it cannot provide existential proof of a breathing and living entity. The idea of god is as thick as a bible, as sturdy as a cathedral, as mind-soothing as a choir, as convoluted as a theological argument, as tragically gruesome as a Jesus nailed to a cross, again and again and again. Goodness that’s not purty and that’s got to hurt!
What’s the point of denying the rhetorical, symbolic, poetic, philosophical, architectural, proto-scientific, linguistic, in short, exoteric re-presentations of the Divine? We are surrounded by this über-depiction, we can’t pretend to be freethinkers and be blind to it.
To put it another way, I refuse to deny the artistic evidence of Tom Sawyer, Madame Bovary, Liz Bennet, Seshata, and Socrates; that would constitute too great a loss for our/my cultural understanding of Humanity. As a scriptotheist, I don’t see why I should ignore evidence of this über-represented Divine: ‘Theo’s ‘scripted’ representation.*
The more I know about how and why we have ‘fictionalize’ deities, the better I understand why God is a fiction that will never work for me.
Created gods and goddesses have stimulated and still stimulate our minds because they are music, words, images, shapes, and ideas clever humans have created to do just that: to tease our minds, or more precisely, to stimulate both spiritual impulse and religious impulse. These ’purty’ (aesthetically stimulating) creations can make us feel ‘purty’ inside (physiologically stimulated).
And that’s how the Buddhist will be in awe in front of Notre Dame, the Christian will admire the craftsmanship of a Mandala, and I, a scriptotheist, will admire the collective genius of the men and women who have work tirelessly to erect thousands of temples and other churches throughout the world.
But, I can be in a state of anthropological beatitude in front of a perfectly preserved, three thousand years old clay tablet of the Epic of Gilgamesh, without ever having to know or care to know about the cultural motivations, the inspired theology, behind its creation. And what goes for ancient Mesopotamian culture goes also for the cultures of the Axial Age, Confucianism, Greek philosophy, Egyptian, Judaic, Christian and Muslim theologies.
His purtiness (the re-presented Divine) can stimulate our hearts by purtiness alone. Can I be so obvious as to say that Beauty (in our eyes) can only be Beauty (in our hearts).
Again, it would be shameful to ignore the creative effects, the fulfillment of basic impulses resulting from fictional creations like Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, Ann Rice’s vampires and her Jesus, and my kid’s Ninjatag (his clever creation). Why should I ignore the creative effects of the Great Seshata, Egyptian Goddess of Scribes, Siddharta, the Christian trinity, or even the more recent Joseph Smith?
As a scriptotheist, I will never ignore the creative effects of these fictionalized deities, but I’m not foolish or delusional enough as to set my existential clock solely on aesthetic ‘purtiness.’ When it comes to the welfare of Humanity (and my own welfare since, as a species, we are all intricately connected) I like to draw a clear line between fictionalize world and life’s reality. That is why I do not waste my time with what I call make-believers, clergymen (and women strangely enough) quoting scriptures from times so ancient that (1) they are culturally irrelevant to our daily survival (2) no matter how hard organized religions try to make them work. How irrelevant?
Many of you know how much I value Health, Education, Love, and Lucidity for all, how I like to tease by saying that Humanity should be on a HELL4ALL regimen—bad pun intended. But you also know how dedicated and passionate I am about these four basic human needs. How dedicated? As humanly as possible.
In matters of Health, I will trust a licensed Nurse, Therapist, and Doctor over a clergyman… no matter how well he can talk about healing miracles.
In matters of Education, I will trust a University educated Teacher, Counselor, and professor over a clergyman… no matter how big and ancient-looking his book is, no matter how well he speaks behind his lectern.
In matters of Love, I will trust those who understand why I long to reciprocate Love with them over a clergyman… no matter how well he pretends to know me like he knows the rest of Humanity, his prophet and his gang of saints included.
In matters of Lucidity, I will trust those who contribute daily to my good Health, Education, and are deserving of reciprocated Love over a clergyman… no matter how ‘purty’ his book, his speech, or his undivided attention might be.
In matters of Health, Education, Love, and Lucidity, I simply trust Humanity, my next of kin. And that’s what makes me a proud scriptotheist, it’s as simple as that.
Do you trust Humanity in matters of Health, Education, Love, and Lucidity? HELL you should!
*Here you have it: the ‘script’ in ‘scriptotheist’ is for the undeniable ’evidence’ of the über-fictionalized/represented of the divine.
Michel-Camille Bordeau is the founder and author of The School of Seshata (www.scriptotheism.net), a blog about secular spirituality and the home of the Scriptopedia Project. Michel earned an M.A. in French Studies from The Ohio State University (1998). Mid-life crisis oblige, he is returning to college in August 2011, to pursue an M.S.W. with a specialization in Mental Health & Drugs of Abuse. Before relocating to Atlanta, Michel was an Academic Advisor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor campus, for nearly ten years. He has advised many students (and parents) on academic and life matters. He taught English, Public Speaking, Humanities, and French at various colleges and universities. In 2002, Michel published Poire Sucrée, Salée, Epicée, a short novel about a dance teacher forced to face the demons of her past. He is currently seeking representation for Seeing Purple, a dystopian novel set in Anaïs Abelard’s hometown, the New Orleans of tomorrow, also home to the power-hungry mega church known as the Calvinistry. Michel considers himself an amateur ‘atheologist’ and he often writes under the nom de plume Anais Abelard.