|A terrifying creature made of lava|
I am much more concerned about the Lava Monster. Let me explain.
|An Indonesian village near a volcano|
Got all that? Good. Now I want to ask you a few basic questions:
- How likely is it that there would be widespread disagreement among the villagers about the Lava Monster's wishes?
- If the Monster had very particular desires and could easily communicate them, why would he allow the confusion to persist, especially when that confusion has led to deadly sectarian violence among the villagers?
- Would it be possible to live as a non-believer in this village? How?
- Would there be any need for the villagers to advertise or proselytize on behalf of the Monster? How could you possibly forget him, when the evidence of his power is all around you?
- Assuming you do know the will of the all-powerful Lava Monster and carry out his wishes, what is the moral basis for your behavior? Why would you feel morally superior to someone who disobeyed the Monster's commands?
I don't know how long the Lava Monster has gestated in my imagination. Maybe since childhood. I do know, though, that whenever I think of an omnipotent God, my mind inevitably returns to the story of the Lava Monster. It is that fifth issue which particularly troubles me. If God is real and omnipotent, then obeying his wishes is merely common sense and has nothing whatsoever to do with morality. There's nothing righteous or lofty about giving a bully your lunch money or carrying out your boss's orders at work. You do it to preserve yourself, which is something we all do every day. I don't touch hot stoves, for instance, but that's because I don't want to burn my hand. If you choose to touch hot stoves and repeatedly incur severe burns as result, that may make you foolish but it does not make you immoral.
Again, I do not claim to have any answers. I don't know how the universe functions, but I'm sure there are underpaid scientists working on the problem now. I hope they're getting enough sleep at night. If we are lucky, we have five senses with which to take in information and one brain with which to process that information. And that's all we'll ever have. Think about everything and everyone you have ever known. Remember every experience of your past, both major and minor. Everything you can recall about them was conveyed to you by your senses and processed by your brain. Your brain and sense organs are imperfect, yet we must rely upon them. I'll never truly know what it's like to be you. You'll never truly know what it's like to be me. We're all just guessing. What frightens me are the people who are certain they know how it all works. I can cope with uncertainty, but certainty scares me.
This post was not meant to settle anything but rather to raise questions and provoke discussion. Have at it. And don't touch hot stoves. You'll burn yourself. That I think we can all agree on.