So … here comes Bob and tells me that he had a discussion with a Rabbi and the Rabbi suggested that God might have created the Universe several billion years old and earth with all the fossil evidence of an older system. However, the Universe and the planet is indeed only 6000 years old or just about. Well … it is a possibility. In our limited definition of God (or a God), an entity with the assigned “powers” could have done things in such a way. I fail to understand the logic of such creation – except as a joke – but then again, there are many things that have nothing to do with logic as we understand it and are beyond our limited understanding.
When I started to study Torah with Josale – he is a good guy, not only smart but VERY intelligent – he tried to explain Torah to me in terms I would understand … business terms. So, God creates and does a marketing study and runs a pilot. If he does not like it, he starts from scratch. And from the ashes and sparks of his “failures” he starts again. I guess God does not believe in reusability and building up from solid foundations. But that is OK; since we are made in his image, many of us do not believe in reusability either – but I do.
My questions is: Why doesn’t God reveal himself more clearly to us? What’s the mystery? Why such cryptic signs? Religious people would argue … indeed they would … that God reveals himself VERY clearly. There is no mystery. That mystery is created by people in order to deny God. What does denying really mean?
Let me state my position clearly:
1 – I have a hard time believing in God. At the same time, I have a hard time not believing in God.
2 – I do not have to believe or agree or even share other people’s view points, ideas and believes. But I do have to accept them for what they are, view points, ideas and believes. Moreover, I have to accept the peoples whose believes, ideas and view points I do not subscribe to.
Believing in God – or not – has many levels. Let’s assume, for the sake of this part of the post, that not only I believe there is a God, but I believe that the Torah, Gospels, Koran and other holy books represent the word of God as His own word. So, somebody transcribed for God. Moses, Mohammed, Buddha and many others were God’s prophets and they put down God’s words. Good for God, it had secretaries!! But … do I believe in those words as the truth? How about the ultimate truth? These books, to some extent or another, are full of laws and regulations that were pertinent 5000 years ago. Some of them are still VERY valid today, but many are not. Obviously some religious people will argue with me that those laws and regulations are valid today as they were valid 5000 years ago. It may be so, however, I just do not see it that way. God’s words would have a level of permanency and validity beyond time. And some of the laws and regulations are obsolete. On the other hand because they are obsolete, as long as they can be applied, I see no problem on people keeping with them.
The Torah describes in extreme details the different offerings for the different times of the years, situations, festivities, etc. Most of them are not kept anymore because they have become impractical. But those offerings are not written as optional. They are written as laws and regulations. Rules that people MUST follow no matter what or else, the wrath of God would descend upon the people. Those laws and rules have been adapted to coexist in today’s world. But if you really want to take the WORD of God seriously, then the adaptation is outside of the words themselves.
The word of God maybe is not really the word of God. Maybe it is the word of a few people that had the foresight to see the problems with society at the time and decided to help. Did they have contact with God? Maybe their foresight came from God. Maybe they were en-tuned with humanity because many of these rules’ validity lasted for a long time.
So … I am not so sure about the words!! And if they are the words of God, I am not sure I believe in those words. It leads then to question God’s existence itself. If God is omnipresent and omnipowerful, then the words should carry more weight. Clearly in my case they do not.
Does this mean that I do not believe in God? No, it does not. What it does mean, at least on a first approach, is two things:
A – I do not necessarily believe in God in the same way I may not believe in what somebody tells me. It has to do with authority. Just like I assign very little authority to a police officer I assign, potentially, very little authority to God since its authority comes, initially, from those written words.
B – In the assignment of some authority to God implies that God may exist after all. You can not assign authority to a non-existant entity.
As I wrote above, I have a hard time believing or not believing. But I do accept the possibilities, wether intellectually I agree with them or not. This leads to Acceptance and Tolerance ..
From the New Oxford American Dictionary (I finally figured out what dictionary I had in my computer):
1 the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered : charges involving the acceptance of bribes | [as adj. ] an acceptance speech | he had an acceptance from the magazine.
• agreement to meet a draft or bill of exchange, effected by signing it.
• a draft or bill so accepted.
2 the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable, typically to be admitted into a group : you must wait for acceptance into the club.
3 agreement with or belief in an idea, opinion, or explanation : acceptance of the teaching of the church.
• approval or favorable regard : the options proposed by the report gained acceptance.
willingness to tolerate a difficult or unpleasant situation : a mood of resigned acceptance.
ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: from Old French, from accepter (see accept ).
1 the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with : the tolerance of corruption | an advocate of religious tolerance.
• the capacity to endure continued subjection to something, esp. a drug, transplant, antigen, or environmental conditions, without adverse reaction : the desert camel shows the greatest tolerance to dehydration | species were grouped according to pollution tolerance | various species of diatoms display different tolerances to acid.
• diminution in the body’s response to a drug after continued use.
2 an allowable amount of variation of a specified quantity, esp. in the dimensions of a machine or part : 250 parts in his cars were made to tolerances of one thousandth of an inch.
ORIGIN late Middle English (denoting the action of bearing hardship, or the ability to bear pain and hardship): via Old French from Latin tolerantia, from tolerare (see tolerate ).
These definitions not withstanding, I see Acceptance and Tolerance as natural antonyms. Acceptance is about openness and understanding. It is about transparency and education. While Tolerance is about closedness and separation; about being opaque and selfish.
Let’s expound on Tolerance first. Tolerance is about degrees. It is about the breaking point of not being tolerant. For example you can tolerate a baby crying for so long. If the crying persists, and your “tolerance” is low, then you will get annoyed and request to be remove from the annoyance. In the extreme, you will take matters into your own hands and make sure the baby stops crying. Tolerance is used often enough within the context of Religious Tolerance. The message is loud and clear, tolerate the baby while you can, and when you can not, take matters into your own hands. The Museum of Tolerance is adeptly named. It is all about the breaking point of tolerance and what happens when certain people take matters into their own hands.
Acceptance is not about degrees. It is about black and white. It is about realizing that we do not like something but learning to live with it. It is about coexisting in a community (neighborhood, city, country, world) where differences exist. It is about understanding (or not) those differences and making room for the differences to mature into a common language of understanding. I do not have to agree with the baby crying, but the baby will cry nonetheless. I have two viable choices: either I learn to live with the crying baby or I have to move on. Taking matters into my own hands is never a choice.
Back to God …
When I was much younger I engaged in the quest of answering whether there is a God or not. At some point I decided that the question did not make any sense and that nothing changed one way or the other however the question was answered. A few years ago, through my children and friends, I was brought back to the quest. This time around I benefit from experience and knowledge. I have lived not only longer, but in many places and have interacted with many more people. Those interactions have provided different perspectives on the subject and many inputs into my thinking.
One of the elements that I have been able to factor out is the difference between Tolerance and Acceptance and how it pertains to God. I have no idea still if there is a God or not. I am not a man of faith (read The Faithful And The Intelectual) and will never be. Faith is not my game so to speak. The only way I would get to God, for better or worse, is through the intellectual process. And in this pursuit I have learn that Acceptance is key and Tolerance is destructive. Acceptance has opened my mind to possibilities while tolerance does not. The world is full of possibilities. Whether coincidence or design, whether Nature or God, the truth is clear but our vision is clouded.