I was asked this question by one of my students recently. I understand why; my first book references God in its title and as an English teacher I talk about God a lot – after all, the Bible is one of the most influential texts in Western society.
Despite the fact that I work in the public system, I’m also happy to discuss beliefs at any stage. So, I walked the class through my thoughts on the matter.
Me, I’m agnostic.
I don’t believe in gods, lower case or upper case, but I don’t believe that gods don’t or can’t exist either. As much as I consider myself to be practical and level headed, I also don’t think science has all the answers.
Why the fence sitting?
Well… If God created everything then where did God come from? Likewise, The Big Bang theory does not provide any explanation for the initial conditions of the Universe. If the universe expanded from an extremely dense and hot state, what caused or even created this in the first place?
In the past I’ve joked about a circular approach wherein someone from a distant future travels back in time to a period of nothingness and uses his or her scientific knowledge to create the world as we know it. Early humans then regard this figure as a god and we have the chicken/egg version of the creation myth.
So I told my students I don’t hold to a particular belief but that the narrative aspect of religion is something that appeals to me. I enjoy the stories in the Bible and believe in many of the messages contained within them. Plus, Literature is allusive and much of our understanding of symbols and signifiers stem from these tales. As a teenager I was also fascinated by the Norse, Greek and Roman myths. Later I delved into the Egyptian gods and Chinese mythology. The crossover is fascinating.
Ultimately, the least believable aspect of monotheistic religions for me is that they have ONE god responsible for everything. I’ve been involved in many sporting and business environments and a single leader is nowhere near as effective as a leadership team. I’d love to believe that capital G, God, is the CEO of the universe with the lower case gods as his middle managers. I suppose that makes us regular people clients, employees and consumers but that’s fine by me.
Alternatively, I’d like to believe in a marriage between religion and science. Imagine God increasing the pressure and heat of the vast nothingness that was our universe and then cooling it so that simple atoms could form. From here, He/She uses these like Lego to build the world. After experimenting with single celled amoeba God upgrades them into more complex organisms. When He/She eventually morphs something into monkeys there’s a notable similarity with their body shape and that of God, so two are shaved and their tails are cut off so that they are remade in the Lord’s image. We’ll call these two Adam and Eve and so begins our evolution. After a while, God gets bored and stops playing with us and people start questioning whether He/She really existed.
It’s fun to hypothesise. One of my poems suggests that the Christian God is trapped in hell, playing with the idea that the Holy Trinity are essentially one being and that Jesus allowing himself to be crucified is the equivalent of suicide, a mortal sin, resulting in His eternal punishment. Thus, God isn’t around to prevent things like earthquakes, famine and war.
Whether you believe in science or faith, all we have are hypotheses. So I remain unsure. The only thing I truly believe is that everybody has the right to their own opinion BUT having an opinion and shoving your opinion down other people’s throats are two different things. If you want words to live by, follow the advice of movie characters, Bill and Ted:
“Be excellent to each other”.