What If God’s Not One of Us?

3 Mar

I was in high school when that Alanis Morrisette* song came out and I remember being very confused at the positive reaction. Was I slow, or was everybody else?

Like “Isn’t it Ironic”, in “What if God was one of us”, Alanis tries to be brilliant, but comes across more as under-educated. (For the record: rain on your wedding day is not ironic.) The concept of God being one of us is cute but dumb. What I’m saying is obvious, but I think people like the concept as an extension of God’s love and empathy towards us. Personally, I don’t think that’s a very likely concept either.  

Think about it for a minute. Here we have God, an all-powerful, perfect entity. There is nothing that can exist without him, and nothing that can cause him the slightest danger. He, a being needing nothing, decides to create the universe for whatever reason. Not being able to fully understand what an existence like his means, I’ll agree that his reasons can seem unfathomable to us, and still be perfectly logical to him. However, now you say that he understands our problems and then empathizes with us to help us out. Understands? Fine. But feels human feelings? Impossible. He is a perfect being. He has no fear or desire or any other emotion.

(I know it’s getting a little dry, but stay with me here. I’m building up to something at the end.) We have feelings to enable us to survive. That hurts, that’s dangerous, I fear it. That gives me pleasure, fills a survival need, I want it. Still, I have no problem saying that God created a world of imperfect beings who can harm one another and need certain things to survive. This is how he wanted to design the place. I think it’s still logical to say that he can imagine a world like that. The point where it starts to break down is where you say that God himself feels our pain. That’s crazy. Emotions, feeling states, by definition, have no place in a perfect being. Why would we even think he has them?

Ok. So logically, He can perceive and understand his creation, but not feel. If we say he is intelligent, then he has a purpose for creating this world, however unknown to us. Why would he deviate from his plan just because someone is in pain and calls out to him? He knows exactly what’s happening and caused that person to be in pain. It’s all part of his plan. You want something else? Too bad. Now, you’re going to pray and try to sway him or relate to him or whatever. Why should that shake his first decision at all? No amount of your pain can upset his equilibrium. He has no human-type emotion. You get sick, you die, the beat goes on, motherfucker. All part of the plan. You do what you’ve been programmed to do, God will do what he decided to do billions of years ago in a place where time didn’t exist- and still doesn’t.

Don’t agree? I’ll give you a mashal: Let’s say, in the future, a sentient computer program designed and built a special computer chip that had it’s own world of little creatures. The point of this chip was to, say, cure cancer. Now, let’s say certain creatures were short-circuiting and killing the other creatures in order to make cancer be cured. Would the computer program stop them? No, because that’s what it was designed to do. If a human designed it, fine, he might let his emotions get the best of him and empathize with the electron creatures, enter the world to stop the destruction and make a stupid Disney movie called Tron. But that’s because his feelings won’t let him ignore it for the bigger picture.

“Wait!”, you say. But the creator still has a good purpose in mind, giving life to nothingness and all that. If he sees a creature cry out to him for help, why won’t he interfere and accomplish his plan another way?

Ok. First, that good intentions idea is total conjecture as we already agreed we can’t know his purpose. Second, if he does have a good intentions for creation, why is he forced by any moral code to respond and help the person out? His ends justify the means. Go try to help yourself. That’s how the creation is structured. The only time I can see a moral code forcing this good intentioned version of creator to help out is if the person  has come to the conclusion that God will help him out of things. Basically, an emunah peshutah, a total faith that God will intervene. If the person genuinely sees reality this way, not adopts it out of weakness or just trying it out, then God would be wrong to ignore him. He has created a creature with a mental flaw that precludes him from playing his role in Plan because the creature “looked at creation and saw God”. A person with absolute faith like that, who’d walk into fire because he was convinced that an outside force would save him, would need saving. Like a helpless baby. You’re morally responsible to raise a child you gave birth to until it’s capable of caring for itself.

Although, once you have a creation like that, you’re in a bind. You can try to shake with off by showing him he needs to take care of himself, but push comes to shove, if he really believes, you’ll have to save him if he relies on it. Then the creature will see your teaching attempts as ‘tests of faith’ by you. So there’s really no point in trying.

To sum up: If you believe in an intelligent creator of the universe, and that he’s good, then prayer only works if you believe enough to stake your survival on it. Therefore, a million people saying tehillim, because hey, you never know, is a complete waste of time. You’re not going to mess up the creator’s divine super-plan because you’d like to have a lollypop. Or to not have cancer.

*Update: I’ve been corrected twice so far on this, so for the record, it’s Joan Osborne’s song, not Alanis Morisette.


11 Responses to “What If God’s Not One of Us?”

  1. chaynobody March 4, 2012 at 5:51 am #

    Well put. I have only 1 הערה – I dont see why, even on the צד that God has overall good intentions for His creation, would He be any more required on a moral basis to step in for the “true believer”? If the ends justify the means and an individual is just not playing along, then it may be sad, but tough luck… and anyway, why should a perfect being be encumbered by OUR human sense of morals – these all mean nothing to Him.
    I get so angry when I hear people say how “I am so close to God”, “I have such a close relationship with Him”, “God loves us more than we can know”…BS!! You simply have an active imagination and you dare to think you know anything at all about God?? Can you show in any way how God loves you so very much?

    • itchemeyer March 4, 2012 at 2:25 pm #

      You’re right. Logically, we can know nothing about his morals or his plan. It was just a feeling I had while writing it, and it’s logically flawed.

  2. anon March 4, 2012 at 8:40 am #

    Joan Osborne sang that song, not Alanis Morrissette.

    • itchemeyer March 4, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    • itchemeyer March 4, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

      But I just checked wikipedia and youre right. Looks like it was put out in 1995 also, which was before i was in high school. I remember it being on the radio though and everybody saying it was Alanis M. Did she do a cover later on?

  3. alan March 4, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

    Joan Osborne, I think. Not Alanis Morrissette.

  4. Lex Luthor March 5, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    Methinks you are making a common mistake. You can really take your own reasoning much further. You see, I agree that we cannot know God’s morals or plan and that one cannot attribute emotions to him. But take it further. One cannot attribute anything at all to God. You can’t say he perceives either, because your perception of perception is of human perception, which is one of many attributes that characterize us, unlike God who is one and cannot be composed of various attributes. The whole idea of God being ANYTHING is not truly correct, if one accepts the notion of a single, perfect God.

    So what do we mean when we say God is this or that? All it really is, is that since effects which are caused by him, are according to our perceptions caused by x, y, and z; so we attribute x, y, and z to God. For example, in our minds smashing a building to bits takes might, so if we see God smashing a building we say he has might. But in truth it is all fake, God has no might. We have no idea what God is. This is just how we relate to him, and it is how many understand terms in the Torah like “the hand of God” et al.

    Lets come back to prayer and everything else you spoke about. If a) we accept certain premises, i.e. 1) the Torah is true, and 2) the Torah says that prayer works; or b) we have empirical evidence that prayer works, then any philosophical debate about how can it be or why should it make sense that God answers prayer, is essentially moot, because no one can ever know anything about God in the first place. All “prayer works” says is just that, it works. “God answers prayer” simply means that if God were human, the causes of the effects we see would be compassion, mercy, love, giving, and so on, not that that is how it really is – but that part isn’t relevant to us humans.

    • itchemeyer March 5, 2012 at 5:50 pm #

      I think you’re right. We have no understanding of God, so if there were an outside, source that God wrote it would disprove all conjecture. I’m saying that a perception of God as a caring being, etc, ie how we normally talk about him, is silly. It’s a human idea thrown onto God. If we operated on pure and knowledge and logic, we would not pray. If you accept the Torah and the mesorah as coming from God, this discussion doesn’t start. But I don’t think that accepting our book, out of thousands of others as the real one is a logical decision either. I think we accept it because we developed an emotuional attachment to it at a pre-logical stage (as children)

      • Lex Luthor March 5, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

        The fact that it’s a human idea thrown at God doesn’t bother me, because every idea we have of God is human. For example, we say he knows everything, but the word knowledge itself is a construct of our own minds, so essentially it is a human idea. Basically I am saying that since we can know nothing about him, the only reason we say anything is for the reason I mentioned in the second paragraph above, and once we say that, you can’t really say that anything we say about him doesn’t make sense in our true conception of God.

        I’m not sure what you mean by why we accept the Torah. Are you saying that in truth there is no good reason to do so? I’m not coming to debate that, but if that’s the case then why pick a bone just with prayer and not everything else? I think that working with logic alone the most sensible option should be complete moral relativism. Though I suppose prayer is one place to start :p

        • itchemeyer March 5, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

          I’m trying to work on logic alone here. I picked on prayer because it’s the part of spirituality that connects you most with God (emotionally, not kabbalistically). And I don’t think that you can make a logically defensible case for believing in the torah.

          • Lex Luthor March 5, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

            Got it. And like I said, I’m not coming to debate that.

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