The Buddhists have this saying: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” This is not intended literally. As I understand it, they mean if you see someone of authority, regardless whether they expect you to worship them, realize they are your equal. They are just as mortal as you. You could opt to attack him if you wish just as he could opt to attack you. Perhaps a better way of putting this might be, “If you meet a god in your life, offer him a cup of coffee.” I’m not Buddhist. I’m sure they’d have reason to disagree with me. Whatever. I’m a SubGenius. In the SubGenius Church we have similar mental gymnastics with our supreme religious leader J. R. “Bob” Dobbs. If you meet “Bob” in real life whether its on the road or in a seedy pub, you are duty bound as a SubGenius to kill him. The interpretation for this tends to veer more towards the literal. In fact many SubGeniuses have reportedly killed “Bob” several times. You just can’t keep a good man down, I suppose. I’ve never met “Bob” personally myself, but I’d probably offer him a cup of coffee first, then I’d think about killing him later if he pissed me off. I’m sure this is sacrilege to admit, but I’m a lover not a fighter.
I was A SubGenius when I was a Southern Baptist. I was a SubGenius when I was Baptist. I was SubGenius when I was a generic Protestant. I was a SubGenius when I was nondenominational. I was SubGenius when I found out “nondenominational” is apparently a denomination, so I stopped being that and just called myself “Christian but far from religious.” I was a SubGenius when I still kinda believed in the general tenets of the Bible, but had read too much of it to be able to take any of it seriously and started thinking of myself as a deist. If I ever entertained being agnostic, I was a SubGenius during that time as well, and I am still a SubGenius now that I’m an atheist. One of the great things about being a SubGenius; they ain’t picky. They’ll even take ya if you don’t have a pulse. Well, sometimes. At any rate, if tomorrow I woke up and realized I’m a Buddhist, I’d still be a SubGenius. I love how that works.
Every now and then people ask me to compare my atheism to Richard Dawkins’ little scale thing. I say I’m a seven. People get all flustered. “Nobody can be a seven cuz we can’t ever know for sure!” And this is where Dawkins’ little scale thingie quickly starts to piss me off.
Many people get agnostic and atheist all mixed up. An agnostic doesn’t know. A atheist doesn’t believe. Other people get “gnosis” or knowledge mixed up with faith or belief. Some believe that knowledge can be attained in spiritual ways, even though we haven’t been able to prove scientifically that a spiritual world even exists. Many just assume it does and when you hear voices in your head or you see visions or someone else tells you that they had visions and their god spoke to them, many believe this is a perfectly valid and reasonable way of accessing and collating data. So long as these waters are muddied, Dawkins’ little scale thing doesn’t work.
A “weak” atheist is at a five. You don’t know, but you’re guessing not. Six is “de facto” which essentially means you live your life under the assumption there is no god, but you do acknowledge no one can ever know so the nonexistence of a god is not official. And the seven is one hundred percent certain, which is absurd. No one can ever be 100% certain about anything. I’m not even certain I’m breathing right now. I feel like I am. I have no reason not to believe I’m breathing, but this could all just be an illusion. My existence could be nothing but a dream inside the mind of some other being. How would I know if I was a figment of someone else’s imagination if they were really really good at imagining me?
Did I mention I’m also an absurdist?
There’s what’s possible, what’s improbable, and what you’re willing to put up with in average every day life. Maybe we’re all a part of “The Matrix.” Maybe we’re all one dream the Buddha had after dozing off under his bodhi tree. Maybe we’re characters in a novel in some book in an alternate reality and none of this is really real. Who gives a turkey? I’m real to me now and that’s what matters, and I observe that this existence I call reality behaves under certain rules which my fellow humanoid creatures in this existence refer to as scientific laws and theories. You can get bogged down in the trivial possibilities your entire life, but some of us have to get shit done.
I notice many fellow atheists look at Dawkins scale and go “I’m a six point nine” or “I’m a six but i’m as close to seven as I can get.” I find this to be a cop out. However, I just acknowledged in the previous paragraphs that no one can be 100% certain about anything. That makes me a six too, doesn’t it?
Nope. I’m a seven, and I’ll tell you why. I have made a pact with myself. If ever in the future I encounter an entity, either in this life or the next, that exhibits characteristics which are indicative of other people’s descriptions of what they’d call a god, I will not call it a god. I will call it something else. Why? Cuz the word “god” is worse than a word that has no meaning. “God” has so many meanings as to have become meaningless. Are we talking about the jewish “god”? the christian one? the muslim one? Does this “god” happen to fit all three of those? That’d be quite a tall order. Is this “god” actually a Hindu one? or pagan? or something else entirely? Eventually you’d find yourself going, “okay of all the people who happen to have believed in a ‘god’ ever, this ‘god’ that has manifested physically, happens to best fit about 65.3% of the characteristics of New Jersey’s Joey Lubner’s description of a ‘god’ but it also fits 65.7% of the description from Laurie Woodbank who lived in Newcastle 700 years ago, and where they differ they differ a lot.”
Believers in a One True God all think they’re worshiping the same one, but they aren’t. No two people see The One True God in exactly the same way. So there are quite literally as many One True Gods as there are people, living and dead and yet to be born, who believe in it.
So when I use the word ‘god’ as a descriptor for some new entity that is scientifically discovered some time in the future, is the word ‘god’ describing Joey’s “god” or Laurie’s? Or yours? Or Napoleon’s? Or that sweet little old lady you once saw sipping coffee in a cafe several years ago, but never saw again?
The word ‘god’ is useless to me as a descriptor. If I ever scientifically discovered the Creator of the Universe, let’s say. An entity that can prove to me he created the universe. Naturally you’re gonna call him god. However, what if he’s blue skinned? and you always imagined your god to be flesh colored like yourself? Nope. This guy’s blue. Definitely blue. Nice guy. Claims to have created the universe. Has proof. He’s blue. Still your god?
Or what if he’s flesh colored but got twelve arms?
What if he’s a she?
What if he’s not even humanoid? Looks more like an upside down yak being carried by several small children with no heads? Still gonna call this thing a god? Is it YOUR god?
What if you believe in a god that wants animal sacrifices, and this Creator guy says no thanks he’s a vegetarian? Is it still your god? Is it Joey’s? It is Laurie’s god?
What if this god fits the description as you understand it from the bible to a tee, but then he says something about being okay with The Gays. Or maybe he says he loves bacon. Or maybe upon further examination he is point for point exactly as its depicted in the Abrahamic bible, but then he says “I know we never got it in the book, but I want all my followers to start fucking elk as much as possible.” Still your god? Still Laurie’s? Joe’s? Is he still the god as predicted by Daniel? As imagined by that little old lady?
The word “god” could mean a great deal many things, and if i ever encounter something that even remotely falls into that general area, I’m gonna need a better word. I will need to call this creature something that better describes what he actually is, as opposed to what billions of people supposed he was before any of them met the guy.
If I meet something you might call a unicorn, I will never call it a unicorn, cuz the definition of unicorn includes mystical mumbo jumbo and virgin sacrifices and crap like that. Too much baggage. I’ll call it a horse with a horn before I’ll call it a unicorn.
If I meet something you might call a god, i will never call it a god. I don’t know what I will call it. Perhaps I’d first ask him for his name.
Perhaps, if he can prove to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that he did indeed create the universe (perhaps show me his signature in the DNA strand of humanity) maybe I’d call him “Creator of all things” but even that’s not gonna cut it cuz many people assume THEIR god IS the “Creator of all things” and I don’t wanna get their hopes up. This guy says he doesn’t know anything about our Abrahamic texts, doesn’t remember talking to an Abraham. He says he actually created life billions of years ago when the universe was very young. He put life on thousands of planets circling these great glorious proto-stars and everything was golden, but then he got mad at his creation one day and made all those stars explode. So the life forms which carried his signature (what we call DNA) were killed, but some of their genetic material survived the exploded stars and flew through space and time for billions of years and then one day, one cell from one life form from one civilization billions of years ago survived the journey to Earth on a little meteorite. It crashed here 4.5 billion years ago and cuz this creator guy made the DNA to do this, it started replicating itself soon as it got enough of the right nutrients to do so. Amino acids in a primordial sludge. Then this creator of the universe guy might explain in detail how early on there is no gender but the DNA code knows to make women first and then men later, cuz otherwise without women there’s no way to make more offspring. If males were first the genetic code would fail to replicate, so female comes first and male is later. This is in keeping with what we find in science. Again, this “creator of all things” is definitely not the Abrahamic god.
“Well,” you ask, “what if you found the actual Abrahamic god?” Again, which one? The god described in Abrahamic texts would claim man came before woman, which isn’t scientifically possible, so that god is fiction. There might be something out there vaguely like a god to you, but it won’t be the Abrahamic god. That one exists only in fiction. It can’t possibly exist in the reality that we currently observe. I am 100% certain about that.
For simplicity sake, if this “god-like” creature has a name I’d use that. If he doesn’t have a name, I’ll call him Phil or something.
I will never, ever, EVER, call it a god.
So I’m a seven.