The following is an excerpt from my book-in-progress.
I understand the appeal, even the need, to think about god(s) in terms of externals, as entities outside of the universe coming in to save the day. And that sort of being isn’t an impossibility--it seems a bit presumption to think we can say what isn’t possible. From our vantage point, the universe is without end, and if it is, who knows what lies before or beyond its hinterlands.
But, then, I am back to talking about space and time again, which are not (it now seems) the unalterable bedrocks science once believed them to be. We are moving toward things for which we do not yet have a language.
I find the idea of external deities or an all-powerful god more ominous than comforting. I prefer my gods up close and personal. Whatever may be ‘out there,’ I can only experience it from ‘within here.’ And if it did live outside me, it couldn’t experience me unless I were inside it or it was inside me, and on and on we’d go trying to figure out who, what, where, why, how.
I’m tempted to bring up the classic conundrum of divine omnipotence: If a deity had absolute power to effect sweeping positive transformation of the world, why wouldn’t he have gone about the business already? The fact that he hasn’t, the argument goes, is that the deity either isn’t omnipotent or isn’t good (or just plain isn’t).
I say “he” because no one imagines god as a woman in this scenario. Female deities can be all loving, but not all-powerful, and this speaks volumes about the tragic failure of the patriarchal religious imagination.
This question and its god are masculine. One all-powerful god is as alpha-male as it gets. Women share power, that’s what we do, how we survive. We don’t need strength concentrated in one person or location. We need the vibrant equality of shared labor and reciprocal imagination. We’re not stingy. You can’t steal fire from female gods because they give it away.
The divine omnipotence conundrum wearies me more than its unsatisfying conclusions. It feels like a patriarchal trick. Or maybe a cop out for humans designed to keep us, especially women, caught up in a loop of lack. It’s like the question wants us to twiddle our thumbs waiting for a god that wouldn’t be much good for us if he decided to show up.
Do we want a divine daddy that’s got it all under control? The disappointment implicit in the question is maddening. Well, of course you’d want that, deary, if you could have it, but there isn’t. Big-G God is dead, boohoo, so you’ll just have to slog it out on your own.
The history of women reveals this as a bald-faced lie. Women come together. We don’t have to slog it out on our own. That’s the deception of patriarchy: that the absent father or husband is the end of women, that we’ll be eternally lost without them.
The curtain pulled back, we smile and laugh at their audacity. Nope. Just nope. So much nope. The universe is generous. In your absence, another presence rushes in. Someone steps in, steps up. We are not alone. In the empty space of your turned face, we’ve got no less than everything. Dear boy, we shake our heads, aren’t you tired? Aren’t you weary of needing to be the center of everything when everything should be the center?
That’s the trick of the imageless god co-opted by patriarchy. It makes us think we’ve got to remain paralyzed by divine absence. It pictures, spins us, as the daughter forever unloved or the wife estranged. We can do nothing until He gets back and either He isn’t coming back (atheistic patriarchy) or we’ve got to sit tight and wait (monotheistic patriarchy).
Patriarchy is both defeatist and a misassessment of the world’s problems and what we can do about them. Patriarchy says that history is bound to repeat itself, that there will always be wars and rumors of wars, and that we cannot stave off our violence. That’s the vision of toxic masculinity, a prophecy of lack and consumption.
The feminine says: Enough! We’ve been here before and we know what to do. We organize, we make a plan, we stretch a handful of loaves to feed a thousand. The earth’s problems are man-made and we can fix them.
We’ve had our ears to the ground for centuries. We know the stories that make and break our world, the stories that destroy us and the tales that grow us. We’ve learned about our species and the earth we inhabit. We know the history of colonialism and racism, and we know their pressure points. We’ve studied the way humans have shaped the earth’s geography and climate. From below, we’ve traced the lineaments of politics, religion, science, and philosophy.
We’ve swallowed the myths of our time and the times before us, and goddammit we are done with the hoarding and scrimping and rationing. We are done with the priests who wall up the garden and charge admission to enter and eat of its fruits. Done with the kings that conflate peace with the status quo and sacrifice their daughters on the altar of amnesia.
Enough! We deny your sallow god with his blind eyes turning, and exchange him for the brilliant warmth of a thousand expectant faces.