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What my cat teaches me about divine love

This is Beryl.

Beryl is a solid blue Tonkinese cat. He shares a home with (I would say he belongs to, but the reverse may be true) zaiah and I, and spends a good deal of each day perched on my shoulder. I write from home, and whenever I'm writing, there's a pretty good chance he's on my shoulder, nuzzling my ear and purring.

He's a sweetheart--one of the sweetest cats I've ever known, and believe me when I say I've known a lot of cats.

Whenever we're in the bedroom, Beryl likes to sit on a pillow atop the tall set of shelves we have on the wall next to the bed. It didn't take him long to learn that the bed is soft, so rather than climbing down off the top of the shelves, he will often simply leap, legs all outstretched like a flying squirrel's, onto the bed.

Now, if I wanted to, I could get a sheet of plywood, put it on top of the bed, then put the blanket over top of it. That way, when Beryl leapt off the shelves, he'd be quite astonished to have his worldview abruptly and unpleasantly upended.

But I wouldn't do that. I wouldn't do that for two reasons: (1) I love my cat, and (2) it would be an astonishingly dick thing to do.

That brings us to God.

This is a fossil.

More specifically, it's a fossil of Macrocranion tupaiodon, an extinct early mammal that lived somewhere between 56 and 34 million years ago and went extinct during the Eocene–Oligocene extinction event.

Now, there are very, very few things in this world that conservative Orthodox Jews, Fundamentalist Muslims, and Evangelical Christians will agree on, but one thing that some of these folks do have in common is the notion that fossils like this one do not actually represent the remains of long-vanished animals, because the world is much younger than what such fossils suggest. Most conservative Muslims are more reasonable on this point than their other Abrahamic fellows, though apparently the notion of an earth only a few thousand years old is beginning to take hold in some parts of the Islamic ideosphere.

That presents a challenge; if the world is very young, whence the fossils? And one of the many explanations put forth to answer the conundrum is the idea that these fossils were placed by a trickster God (or, in some versions of the story, allowed by God to be placed by the devil) for the purpose of testing our faith.

And this, I find profoundly weird.

The one other thing all these various religious traditions agree on is God loves us* (*some exclusions and limitations apply; offer valid only for certain select groups and/or certain types of people; offer void for heretics, unbelievers, heathens, idolators, infidels, skeptics, blasphemers, or the faithless).

And I can't quite wrap my head around the notion of deliberately playing this sort of trick on the folks one loves.

Yes, I could put a sheet of plywood on my bed and cover it with a blanket. But to what possible end? I fear I lack the ability to rightly apprehend what kind of love that would show to my cat.

Which leads me to the inescapable conclusion that a god that would deliberately plant, or allow to be planted, fake evidence contradicting the approved account of creation would be a god that loved mankind rather less than I love my cat.

It seems axiomic to me that loving someone means having their interests and their happiness at heart. Apparently, however, the believers have a rather more unorthodox idea of love. And that is why, I think, one should perhaps not trust this variety of believer who says "I love you." Invite such a person for dinner, but count the silverware after.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 4th, 2014 01:21 am (UTC)
I got to "this brings us to God" and saw the dinosaur... and burst out laughing.

Back when I was a kid (umm... I must have been 20; I was still at university) I was chatting with a friend who was an evangelical. I confronted him; "why doesn't God make himself known" and got a standard answer about "getting to know God". My response was "Knowing God exists doesn't mean we know the _nature_ of God; we can stop wasting time about whether God does or does not exist and actually get to _know_ God better".

There is no scenario I can think of where God failing to prove its existence is a good thing. Whether it's "playing tricks" or "obfuscation" we end up in the same place.

So I have to conclude, as you have, that if God exists then it must be a dick.
May. 4th, 2014 01:54 am (UTC)
Interesting point. I'd never really considered the "fake fossils" theory in that light.
May. 4th, 2014 01:55 am (UTC)
Actually, on further reflection, I'd never really considered it that much at all. I heard about it, had an instant reaction of "that's stupid," and never really thought about the idea again.
May. 4th, 2014 02:11 am (UTC)
I grew up Mormon, and the general consensus is that the earth could be millions of years old because who knows how long it took god to create the earth. Never heard the trickster theory in the LDS dogma.

Also grew up being told I'd better get used to the idea of polygamy - which brings us back to why I started following Franklin's writing.
May. 4th, 2014 03:10 am (UTC)
Actually, there is an alternative theory that takes the statement "And the Earth was without form, and void" to imply that the Earth already existed before this, and could have had almost anything occur there, including the entire history of the dinosaurs, for example. This doesn't contradict 'In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth' because any amount of time could have occurred between these events.
May. 4th, 2014 08:56 pm (UTC)
In a similar vein, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ka3-fej0osM&feature=youtu.be "God could be deceiving us about the speed of light"
May. 4th, 2014 09:31 pm (UTC)
If the god of Abraham does exist, then he is a god of evil, and I have a moral obligation to do anything I can to oppose him.


Edited at 2014-05-04 09:31 pm (UTC)
May. 5th, 2014 06:19 pm (UTC)

May. 9th, 2014 12:36 am (UTC)
Pretty sure most if not all conservative Jews believe no such thing. Orthodox Jews, maybe.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )