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Imagination: The Most Contentious Terrain

What is God? We may, as always, start with what we know. God is a word, like any other, upon which we inscribe meaning, but what meaning? From a purely neutral standpoint, the many varied synonyms are nearly as diverse as the interpretations that follow. In fact "what" we know about God ultimately reduces to the matter of where on the planet we happen to have spent the most time. But the "who" at least has a few common enough linguistic traits to help us form the beginning of a framework. God as "who", in the word sense, is the force or figure to whom (or which) we ascribe all physical and metaphysical control and origin of our tangible reality. From then on, the solutions of "who" are found to be myriad and cultural, as often contradictory or rational as the cultures themselves.

Epicurus was Greek, and furthermore an Athenian soldier, and from him followed the Epicurean philosophy that either God is malevolent, impotent, or doesn't exist at all. Epicurus lived and wrote roughly three hundred articles- less of which remain today, tragically- three hundred years before the birth of our Christ, in Egypt, a few hundred miles South and East of his home.West by South West of this place, where the Son of Man breathed his first winds of life, cradled in the chaste and loving arms of a mother, by a couple of hundred miles and about four centuries, lived Augustine, by whose thirties a firm rejection of the idea of God had somehow produced within him, by the tears of misfortune, by the blessings of a priest, and by the proselytizing of Paul to the Romans, a voice to which billions of Christians would someday lend a hopeful ear in search of comfort and guidance.

Augustine tells us that God is he to whom the way is exclusive, and the way is Christ. His detractors and protagonists charge that the failure of allegiance to the pantheon in favor of the new Christian God is to blame for the successes of the Greek over the Latin, a troubling phenomena which Italy and the emerging European powers would ultimately subdue.What comes to bind them (the Europeans) centuries later will begin with Mohammed, whose depiction of God is as Latin and Greek as it is Arabic, two centuries after Augustine.

To Mohammed, the God of Jesus and Moses had given their followers a gift of wisdom and guidance of which they had subsequently proven themselves unworthy by way of corruption, tyranny, and war- a gift which would be given one last time, to the true nation of Islam. Within one hundred fifty years of the great prophet's death, we find Islam on an Alexandrian rampage of unsurpassed proportions. And for the remainder of the millennium on into the next, the 'who' and 'what' of God are issues of brutal contention.Within Europe itself, among followers of Christ, a division emerges naturally, surrounding the ethical boundaries between royalty and divinity.

The resolution of this sub-conflict is brought on by the galvanizing call of a Christian Holy War upon Islam (to reclaim the stolen tomb of the savior), that unites Germany, France, Spain and Italy under the the Roman Catholic Church, into ranks exceeding 150,000 peasants, serfs, knights, and soldiers, all with crosses stitched to their shirts, and flings them ravenously upon the eastern world.What all of these people have in common is a view of God, not that it is the same view of course, but that they each have a view of God in the first place. Though Epicurus dismisses the rationality of and the existence of God, he still has the word to deal with, and the realities that follow. And from the word itself, each successive generation derives a new conceptualization of its meaning, presumably on into perpetuity, each new version being as unique and as hauntingly familiar as any of its ancestors.

Today, the task of resolving the differences between all of these deeply held and yet highly controversial convictions, across space and time, falls squarely on the shoulders of the atheist. Simpler than holding on a scale in one's mind the tenants of the Sunni, the Catholic, the Shia, the Protestant(s), along with the Jew and the Pantheist, is the decision to discard them all as nonsense, no matter how aggressive, intrusive, or pervasive. To do so, we must also discard the academic foundations each dogmatic culture has so meticulously arranged and edited, if we are to develop a world view of God that suits our own age and understanding.

The first step on this journey is the consideration that for millennia it was believed widely that reasonable arguments could "prove" the existence of God, until Hume and Kant proved otherwise, meaning not that they proved God didn't exist, but that they proved such an existence couldn't be proven to the unprejudiced mind. And so "...the Zeitgeist in our time favors skepticism about proofs."So when Descartes and Anselm offer us the ontological argument that to merely be able to imagine what God is (the ultimate incarnation of good and power), is to be somehow forced into believing the notion, this doesn't work for the tooth fairy, it didn't work for Jesus in the case of the Jews, and it doesn't work for us either. It is just as easy to imagine that God doesn't exist, so without a stronger case, we could all stop here.

Unfortunately, Thomas Aquinas, our Latin-African friend takes up the mantle, and begins a disturbing and prolific new debate trend, wherein the good scientific works of otherwise engaged bystanders are corrupted to fit a preconceived notion. This method, when properly employed, is known as the cosmological argument, wherein infinite contingent beings(you and I) must have somewhere at our origin a non-contingent being or creator.In any case, to emphasize this point, it is curious to note the magnitude and scale of energy, resources, and human lives that have been expended for the sake of establishing order (or dominion) in the world while asserting that the base of it all- God- has to be real because of the perfect orderliness of the universe.From here we venture on to the next visage of what remains of religious rationalism after we have turned C. S. Lewis' chisel back on its artisan: Faith, and the personal experience.

Whatever feeling we get about an experience is separate from the perceived reality, and while we may be certain of the one, the other may deceive us. Because as emotion is a human device, it doesn't make sense to require a superhuman framework in its explanation.What remains, then, of our sculpture but faith alone? Faith is held by the theist as a viable method of obtaining knowledge when rational evidence can not be presented or demonstrated. What then is faith but a repository for all that which we don't know one way or the other, or can't more rationally argue for or against. We can bet that such a flaccid description of faith has never been considered for the purpose of amping up holy soldiers, or charming a tithe from devoted pockets.

As devastating as this perspective seems, we wade even deeper into the corpses of good ideas; here Epicurus, Augustine, Nietzsche, Hick, Lewis, and many others collide. Pascal offers us the final nail to drive into the coffin of belief when he asserts beyond all preceding arguments that we "need" religion: without God, there can be no purpose to life, for life, or of life. But there can be purpose in life. That much, like whatever Dorothy hoped to find in Oz, has always been right in our back yard, 'always' meaning way longer than religion.Because the word 'God' itself is meaningless, all predication based upon the authority of that word are inherently as meaningless, and even less worthy of our logical, rational embrace.Heaven, being real in the imagination, and imagined in reality, is a projection of our Utopia onto a disconnected, inaccessible remoteness. As Lavey proclaims: "[Man] has created a whole system of Gods with nothing more than his carnal brain" What we could be striving as a global society to make of the world around us while we live, we pretend will be just handed to us when we die.

While heaven grows in splendor, heir to the daily expansions of our artful nature, our lonely world lay wounded, idle, and neglected.While the war between Paley's watchmaker and Dawkins' blind watchmaker persists, Dawkins can readily and safely illustrate his claims to anyone with faith in the senses. But in 2012, the suspension of those same senses, and moreover, the suspension of our reliance upon those senses is what is required to agree with Paley, as much as with the pantheist, the monotheist, and the mobs they provoke. Westboro, the pedo-priests, Jim Taggert, Jim Baker, Urban II, Innocent III, the creationist plague upon the education system in the southern states (like Tennessee), al Qaeda, the KKK, and the G.O.P. are all examples of the disruptive and regressive forces wherein perverse intention and understanding become adverse pressures in reality, and yet, they all share the same common motivator: God. The defense of whom, it is no wonder, we call apologetics. To this Plato might contend: “Then God, if he be good, is not the author of all things as many assert, but he is the cause of a few things only, and not most things that occur ot men.” This is really just not good enough.

What we need from all religions thus engaged is not an apology in the form of an argument. We don't really even need an apology, although a great many arguments could be made for the merit of such a thing. What we need is a final declaration of our own rights and responsibilities as we perceive them, as endowed to us, and for us, by ourselves. Even Thomas Paine agrees: "Every age and generation must be as free to act for itself, in all cases, as the generations which preceded it." To proceed into the next age of man, we must obtain the fullness of collective awareness necessary to embrace our own collective autonomous imperatives confidently, coherently, efficiently, and with a renewed sense of vigor and optimism-not for what awaits us when we are no more- rather for the destiny that has awaited us since our inception, right there in our back yard all along...

"But on this day, they will submit themselves to God,and shall address each other with mutual reproaches." ~Koran

"If we occupy it, it will be advantageous to us while if they occupy it,it will be advantageous to them, it is contentious terrain" ~SunTsu

"Could it then be possible! This old saint in his forest has not heard of it,that God is dead!" ~Friedrich Nietzsche

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