God, perhaps. The title of this post is not my own, borrowed and paraphrased from those who have gone before me in questioning the metaphysical foundations of religion. There are different ways to interpret the apparent absence of the divine. After the “death of God” what can be made of God? The world as such is chaotic, prone to conjuring unconscionable acts of violence and the subjugation of others, while what passes for religiosity is often a farce, impotent out of the gate in its reluctance to think outside of its prescribed ideological boundaries. In the face of such chaos, God is absent. The prayers and tears of the faithful seem to be all for nothing.
As I write, I can already hear emotional, clamoring voices, reminding me that insofar as Christianity is concerned, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are working with and for us to redeem the world. All is not lost. There is hope. God is real, present, and active. What I and others perceive to be a tension between the chaos of existence and the apparent absence of God is the opportune place for faith to rise that the telos of Christianity is true: God is and will be victorious. The old adage might be reframed as such: When the going gets tough, the tough get faithful.
I am deeply sympathetic to the way of life which, despite the chaos and absurdity of existence, chooses to rely upon an ostensibly “real” Big Other for their grounding and livelihood. I exist and work within religious environments which rely upon the idea of a metaphysical God, the Big Other (the biggest of them all, I am told). I understand the logic. It makes sense, until it doesn’t, hence the impetus and title for this post.
God does not exist. When I say this, I am not suggesting that God is not real. Nor am I suggesting that the core tenets of Christian belief—the triune nature of God, Jesus as divine, etc.—are false or have no usefulness. What I am saying is that when humankind relegates God to an actually-existing being, it becomes dangerous. Fashioning God into the confines of being, one among others, necessarily creates a tension between God’s being and God’s action. If God “exists” as “a being,” then God, necessarily, must act according to God’s “being.” Yet, God’s action—or lack thereof—is a dominant thread of modern human experience. Our experience continually pokes holes in the logic of religion, and of Christianity in particular. In the face of death, God is nowhere to be found, perhaps because God is dead as some suggest, or never existed in the first place. The question of theodicy, God’s relationship to evil, is but one glaring example of how the logic of God’s “existence” falls apart. Try as we might to explain away evil, it still occurs. Pain, suffering, and death are inescapable traits of existence for humanity. Despite the beauty of a logic which suggests that God, in Christ, has defeated death and suffered on our behalf, people still suffer. Pain has not gone away. It will not go away. Where is God? No one knows.
This is why I choose to say that God does not exist. If God exists, God must answer for the suffering of the world. And, in short, I am not satisfied in the least with the traditional logic, language, and basis of Christian thought which defers responsibility to God for “defeating” evil, yet when pressed to explain the congruence of God’s “being” with God’s action, shrugs its shoulders.
If God does not exist, as I and others suggest, what does this mean for religion, or Christianity? That is my current project, living under the premise of a post-metaphysical God, and a religion devoid of fanciful thinking. It is, perhaps, a “material theology,” one interested not in defending the existence of God or the validity of belief in God, but living with the reality that God does not exist as we hope, a religionless religion. It is a religion which embraces the radical absurdity and chaos of human existence, and seeks to enact change within the chaos, while not deferring responsibility to the Big Other. God does not exist. But God is real.
In future posts, I will elaborate more on how the post-metaphysical religion which I seek functions in relation to existing Christian discourse. For the time being, let me encourage you, dear reader, to ask whether we need an actually-existing God, a being among others, in order to make sense of the world and our place within it.
Many suggest we do, yet, perhaps not…