Noah Smith: God and SuperGod tumblr_inline_mwa3k5u9zi1r57lmx.png

Detail from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, by Michelangelo

This is a guest religion post by Noah Smith. I am truly delighted to hand over my pulpit to Noah for this powerful sermon.

(You can see more religion posts in my "Religion, Humanities and Science sub-blog.)

How does God know he’s God?

I’m serious. Think about this for a moment. God - as described in the Bible - is the most powerful being in the Universe. But how does He know that there isn’t an even more powerful being - call it “SuperGod” - who has chosen to stay completely hidden up until now? Since the hypothetical SuperGod is, hypothetically, even more powerful than God, there’s no way for God to know that SuperGod does not in fact exist.

This is true whether or not there is a SuperGod or not! Even if there is no SuperGod - even if God really is the most powerful being in the Universe - God will never know for sure that this is the case. And of course if there were a SuperGod, then He also couldn’t be certain that there wasn’t a SuperDuperGod out there somewhere!

Conclusion: The most powerful being in the Universe, whoever that happens to be, will never be certain of His (or Her) status as such.

Now before you reach for the keyboard to write a quick reply (“Of course God knows He’s God, God knows everything, DUH!”), realize that I’m not trying to catch theists with a clever “gotcha” or make a logical argument against religion. Instead, I’m trying to illustrate an important point about the nature of the God of the Bible. God’s most defining and important attribute isn’t that He’s the most powerful and wise being in the Universe; in fact, it doesn’t really matter if He is or not. The most important thing about God is that he chooses to take responsibility for the world.

Think about it. God chooses to create life and humanity, set down laws, punish evil and reward good, send people to various afterlives, and dictate the fate of nations. He doesn’t waste time wondering if there is a SuperGod somewhere out there. He doesn’t need to know for certain that He’s the most powerful being in the Universe; all He knows is that He’s the most powerful being in the neighborhood.

Kind of like you and me.

Some people claim to receive direct communication from God. Others claim to witness miracles. But most of us go through life without seeing direct evidence of the God of the Bible. Instead, we go through life wondering if we’re the most powerful beings in the Universe. And we have to decide whether to take responsibility for those less powerful than us - animals, children, the weak and the poor.

There’s a strong instinct to abdicate that responsibility - to look at things like global warming, poverty, environmental destruction, human misery in all its forms and say “God will take care of that.” For some people it’s not God, but “the free market”, or “evolution”, or “history”. But even if you believe in those things, you don’t really know that they’ll make everything right, any more than God knows whether a hidden SuperGod is guiding all of His actions. 

The truth is, whether you like it or not, it’s all on you. The responsibility for those weaker than yourself is not on God’s or the free market’s or history’s or evolution’s head, it’s on your head. So think hard about what you’re going to do with all your power.