What Is God? Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Dec 13 2011 @ 11:38am


I left the conversation hanging a while back, after my post about God being the most powerful force in the universe, rather than the anthropocentric notion of an old man with a gray beard in the sky. I left it because it felt like an impasse, with my view hovering in mid-air next to that of many readers, who insist that Christianity conform to what they think it must be (mythical piffle).

But my view is certainly orthodox Christianity, as long as you ascribe consciousness and caritas to the universal creative force. Anyway, that is a roundabout way of saying I read something this week that seemed more persuasive than my flawed efforts. It's in a review by James Wood of the essays of John Jeremiah Sullivan, recently published as "Pulphead." Here's the passage James quotes, with Sullivan (no relation) paraphrasing the theology of the early-nineteenth-century French explorer and botanist Constantine Samuel Rafinesque:

What’s true of us is true of nature. If we are conscious, as our species seems to have become, then nature is conscious. Nature became conscious in us, perhaps in order to observe itself. It may be holding us out and turning us around like a crab does its eyeball. Whatever the reason, that thing out there, with the black holes and the nebulae and whatnot, is conscious. One cannot look in the mirror and rationally deny this. It experiences love and desire, or thinks it does. The idea is enough to render the Judeo-Christian cosmos sort of quaint. . . . Rafinesque perfected his variant of this honorable philosophy while botanizing in the literal backyards of my childhood, examining ruderal plants I’ve known all my life, and so I have appropriated it from him, with minor tweaks.

It works perfectly as a religion. Others talk about God, and I feel we can sit together, that God is one of this thing’s masks, or that this thing is God.