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January,1999

Better Than Paradise? You Bet!
by Cliff Walker

During my appearance on the Rick Emerson radio show on December 25th, he asked me a real stumper: "If you had your way, would there be a god?"

My first thoughts were, Which god? Certainly none I have ever heard of. Also, this likely would be a different world if there was a god. Wanting to avoid those discussions, I told him, "I don't know."

I had never wondered this before. I was raised an atheist and trained away from magical thinking. Since the show, I have thought about what I might have said, had I the time to think about it.

Of course, at times I think it might be nice to have a benevolent god watching over us. It seems it would be cool if there were no evil in this world (this being the obvious result of it having been created). Sometimes I think it would be great to be able to live forever and to never grow old.

I like to think the soldier who throws himself on a grenade to protect his comrades will live again some day. But where, then, would be the glory of his sacrifice? Also, whom would he be saving if we all live again, or live forever?

If there were a benevolent god, would some have special favor in the eyes of the god, and would others be disadvantaged?

Ditto for supernatural powers: would some have them and others not? How would we protect ourselves against forces that were not natural?

We don't get something for nothing today: would that differ if a god existed? If so, where would be accomplishment and ability, and for what would we strive?

No. I cannot think of any advantage involving a god that would not nullify something even more precious to me. This involves, primarily, the fact that in this world, I am an individual organism.

In order to be what I have become, I had to experience years of growing and learning. At times it was painful. In this sense, the mythical Adam and Eve could never have been fully human since they skipped birth and childhood.

No god or psychic can invade or read my thoughts; what goes on in the privacy of my mind is entirely and exclusively mine. Though no doctor can come in and help me, neither can an agent invade me for information I choose not to indulge.

When I do good work, I have a sense of accomplishment. If I do great work, perhaps I will go down in history. Then again, if I do wrong, I am accountable for my misdeeds, and could become infamous. However, I'd never exchange the victory of accomplishment for any forgiveness.

Without gravity* pulling us to earth, mobility would be difficult or impossible. As Immanuel Kant said, "The light dove, cleaving the air in her free flight, and feeling its resistance, might imagine that its flight would be still easier in empty space."

The limitations of our bodies and minds striving against the elements empower us. Fallibility is the very basis for knowledge.

I cannot see it being this way if this were a paradise. The collective organisms of earth have striven against the elements for a few billion years. Only the best have survived to procreate. Like it or not, the real world is the best of all possible worlds.

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    • Notes:

    • Footnote: * The gravity and dove bit comes from "On the Wings of a Dove," a chapter from the book, Leaps of Faith, by Nicolas Humphrey, as did pretty much the overall gist of this piece, which echoes that chapter in several ways.
    • Visit: The Rick Emerson Show (off site)

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Copyright ©1999 Cliff Walker; Portland, Oregon