Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Nature, long in tooth and nail

Because our natural world is so pleasing to the human eye, it must be the handiwork of God. So the argument goes. It is usually put forth by those with little firsthand experience, apparently, of Nature.
Have you been out in the woods lately? Swarms of gnats, savage horseflies, blood-ravening mosquitoes, and homicidal spiders assault you at every step. A poem, addressed to God:

Why/The fly?/And at that/The gnat?

The spider strings its webs between low-hanging branches, in the air lanes of flying insects, and those that are trapped it often devours alive. All through the murmurous glade, creatures pursue and are pursued; the race is to the swift, and as for those that stumble and fall, seldom is the courtesy paid to let death descend before beginning the meal.

What a book a devil’s chaplain might right on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering, low and horribly cruel works of nature!” That was Charles Darwin, devout to begin, who gradually lost his faith through long observation of random and remorseless nature.

The woods offer a pretty prospect from my back deck. All art is deception.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Stairway to Heaven

A recent poll of self-identified Republicans, conducted by the Daily Kos, asked the question: “Do you believe that the only way for an individual to go to heaven is though Jesus Christ, or can one make it to heaven through another faith?”
Sixty-seven percent said that Jesus was the only way; fifteen percent said there might be another way, and eighteen percent weren’t sure. I’m wondering about that eighteen percent. Were they not sure about the proper way to get to Heaven, or were they maybe not sure about the whole idea of Heaven itself? I’ll assume the former, while wishing for the latter.
Two thousand and three people participated in the poll, which means that, at most, about 360 people might have answered: What a stupid question! You’re assuming that I subscribe to the inane and idiotic notion of Heaven. Do you think I’m a child?
Polls can be very revealing, but they seldom tell the whole story. In this case, they can only hint at how depressingly inchoate or infantile most people’s beliefs are. Some corollary questions might have been useful or interesting. Such as:
What will this Heaven be like? What will you do there? And if you’re bored with this life, why do you want another that will go on forever?