A song that could be silent. An ocean that could be dry. How about a book that could be nothing but deepities? That last one exists: it’s called A God That Could Be Real: Spirituality, Science, and the Future of Our Planet by Nancy Ellen Abrams, and it’s one of the more empty-headed collections of glib clap-trap I’ve seen in quite a while. It’s also really hard to describe, because the contents are so slippery.
Here’s the key.
And then one day it hit me: I didn’t have to work from some pre-packaged idea of “God” and ask if that could exist. The question “Does God exist?” is a hopeless distraction that will never lead anywhere positive. I had to turn the fundamental question on its head. If I wanted to find a God that is real, I had to start from what’s real, what actually exists. I realized that the question that matters is this: Could anything actually exist in the universe, as science understands it, that is worthy of being called God?
In other words, she recognizes that there is no good reason and no respectable evidence for believing in any of the existing religions, but she really, really wants to keep believing, so she’s going to go looking for a hook to hang the label “God” on. I could have spared her the effort of writing a whole book on this nonsense: get a sharpie and a piece of cardboard, write
GOD on it, and then tape it on some random object that will then become the focus of your reverence. It’s easy, and just as useful.
And that’s what the book is. Here’s a physical phenomenon: let’s call it God! Here’s a common human belief: that’s God, too! Here’s a religious concept: if I take a machete to it and hack it into a shape I like better, I can call it God! It’s bizarre and painful to read. What I found most annoying was her claim that she’s going to invent a valid, plausible God (isn’t that what every founder of every religion claims?) by discarding the unbelievable parts of religion, but then what the book does is go through every unbelievable part and rationalizes it so that you can keep on going to church or synagogue, do exactly the same thing you’ve always done, continue to believe, and yet at the same time pat yourself on the back for having a scientific explanation for what you’re doing.
Is there a spiritual world? Does God answer prayers? Is there an afterlife? She asks these questions in various chapters, and more, but instead of the simple, clear answer of “NO“, she instead babbles solipsistically and glibly. So, for example, here’s how she answers the prayer question.
The emerging God is not a supernatural being who listens or possesses a wil, desires, or decision-making ability. So how can such a God help us?
Can it love us?
Can we love it?
Can it respond?
Can it answer our prayers?
The answers to the last four questions are yes, yes, yes, and yes. The answer to the first is that the answers to the last four are yes, yes, yes, and yes.
But words must be interpreted. We have to keep reorienting ourselves in the new universe, never assuming that we know what baggage-burdened words may mean in this new context.
I know. It makes no sense. But then you have to simply read her explanation for how to reconcile these contradictions, and you realize it makes even less sense. Her rationalization is that there is some kind of greater consciousness that is her God. Asking what is on the other side of the conversation when we pray, she says:
But on the other side there is a larger consciousness than what we think of as our own. Millions of people intuit this but then assume that the larger consciousness belongs to a separate God. Or they think of it as God. But projecting it completely outside ourselves causes confusion and incoherence, because no larger consciousness could be floating in space independent of human beings.
And then she babbles about stars and stardust and dark matter and dark energy, and something she calls a Cosmic Uroboros of Human Identity. Why? I don’t know. And she ends that chapter telling us to
Pray, pray, pray. The only thing I was praying for was an end to the book, but that’s just a chapter in the middle of section II of a three-section book, so that prayer went unanswered.
Worse, we have a cosmic destiny. Here’s the future of our planet:
We humans can go on forever, seeding the entire future visible universe with the kind of intelligence that generates God.
Don’t let this news get out. I can just imagine the star-faring, methane-breathing gas-bags of Betelguese getting word of our evangelical goal, and dispatching a fleet of planet-smashers to Sol to sterilize the third planet before they can poison the rest of the Milky Way.