Sunday, October 10, 2010

John Lennon's "God" (Happy 10/10/10 Day!)



I discovered this song after I had graduated from High School in 1990 and before going off to Navy Basic Training in 1991. I had bought the Imagine soundtrack for myself for Christmas and this song was on there. I was struck by its simple melody and profound lyrics. I was in my "atheist period" at the time, when I scrutinized everything I had been taught as well as what other religious people were claiming. I loved the opening lines of this song: "God is a concept by which we measure our pain." You could have a long discussion analyzing what that statement means.

So I'll say it again: "God is a concept by which we measure our pain."

Ever notice how extremely religious people often make God in their own image. To use Fred Phelps as an example, he believes in a hateful God because it justifies his own inexplicable hatred. Such a deep hatred represents some sort of pain that he has not healed from or perhaps even attempted to heal from. Instead of dealing with whatever is the source of his hatred (I'm assuming that he might have been molested as a child by a man or he has been fighting against homosexual desires all his life). To him, God is a hateful being who punishes innocent people for the sins of the guilty. This concept might not make sense to rational thinkers (or people who believe in the Law of Karma), but to authoritarian spiritual types, it makes personal sense.

On ABC World News Tonight this past week, there was a segment about a new book in which Americans' belief in God was placed into four categories. Love how academia is always trying to categorize things. They even used an easy to remember formula: the alphabet. The categories are: Authoritarian God, Benevolent God, Critical God, and Distant God. Notice the pattern? People who believe in an Authoritarian God tend to be conservative white men (surprise, surprise). Their God is a tyrannical dictator who zaps people at random for whatever sins. I knew people who believed in such a god. They are usually not pleasant people. Their god is reflective of their own tyrannical, authoritarian tendencies.

The Benevolent God is favoured by women. This god is compassionate, and involved in the details of human lives. Interesting that conservative white males tend to believe in an Authoritarian God, which is popular in churches that advocated a patriarchal hierarchy (man is the head of the household and the women made wedding vows promising to obey her husband), while women prefer a Benevolent God, in which compassion and love are the ultimate traits.

The Critical God is favoured by African Americans, because this type of god has not been as involved in human events as the previous two types of god. Also, this god issues punishment and rewards to people in the afterlife. The relative distance of the Critical God from human affairs appeals to a person who looks at world history and sees so many acts of injustice going unpunished (such as the Nazi extermination of six million Jews, the slave trade, the racism of the segregation era, the ongoing tragedies in Africa). Its hard to look at the world and see a compassionate or Benevolent God.

The final category is Distant God, which according to the definitions, describes the God I believe in...to a point. Its frustrating that they limited the categories to four, because even this Distant God doesn't do my beliefs justice. Basically, this kind of god is the one that Deists believe in, which was in vogue around the time of our Founding Fathers and the Age of Enlightenment. People who subscribe to this view of god believe in a divine clockmaker who set the world in motion and allows it to operate by various laws (the Law of Gravity, the Law of Attraction, the Law of Karma, for example). Other than that, this god is "emotionally distant" from humans, thus prayerful petition would fall on "deaf ears." Miracles don't happen. They aren't kidding about "distant"! This god is popular with people who use this common self-description: "I'm spiritual, not religious." Conservative religionists make fun of people who say that, but I confess that I use that description myself. My spirituality is fluid and nonjudgmental. I'm not interested in dogmatic faith, authoritarian religion, or converting other people. I truly believe that there is no one true religion. We live our lives based on our level of understanding.

John Lennon would fall under the Distant God category as well. What I really love about his song, "God" is the list of "I don't believe in..." and he names people and ideas that he doesn't believe in, such as Hitler, Kennedy, Elvis, Zimmerman (Bob Dylan), mantra, Gita (as in Bhagavad-Gita), I Ching, the Bible, magic, Jesus, yoga, and kings. Then comes the brilliant transition, where he sings "I don't believe in Beatles, I just believe in me, Yoko and Me, the dream is over, what can I say?" And then there's the brilliant reference to a previous Beatles song: "I was the Walrus, but now I'm John." Ahhhhhhhhhhhh...what a brilliant song!

Today is 10 / 10 / 10 Day. One thing I love about the beginning of the new century is that we have twelve years of alliteration. On June 6th, 2006, I read that many paranoid types were worried about evil occuring on that day, but it was rather uneventful, other than a new Omen movie opening in theaters on that specific day. News reports indicated that there was a spike in weddings on July 7th, 2007, as many view 777 as a special number. There was also a series of concerts held around the world on that day to raise awareness for Climate Change. In 2008, the Chinese specifically selected August 8th as the day of the Opening Ceremonies for their Olympics, since 8 is considered a lucky number in China, and having three of them intensifies the luck. Considering what a fantastic job they did with the Olympic Games, I'd say that was a brilliant move. I don't remember anything special for last year's 09 / 09 / 09 Day.

This year, though, several activities around the world are scheduled. Its a do something good for the planet kind of day. For next year, I'd love to get married on 11 / 11 / 11, but that looks unlikely. I would've had to be in a serious relationship right now in order to plan a wedding on that date, and I just don't see it happening, especially since it'll be much more difficult to date a woman while I'm unemployed. My main focus is finding a new job before the year ends. Maybe I'll have better luck for 12 / 12 / 12. After that, we'll never see repetition like that again in our lifetime. Enjoy it now when we only have three of them left!

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