By Thomas Shane
A Smattering of FAQS From OMG.god
First Things First, Does God Exist? Who wants to know? JK. See next question.
I Want to Impress My Friends--How Can I Prove the Existence of God? Great party trick, but not as easy as it sounds. There used to be a fine old tradition of trying to prove the existence of God by the exercise of reason (LOL). Take Anselm’s so-called ontological argument, which has the virtue of simplicity. “God,” he insisted, “is a being than which nothing greater can be conceived.” If God didn’t exist, or existed only in your mind, then you wouldn’t be conceiving hard enough, would you—it would still be possible to imagine a greater being, one that did, in fact, exist. So if you’ll just take a moment to do that…. Voila, right?
“Merda bubula!” said Doctor of the Church Thomas Aquinas. (From the Latin, roughly, “BS!”) Thinking’s no different from wishing, he pointed out—do you see any beggars on horses?
Oh, Thomas, Thomas, Thomas! Now we know why the smartest people in the world are named after you.
But what say you, namesake, does God exist or not?
Of course he does, Uncle Thomas said. Otherwise there’d be: (1) no unmoved mover, (2) no first cause, (3) no ultimate source of necessity, (4) no source of perfection, (5) no purpose for inanimate things. Read your Aristotle, for heaven’s sake.
Whoa, you say, hold on a minute now. First off, one through four all sound like variations on a single theme, namely, you gotta start somewhere. But do you? What about the bottomless series of negative integers ending with minus one? What about proper fractions? Do the math, old sock, infinite regress is a fact of life. As for numero cinco there—is that what God’s for? To give stones a reason to go on?
Oh, the tedium. In time, more wise guys—French guys and German guys like René Descartes and Karl Leibniz and such like—weighed in. The ontological argument got recycled, with the addition of a proof, deemed necessary by its critics, that God is, in fact, possible (great wrinkle, no?). There was a cosmological argument, which looked like a combination of Dr. Tom’s (2) and (5), but expressed as the need for contingent things (that is, the whole lot of us, animate and inanimate) to have a sufficient reason for existing outside ourselves. There was an argument that turned on the distinction between eternal (or necessary) truths and contingent truths. I’m sparing you the details. Suffice to say, the German Immanuel Kant, Debunker First Class, shot them all down—old wine in new bottles, he said, or words to that effect. But that pickpocket Leibniz had yet another notion up his sleeve, arguing that a pre-established harmony underlay reality—otherwise, how could all clocks (theoretically at least) keep the same time? Order, capital O, he averred, is evidence of purpose, capital P. Wily Kant said, fine, you’ve proved the existence of a really, really intelligent designer, if I may use that term, but that doesn’t make him God as we like to think of God, you know, omnipotent and omniscient and all that.
You can’t prove a negative, it is often said. Well, as you can see, it can be pretty darn hard to prove a positive too! That’s why that French rascal Pascal decided to make book on this one—we’re all going to find out sooner or later, why not make it interesting? He hedged his famous wager, though, figuring he had more to lose if he bet against God’s existence than if he bet for it. Nietzsche called Pascal a “gutless wonder,” or again, words to that effect.
The real problem, of course, as any lawyer will tell you (for a price), is not one of proof, but burden of proof. I mean, enough of this choplogic already. Why should it be up to us to prove God’s existence? Let Him prove it. Unequivocally, unambiguously, undeniably, once and for all. But gently, no? ;)
As for impressing your friends—can you juggle?
What the Heck Is “The Immaculate Conception”? OK, talk about a frequently asked question—bravo! So much confusion around this one, especially at Christmastime. Let’s start with what it isn’t. It is not “The Virgin Birth.” The virgin birth alludes to the delivery here on earth of the messianic Jesus Christ via the womb of a woman, his mother Mary, who is said, delicately, to have “know[n] not a man.” Paternity, accordingly, if ever so discreetly, has been credited to a divine source, the “Holy Spirit (alt., Ghost).”
Call me a creature of the Enlightenment, if you must, but at this point I feel compelled to take a small step back. Looked at rationally, by which I mean scientifically, you could think of the virgin birth as a case of pseudocyesis, or “false pregnancy”—a phenomenon first documented by Hippocrates in 300 B.C.—being taken, somehow, to term. Or even a case of parthenogenesis. Far from being unheard of in nature, “spontaneous conception,” if you will, happens all the time—just ask a Komodo dragon, or a whiptail lizard, or a hammerhead shark. Not so common in humans, maybe, but neither, for example, is spontaneous combustion, which is a particular fear of mine since it’s alcohol related. Metastability is how scientists refer to this sort of thing: there are awesome energies locked up in matter, and they are light sleepers. The older I get, the slower I am to rule anything out.
On the other hand, it is impossible to wash away the indelible stain of a classical education, where one finds the mortal and the immortal, the finite and the infinite, the temporal and the eternal all mixed together in the one stew. Surely, then, you—sorry, I—cannot deny that the literature of many cultures is replete with examples of gods being smitten by comely young women and/or men. Picking one culture at random, let’s look at the polytheistic Greeks, and their top god: Zeus. Zeus had no need of sex, divine or otherwise, to propagate. Witness Athena, who, in a remarkable twist on the virgin-birth paradigm, sprang, full-grown and in full armor, from his ear. Still, employing all manner of disguises (his wife, Hera, who happened also to be his sister, was supernaturally jealous), old Zeus sure slept around. If you happened to catch his roving eye, watch out! Whether in the shape of eagle, swan, bull, mist, or even your absent beau(!), Zeus was going to find his way into your bed. And he wasn’t shooting blanks, no sir. The list of his illegitimate offspring reads like a Greek Gods’ Who’s Who, Vol. 1 & 2, “Mortal” and “Immortal.” Helen and Hercules, to name just two of the former; Apollo, Aphrodite, Hermes, among the latter. While it would take us too far afield to pursue the subject at any length, it certainly bears mention that many otherwise quite murky circumstances on our fair planet become utterly crystalline the minute divine lust is taken into account. In fact, so plausible is this notion of divine-human congress, and so firmly is it ensconced in the collective ur-wisdom of peoples the world over, both primitive and advanced, across the millennia, there’s actually a name for it. Myth.
Is It Me, or Have You Still Not Answered the Question? Remind me now, you were asking about “The Immaculate Reception,” right? JK. We don’t have to talk football if you don’t want to. So, OK, here we go—“The Immaculate Conception”—onward and downward ever deeper into the weeds. The Roman Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, proclaimed by the pope (Pius IX) in 1854, speaking “infallibly”—as opposed to “through his hat”—pertains not to Jesus’s conception, but his mother Mary’s, and holds simply that she herself was conceived without “original sin.” (Note: The root of “immaculate”--macula—is Latin for sin; the “im-” prefix negatives the root word—contrary to what you may have thought you learned from the painstaking parsing of the word “infamous” in ¡Three Amigos!) Now, original sin was an idea cooked up around the turn of the fourth century by Augustine of Hippo, a real piece of work as you might guess by his name. Remember that indelible stain I mentioned, having to do with a classical education? Well, this Hippo, who had sex on the brain, takes it one giant step further. All human babies, according to him—and following his lead, the Church—are infected by this thing called original sin, having inherited the nasty bug, down the bloodline, from the original sinners, Adam and Eve. BTW, great band name that, don’t you think, “Original Sinners”—wait, I think there is a band by that name, in Canada, if I’m not mistaken—
Apologies, train of thought broke down on me there. Refocusing. The thing about A & E, we would all do well to remember, is that they disobeyed God’s command, as reported in the Book of Genesis, to keep their ever-lovin’ mitts off the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Seems odd, but maybe God got a kick out of personally answering all their FAQs one at a time, as they came up, I don’t know. Regardless, they partook of the fruit of the knowledge tree, and … Bingo! Original sin. According to Augustine, and subsequently, the Church, it doesn’t matter a lick how cute the baby is, or sweet, or smiley—or even if it sleeps through the night—it’s going straight to Limbo, a suburb of Hell, unless the stain of this sin is removed by baptism. Mary, however, alone among all humans (except Jesus, who was a special case, obviously), did not inherit this sinful trait, according to Pio Nono, which is how Pius IX is affectionately referred to in Italy (except by the good citizens of Perugia, who haven’t forgotten the murderous rampage his Swiss Guard visited upon them, for unrelated reasons, in The Year of Our Lord 1859).
No one, it perhaps should be noted, has ever made bold to say that Mary’s conception took place without the moans and cries, the nipping and neighing, the bucking and shuddering, etc., that are customary when humans, as opposed to spirits or ghosts, get involved in this procreation business. As for the requisite, if unsanitary, exchange of bodily fluids—well, again, as I say, “immaculate” is not to be taken literally, in this material sense. Mary’s mom and dad still had to do the nasty, otherwise we’d be back where we started, erroneously discussing the virgin birth.
Does God Care Who Wins the Super Bowl? Finally. I was starting to think you’d never ask. This is a very serious question. One with morning-line implications, as Super Bowl 50 approaches. Take note of the Arabic number, BTW. Until now, Super Bowls, like popes, have come with Roman numerals attached, but the powers that be just didn’t like the look of Super Bowl L for some reason. Anyway, to your question. The answer, quite emphatically, I’m afraid, is … NO! Do you remember Super Bowls XXV–XXVIII? Unless you’re from Buffalo, you probably don’t. But God does. That ruined it for Him. Also, frankly, He’s had it up to here with all the praying and posturing that goes on around sports. First off, it’s “confusing as hell” (direct quote)—both sides asking for the same thing—somebody’s bound to go away mad. Secondly, if He must pay attention to our tiny planet—He’s of two minds about this, I gather—there are some way more important issues to focus on, wouldn’t you agree? Bottom line: anybody praying to God in the hopes of influencing the outcome of a sporting event of any kind—Super Bowl, World Cup, Stanley Cup, World Series, March Madness, anything to do with golf (¿)—I’m talking any level, pee-wee football right through senior softball—take my word for it, you’re just wasting your time. You’d be better off dialing up your cable company and waiting forever for an actual human being to blow you off.
What Does God See When He Looks Down on Earth? The question has been stated metaphorically, are you aware of that? Anyway, I’ll give it to you straight. As CEO of Everything, God is kind of Big Picture in his approach to things. For example, Pisces, Latin for “fish,” is a lovely constellation in our Zodiac—a nice little group of stars, i.e., suns, with mythic portent going back to those imaginative Greeks—but it is just one little smudge in our sky. God has much, much bigger fish to fry. When He looks at us, across Time and Space, what He sees—make of these tidings what you will, but He is very, very hard to impress—is DNA. Period. Explains rather a lot, though, doesn’t it?
Are Men and Women Equal in the Eyes of God? Let me answer your question this way. Men have 22 billion brain cells, women, 19 billion. This may explain why grown men can sit around for hours talking about such things as lighting farts, but women rarely will.
How About in the Eyes of the Church? No.
Why? Men run the Church.
Is There Really an Inscription over the Gates of Hell that Reads “Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here”? No. Dante made that up. What it really says over the Gates of Hell is “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff ... and it’s all small stuff.”
Are You Serious? Are you?
Thomas Shane is a contributing editor for Arcadia. His stories can be found online at Per Contra, Mount Hope, and trans lit mag. Other publication credits include Aethlon, American Way,Elysian Fields, Light, Other Voices, River Oak Review, Slippery Elm, and Trajectory, and the anthologies Fresh Water and When Last on the Mountain: The View from Writers over 50. He has also been runner-up or finalist in a number of writing contests, including the Glimmer Train Fiction Open, the International Imitation Hemingway Competition, and the Dzanc Books Short Story Collection Contest.