May peace be upon all of you. My name is Jared Gimbel, class of 2011. Perhaps you might have seen my WesCeleb interview published in early November. Maybe you’ve been to one of my Kaballah- or Yiddish-oriented meetings, or playing one of many games with me from Risk to Magic: the Gathering. I also confess “Larper” as one of my side professions.
More likely, however, you might have seen me around campus with a quaint hat of a religious nature, or had a discussion with me ranging from Dr. Seuss to Genetic Engineering. In many of these discussions, I find that the image of religion in the eyes of others is not what I was taught in my religious training in Modern Orthodox Judaism.
Ultimately, the media dominates the image of religious people and this is—along with the people it chooses to portray badly—the ultimate desecration of the Holy Name. This column plans to unveil the true nature of organized religion and belief, in the monotheistic religions as well as all others—to be the beauty and the grace to humankind that it was meant to be.
For wherever Divinity may reside, it seems to be out of touch with the human race. No more does this become more painfully evident than at Wesleyan, where belief in a higher power for the delusional or for those who would remain eternal children.
The stories of the Old Testament and of the Qu’ran are seen as more prominent than the laws contained therein. Those few laws well-known enough have been often twisted into messages of hate or burdensome prohibitions.
The New Testament, to non-believers, is a collection of Jesus’ sayings that are implausible in their application, as human beings are “innately bad” and many such sayings have no place in the humanity of today. The literal application of these aphorisms by some can induce even more unneeded scoffing by others.
Greco-Roman Mythology is seen as an outlandish canon, disorganized and entertaining at best (especially the “Roman” part) with spirituality remarkably absent from it regardless of who tells the stories. Other mythological traditions as well—the Norse, the Japanese, and the Celtic, to name a few—have contributed more monsters than gods to the common knowledge of today.
Animism and spirit worship, Shinto included, are derided to the point of being virtually unknown in any form to most people.
Whether they are what the Talmudic Sages called “Dead Idols” or the One G-d, they seem to be equally dead to the archetypical academic.
But if this is indeed the thinking person who pronounced Divinity as the thing of yesterday, perhaps more thinking indeed can suit them.
“There is only one religion”, chided George Bernard Shaw, “though there are a hundred versions of it”. Ultimately, whether one call upon the G-d of Monotheism or any other deity, the belief in the Divine resides primarily on one thing: order, or more specifically, the possibility of lacking entropy.
Take for example, some polytheistic creation myths. The word “chaos” in English had a religious meaning prior to its casual use in our own day: whatever was extant before the creation of the world. Whether the poorly translated words from Genesis “null and void,” or the spawning of creation from a series of primeval elements, as occurs in countless other myths, there was indeed something ineffable or unthinkable before our world was created. By whatever means it happened, Divinity was behind it—and whatever caused order to emerge from that chaos by scientific and predictable phenomena, that is the Divinity that all religions worship today.
The renowned Jewish Philosopher Maimonides notes that whenever G-d is to carry out a miracle, He does so in a way that is not miraculous by any measure. Sir Isaac Newton believed gravity to be the most divinely empowered force in existence—always sharp, always working, and always showing itself. Science and theology are inseparable partners, and as Ralph Waldo Emerson noted, either is meaningless without the other.
The Big Bang Theory was, above all, religion’s greatest victory. The idea that there was indeed an ancient nothingness, which took to the order of the universe today, was deemed in its time so close to creationism it was disbelieved by some scientists as a bias. Before that, it was plausible to the scientific community that the universe had no creation—it always was and it would always be.
It is in no way a refutation of creationism, it is an affirmation of every creation story’s overall message: that order came from the chaos and/or the elements, and that these eventually took the form of life today.
G-d does not have to be only a storybook, and indeed He cannot be. The Divinity is the collective consciousness and the very existence of the world—there is nothing outside of it. Believing in G-d does not involve just having contests of belief—seeing who can take upon the most outlandish of all creeds. It only takes little faith—that there is indeed order in the world—that which brings creatures to life, brings the laws of physics to existence, and makes technology real.
Belief in the Divine is a belief in order in the universe. Take this, for example: a man and a woman partner in creating a fellow human being, and G-d instills His own portion as well—life, which counteracts the law of entropy. Once G-d’s breath leaves a human and he leaves the world, the law of entropy takes over him and he decomposes. G-d is whatever was within any being during its existence, that ensured that chaos did not conquer it. It is in any place you wish to look for it.