By Christopher Cudworth
The massive level of statistics kept on professional sports are indicators. They point out patterns of success and failure. In professional baseball every strike or ball pitch, fielding error, hit, RBI and home run is carefully chronicled to the annals of the sport.
All those statistics enable baseball historians to draw comparisons between current players and those who played baseball in the past. This obsession with minutiae has only grown with the addition of speed guns for pitchers and other technology that produces new measurements of the game.
The same goes for shot charts in basketball, punt stats in football and possession time in soccer. Every sport has it measurements and fans of each sport analyze them with furious devotion.
Science also has its statistics. Thanks to very precise measurements of magnetic patterns on the world’s sea floors, we now know how the continents move across the surface of the earth. The theory of plate tectonics traces millions of clues to the basic fact that South America was once connected as a land form to Africa. The shapes are obvious by studying any sort of globe, but until recently there was no way to understand or explain how our continents pulled apart and moved across the surface of the earth.
Things like that take a long time to occur. The movement of an entire continent amounts to less than fractions of an inch per year. The earth is patient and persistent. The matrix that drives it all depends on heat convections from the molten core of the earth that push to the surface in identifiable ways. That is volcanism, which is both a creative and destructive force on this planet.
Creation and destruction
Creative and destructive forces are always at play. That is why so many people love the intense passion of sports. One team wins and one team loses. Entire seasons can hinge on one play. Statistics are kept to determine when the turning points occurred. The furious pace of hockey with its crashing violence and speed, bulleted pucks and sudden goals is like a compressed form of plate tectonics. Call it life tectonics if you will.
If you draw a line with love at one end and emotional pain at the other, the range of human emotion always fits somewhere on the scale. Emotional pain is that state of mind where loss, worry and defeat reside. We seek to avoid that state of mind at almost any cost. At the other end of the spectrum is love, where joy, acceptance and bliss reside. We seek love in many ways, from personal relationships to religion. Love is the ultimate expression of positive human emotion.
Love and pain
These two extremes, love and emotional pain, are very real phenomenon in human existence. To deny someone the reality that emotional pain is real is to deny their existence. Indeed, the worst crimes in human history focus on creating emotional pain so deep and dismissive we can only call them evil. The Holocaust sought to inflict emotional pain on Jewish people to the point where the goal was to eliminate their very existence on this earth. The emotional pain of those events remains with us in this world. People who seek to deny that the Holocaust ever happened exhibit the same psychopathy that enabled such terror and murder to occur in the first place.
Indeed, psychopaths are known for their patent lack of concern for the emotions of other human beings. Psychopathy or sociopathy are destructive forms of selfish behavior even to the point where acts of murder, genocide and manipulation of truth and wisdom for self-gain are a matter of obsession. To characterize this behavior, the Bible relates the most infernal psychopath of all, Satan, as having the ability to manipulate even God’s words to his own benefits.
When Satan appears in the form of a talking serpent very early on in the Bible, the epitome of all evil behaves like a true psychopath, manipulating Eve by challenging her into questioning the word of God…
Genesis 3 [Full Chapter]
[ The Fall ] Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LordGod had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” …
But the Serpent was persistent to the point of destruction.
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Matthew 26:36-46 [Full Chapter]
[ Gethsemane ] Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” …
Of course his disciples fall asleep. Jesus is thus left isolated and alone in his fear and grief. This passage characterizes the frightening solitude of confrontations with emotional pain. Perhaps we never feel more real and yet more alone than those moments when emotional pain overwhelms our hope.
Jesus turns to prayer to assuage his deep isolation. His thoughts are recorded as being directed to God, even asking for deliverance if possible from the horrid passage through pain and humiliation he senses in the next hours. Then he is taken into captivity––another form of emotional pain––and beaten, mocked, tried falsely and crucified. Things really don’t get much worse than that in human existence.
Acts of love
Yet the will to endure all that emotional and physical pain is ultimately an act of love. The sacrifice of that one man symbolizes the cogent acknowledgement that emotional pain is real in this world. By example the Bible shows what it means both to suffer and to sacrifice, and to do it for love.
Think about that for a moment. We would do nearly anything for the people we truly love. The associations and attachments and deep need that stems from love as a human emotion are so strong that the bonds formed from love frequently can’t be broken even when emotional pain wedges its way into our existence, tearing at our hope to the point where it seems impossible to carry on.
We marry for these reasons, to fortify our love in bonds that are manifested through a pledge of loyalty even unto death. We see these bonds acted upon in nature in pairs and groups that provide safety and assurance to individuals. That is how it has always been through the annals of time. As we’ve grown in knowledge about the genetics of the human race, we’ve expanded our definitions of human bonds between races and even genders as true expressions of love.
In fact we call our own lineage and emotional expression “human nature” to describe that baseline set of needs and personality that comes through in all people. Our understanding of the human animal has grown through science to the point where we now know that the human race is fused through DNA with all other living things. We share a common ancestry even if people love to deny it and try to discredit the process of evolution that has produced us all.
Evolution and God
Like God, evolution is both a creative and destructive force in this world. We know that 99% of all living things that ever existed on this earth are now extinct. In essence, the flood of change and perpetuity that is evolution has wiped out all but a fraction of life on earth. And yet that diversity is so complex and manifold that we struggle to express it in one narrative. It seems the story of Noah and the animals on the ark is more real when we recognize these facts of life. Our present day earth is an ark in space and time.
That which has emerged and thrives on this planet is ours to study and comprehend for meaning. The Bible itself depends on this organic fundamentalism, that all the earth is symbolic of God’s creative and destructive powers. It is for us to respect and sustain this world for as long as we are here. To do otherwise is to play fast and loose with God’s will, and we don’t really want to do that. That’s a gamble.
Some people want to force God’s hand in all this, seeking to essentially bring about the end of the world to confirm their belief that God is all powerful. Others simply don’t believe human beings have any influence in this world, that it is just too big for mankind to affect. They deny any possibility of anthropogenic influence on our planet’s climate. They maintain that global warming caused by human pollution of the atmosphere is possible. But how ironic is that! Many of the same people willingly accept that Adam and Eve brought sin into the world, yet can’t conceive how that human sin might lead to a planet compromised by human activity.
One must question whether people in that level of deep denial really believe in God at all. Perhaps their own motivations; greed, pride or selfish worldviews combine to eclipse the very real connections between human actions and defiant abuse of God’s creation.
True believers get the real connections between human foibles and despoilation of creation. They also get that emotional pain stems from a ruined planet. It causes human suffering. It is the absence of love for creation. It is a disrespectful and even psychopathic view toward this world upon which we depend for survival.
So the answer to the question, “Why believe in God?” is that our concept of God encompasses both the reality of our emotional existence and the acknowledgement that the creative forces at work in this world can also quickly turn to destruction if we do not have some tool to comprehend our very emotional connection to our material existence. God is the opposite of psychopathy. God is the source of creativity. God is a source of comprehension of the reality of human emotion. God is love. And that’s enough for all of us.