“Their gods are wood and stone, but our God cannot be destroyed.” As a boy, in fifth grade Bible study, I read these words and they remain with me always as a testament that my God is the final answer. It was the first time I realized that one god could be better than another. Clearly, my God was less vulnerable than these pagan idols, which could easily be destroyed by the ravaging acts of iconoclastic armies. To execute my god, you would minimally have to exterminate everyone with a memory of His existence. A god made of nothing; it’s brilliant: a god with a surface harder than diamonds. A devoted iconoclast, of course, will always find a way.
If our God is given dimension and substance by our thoughts, then it is the thoughts themselves that the conquering armies must ravage. As a young man, I enlisted my time in support of this cause. Though I have softened my position later in life, I am not sure I was ever discharged from the army, as the call to destroy still cries from within me. I was a fool to enlist.
I once asked my brother, who was deeply religious and brighter than I even on his dimmest day, if he believed that God could do all things. “All things that are possible,” he responded. He preemptively answered my attack. I had intended to ensnare him in the philosophical trap invented by Blaise Pascal: “God is not all-powerful, as He cannot build a wall He cannot jump.” Today I would never borrow such a ruse, not even from Mr. Pascal, whom I admire immensely. While Pascal may have thought it was illogical to assume the All–Mighty’s omnipotence, his conundrum offers no evidence to support his theory. To say that a being’s power is limited because even the being himself is incapable of circumventing it is not a very good argument against his absolute power. The thing that He cannot do is nonsensical, and only impossible for that reason. It is like one kid telling another that his dad can win a fight with anyone: “Oh, yeah, what about with your dad?”
I used to exterminate regularly, but it has been awhile. I have a spider living in the corner of one of my bathrooms. He is a bit of an obstacle. I have to dust around him to avoid disturbing him and I am careful not to spray anything toxic near his ramshackle home. I think he is a daddy long legs, but I do not call him that to his face, as it somehow seems base. His more proper designation is pholcus phalangoides, and though that sounds really dignified, I just call him Earl.
If Earl were a little more aware, he would realize that there is nothing that I cannot do. From my brilliant production of written words with the mere tap of plastic keys on my laptop, to my magical extermination sprays that seem to come out of nowhere and smite his cousins when they displease me, it would seem that I am god; and an omnipotent god at that. Earl would be wrong about my powers. While I am infinitely more capable than he is, I cannot secrete silk. Moreover, no matter how hard I try, I cannot perform the simple task of thinking like a spider. I can never know what it means to be Earl, to feel what he feels, to experience the world through eight eyes, and his philosophically sleeping mind.
I was surprised to learn that in making his webs, Earl does not use a uniform silk. He is a very meticulous artisan, and far more clever than I used to think. The silk he weaves has many different textures and a variety of fibers, each with its purpose. I am not even scientific enough to distinguish one silken thread from another, a feat he makes look effortless. This spider has a horrible god. Moreover, Earl is a bit of a genius when it comes to the production and use of silk.
My God, the real God, is completely invisible to Earl. I can see Him, mostly through the lens of legend and the swash of rumors. He also co-authored some books, which once were scrolls, whose foundations started out as rocks. My God has a network of ghost-writers and has been producing literature for some time now. Unlike Earl, I see my God through the things He creates. His living creations and written words tell me of His existence. His missionaries point to the paper work He left scattered about and they show me marvelous things, like Earl, and explain that I cannot make a spider, nor can any man, so my God did it. Before I learned of God, I thought Earl was created by other daddy long legs, but it turns out that daddy long legs and their ancestors could not have always existed. I later learned that everything in the universe must have a beginning, so something must have started daddy long legs off; these spiders were caused to come into existence, which means, by definition, that they must have a Causer, and that causer is my God. My God has no causer, which seems like a violation of the rule, but it’s really OK, as He has no beginning.
As Earl’s god, I am proud to be part of the divine chain. Earl is in there too. If moths were more aware of my spider’s exploits, and had a vocabulary sufficient to allow it, they would probably pray to him. Poseiden used water, Vulcan (Hephaestus) used Fire, Earl uses silk to maintain his divinity. As we look up this divine chain we find creatures that are increasingly capable, until finally, all the way at the top, we find My God, the uncaused Causer of it all, who needs to pray to no one, who answers to no one. Everything is His way and there is nothing any creature in the universe can do about it.
I wonder if my God realizes His true power, or if He gets confused, and like the lower gods in the chain, prays. What if He imploringly lifts His hands to empty ether and beseeches it for greater understanding? What if this futile act makes Him sense more intimacy with the nothingness in which He imagines an ineffable life-form? How foolish that would be. I guess His spiritual life shouldn’t really concern me when all that really matters is that my God can do anything; He is indestructible; He is the final answer. One thing still bothers me, though: He is not wood, not stone, not really any other corporeal material either, and so I worry that maybe He has trouble secreting silk.