A "God is Real" Event…Well, maybe, maybe not.

Here is the content of a news report I read this morning.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — A teenager fell six stories from a hotel balcony but walked away with just bruises and scrapes.
Matthew Savage, 17, was reaching up to a balcony one floor above to grab a bathing suit that had fluttered down from the 11th floor when he tumbled over the railing Friday.
The teen, from Gainesville, Ga., hit other balconies on his way down and slammed onto a slanted rooftop, then slid into bushes.
“I just closed my eyes,” Savage said, nursing scrapes and bruises on his back and legs.
After landing in the bushes, he got up and started walking back to his room. But paramedics strapped him to a board and flew him to a hospital, where tests showed he was fine.
“This was a ‘God is real’ event,” his sister, Mandy Baker, said.

I’m really glad the kid is okay. He didn’t seem to be doing anything particularly stupid like doing handstands on the balcony like some people who have fallen. He apparently wasn’t drunk or under the influence. In fact, he seems to have been trying to do someone a favor by retrieving their swimsuit. Perhaps hanging out on the balcony to retrieve the suit was not the safest thing and gravity is still in effect in Myrtle Beach I hear.

What struck me was his sister’s response to this “miracle”. She called this a “God is real” event. I guess she believes he was spared by God for some reason. Apparently she considers this a miracle that proves the existence of a diety, I assume the “God” of the Bible or of Judeo-Christianity in general.

It certainly is amazing although not unique. People have fallen from great heights before and walked away. The question is why? If this was a miracle, if “God” intervened in what one might expect to be the “natural” consequences of falling from a six story height, why would he do that? There are other people who have also fallen and died, far more than have lived. Why did God not save them? What is it about this kid that got God’s attention and prompted him to intervene and save his life? Is the kid destined for some great accomplishments that will aid humanity? No one knows and in a few years no one will remember this happened. I would guess the kid will probably live out his life in obscurity and die a death like all the rest of us. So, what is God’s inscrutable plan here?

Is is possible this is not a miracle at all. Is it possible there was a confluence of natural events, all completely explicable and explanable accounting for his survival? I would guess this is not inexplicable at all. Unusual, yes! Rather amazing, indeed! Miraculous, hardly! If the kid should take anything away from this event it should be not to hang out over six story balconies to retrieve bathing suits, not that “God exist and has a wonderful plan for his life.”

Perhaps it was not God that saved him, perhaps it was Vishnu, or Kali or Allah or some other diety. Perhaps it was the Devil and his future is really infamous. The issue is that the “natural” can be amazing. Just because an event is unusual, uncommon, perhaps even unique does not make it a miracle nor does it prove divine intervention or more specifically the divine intervention of a particular diety. We have lost the wonder of the universe, the unpredictable and amazing things to be found in the “natural”. We have dumbed down the natural in order to make room for the supernatural.

Another issue here is the “non-refutability” of an event like this. I expect there is nothing you could say or show some people with regard to this event that would “prove” it was not divine intervention. If there is no event or circumstances or evidence that will disprove an hypothesis, then the hypothesis is not rational at all but an irrational belief.

However, you hear this sort of thing all the time. It seems to be part of the desire humans have to believe there is someone bigger and more powerful than we are who can take care of things that seem out of our control, too complicated for us to understand, or uncertain and unknown to us. We seem to have a problem dealing with uncertainty and the inherent “helplessness” of living in a world where so many things are outside our control. Things have to make sense and if we don’t understand them somebody has to, so enter God. It seems though we are better able to handle the inscrutablility, apparent inconsistency and helplessness in the face of an all-powerful diety than at the hands of the impersonal universe itself.

The key seems to be the personal. Even if he is inscrutable, unknown and apparently inconsistent doing with us what he will at least God is personal, an entity like us and benevolent someone we can supposedly trust. So, perhaps it comes down to not wanted to acknowledge that in this wide universe the individual human is rather inconsequential and insignificant. On the one hand, we are human and living which makes each of use unique and of value. On the other hand we are each like one cell in the body rather insignificant in the face of the whole universe. This is a difficult thing to accept.

I came to this some years ago. I realized that I would, at best only live for 80 to 100 years, a drop in the cosmic bucket. People more famous and accomplished than me had been long forgotten. My mark on the universe was so small it was virtually non-existent. I would come and go and be lost in the eddys of time. I might have an impact on some people, on my children and so on but eventually they too would die and chances are in a a couple of generations I would be nothing more than a name in a geneology book if that. It’s rather sobering but absolutely true.

How does one deal with one’s relative insignificance?

Religion and Sex with a capital A (yes, I mean A)!

Is there any religion in the whole wide world that DOES NOT get it’s panties in a wad over sex? I’ve never run into one yet. EVERY religion I know of either demonizes or diefies sex. It’s either sin or salvation, not just sex.

So, I’m in a rant today about Religion and Sex. I’m not sure what started it. Actually it was probably the bruhaha going on over at hardcorezen.blogspot.com or the gudoblog-e.blogspot.com about Brad, some picture he posted of a girl in a bathing suit and his suggestion people subscribe to SG to support the people who support him (in very small part) by publishing and actually paying him to write his great articles.

If you haven’t read any of them you should. They are at http://www.suicidegirls.com/. However, beware, there are PICTURES OF NAKED WOMEN on that site. So, if that gets your brain, or nether region so heated up you can’t sit zazen then you should probably just stay away. This brings up the whole issue of PORNOGRAPHY and, sex and religion.

Pornography cames from two Greek words, porneia and graphe. The first word means basically any kind of “illicit sex” (of course what is or is not illicit is relative to the religion or culture) and the second means “writing”. Of course in the age of multimedia this expands to all sorts of methods of presentation. The key here is that this word is used in the Greek Old Testament and the New Testament and so derives it’s meaning and connotation from Judeo-Christian concepts. By the way, in case you haven’t guessed already the meaning and connotation are negative, baby.

The interesting thing about the “teapot tempest” going on over at HCZ and DSB is that some of the Zen guys can’t seem to step outside of the cultural/religious box of Christianity to ask, just what is pornography anyway. Are pictures of naked, tattooed, pieced adult women in very mildly sexually nuanced poses, which they volutarily consent to being published, take some of them themselves I expect, and probably, for which they are most likely paid, really pornography? Some people cry a resounding YES!! TATTOO AN “A” TO THEIR CHESTS! It seems many of the zafus are still in the Christian/Western cultural box.

Sex is powerful. It is a powerful act but it is just sex. Yeah there are issues of intimacy, vulnerability, taking care of yourself and not getting taken for a ride, STDs, pregnancy and all that sort of stuff, but it’s still just sex. However, Religions seem to either want you to stay away from it or participate in it in a very narrowly prescribed way because they are afraid of what such a powerful experience might do. It might just make you question whether what they want you to believe and do is really what YOU want to think and do instead of what THEY want you to believe and do (notice the very subtle change of working, clever isn’t it?). On the other hand some religions make sex part of their religion to diefy it. Actually I rather like this approach better than the demonizing of sex but it’s still, in the end, just as bad.

When you diefy sex you try to change it into a spiritual experience which takes it out of the realm of reality and into the realm of religious mysticism and belief. Yes, it is powerful, it is a very “heady” experience, but it is still just sex, a physical, in the body experience. This diefication approach tries to separate sex from the body and make it a non-corporeal, spiritual or enlightenment act. This veiw arises from a Platonic view of the physical and the body in particular which is just as negative as the denigration of the body as we know it in Christianity.

Neither approach is comfortable with sex without trying to make it something it isn’t for good or ill. Both approaches try to wrap it in other things, reinterpret it and transform it into something they can handle and control. After all, it’s all about control. Both approaches deny the fundamental need for personal accountability and responsibility by trying to tell you what sex is, how you should have or not have sex and what you should experience instead of just leaving it to you. Both approaches are not comfortable with the body. Both approaches in one way or another denegrate the body and the desires which arise out of it either as sinful or as not entirely spiritual.

Perhaps I’m taking it out of context. I’m not a Socialist or a Marxist but the statement “Religion is the opiate of the people” seems oddly applicable. If the state controls religion and religion controls you, well, you can see where that is headed.

Elaine Pagels has a great book entitled “Adam, Eve, and the Serpent” in which she examines the view of the early church toward sex. It confirmed what I had always thought, what was never really said, but was believed within the church about sex. Say what you will, say what they will in the “official” literature, Elaine Pagels has the skinny on the view of the Christian church on sex. It pretty much mirrors what most religions have to say as well in one form or another. Basically they are agin’ it even within the confines they themselves set out as acceptable. Sex is still not really okay even in marriage, well it is, but well, kinda, but not really, but we don’t want to say that.

I don’t want to start hanging plagues on the wall or shingles over the door but I’m not just talking out of my hat. Of course no matter what I say I know or how I came to know it, it’s up to you to decide what you want to think. I would be the last one to try to “evengelize” you. However, my view of the Church is not just about a few Sundays in Sunday School or a repressive domineering mother or father squarely in the fold or about some abusive experience or even about being raised in a conservative fundamentalist church for the formative years of life. I have or did have some official credentials for many years and a boatload of personal experience using them with education to back them up for what that’s worth which, in the end, is not much.

It’s not just the Church either. Partly as the result of the Church’s and Christianities influence in general, our society as a result has got to be one of the most confused convoluted and crazy-making places to live when trying to work out how you relate to this very fundamental desire. Is it any wonder so many people are so screwed up about themselves and sex?

At the end of the day, sex is just sex, no more, no less. Actually it’s just sex at the beginning of the day to if you can get it then.