n primitive traditions deities are cast in the image of their creation. They look like humans, though sometimes with an elephant trunk or cat head or extra set of arms added for effect. Liberal Jews and Christians have evolved a less anthropomorphic notion of God: a genderless, non-corporeal, omnipresent, and admirably benevolent being. This version of Yahweh is fuzzy because he is defined using terms that are, perhaps deliberately, difficult to comprehend. And he is kindly, caring, forgiving, and peaceful: a warm and fuzzy god. How lovely!
Fuzzy Yahweh is immaterial, or anyhow less material than gods like Zeus. He doesn’t have a human body (at least hardly ever) and never visits earth in animal form. And he lacks the pettiness of the Greek gods. He is the sort of deity Xenophanes sought to concoct.
Fuzzy Yahweh is admittedly more appealing than Regular Yahweh, but is, perhaps unfortunately, equally implausible. Less capricious and warlike than Regular Yahweh, he poses theodicean complications; the liberals created a god too nice to account for the world we observe. You must blur your eyes while reading the Bible, skipping over thick chunks of scripture, to allow for Fuzzy Yahweh to have had any hand in writing it. And you must avoid the newspaper! A thoughtful person is compelled to ask why a being as intelligent, pro-active, all-powerful, and kind-hearted as Fuzzy Yahweh tolerates natural disasters and man-made tragedies. Theologians devise dizzying non-answers that distract but do not satisfy.
There is some doubt as to whether Fuzzy Yahweh is even an intelligible concept. The American country lawyer Clarence Darrow, famous for defending high school biology teacher John Scopes in 1925 for the crime of teaching evolution in the state of Tennessee, was agnostic to the question of God on this basis:
I think that it is impossible for the human mind to believe in an object or thing unless it can form a mental picture of such object or thing. Since man ceased to worship openly an anthropomorphic God and talked vaguely and not intelligently about some force in the universe, higher than man, that is responsible for the existence of man and the universe, he cannot be said to believe in God. One cannot believe in a force excepting as a force that pervades matter and is not an individual entity. To believe in a thing, an image of the thing must be stamped on the mind. If one is asked if he believes in such an animal as a camel, there immediately arises in his mind an image of the camel. This image has come from experience or knowledge of the animal gathered in some way or other. No such image comes, or can come, with the idea of a God who is described as a force.
Here we stumble upon an epistemological question of some complexity. Gravity is an invisible force and we’ve no problems believing in that. Darrow would reply that gravity is a force “that pervades matter and is not an individual entity.” Gravity is known by its effects upon mass-energy, and it can be described in material terms (as a bend in space-time or as the activity of elementary particles called gravitons), whereas Fuzzy Yahweh is a supernatural force. And what exactly is a supernatural force? Does that assembly of words, “supernatural force,” add up to something coherent? Legions of people believe in a God-force despite Clarence Darrow’s opinion that it’s impossible, but what they believe might, technically speaking, amount to nonsense.
To add to the confusion, Fuzzy Yahweh is often described in the same breath as both an impersonal force and a conscious being with a personality – at once an It and a He (or a He/She). He is not an anthropoid bodily, but he has a mind and this mind is humanlike. This deity’s parts do not fit together sensibly.
What underlies most supernatural beliefs is the notion that somehow our universe isn’t quite good enough. The supernatural is invoked to save us from the doldrums of the world as it is. What an insult to the world as it is! Our universe is awe inspiring. It is supernatural nonsense – fabricated to spice things up – that is shallow and pathetic in comparison. From a purely aesthetic view, beliefs about the supernatural can be rejected on the basis that the real world, understood by science, unembellished by fiction, is so much more beautiful.
If the world is so horrible that we need to believe in God to make life tolerable, doesn’t this suggest something bad about God, the maker? The world is not horrible. But if it were then why bother worshiping the culprit who created such a terrible place?
- Of course, the Christian Fuzzy Yahweh still impregnated Mary. That was awfully Zeus-like of him. And he visited earth in the form of a human male, but it was just that one time. (Perhaps this is why they still call Yahweh a “he,” even though he is supposedly non-physical and therefore genderless.)↩
- “Why I Am An Agnostic” by Clarence Darrow, see http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/clarence_darrow/why_i_am_an_agnostic.html↩