Thursday, October 05, 2006

Are microwaves a blessing?

“Since microwaves exist, God cannot.”

This is what I call “The Fallacy of the Microwave”: the belief that because human beings have come so far technologically, God simply cannot exist. I must have read someone else discuss this, because otherwise I don’t know why of all things I would have chosen a microwave as the example.

In any case, this attitude seems truly embedded in our culture – I was even reminded of it again today while reading a discussion of faith and science. Yet it has often eluded me. Exactly why would someone believe that technological advancement, be it space exploration or human inventiveness, would eliminate the possibility of a creator?

I think there are a couple answers to this.

The first is, “Scientific discoveries provide sufficient explanations, thus eliminating the need to posit a creator.” In other words, religion is yesterday’s thing. One problem with this is that we haven’t come as far technologically as we think: at least seven wonders have been around for a long time, as well as mathematics, astronomy, and discoveries of all sorts. Also, the claim rings false because scientific explanations are insufficient in many areas. We do not have scientific explanations for morality and beauty and personhood that are compelling improvements upon the religious ones. (Yes, I know we’ve already debated this point to death; the fact that it can be so debated proves my point, I hope.)

The second reason is more subtle.

Second: People are accustomed to thinking in terms of how they can manipulate the world around them, what they can achieve. Yet the Bible contrasts human achievement with divine blessing, and to think in terms of blessing is essential to think religiously.

For example, in Genesis 11 those who built the tower of Babel said: “Let us make a name for ourselves.” After God ends this building project, we read about his call to Abraham in the very next chapter. He says to Abraham, “I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”

That's not the only time in the Bible that God says, "I will." And sometimes he means, "I - yes, I and only I - will!"

Do you see the contrast? Religious thought – thought about God, at least in the biblical sense – is predicated on the notion of blessing. This is the idea that we need God, we cannot obtain everything for ourselves. In a world where we are so impressed with our achievements, it becomes easy to forget all that we cannot do on our own: we cannot save ourselves (i.e., from death), we cannot control our destiny, we cannot enter into a relationship with our creator.

An old friend of mine (happy birthday, Shari) used to be known at her workplace for using the word “blessing.” Instead of speaking of luck or achievement, she would say things like, “It was such a blessing that such and such happened.” Her coworkers were puzzled, or at least amused, by this language.

Are you?

1 comment:

Jeff said...

What the hey kind of microwave is that? My microwave has never spit a pizza out the top with my opening the door....