This is perhaps the biggest debate that takes place every Sunday at a UU coffee hour. Sometimes it is taken on in force from the pulpit. Other times it is explored on the blogs and twitter feeds in cyberspace.
The simple answer is: YES.
The more complex answer is: Yes, in some spiritual construct fitting for some; but no, not for others.
And the real answer: Some know by faith there is; yet others know by critical thinking there is not.
I grew up in a Lutheran Church community. I loved it. I knew God was real and could feel his eyes upon me when I was sinful and felt the glory of his might when I did well. My parents believed. My community believed. I grew up in faith, so with faith I knew God to be real.
As I grew older, cracks appeared in my faith. The black kids who got picked on even though ‘Jesus Loved the Little Children’. My father, who never smoked died of cancer in his lungs. Tian An Men Square massacre. The chemistry minor in college that taught me the property of the physical universe that had previously been God’s majesty. Prayer vigils for African children who still died of malnutrition.
How would a God allow such things? Childhood sexual abuse. AIDS. The Sudan. The Christmas Day tsunami. 9/11.
I did this dance for many years — knowing by faith that God existed, but seeing with my eyes how God’s plan was seriously flawed, if indeed events around me where a plan. Mysterious ways or not, things were pretty screwed up if there was a God up there orchestrating things.
For me, I came to realize that the God I know exists in faith is not all-powerful. There is no man behind the curtain. There is, however, a spirit within me that I cannot ascribe to hormones or physiology. A friend of mine told me I had very charismatic adrenaline. That was pretty funny. The guy was my lab partner in organic chemistry and was a complete atheist.
He said he had no room for God. I asked him to tell me about the expanse of the universe. He did. It’s nearly incomprehensible how vast our universe is. We both agreed that what precipitated such an immense universe was a nearly cataclysmic explosion called the Big Bang.
My friend and I could never settle one question. He could argue that life was an assembly of atoms that made up molecules. These molecules along with some primary forces such as heat made everything. EVERYTHING. I agreed with him. But then I would turn to him and ask, “then what was the force that created the Big Bang?”
This drove him crazy. It was fun to torture him in this way because it really did interest him. One day when we were particularly upset about an exam on quasar pulses – seriously – worse exam ever. I think I got a 5 out 100. It was brutal. But I started playing the quantum mechanics game with him.
In a nutshell, when you have an atom, particles fly around that atom at near light speed. They fly so quickly we call the space where it flies a shell, like a case around the nucleus. We can predict where the particle will land based on this shell. But we will never, ever be sure. We can think it is one place when it is really another. That concept, right there, was God. God is ubiquitous. He, she or it may be within us or miles away, but God is that stuff that holds the systems in place. God is the potential. God is the ability to be everywhere. He is in the smallest components of life and since he is, he also makes up the largest component of life.
Some relish in saying God is LOVE. I relish in saying God is LIFE. Love is a feeling that can’t be quantified. Life is a structure that can be verified.
And I love Life. God is not in the rule making, or the Kingdom building. God is in the serendipity that brings meaning to life.