This I Believe

Peter - new york, New York
Entered on January 7, 2007
Age Group: 65+

PUTTING GOD FIRST

I believe that monotheism serves our own interests more than God’s.

Even the higher animals—dogs, goats, rabbits, chimpanzees, etc.—play together and mourn their lost companions. And solitary confinement is surely one of the worst punishments that we can impose on a human being.

Then why do we impute it to God? Why do we deny Him any companions on His own level? Can we really expect that God—who must be infinitely more developed than ourselves—would choose us as His chief companions? It would be like our relying on ants for companionship.

God is above any need for companions, the monotheists would respond. Well, maybe so, maybe no. But even if God doesn’t need companions, He might desire them. He might at least appreciate being offered the choice.

We not only assign God to solitary, we call it “progress,” as compared with more “primitive,” polytheistic religions. Yet, those so-called “primitive” religions treated God more kindly, granting Him companions and family, even lovers and rivals, among other Gods and Goddesses.

Doesn’t our belief in monotheism actually arise out of our unacknowledged egoism? By denying God companions on His own level, we make ourselves more important to Him, faute de mieux.

Supposing that God had other, more suitable companions? Rather than being central to His concerns, we would be out on the periphery, like our own solar system in relation to the galactic center.

We can’t let that happen. It would be too disturbing. So we insist on monotheism, not for God’s sake, but for our own—to assure our importance to Him. Believing in one God also feels more satisfying, imagining all power concentrated in a single being, instead of dispersed, requiring us to choose among gods to pray to. Yet, aren’t we again putting our own interests first?

Of course, God doesn’t need our permission to have other companions. If He had wanted them, He would have created them, the monotheists would argue, a possibly doubtful conclusion, considering that we are the best He has managed to create so far. I am not suggesting that our belief in monotheism restricts God; simply that it expresses our self-serving view of Him.

But we are always trying to serve God, the monotheists would rejoin. We are always trying to discern His plan for us and to act in accord with it.

Yet, isn’t that just the point—that, instead of asking what God desires for Himself, we are asking what He desires for us?

What do we offer God in exchange for His forgoing more suitable companions than ourselves? We offer Him our continual praise and thanks, along with our equally continual prayers and supplications.

I propose that we replace monotheism with a more generous spirituality, putting God’s interests first, ahead of our own. We wouldn’t even have to do without His concern for our welfare, only without our being first among His concerns. Surely, a God capable of miracles great and small—from the parting of the Red Sea, and the healing of the lame, down to blessing everyone who sneezes anywhere in the world—is a God who could easily look out for our interests along with His own. He might even tend his flock all the more enthusiastically, glowing from the joy of suitable companionship.