God may be a toad.
It's been a lousy week for American-Middle East relations, due in large part to an idiotic anti-Islamic film made by an Egyptian Coptic Christian ex-convict gas station attendant living in LA named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula with a long history of arrest for fake bank accounts, fraudulent cheques and dealing methamphetamine. Not exactly a representative of the U.S. government, then.
As I read about the latest violence in Egypt this morning, the postman dropped a book through my door.
It's called Big Questions for Little People Answered by Some Very Big People, which is a pretty umm... title for what is, in fact, a completely riveting book compiled in aid of the NSPCC.
The idea is simple -- kids ask questions (like, why is the sea salty? or why do we sleep at night? or what's inside the earth?) and professionals answer them.
Sometimes, the professionals are a bit lateral -- like me, for instance. Along with Julian Bagginni, I was asked to write a short(ish) answer to the question Who is God?, presumably because my latest book features God in what you might call a starring role.
I don't quite remember writing my answer, but reread and decide that It Was Good. And in a week of unrest like this one, I thought maybe it was worth printing here -- along, of course, with the suggestion that you buy a copy of Big Questions for your favourite child, and find out how Noam Chomsky answers the question, "Why can't animals talk?" and Jarvis Cocker answers "Why do we have music?"
WHO IS GOD?
Now there’s a question.
Is God a man? Or a woman? Or a fish? Or a goat? Is God old or young? Fat or thin? The size of an onion or a dinosaur or Mount Everest? Is God as slow as a snail or as fast as a shooting star? Is God invisible? Out to lunch? Listening carefully? Or just a very silly idea?
Does God live in heaven? On a cloud? Somewhere in outer space? In our heads? In the Bible? Or no place at all?
Maybe God is a toad. Or a crow. Or a dream. Or a tree. Or an idea someone thought up ten thousand years ago. Or all those things. Or none of them. Why not? No one can really tell us who or what God is, or even if God exists at all.
Some people think that God created man.
Some people think that man created God.
Some people think that their God is the only God.
Some people think there are lots of Gods -- hundreds of them!
Some people would kill anyone who disagreed with them about exactly who or what God is.
Some people are absolutely positively 100% certain that there is no God.
Some people just….aren’t….too….sure.
Maybe God is a feeling. A good feeling that makes you feel safe. Or a horrible shouting feeling that says Thou Shalt Not do this, Thous Shalt Not do that, Thou Shalt Not have any fun at all!
Maybe God is the voice in your head that tells you not to hurt other people. Not to steal or kill or lie to yourself. Or -- remember to put the top back on the mustard.
Maybe God is like nature. Like a sunny day or a wave in the ocean or an owl flying over a field….or maybe God is a spider. Or a squid. Or a bee. Or a loud noise. Or a song. Or the big bang. Or the sound a dog makes when you step on it by mistake.
Maybe you only see God when you need to see God. Or maybe God isn’t there after all. Maybe the absence of God is God.
Maybe we are all God. Maybe there is no God.
No one can tell you that your God isn’t the right God, or that your idea of God is the wrong idea.
You don’t have to believe in God. God doesn’t have to believe in you.
It’s your decision. And you can always change your mind.