Yesterday my wife had a epiphany. Laurel was driving by a church and saw a sign about Sunday Worship. “Suddenly,” she told me, “the whole idea of worshipping God seemed so ridiculous. How do we know that God wants to be worshipped?”
Excellent question. Which presupposes that there is a God at all. So the notion of “worship” is doubly dubious. The good Christians who attend that church believe in a God for whom there is no demonstrable evidence, and they also believe that this God whom they are clueless about loves to be worshipped.
Why? Because the Bible tells them so. And why should they believe the Bible? Because the Bible tells them to. It’s no wonder most scientists eschew religion. Circular reasoning that leads nowhere isn’t their cup of tea.
Christianity believes in a personal God who is the absolutely greatest being there could possibly be. This is Anselm’s Ontological Argument. It doesn’t make any sense to me, but regardless, I’ll agree that if God exists, you’d expect that this dude (or dudette) would put pretenders to perfect divinity to shame.
So I picture really good people like the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, or Gandhi being asked, “Is it OK if we worship you?” I’m pretty sure these humble souls would be aghast at the idea. “No, for god’s sake, don’t worship me. Love me, get to know me, be with me—but don’t put me up on a pedestal.”
Yet God does want to be worshipped?
My own adaptation of Anselm’s argument is that if it is possible for you to envision a human being who has higher moral qualities than your conception of God, you’d better rethink that conception.
In his book “Breaking the Spell,” Daniel Dennett addresses the marketability of the two main God hypotheses: God as essence (ground of being, non-anthropomorphic, not in time and space, abstract) or God as conscious supernatural being (who listens to and answers prayers in real time, for instance.) Dennett quotes Rodney Stark:
“There is no more profound religious difference than between faiths involving divine beings and those limited to divine essences,” he [Stark] says, and the latter he judges to be hopeless, because “only divine beings do anything.” Supernatural conscious beings are much better sellers because “the supernatural is the only plausible source of many benefits we greatly desire.”Ah, now we’ve gotten to the root of worship. It’s an exchange relationship. God asks for praise and devotion; I offer it; God then gives me what I want. Eternal life. A place in heaven. Escape from damnation. Freedom from my sins. Divine wisdom.
Well, I’m with Laurel. The more you ponder the worship game, the more absurd it seems. I’m supposed to kiss God’s ass even though I’ve never seen God. Or his ass. And I don’t even know if this God whom I don’t know likes to have his ass kissed.
For all I know, which I don’t, maybe God hates all this worship stuff and he’s going to kick my ass if I kiss his.
Good luck, faithful worshippers. You might be needing it.