Monday, May 19, 2008

Does God have a penis?

Three quarters of Christians think so, but only half the general population does, according to a new survey.

It's an age-old problem in European/Judeo-Christian culture: how do you represent God, or should the Almighty be represented at all. Partly the problem is that essential unknowableness of such a superhuman concept. By far the weakest part (to modern sensibilities at least) of Dante's Divine Comedy is Paradiso. He struggled to convey the idea of the divine, and the best he could come up with is the image of a point of light in perpetual motion.

I've long suspected that because of this there is a tendency to make God in the image of man: it says much about the way society has developed that for the past 2,000-plus years the idea of God has been strongly male. It might be even more revealing of where we are now that we get conclusions such as this:

Six out of ten people believe that all religion is fundamentally sexist, but more than two out of three people think that there is still a place for religion in modern life.

Its reassuring to know there is still a place for sexism in modern life. So in that spirit let's look at the question of whether God is a bird or a bloke. It's a tricky one, isn't it?

One the one hand we have a domineering figure who is, by the admission in the 10 Commandments, jealous; a touchy deity, who demands constant praise and deference; an almighty who likes making stuff, but also loves smashing things up; a God who will use violence to settle matters and a self-aggrandising supreme being who will not stand for being questioned, criticised or undermined by anyone.

On the other we are talking about a creator who is constantly setting rules that we don't know exist until we've broken them; one who is sending out mixed signals and hints that are impossible to understand; a God whose mind apparently changes without our noticing and whose affections are transferred from one man to another without warning and who is constantly seeking praise and approval.

Mysterious, arbitrary, changeable and almost impossible to understand, then. Is this more typically male or female?

I think I'll stand with Alexander Pope on this.

Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl'd;
The glory, jest and riddle of the world.



Blogger Glamourpuss said...

I dunno about being more male or female, from your description, God sounds just like my old Headmaster.


4:58 pm  

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