Revisiting an slightly updating ‘God’s day off’, a column I wrote for the Malaysian online newspaper Malaysiakini nine or 10 years ago, and which is more relevant than ever today.
When I see wars waged for ”religious” ends, crimes committed and concealed under cloaks and veils of sanctimony, disasters caused by negligence or corruption written-off as “acts of God”, politicians misusing their own and abusing other religions to perpetuate their power, and atrocities like the recent massacre of Muslims in New Zealand, I can’t help asking myself “how could He let this happen?”
How could an omniscient, omnipotent, just and merciful Almighty being, in the utterly unlikely event that such an entity existed, possibly permit the catalogue of greed, lust, cruelty, murder, mayhem, ignorance, intolerance and bigotry that’s bedeviled us throughout history, and continues to make life a hades on earth for so many of us today?
How can He tolerate the “religious” bombings, shootings, executions and multifarious other persecutions occurring at this very moment in, to name just a few locations, Saudi Arabia, the Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan and, as ever, in the so-called “Holy” Land?
How could He stand by year after year, century after century and watch mankind suffer every misfortune from the Mongol hordes and the black death to the Holocaust,AIDS, cancer, earthquakes, tsunamis and road carnage? How can He watch little children suffer cot death, starvation and physical, sexual and mental abuse?
How could He tolerate major-league killers and crooks like Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Idi Amin, Papa Doc, Pol Pot, Soeharto, Marcos, Mugabe and all the others, not to mention the millions of smaller fry who kill, maim, rape, rob, swindle and otherwise prey on the innocent and the helpless?
The answer, in my personal opinion, is that He just plain couldn’t. He allegedly created the world, after all, in His own image, which as far as I know is by bekievers to be perfect. And according to just one of numberless theories on the subject, He did it all in just six days.
Not that anyone’s suggesting that it was a rush job. As everybody knows by now save the fundamentalists – so called, as you know, because they talk through their fundaments – we’re not talking human days here, but God days. And just as there are said to be seven dog years to one human one, geologists, paleontologists and sweet reason all tell us that there are millions and millions of human days to every single God day.
In fact look at the Book of Genesis and you’ll see that the measure of the human day, the sun that’s the source of diurnal light and darkness, wasn’t even created until God’s third “day”. And as we learn from fossils (the ones found in rocks, that is, not the ones who set themselves up as creationist spokespersons), His creation of today’s life forms has taken about a billion human years, or days four, five and six God time.
Then on the seventh day He reportedly rested, which brings us to the crux of my theory. Whatever time we or any of the multifarious calendars and cults and religions think it is, I’m convinced that as far as God’s concerned it must be still day seven and thus He’s still enjoying a well-earned break. Blithely assuming that we’re all continuing to live the good life in the Garden of Eden right where He left us, and little imagining that we’ve decided to go it alone in His absence and embark on what our legal colleagues refer to as “a frolic of our own.”
In the process presuming to portray Him in an amazing multiplicity of guises from the singularly inventive to the outright bizarre, and devising in His name thousands of religions, faiths, sects and cults each claiming to be the bearer of His true and official message. Each striving mightily to immortalise itself and incentivise its adherents by authoring “holy” books, erecting “sacred” buildings, electing “saints”, witnessing “miracles” and conducting holy wars, jihads, crusades, inquisitions, pogroms and other persecutions against its competitors.
What the Almighty is going to make of all this profane intervention in his affairs when He gets back to the office is anybody’s guess. Will He be flattered, confused or suffer an outright identity crisis to discover that in his absence He’s been known as everything from Ra to Jaweh to Macumbah?
Will He be impressed, honoured or simply appalled by the waste of material and manpower that’s gone into all the totems, pyramids, obalisques, basilicas, churches, chapels, cathedrals, shrines, shiboleths, statues, stupas, spires, domes, mosques and temples erected in His names?
Will He be grateful or disgusted at learning of all the centuries of cruelty and bloodshed there have been over ownership of His goodwill and the copyright to all the books ghost-written in His name, each proclaiming itself the unique revelation of His teachings?
I wish I had the answer to these and many other burning questions. But unfortunately, as long as God’s so evidently still on leave, I’m no more able to reach Him for a word or two on the subject than you are. We could all of us pray to Him, of course, but thousands of years of praying by all the faithful to all their gods doesn’t appear to have achieved the slightest reduction in the amount of preying that goes on. Just as the preachings of all the prophets against covetousness, greed and avarice haven’t exactly slackened mankind’s pathological pursuit of profit.
So in the absence of any clear or coherent message from either here or above, I think I’ll just sit tight and wait for day seven to end.
We Seventh Day Absentists might not have all the answers, but we’re as sure as heck of one thing. Despite what some people may think, or even count on, God hasn’t been caught napping, or gone to sleep on the job, or chosen to shut His eyes to the perfidies and outrages enacted in His name and in clear contravention of His wishes. He’s just having Himself a well-earned rest.
And when He comes back to work tomorrow morning His time, and sees the unholy mess we’ve made of all His works, and what a high and mighty opinion we have of ourselves despite screwing-up so sensationally and pretending we did it all for His sake, there’s going to be hell to pay.