Thursday, August 03, 2006

2: Eternity - Some Thoughts

So God, for reasons that are none of our business, created the universe roughly six thousand years ago, in about a week.
God being eternal, one might wonder what he did with his time before he got round to this job. Eternity being what it is, it could go back a very long way - even if such a thing as Eternity could be said to have a start at all.
Actually it could, because we are often told that if we're naughty or give too much credence to certain parts of the Bible and not enough to other parts, we will burn in hell for all of it - though clearly we are not there already.
Eternity, though, in all probability goes infinitely far back as well as forward (the odds of our present time being anywhere near the start of something infinitely long are obviously infinitely small).
This, surely, would give God literally no end of time to practice on previous Earths - thus becoming Perfect - before getting around to ours. However ours is so clearly faulty that it seems likely to be one of the practice versions itself. Infinitely more likely, come to think of it. Also, if God is eternal, then no matter how old he is NOW, he's still young in comparison to eternity (though old enough to have a son, of course).
This does of course present the disturbing picture of God being young and inexperienced by divine standards - a picture that rather matches the petulant, tantrum-prone character in the Old Testament.
All this raises the worrying question of whether any of us are going to get to Heaven. After all, the super-perfect graduates of any future draft of Earth - which there must be in all Eternity - might have something to say about it (though very politely, of course). Unless we get kicked out when they arrive, in which case (a) they get a second-hand Heaven, (b) we would have to clean it up before leaving, and (c) we would be spending much of our time there worrying about the next place, in which case it wouldn't be Heaven.
Presumably they could get some Damned Souls in from Hell to clean it up one Sunday. This would have the side benefit of showing them what they were missing, thereby making them even more Damned - though it would probably be more efficient just to pipe down pictures of it on cable TV for them to watch with one eye whilst having the other gouged out with a rusty fruit knife, or whatever it is they do.

3: Ancient History According to the Bible

Shortly after creating the world, God either made the animals and plants then the first man; or the other way round, depending on which chapter of the Bible you read - which presents a problem since it's all True. However, what we don't know is how much never made it into the book, so it's possible that God made all the animals, decided they weren't good enough (quite plausible from what we've already deduced), deleted them all, created Man, THEN created a fresh lot of animals for Man to name - a nice neat explanation that not only keeps the Bible perfectly true but explains where all the fossils of other no-longer-here animals came from. Perhaps the first lot were dinosaurs or trilobites or something - which presents the entertaining image of God wiping them out with a huge meteorite in a fit of frustration, perhaps because they weren't very good at building churches. Next, God created Woman, who led Man astray in no time flat (this bit at least rings true). This particular piece of mischief involved the Devil disguised as a snake - for some reason he seems to have thought this would help his credibility.
The Bible has little to say about where the Devil came from, though it has been speculated that the Devil was an angel gone bad; a problem usually attributed only to humans.
The Adam and Eve story involves the Devil persuading them to eat of the 'tree of knowledge', which they'd expressly been told not to do. Having eaten, they suddenly realised they were naked; not a great secret in the first place one would think but then as far as we know they only took one bite. Perhaps if they'd had the whole apple we might have learned something useful and avoided a lot of trouble later on, but they never got the chance to do that, since at this point they were unceremoniously booted out of their nice garden and forced to live in much less hospitable climes. (For some reason I always visualise the Garden of Eden as being a lot like the formal garden at Hampton Court, with a high hedge round it - somewhat at odds with the mental picture of people wandering around naked, come to think of it - after all it would take a lot of use of hedge-clippers to keep it that way, and you don't want to be using those with nothing on.)
Much further down the line God decided that a spring-cleaning was in order and drowned the whole planet, except for a select few that a chap called Noah rescued in a big wooden ship. (The Bible doesn't say what he did with the termites.)
Clearly this would have involved creating a lot more water than we already had, and neatly disposing of it again afterwards - no great problem to the sort of being who can create the whole world in a week in the first place - it just makes you wonder why he doesn't do this sort of thing more often. After all we are now several thousand years down the line and he's had lots of time to learn a few tricks, so one would think it would be no great problem for him to flood Slough and leave, say, Legoland relatively unscathed. (Most of Legoland would float anyway, come to think of it.)

1: The Creation

Owing to the lack of reliable witnesses at the dawn of time (with the possible exception of Adam, and he's dead) we are forced to fall back on conjecture. Put simply, views on the creation tend to fall into two main camps: The 'scientific' ideas, which currently state that it all popped into existence from absolutely nothing around 20 billion years ago, and the 'religious' ones, which state that God did it all about 6000 years ago - a much more comprehensible timescale and therefore, obviously, far more appealing.
There are problems with the idea, of course, but they're easily dismissed if we want to:
For instance: If God made the universe, who made God?
Answer: God is eternal and divine and therefore immune from such impertinent questioning. Just think yourself grateful he did it. If he wanted us to know he'd have put it in at least one edition of the Bible (which makes me wonder if he's one of those people who just don't like to talk about their embarrassing parents).
Anyway, if he wants to pop into existence from nothing, he's perfectly entitled, being God and all. The universe, by comparison, couldn't possibly do anything so wondrous because it's mainly composed of mundane stuff like rocks and inert gases and badgers, and they don't do cool stuff like that.
Also, scientists would have us believe in complicated, counter-intuitive stuff like carbon dating, cores from the Greenland ice sheet, and the geological laying-down of layers of rock over aeons of time... however they also like to say that the simplest explanation is the most likely, and the simple explanation for all this stuff is that the devil put it there to confuse us, so they've rather shot themselves in the foot there I think.