Julie Spector (02/18/04)
Before Monday's discussion, I had never considered the multi dimensional phrase “in God's image”. I'm not even sure how terribly important the phrase is (at least for me), yet it troubles me in two ways, and I wish we had discussed both of them further. Firstly, out of all the phrases and lessons in Old and New Testament, why focus on this one? Why not concentrate on the wonder and actions of God? For example, creation: essentially, there was nothing, and then there was everything. Philosophically, religiously, scientifically, that's one hell of an action….but why do the followers of the religion, even the non followers, why does everyone focus on this little arrogant line about being in God's image? (Human ego is pretty self-evident in that tendency.)
Secondly, let's assume the line is equally important and valid. How do you then define its words--maybe concepts is more appropriate?--“God” and “image”? I don't think anyone can even figure out which one is easier to approximate! For the sake of argument, let's begin with “image”. Since when is this word biological? The presence of other life forms in the universe would undoubtedly threaten certain groups of people and beliefs, yet as for this pesky little phrase, our being made in God's image is not threatened, in two ways: one, those other organisms might not be made in God's image, regardless of the definition of “God's image”, so human dominion in this area is preserved. The other reason: so what if they are also made in “God's image”? That still doesn't change that we are too! Thus, the fight over image in context to alien life is irrelevant; rather, it forces humans to examine the tougher issue that is the one of the major reasons for the existence of organized religion: how do we describe God; i.e. what is his image?
At the moment, I think of the nirguna (“without quality”) school of thought in Hinduism. To sum up some incredibly beautiful poetry (may I recommend Songs of the Saints of India to everyone), we cannot impose descriptions, definitions, and/or images on God. To do so places human bounds on God, which defeats the very purpose of God: a reality beyond us, the essential truth of the universe, the meaning, the beauty of it all. To describe this God is to pervert it. Additionally, I think we should apply some basic principles of math, at least in a metaphorical sense: whatever you do to one side of an equation, you must do to the other side in order to retain its equality. So if we do say we're made in God's image, that means sparks of what makes us “us” are in God, and vice versa: sparks of what make God “God” are in us as well. So God can err (like people), but as people, we retain some of the Divine. While this idea is embraced by many people and many beliefs, I believe it would cause a lot of screaming and pain in mainstream Judaism and Christianity.Other things to mention about Monday's discussion: the Chaplain is awesome (yes, I satirically use a word that is reserved for God….) I though a lot of really great points were made; some sent my mind off in a whole other direction, some made me reconsider my own views, and some made me want to run outside and, as the Chaplain put it, go play Thoreau in my own Walden pond. I have only one comment that pertains the discussion of human uniqueness: regardless of cognizance, advanced technology, biological resistance, we're still unique in that we're another species. I'm not sure why another species really causes all that much threat to those who believe we're truly special to God and other animals aren't, nor do I understand why it causes those who believe the polar opposite (that we're just another animal and that's all, a biological product, the end, finito) to jump for joy as if their point is proven. Not one of those extremes is proven by the existence of alien life or lack thereof. If there is alien life: we can still be special, and we can still be an evolutionary byproduct, and we can be both at the same time! The same goes for if there is no alien life.