Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 567
I do what I do without hope of reward or fear of punishment. I do not require Heaven or Hell to bribe or scare me into acting decently.
"Matthew ten, verse twenty-nine. Not one sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it."
"But the sparrow still falls."
The Jewish sages also tell us that God dances when His children defeat Him in argument, when they stand on their feet and use their minds. So questions like Anne's are worth asking. To ask them is a very fine kind of human behavior. If we keep demanding that God yield up His answers, perhaps some day we will understand them. And then we will be something more than clever apes, and we shall dance with God.
"Precisely. People change. Cultures change. Empires rise and fall. Shit. Geology changes! Every ten years or so, George and I have faced the fact that we have changed and we've had to decide if it makes sense to create a new marriage between these two new people." She flopped back against her chair. "Which is why vows are such a tricky business. Because nothing stays the same forever. Okay. Okay! I'm figuring something out now." She sat up straight, eyes focused somewhere outside the room, and Jimmy realized that even Anne didn't have all the answers and that was either the most comforting thing he'd learned in a long time or the most discouraging. "Maybe because so few of us would be able to give up something so fundamental for something so abstract, we protect ourselves from the nobility of a priest's vows by jeering at him when he can't live up to them, always and forever." She shivered and slumped suddenly, "But, Jimmy! What unnatural words. Always and forever! Those aren't human words, Jim. Not even stones are always and forever."
The problem with atheism, I find, under these circumstances . . . is that I have no one to despise but myself. If, however, I choose to believe that God is vicious, then at least I have the solace of hating God.
"See, that's where it falls apart for me!" Anne cried. "What sticks in my throat is that God gets the credit but never the blame. I just can't swallow that kind of theological candy. Either God's in charge or he's not . . ."
Tradition was safety; change was danger.
God will break your heart.
There are times . . . when we are in the midst of life—moments of confrontation with birth or death, or moments of beauty when nature or love is fully revealed, or moments of terrible loneliness—times when a holy and awesome awareness comes upon us. It may come as deep inner stillness or as a rush of overflowing emotion. It may seem to come from beyond us, without any provocation, or from within us, evoked by music or by a sleeping child. If we open our hearts at such moments, creation reveals itself to us in all its unity and fullness. And when we return from such a moment of awareness, our hearts long to find some way to capture it in words forever, so that we can remain faithful to its higher truth. . . . When my people search for a name to give to the truth we feel at those moments, we call it God, and when we capture that understanding in timeless poetry, we call it praying.