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Self-infliction #14: God is a Red Herring

“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.” ~Voltaire

What is a red herring? It’s a diversion intended to distract attention from the real issue. It’s an abstract issue having only surface relevance to the original issue.

Governing this precept, it stands to reason that the concept of God is itself a red herring. Indeed. God is perhaps the greatest red herring of all time. The ultimate distraction.

So, if God is the red herring distracting us from the real issue, then what is the real issue? The real issue is that not a single one of us has any clue what it’s all about.

The real issue is our vast ignorance regarding the “why?” of reality; coupled with a very real death anxiety. Both create an existential vacuum that must be filled, lest we slip into a state of soul-crippling meaninglessness. It creates a dissonance so powerful that we must invent an even greater assonance to relieve our existential angst.

This creation is God, the ultimate red herring.

As it turns out, God is an abstraction of an abstraction. God is beside the point. God is moot. But, as with all red herrings, God is terribly useful. After all, God gets us off the hook for really facing the scary truth. It distracts us from our death anxiety and provides a comfortable afterlife where big daddy God will keep us safe from the terror of infinite nothingness.

No matter what flavor of God our cultures decide to cook up, the recipe is almost always the same: ignorant humans cowering before the awesome scale of an unfathomable universe desperately create a diversion.

Out pops God. The most comforting distraction ever conceived by humankind. The perfect excuse not to think about how overwhelmingly soul shattering the weight of reality really is. The ultimate copout.

But what if we didn’t copout? What if we took responsibility for our discomfort? What if, rather than avoidance, escape, and evasion, we used acceptance, reason, and courage to embrace the overwhelm?

What happens when we’re able to sidestep this red herring and instead embrace the existential angst and accept our utter ignorance in nearly all things? What happens when we toss the fat red herring of God back into the primordial sea?

When we ditch the red herring and embrace thought, reason, rationality, and imagination, we align ourselves with Infinity itself (which, ironically, some call God). Through this sacred alignment, we give ourselves room for improvement, improvisation, and adaptation regarding the ever-moving target of Truth.

As Mark Twain said, “Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” Indeed. The delayed perfection of the red herring (God) must be cooked into the Soup of Truth, lest we starve at the table of delusion.


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