Am I uniquely qualified to offer a history of the world?
I am one of those who hated history at school. (I blame it on the episodic and ‘unstorylike’ way that history teachers tended to teach it.)
So why am I qualified to write a history of the world? Am I a scientist? Not even close. Religious? I’m not a religious man and never have been. But that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in a higher power, though, because I do—as long as ‘it’ is defined a certain way.
Frankly, I’m no more nor less qualified to write about where we came from than anyone else, because none of us knows the answer. Yet that’s what makes the is-God-real question so riveting–at least for me. I don’t obsess about it, but I think about it on a regular basis. I think everyone should if they want to keep a healthy perspective. (I’ll explain why in a moment.)
I deeply believe there is an intelligence behind everything, and by “everything” I mean the flowers and the trees and the water and the mountains and everything in between including my friends and family and all the people on God’s green earth, including those who favour organized religion and even those who start wars. (What I don’t believe in are the rules and regulations and rituals and procedures that organized religion brings with it. But that’s another story for another day.) Pew Research has produced an interesting survey on religious views in America, but I don’t think it goes deep enough and as a result it doesn’t reveal a nuanced enough range of attitudes.
For lack of a better phrase, I would say I am a secular deist. Yes, I believe in a higher power, whatever you wish to call it—God, Elohim, Elah, Om, Krishna, Allah, Yahweh, The Creator, The Lord. No, I don’t believe Jesus Christ was the son of God (although I believe he lived, was a truly great man, and a prophet). But that does not mean I don’t believe there is some essence or presence or intelligence or higher power that gave form to our world and our solar system and our galaxy and our universe. Because I do. I just don’t believe He is some kind of supernatural man (or woman) sitting on a throne watching (or lording) over us.
But neither do I believe the world was created from a singularity or a Big Bang. The truth is, Big Bang theorists cannot answer a simple question:
If there was a Big Bang, what created it?
What force or energy was behind the Big Bang? It couldn’t just happen on its own, because of the law of cause and effect, action and reaction. So what was the cause of the Big Bang? I have my ideas, but it doesn’t really matter what I think. All that matters is it couldn’t happen in isolation. And that is enough for me. That does not make me a Creationist or an evolutionist, however. Sorry to bother those of you who are religious or those who are rigorous Rationalists. In fact, power to both camps because debate is what keeps the earth turning, along with “angular momentum.”
I have nothing against having religious beliefs, per se. The trouble for me begins when institutionalized religious beliefs go haywire and prevent people from seeing reality. God be with us, said the Christian Crusaders as they went into war centuries ago. But that’s exactly what the other side said too. Who was right? No one. By definition, God cannot be on both sides. God was on neither side. War is not condoned by God or any other higher power. It simply is, because it is part of our primitive nature. Over time are warlike tendencies may be eradicated, or they may not. No one can predict the future. But what about the past? What about the history of the world? The book Guns, Germs and Steel does a pretty good job in that regard. But let me try and wrap up the history of the world as neatly as I can, with a nice pretty bow, in one simple sentence:
The world as we know it began well before the Big Bang.
And when did that happen? It didn’t. A higher power gave form to our world and our galaxy and our solar system and our universe and anything before that, but the higher power was always there. There was no starting point and there is no ending point. If you believe, as I do, that history and existence is infinite, it is not subject to the limitations of time and space. As a result, the full and complete history of our world cannot be contained in any kind of narrative; it simply is; it always has been; and it always will be; nothing more and certainly nothing less.
And that is a short history of the world as I know it. Prove me wrong.