God, Air, and Dragon Con

I spent most of my weekend at Dragon Con, the huge comics and sci-fi convention in Atlanta that is held every Labor Day. 30,000 plus people converge on Atlanta. Many wear faerie wings or Star Trek or a thousand other types of costumes.

I tend toward the sci-fi and fantasy literature and writers’ sessions. Besides sci-fi, swords, and sex, probably the next largest topic is skepticism. There is a skeptics’ track (and they talk about skeptical outreach — a very religious group!).

I didn’t go to any skeptics sessions this year. But when you are in forums with so many self-professed geeks and lovers of science, you meet many skeptics and overhear many conversations. I also attended a few “God and sci-fi” type panels.

It’s frustrating being a theologian at events where unqualified people are talking about theology and philosophy. I don’t look for arguments, knowing how futile they are. Occasionally I find a way to pipe something in that is non-combative and perhaps educational for those listening.

In one of the sessions, as people rattled on exposing their lack of knowledge and experience in dealing with matters divine, I thought about the relative value of our message: the Jewish message of God who is judge and redeemer, the Christian message of God who came among us and raised humanity toward himself for al who are willing to see it.

How is our message relevant? Why do people need it? Are they all fine with their video games, movies, urban fantasy novels, and friendships?

Their lives are broken and signs of it are everywhere. Religious peoples’ lives are also broken and signs of it are everywhere.

There was a time when I bought into a human-centered idea of the relevance of our message. I don’t deny that the human element of our message is strong. We can say, “You need God/peace/hope/purpose.”

But there are a few problems with the human-centered message. It is not biblical. I don’t mean the Bible does not say things like, “Seek me and live; buy bread and wine without money; taste and see that God is good; find rest for your souls; choose life” and all that. But the human need is not the center of the message in the Bible.

The human-centered message is easily defeated. Skeptics simply look at the pathetic lives of religious people and scoff. Yeah, I do think that devout practitioners of Judaism and Christianity could make fools out of such scoffers, but our religions are filled with many levels of failed people too (including really all of us at some level). Improved quality of life and a higher ethical plane are hard things to demonstrate in religious circles.

The human-centered message is also transparently selfish. So, I should practice Judaism or Christianity because I want something from God?

No, as I thought about why the message we bear is important, something else occurred to me. God is not primarily a meeter of needs.

He is. Just as air is or gravity or electromagnetic forces are, God is.

We don’t question gravity. We don’t consider the benefits or non-benefits of air. We gulp it hungrily and automatically. It is necessary and sustaining.

God is. Some know it and some don’t.

And at a convention where people are passionate about knowing the laws of the universe, who even needs to argue the benefit of knowing the Ground and Source of our being? You might as well disbelieve in the existence or goodness of air.


About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Atheism, Faith and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to God, Air, and Dragon Con

  1. Baron Jet Jaguar says:

    Derek- great post!

    I did see one bible a the con. As soon as the parade was over a slightly unhinged man screamed while shaking the book, “I HOPE YOU ALL GO TO HELL!”

    He then gave a sermon about redemption and love-NOT! No he went on to scream why Satan cannot wait for us to join him. Truly sad.
    For us Geeks who have been humiliated by, the jocks, teachers, bosses, and religious
    authorities we tend to shy away from our belief because it brings back painful memories of
    childhood and our teen age years. However for those of us unleash our inner Hulk, carry a TARDIS key, become a Jedi once a year or like to read a sci-fi novel the pain is simply under the surface.

    So your next book should be the “Messianic Musings at the Con. ” Why good people believe in the fantastic and yet they are unable to fathom the greater wisdom of life. G-d is real and he loves us despite our weird love for the fantastic. I feel very blessed I have a synagogue that accepts me for myself.

    And remember fezzes are cool!

  2. praesto12 says:

    Like Brazilian jiu jitsu, I would consider myself a blue belt in Theology and Philosophy. I feel like I have a better “grasp” (no pun intended) than the average white belt but fall tragically short of purple,brown and black belts. As I believe Rabbi Lehman is somewhere in the brown to black belt category in theology I will speak very humbly. I do agree that God is. However I think that it’s not a reasonable analogy because of the moral implications of God. God is involved in history and God is an active personality.

    Gravity may give laws and not obeying by these laws will hurt just like not obeying God’s laws will hurt but there is a decidedly huge difference in that God is also of a(the) divine personality. I think the analogy falls short in that God is father, God is, biblically speaking, protector.

    Gravity has no personality so I do not expect anything from it other than basic laws of physics(whatever that really means?). God is, supposedly, my Father.

    Skeptics and believers all must deal with the issue of the divine personality existing in “Father form” not protecting in ways we would want. When one simply equates physical laws with the “isness” or being of God then I don’t see how you escape pantheism. Again with much respect these are my lowly comments and musings. Richard Smith.

  3. praesto12:

    Good point, but the thing is I’m only addressing the reality of God here, not his nature. That’s another issue. The fact of his existence is an important issue. Yes, God is different than gravity or air. But here is something they have in common: they exist. That is as far as my analogy was intended to go.

    “Black Belt” fifth degree (in theology) Leman

  4. Pingback: Weekly Meanderings | Jesus Creed

  5. Pingback: The Debasement of Fantasy in the Defilement of Reality « The Return of Benjamin

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