Saturday, 7 July 2007

What’s wrong with being all-powerful?

Take a house with a dozen people, a neighbourhood with a few hundred, or a country with a few million, would it be better if in each case one single person is all powerful and everyone else is to live or die depending wholly on this person’s mercy, or if power is more evenly and fairly spread so that no one has to bow down to the commands of any almighty despot, regardless of how benevolent the latter is supposed to be?

Anyone who has any historical knowledge of the exploitation, oppression and injustice which come from power being concentrated in the hands of someone who is not accountable to anyone else will have no doubt which is preferable. Absolute power does not only corrupt its holder, it enslaves those subject to its exercise. If this observation holds for a house, a neighbourhood, a country, then surely it holds for the entire universe.

The world would always be better if there isn’t a single person who possesses limitless power to dominate everyone else. If God is the embodiment of perfection, it would follow that God cannot be an all-powerful entity unaccountable to no one else. As power is better distributed in a progressively more equitable manner amongst all those who can be affected by that power, perfection is reached when power is shared out so evenly that all can decide for the good of all, and none can arbitrarily dictate to the detriment of any single one.

The primitive infantile mind craved for a powerful parental figure to look after everything and projected God as an all-powerful being. Fixated on this naïve premise, theologians and their critics, for centuries argued about whether there is proof that an all-powerful being rules the universe. But what they have in fact arguing about is the likelihood of, not God’s existence, but cosmic tyranny. Perhaps all concerned can now wake from their intellectual slumber and recognise that what moral goodness calls for is not the absolute concentration of power in a single being, but its very opposite – the fair dispersion of power to everyone on equal terms.

The erroneous conception of God as all-powerful has for centuries lent itself to be exploited as a justification for papal, monarchical, patriarchal, fundamentalist oppression at every turn. Only a ‘God’ so twisted in its core meaning can be invoked to back wars, tortures, and suppression of love and free-thinking. God, properly understood as the ideal state of power shared by all in a just commonwealth with no boundaries, is real in so far as it is the guiding principle for life.

So it’s time to put aside flawed theology and invite the religious minded to embrace God as the path to a fairer society. Forget about worshiping all-powerful tyrants disguised as saviours. The only future worth striving for is the one where the gap between the powerful and the powerless is finally closed.

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