With Mo*Con quickly approaching and with our main conversation centering on the issue of homosexuality and the church, I thought that I would encourage some guest posts from some of our guests as well as interested observers. One such observer would be author Zoe Whitten, currently on a blog tour, who wanted to weigh in on a topic near and dear to me: her spirituality.
Guest Blog by Zoe Whitten
Mo*Con is coming up in May, and given the lineup of people combined with the chance to discuss faith and gender in fiction with so many writers, I’m tempted to sell some of my organs to fund an overseas trip. Alas, I might need those organs to filter alcohol later, so I remain trapped in Italy, hoping someone will be kind enough to post video highlights of the most embarrassing moments on YouTube again.
This month, I’m involved in a blog tour to promote a lot of upcoming releases. I knew I wanted to do a guest post for Maurice, who I had a lot of respect for even before reading Devil’s Marionette or King Maker. But for the longest time, a proper topic for the venue eluded me. Finally, I decided that since Maurice often talks about faith and spirituality on his blog, perhaps this might be one of the best times to discuss my faith, and try to explain why it doesn’t show up more prominently in my stories.
I call my faith a church of one. So I don’t have to convert or recruit any of you. I don’t have to convince you either. These are my beliefs after a lifetime of reading and real life observation. You’re free to think whatever you like about my beliefs, even if what you think is, “Zoe, you’re crazy.”
I believe in God, and I believe that the whole cosmos is the body of God. I believe in the existence of Jesus and find moral guidance in his ministerial work. But I suspect that certain parts of his history were doctored to make for more dramatic reading. My faith allows for the possibility of “higher powers” or energy-based life forms that we cannot understand from our perspective and as such might mislabel them as gods. I believe in evolution, and I believe that all of us were born from the elements cast out by the first exploding stars.
Even though I know the long version of how our world came to be, I don’t know why we exist, nor do I claim to understand the will of the God I’m in. I’m not even clear what my own purpose is, so God’s purpose is beyond me. But I suspect that just like I don’t know the activities of my blood cells, God isn’t really watching me, or any of us. All the good and bad in our lives happens as the result of other people. God will never show up to deliver a message of support to coach us along anymore than I could send my consciousness into my body to give a pep rally to my blood. So no, I don’t think God is watching me masturbate. I sometimes wonder if my grandparents are, and that makes things a little awkward to start with. But I figure maybe they should have something better to do in the afterlife than watch me.
Actually, I kid, but I’m not sure about the afterlife. All those white clouds and gates and judgments; it’s all physical stuff. We relate to them because we have a body and bodies need those kinds of reference points. But once we’re dead, the energy that drives us leaves the body, and energy doesn’t need visual cues. Energy also can’t be tormented in lakes of fire, or stabbed with pitchforks. But it also can’t drink celestial orange juice or tune a harp. And being frank, I not sure energy can carry a memory.
Energy cannot be created nor destroyed. It only changes forms. But, does that mean we’re stuck here? Do we drift around a bit and then look for a new host to enter and reincarnate? Or do we wander away from the planet and take our place in the cosmos as an evolved energy source? I don’t know, but I doubt the halos and harps sales pitch that we see in the modern cultural zeitgeist.
This kind of belief structure leaves me open to the idea that there are many “lesser gods” within the body of a larger god. They’re not the divine creators of everything, more like a by-product of the creation process. In other words, they exist because everything else exists too. Which might sound preposterous, but no more than the reality that approximately 47 billion years ago, God was born in a mass expansion of matter and energy. God continues to grow around us, and one day, billions of years from now, God will die. And then, God willing (pun intended) God will be born again.
Yes, I went there. I think God is not omniscient, nor omnipresent, nor immortal. And in this way, my God is very much made in my likeness. It’s just God’s scale that is so vast, and God’s timescale will continue on long after I’ve expired, long after the entire human race has.
What is the purpose of God? I don’t know. I might as well ask what my ultimate purpose is. I must accept that in this lifetime, I will neither find a way to leave the solar system and explore others, nor will I find a source of immortality. This defines my purpose in life to a finite time span, one which is shorter than most people. No, really, the doctors were pretty specific on how long people with MS tend to last.
I know many people are like me, and they wonder, Why am I here? And like me, there is no answer for them except the ones we provide for ourselves. I put meaning in my writing. Others put meaning in their deeds. Some find meaning in religion, or in some form of philosophy. Others deny that there is meaning to anything, and they pass their time mocking the people who worry about such things.
All of these are coping mechanisms to help us deal with mortality. The method I choose is to believe in the idea that this cosmos is dying, and that for whatever reason, it is the nature of all things to die. I don’t want to. Hell, I’m so scared of dying, I’d fight tooth and nail if I knew of a way to stick around. But part of life is coming to terms with death, and I was one of the unlucky ones to have sat down on my remote and started living my life in fast forward. I’m burning up faster and faster, and the doctors tell me I’ve got until my mid-fifties, if nothing happens to my heart first.
Healthy people tell me not to give up hope, that “they’re working on a cure.” I find this tragically amusing. There’s no cure for death, just medical delays. If “they” cure death in my lifetime, I will be the first in line to question whether it’s right to die. Sure, sure, it’s okay if God wants to decay in a few billion and pull the cosmic rug out from under me, but if there was a cure for death to delay that big sleep, you’d better believe I’d take it.
In the long run, none of us really knows who’s right or wrong about the meaning of life, or the meaning of death. I often joke with my Atheist hubby, “But if there is a heaven and they let you in, the look on your face is gonna be priceless.” But if there is a heaven, he won’t have a face, and I won’t have eyes to see him. In theory.
So, if this is what I believe, how did it end up that there’s an afterlife with fluffy white clouds in my stories? Because that hazy white world is a metaphor. It means, “I don’t know what death is like, but here’s some soft impressions.”
Most of my characters have vastly different forms of faith. Some don’t believe in anything, and others are devout Christians, Jews, or Muslims. This is because I wanted my world to reflect the diversity I see in people around me. There’s a million flavors of faith, and none of us knows who’s really right. And in my books, I don’t want to point to any group and say, “They’re the right ones.” So they’re all right. Sort of.
In my fictional worlds, I’m God, and there’s a lot of demigods working under me. When the character pray to any other deity, they’re still praying to me. And the sad truth is, I’m a cold and petty God. I’m an old testament-style God who believes that people need to suffer to build character. I’m a “fair” God who believes in tossing crap at the bad people as often as I do the good. But if you pray to me, you need to be careful what you wish for. When I’m in the mood to give people what they want, the results are terrible and tragic.
Do I believe the real God is this petty? No, like I said, I don’t think the real God even notices we’re here. All the pettiness in our world is all on us. The only way to counteract those petty acts is to work to right the balance in little steps. Not because it’s going to win me karma points in heaven, because I don’t know if there is a heaven. I choose to work for a positive change because in this finite life, there’s too much pain to go around, and so little love to be shared.
But I have faith that there are other people like me, people who want to share the love and faith and dispel petty hate and ignorance. I believe that in this finite life, the only thing that matters is our interactions with each other. I think we don’t put enough weight in the seemingly mundane moments of our lives, but it’s because we fail to appreciate the cosmic miracle of our existence. Out of millions of uninhabited worlds, ours is the one that sustains teeming multitudes of life. Out of the billions of stars, ours is just the right age and size to sustain us. We don’t look at miracles of that size. It’s too big for us to appreciate. So instead, we focus on the petty day to day grindstone, and we wonder what it’s all about.
I don’t know, and nothing in my faith requires that I make you see my point of view. But I appreciate the miracle that I am, and I have faith that if we have a shared purpose beyond this world, one day we will discover it. If not in this life, then perhaps in the next.
Zoe E. Whitten lives in Milan with her husband Luciano. She has written several novels and novellas, including The Lesser of Two Evils, Little Monsters, and Zombie Punter. Belfire Press will release duel sci-fi novellas from Zoe in May, Adopting a Sex Doll and When a Sex Doll Dies, and Skullvines Press/KHP Books will publish her first bizarro ebook later this year, NINJAWORLD.
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