I was listening to CBC-AM on my way home the other day, and over the air waves this hit me:
We have advanced from canoes to galleys to steamships to space shuttles. We are more powerful than ever before but with little idea what to do with all that power. We are accountable to no one. We are consequently wreaking havoc on our fellow animals and on the surrounding ecosystem, seeking little more than our own comfort and amusement yet never finding satisfaction. Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don't know what they want?
Yval Noah Harari (commenting on his book, Homo Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.)
If a statement like that doesn't throw you back, few things will. Hearing this honestly made me tighten my grip on the steering wheel in holy terror. I wondered how much I've bought into this line of thinking that we're "advancing" as a people without any moral principles to guide us other than "we can do it, so it must be fine."
Are we as a human race too drunk on the possibilities of our own power to give a dam about the consequences of our choices for ourselves and the world? Or is it simply that we can't do anything to stop it, so we may as well hang on for the ride? And if we question such "progress" and our perpetual running after "comforts and amusements," by what authority do we do so? With increasing capabilities easily comes the belief that we are gods and can therefore make our own judgements of right and wrong. Democracy doesn't help much because our decisions come simply from a consortium of gods, decisions which may change with the winds of place and time.
The conundrum screams for some guidance from outside of ourselves.
As recently as the Middle Ages, theology used to be the pinnacle of human inquiry. The desire for God and understanding his ways was considered both the sail we held up for divine power and the rudder that kept our ship on a true course. And as we became aware of what was possible when we were untethered from these theological moorings, humans gradually supplanted God as the centre of the universe. We became the universe's sole guardians and arbiters of its use.
But we have repeatedly shown that we are discontent with this new arrangement. We are restless, never feeling we have achieved our utopia. Even those of us who claim to be happy with our lives--our new homes with central air, new SUV's and low gas prices, new updated versions of smart phones, or new light-weight bicycle we use to defy the onslaught of human progress--when asked about the ultimate purpose of it all, sit somewhat stunned, babbling only half-baked answers. Our minds are not trained to think theologically because we've taken God out of the picture.
Harari eloquently states a legitimate fear we should all be confronting: "Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don't know what they want?"
We need to put theology front and centre again. This doesn't mean we all need to go back and get another degree (although I found it can't hurt). It simply means we need to start asking, regularly, the right questions: If there is a God, who is he or she? What does he want with this world and the human race that seems to be restlessly running it on their own? What do we want with God? How can he answer our deepest desires for happiness, love, justice, peace? Until we get back to pursuing God, we'll never be satisfied pursuing anything else and we'll never have an answer to Harari's heart-stopping proposition.