Every week, sometimes more than once a week, billions of people go to their chosen places of worship and praise their creator. The god they believe in typically follows a fairly familiar template: He (or she) is omniscient, loving, wrathful, a whiz at creating -- and destroying -- things, and almost always eternal. It has been this way as long as human kind has had the ability to develop thought regarding where it came from and why it is here.
I have always struggled with understanding the aforementioned concept. At the very least, I have questions. Those questions have prohibited me from being a person of faith, though I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm a complete atheist. That would require the same level of assuredness that non-believers mock the religious for having. Still, until answers are forthcoming, I am agnostic, at best. And, for me, thinking about the questions is more fun, anyway.
I've often thought that the notion of not only a god, but a god who grants us eternal life, is much too pat a belief system. It reeks of a species desperate not to face its own mortality. Indeed, whenever I have broached one of my many questions to believers, that of "What if there is a god, but he has not endowed us with souls? In other words, this life is the beautiful gift that he's bestowed upon us?", I have been met with sincerely tragic facial expressions and responses croaked-out of: "No.... He wouldn't do that to us."
Okay, so, the notion of a god but no afterlife for humanity can be discarded as too cruel (though it still remains viable in my mind). What of the question of god's age? Is he truly an eternal being, or simply one who lives to be so old (comparatively) that he only seems eternal to us? I am put in mind of the Mayfly, an earthly creature that lives but 24 hours. What if, during that life span, it were able to think long enough to wonder if there were a god? Would our human life spans seem immortal to such a creature?
If we are to consider, for the sake of argument if nothing else, that god is a mortal being, then we must also consider the very real possibility that god is dead. The universe is, compared to the length of our own lives, very, very ancient. Could there have been a universal creator who has long since ceased to exist? It would seem possible. Frank Lloyd Wright is dead, but many of his houses still exist. Could the same be said for god and humanity? Or, again, we could be part of a long line of Mayfly-like creatures, being studied and perhaps influenced by a bunch of longer-lived species.
Another question: What if god is, indeed, a species, and not just a singular being? We don't seem to give much thought to how lonely such a creature would be all by itself. 'But that's why he created us!' you might say, but then would we really be very good company? It would be akin to a man alone on an island with a litter of pups. Sure, the little doggies would be of some comfort, but he'd still miss human companionship. Of course, certain historic civilizations have addressed the multiple gods scenario, but these days the more popular religions seem fixated on a lone creator theory.
Next up is the nagging issue I have regarding what sort of benevolent entity a god could be who would offer us eternal life (and one that sounds like paradise, no less), but only if we perform well here on earth. If not, then it's eternal damnation. So we're basically looking at our eternal life being determined by a tiny fraction of its existence. Again, this sounds like something leaders of humanity would create to keep the hoi polloi in line. Otherwise, it doesn't seem logical or fair at all.
Of course, god -- whichever god it is folks choose to believe in -- could very well not be a fair or logical being at all. And perhaps it is pointless to even ponder such an entity, since it would obviously be so far advanced from us that it would be like the Mayfly trying to understand humanity.