Why Does God Need Us
This is a very interesting and important question, and it is the key to revealing God's true nature. First of all, it should be obvious that an extradimensional, beyond-the-Universe omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient superduperbeing would have no need of our worship any more than we require the worship of ants or bacteria. If we saw someone 'revealing his wrath from above' on some anthill, stomping on it because the ants refused to heed his commandments, we'd either laugh, or call for the fellows in the white coats, whether we're Christian or not.
It is obvious then, that a vastly superior being has no need for the worship or obediance of vastly inferior beings, by definition. And yet, God very clearly demands human worship and obediance. Furthermore, when confronted with disobediance, unbelief, or belief in rival gods/goddesses, he reacts (and persuades his followers to react) with as much fury and force as he (and they) can muster. In other words, God acts like a cornered animal whose very survival is at stake.
And so, we have a paradox. We have claims in the Bible of God's fantastic powers, unlimited knowledge, and inherent indestructibility, but he doesn't act
like an omnipotent, infinitely-intelligent, or inherently indestructible and self-sufficient 'Necessary Being.' What he acts like is a king
, an absolutist monarch in the mold of the human rulers who were ubiquitous in Biblical times. The Bible even refers to God as a capital-K King ("King of Kings and Lord of Lords") repeatedly.
Once we see God as a king, both the superlative claims of stupendous power made on his behalf, and his "needy" behaviors make perfect sense. Consider for a moment the Ramesseum, the large temple built by Pharaoh Ramesses II, which was moved to keep it from being inundated by the reservoir created by the Aswan High Dam. This temple features gigantic statues of Pharaoh Ramesses II, which were obviously the work of highly-skilled artisans.
Now, there is no doubt that this temple was built when Ramesses was alive. If it were a biblical manuscript, it would be an "original autograph," i.e. like the actual letters Paul wrote with his own hand. These artisans, or at least their overseers, would have seen Ramesses II in the flesh. Most likely he even sat for them while they carved a small mock-up to base the larger versions on. Now, if we interpreted the Ramesseum the way fundamentalist Christians interpret Biblical manuscripts, we would have to claim that the Ramesseum represents archaeological evidence that Pharaoh Ramesses II was a giant who stood over a hundred feet tall.
However, the actual mummy of Ramesses II in the Cairo Museum clearly refutes this. So how is it that artisans who were eyewitnesses to the life of Ramesses II, who were clearly very skilled at their jobs, could have made a mistake of such proportions when it came to making physical representations of him? The answer, of course, is that the artisans were not attempting to create "literal," scientifically-accurate representations of Ramesses II. They had other purposes in mind.
First of all, before it was moved, the Ramesseum stood on the historical border between Egypt and Ethiopia (Kush), a powerful rival kingdom in Ramesses' time. Any diplomat or merchant from Ethiopia coming to visit Egypt would see it as he entered Egypt. Obviously, the statues served a propagandistic purpose, demonstrating the might of the Pharaoh and his kingdom. But that is not all. The ancient Egyptians believed that portraying something in artwork imbued that something with magical power (heka). Portraying something larger-than-life imbued it with great power, while portraying something being conquered, or in miniature, magically deprived it of power. This is why you can go to Karnak and see images of a gigantic Pharaoh spearing a hippopatamus (symbol of the chaos-god Seth) that is, relative to Pharaoh, about the size of a kitten. The Egyptians believed that these art works served the practical purpose of strengthening the forces of Order (as represented by the king) and crushing the forces of chaos.
Thus, to the Egyptians, the Ramesseum was an installation of national defense that projected a field of heka south toward Ethiopia to keep that nation submissive and keep the tribute flowing. And it worked. Even today, we members of a global techno-civilization the Pharaohs and their priests could not have imagined, stare in awe at the works of the mighty Pharaohs. Millions of us believe that the Egyptians "must" have had help from extraterrestrials or Atlanteans, wielded magic power-crystals, had an inside-track to the Mysteries, etc.. In other words, thousands of years after the last Pharaoh perished, millions of people still believe
exactly what the creators of the Ramesseum wanted the Ethiopians to believe: that the Egyptian civilization (as embodied by the Pharaoh) was more powerful, wiser, and superior to their own.
Far from being some ultimate, grandiose folly, the monuments of the Pharaohs were, and are, practical constructs that function as effectively (if not more so) today as they did when they were created.
The Bible is a literary equivalent of the Ramesseum, and like the Ramesseum it is supremely practical (scrolls are much easier to create than giant statues!) and effective for its true purpose. Its writers never intended to provide an accurate, literal description of God's nature. This didn't even occur
to them until after Judeo-Christianity assimilated Greek philosophy. We see no real attempts to resolve theological dilemnas in the Bible. Theologians write intricate treatises on theodicy ("How can a good God allow evil, disasters, etc.?"), laboring over thousands of words to solve the problem.
The Bible writers were utterly indifferent to the issue. They gave us the Book of Job. Bad things happen to good people because God has friendly wagers with Satan about how much misery they can tolerate and still believe--and if you don't like it, too bad, because God is lots bigger and more powerful than you are. Or they just come right out and declare that God is not subject to morality (e.g. the verses where God "forms the light and creates darkness," where he brings "weal and woe", where evil does not befall a city except that "the LORD has done it," Paul's assertion in Romans 9 that God creates some "vessels," i.e. people so he can destroy them, and who are you, O man to object, etc.).
Likewise, you will never find a single verse in the Bible examining whether the "omnipotent" God can create a rock too heavy for him to lift, whether his omniscience (he knows the future perfectly) rules out his free will (he knows in advance everything he will do, and cannot therefore change his mind, and this in turn contradicts his omnipotence), etc. Systematic Theologies (books intended to explain and spell out Biblical doctrine, coherently describe God's nature, etc.) exist because the Bible isn't one.
The grandiose descriptions of God's power and might, his wisdom and intelligence exist to serve the practical purpose
of gaining human submission, just as the Ramesseum existed to induce the submission of the Ethiopians. The Bible writers never intended for their writings to be examined in a literal, Greek/rationalistic fashion (and thus to be taken as exact, specific descriptions of God's nature) than the Egyptian artisans intended for anyone to believe that Ramesses II was actually 100 feet tall.
Just as the Egyptians believed that physical representations empowered the persons/beings who were represented in them, so did the Hebrews believe that written or spoken words held power. God is shown creating the universe by speaking
. Again and again, God makes authoritative announcements with the preface, "thus saith the LORD," and uses the coda, "for the mouth of the LORD has spoken." The Gospel of John opens by saying, "and the Word was God."
In short: the Bible writers do not describe God's power like naturalists describing an insect--they create
God's power by writing it into being, by speaking of it ("praising the LORD"), teaching it to their children, etc.
To answer the question, why does God need worshippers, we need only ask, why does a king need subjects? A king without subjects is not a king at all. But with subjects who obey him, a king has enormous, and genuine power. He can speak
a command, and an army marches. A temple or a palace springs into being. At the king's word, his enemies can be slaughtered, and an entire nation of people can act as one.
But what sort of a king is God? After all, a king must exist
in some form, in order to reign. We can point to a Ramesses or a Napoleon, and say, "there he is." As a human being, he has real needs and wants that his subjects provide. Furthermore, rebellion, or even indifference is a genuine threat to his power, and he will act to crush both, in exactly the same manner that God acts. The whole point of having subjects is that they, collectively, have power the king, in himself, does not have. By himself, he could not raise a palace or a pyramid, or conquer a neighboring nation.
In other words, by proclaiming himself to be a King
, God not only confesses that he is not "omnipotent," he admits that humans have power that he lacks. Everything God commands people to do, from waging wars, to passing collection plates in church, to banning gay marriage is ironclad, demonstrable proof-in-action that God cannot do these things in and for himself.
So we can see that, as a king, God is dependant on the obediance of his subjects. But we still cannot point at someone sitting on a throne somewhere and say, "there he is, there is God, our King." Or can we? The first verse of John's gospel tips God's hand and tells us exactly what sort of entity he is.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God
." In the movie "The Matrix," we see people in ragged clothes on dismal-looking ships plug interface jacks into their heads, and manifest themselves in an artificial world wearing uber-cool black leather and dark shades. They fight other entities ("Agents") who do not even have their sort of external existence, but are "made" entirely of software code.
The characters in "The Matrix" upload their consciousnesses into the computer system that contains the software meta-program 'world' of that name. Thinkers such as Vernor Vinge, Ray Kurzweil and others argue that in the relatively near future we will be able to do this for real, that it will be possible to convert a human consciousness to software (or create a genuinely-intelligent software-being from code) and "upload" it into virtual worlds like the Matrix, or even physical (most likely robotic or cyborg) bodies out here in the "real" world.
But what if software intelligences already exist
? Consider for a moment, a person with Multiple Personality Disorder. This person is capable of 'running' more than one 'person' on their brain-hardware, storing inactive ones for later activation. Now, imagine that one of these 'alternate personas' discovered a method of transmitting itself
to other people's minds, so that an entire community of people could 'run' this persona in addition to their own normal personalities.
This secondary persona would gain a kind of immortality, passing himself down to succeeding generations of people. If he could get his hosts to act in concert, he would gain power beyond that of any individual, even a king. Kings die, they can be assassinated, but a persona living in an entire community of hosts is much harder to kill.
He would gain parallel processing ability that mere individual humans do not possess. What should he do if a foreign enemy threatens him? Fight, or submit? An individual must choose one or the other. The persona could do both
, as one group of his hosts tries organizing a resistance, while another group tries pacifism. If his army prevails, he wins. If his army is exterminated, he still has a chance to win over the conquerors via moral persuasion if his pacifist hosts can face death as courageously in the name of nonviolence as his soldiers would in battle. All he needs is a way for his hosts to spread him to the minds of his conquerors, and their victorious armies are his to command.
Such a being would also be "non-local" or "omnipresent," since a community of hosts in one city could experience his presence while hosts in another city far away could do so at the same time. Inter-communication between his hosts (i.e. massively-parallel processing carried out by the continual re-integration of all of his copies) enables him to access all of the sense data and thoughts of his entire community of hosts. As new conditions presented themselves, the persona could adapt and evolve, think and choose, by temporarily taking over the brain hardware of his hosts.
It should be apparent now that this persona would possess the attributes of a god: invisible, immortal, omnipresent, powerful, but with human-like thoughts, feelings, and needs--a disembodied "pure consciousness."
How could such a persona copy itself to multiple minds this way? Just as a large software download needs to be compressed for transmission, so would a 'god' persona. Its answer: archetypes. The earliest gods and goddesses possessed simple personalities centered on basic archetypes: the Mother Goddess, the Father/King, the Warrior God, the Angry God of Chaos/Storms, the Trickster, the Seductress/Goddess of Love, etc. The simple expedient of defining a god as "a king" compressed an entire slew of behaviors and personality traits into a single word.
Kings are warlike, make great bombastic pronouncements, make laws/institute justice, are jealous of their power ("thou shalt have no kings before me")--but a good king also loves his subjects like a Father (a closely-related archetype) and seeks to bring prosperity to his realm. Likewise, a Mother loves and nurtures and brings forth life, a Sexy Young Woman stirs desire and offers the promise of pleasure, a Warrior fights, and so on.
These gods and goddesses could compress their 'software' into simple myths, and representative images (the Mother Goddes with her ample breasts, the Fertility/Pleasure goddess with her lissome body and beautiful face, the Warrior with his bulging muscles, spear and shield, the Father/King with his flowing beard and crowned head). However, their range of adaptability and level of consciousness were limited. They were cardboard characters trapped in their roles--what does Mars do duing peacetime, or Aphrodite when she's not "in the mood?"
The god of the ancient Hebrews solved this problem in two ways: he eschewed "graven images" in favor of the written Word as his storage medium, and he consolidated into himself most of the functions of the pantheon. The written Word inscribed on scrolls (instead of stone walls or clay tablets) is denser storage medium (more information per unit of mass), and more portable than statuary. It has greater fidelity of transmission than oral myths or symbols (the meaning of which can change or be lost over time). It can be added to when necessary, but can also be 'write-protected' (by 'thou shalt not add unto this Book' commands) so its fidelity is not compromised unless absolutely necessary/advantageous for the god/persona's survival.
By absorbing those functions of the Pantheon compatible with his core nature as King/Father (e.g. Warrior, Sage, Protector, Bringer of Justice, Husband, Creator, Source of Fertility, Lord of the Dead, etc.) and smashing those completely incompatible (Sex-Goddess, the feminine-as-Divine per se), he became as multifaceted as a real person. And so he is perfect Love and
furious wrath (as any parent who spanks their child is on a smaller scale). He is the gentle Husband and
the fierce Warrior.
When his hosts are faced with overwhelming military supremacy of a rival god's followers, as they were in Jesus' day, he calls upon them to be gentle, loving, and peaceful. When his hosts have the upper hand (as they did after Constantine handed him the Roman Legions) he can be warlike and violent, exterminating the hosts of other gods and their transmission media (temples, statues, books). Should his armies face defeat, he blames his hosts' wickedness and failure to obey him completely, and his wrath is manifest upon them. Should his armies prevail, then his might is demonstrated. Victory or defeat, both are manifestations of his power, so he wins either way.
Since his Word contains commands to surrender to overwhelming enemy force (e.g. the Book of Jeremiah, Jesus' instructions to 'turn the other cheek') and
crush them underfoot (e.g. the Book of Joshua, and the Book of Revelation), both options are always available to him, just as they are to an individual faced with the prospect of conflict.
The Bible's contradictory portrayals of his character are not flaws--they are the secrets of his success. A Christian's "What Would Jesus Do" bracelet is a basic set of sofware instructions:
1. Run 'Jesus Program' (i.e. turn over your brain hardware to his persona)
2. Let him decide what you ought to do in the present circumstance.
3. Act in accordance with his decision.
In other words, the Bible contains stories, commands, monologues, and commentaries sufficient to encode a full-blown, humanlike intelligence that can be 'copied' into human brains by 'reading the Word of God,' 'meditating on it day and night,' 'teaching it to your children and to your children's children,' 'preaching the Gospel,' etc. The 'code' contains instructions to worship and obey
the persona, so that the persona is dominant rather than the host, as well as instructions to 'infect' others with the 'code.'
It also contains a complete set of 'firewalls' to prevent contamination of controlled hosts with hostile god/goddess-personas or incompatible memes. In his various manifestations, the God of Abraham is arguably the most highly-evolved, adaptable--even intelligent--meme on Earth.
Why does God need us? Because without us, he would die