|From Fire hydrators|
When setting up a croquet course, most people place the double wickets at either end of the field a scant two or three feet apart. The United States Croquet Association 9-Wicket Croquet Rules mandate a six foot spacing. Now, croquet is a fun game because you're out on the lawn, it's a pleasant summer evening, lightning bugs are coming out, you're joking around with your friends and smoking your pipes and drinking mint juleps, and it's fun to hit balls with mallets. In this case, the rules makes the game a little more fun, though; if the wickets at the turning stake are too close together, it's too easy to go through them, hit the turning stake, and then return through them, all in one turn. If the wickets are as far apart as the USCA suggests, it's easier for players to interfere with each other and knock someone's ball back into the pond, and that's what makes the game fun, on top of the lovely atmosphere.
When Mom taught me how to play Monopoly, she put $500 on the center of the board; we'd add money to the pot when paying taxes or when assessed for property repairs. Whoever landed on Free Parking got the loot and another $500 was put in the center. This seems like a fun idea, it's fun to get a lot of money.
It ruined the game.
We'd go around the board and no one would go bankrupt, for hours and hours, because there was a constant infusion of cash into the economy. The bank ran out of money, so whoever was richest would make counterfeit $10,000 notes and deposit 20 $500 bills back in the bank as a stimulus package. With rules like that, Grandma Joyce* called the game Monotony.
We can pick the rules we want when we're children playing games, but adults appreciate good rules; I didn't care about the evil $500 on Free Parking house rule until I was a teenager. The weight of knowing God merits taking the rules seriously. Carl Sagan says, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." "God exists" is the most extraordinary claim that could be made.
One cannot pose the question, "Does God exist?" as "If God were to exist, what would confirm that?" One must think in terms of "Is God the simplest explanation for reality as it is?"
I'm often asked by believing friends what it would take for me to believe. I normally say that witnessing an exorcism or an unexplainable phenomenon, say, an amputee regenerating a limb, would convince me. I say that because I want to be polite and give a straight answer. If I were to think I saw such a thing, though, I honestly don't know what impact that would have on me.
We know that people are prone to delusion, we tend to believe what we want to believe. People pull hoaxes. People misremember things. We're very frail.
To say that "God exists" is the simplest explanation for strange things is...would God be simpler than our feeblemindedness? Knowing God might well be an essentially impossible task. "Who then can be saved?"
I spent a long time in agonizing anxiety about my standing before God, because no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't make God feel real to me, I couldn't make myself believe. I always thought that the most important rule was "Believe in God." If I could get that one, I could relate to God, and if I couldn't, I'd be forsaken.
The idea that God is difficult to know can be either bitter or sweet. If God is worth knowing, he'd have to give us a lot of help in knowing him, or he'd have to not be terribly troubled by honest unbelief. Knowing, knowing if God exists and knowing facts about God, the rules of knowing are rigid, like the rules for Monopoly; if we relax these rules, conversation about God becomes circular and futile. However, if the sort of God we're looking for is gracious and loving, a good father, he would care more about us than the rules of knowing; actually knowing God would be more like playing Taboo.
Truly relating to God would be strikingly similar to cheating at croquet.
*Grandma Joyce is from Alabama. One time while visiting her, I was playing solitaire (with real playing cards, this was in the olden days). She asked me what I was doing. "I'm playing solitaire." She replied, "That looks like a rather solitary game! Hah!"