Not so long ago, an acquaintance and I happened to be joking about superstitions, when out of the blue the following conversation arose.
HIM: Do you believe in UFOs?
ME: Seriously. Don’t you?
HIM: You don’t really believe there’s little green men from Alpha Centauri fly about in the sky, do you?
The penny dropped. We were talking about different types of UFO’s.
ME: What makes you think they’re green? They could just as likely be fluorescent mauve, don’t you think?
HIM: You’re taking the piss!
I then had to explain that by UFO I simply meant an aerial phenomenon for which an adequate rational explanation has yet to be found. When such an explanation is found, the phenomenon will no longer be a UFO. Most UFOs stay as such for short periods of time before an satisfactory explanation is found. A few such as the Kaikoura Lights still haven’t been explained to my satisfaction, but I’m sure that whatever they were, there was no cover up conspiracy to hide the existence of little green men in flying saucers. It’s most likely a natural phenomenon. but the official explanation of squid boat lights seems a little too simplistic to me as the lights were seen from an aircraft and tracked on radar. My guess is that the squid boat explanation sounded more “knowledgeable” than “We don’t have a bloody clue at this point in time“. Conjecture can be fun if it’s not taken too seriously.
A similar reaction occurs on the very rare occasions I’m asked if I believe in God and I get a surprised look when I answer in the affirmative. Actually it’s just occurred to me that the question is usually posed in the negative: “You don’t believe in God, do you?” Perhaps we in Aotearoa New Zealand are even more secular than the pundits claim.
No, I’m not convinced that there are any deities, especially the wrathful, vengeful God portrayed in parts of the Bible. But I do frame the concept of agape as God, and I admit that at times (although less so these days) I tend to bestow upon the concept “human/divine” qualities such as a will (as in the Will of God) and the ability to prod (the small still voice). Concepts such as the light and every person having that of God within have meaning for me. There’s no way I could explain these concepts in a purely rational way as I find my language skills rather inadequate for such a purpose. Perhaps the best I can do is say that they are a means of sharing very complex ideas in a few words with those whose experiences are similar to mine.
So when I say I believe in God, I have a specific concept (not a supernatural being) in mind, and not necessarily what the questioner meant. Perhaps next time I’m asked, I should reply with two questions of my own:
- What do you mean by God?
- What do you mean by believe in?
For those not familiar with local expressions:
round the bend: going insane/crazy
taking the piss: to ridicule