“I just saw God up on your ridge.” (Kudos to anyone who can name the source of that quote!) Many years ago I read Stewart Guthrie’s remarkable Faces in the Clouds. The idea that he presents is that pareidolia—seeing faces or people where they don’t actually exist—may account for the belief in God. Early people, not knowing any way to interpret such obvious examples of humans writ everywhere thought they were gods or spirits. Since reading this book, I’ve taken to trying to capture incidents of pareidolia where I can. The other day as I was working away in my home office, I noticed a literal face in the clouds. I thought “I just saw God outside my window.”
Now I know this isn’t really what I saw. I know matrixing (mistaking noise for signal) when I experience it. I hope. Nevertheless, the resemblance was detailed—brow ridge, nose, distinct lips, chin. The lighting in the fair weather cumulus will likely make this difficult for you to make out, and you might see a face other than the one I saw. Not everyone thinks of the Almighty in the same way. Looking at the picture I snapped I can see at least two faces stacked on top of one another—the council of the gods? Who am I to tell deities what they can or can’t do? Or to prevent imagination from going where it will? Religion seems to be an evolved characteristic of our biological makeup—our eyes show us what to believe about the world around us. The rest is hermeneutics.
Gods and the skies naturally go together. We can’t reach the heavens nor can we control them. We can increase greenhouse gases in them, though, threatening the very illusion we see in the clouds. The glimpse of the divine we once saw there can easily dissolve into acid rain. Heaven and Hell, according to the story of Dives and Lazarus, aren’t very far apart. Even as we gaze into the cerulean sky seeking serenity, others are bending laws to allow them to destroy it for profit. There’s a reason Dives is simply called “the rich man.” Does Scripture defend the practice of environmental destruction? Dives’ friends claim the planet was given to us to use and use up and Jesus will swoop out of those clouds we’re manipulating at the last minute and rescue us from the mess we’ve made. Looking into God’s face in the clouds, I interpret this all as a mere excuse. To destroy the environment is to side with Dives as he makes his flaming bed of nails in Hell. This is why windows in an office are divine.