One of the prayers favoured by Druids calls for the love of justice, and in the love of justice, the love of the gods and the goddesses. Waiting to talk to my solicitor this afternoon, these words were rattling about in my head, alongside a friend’s recent comment along the lines of “not just the love of it, but insistence upon it”. (Sorry, precise quote escapes me, but that was very much the sentiment.)
I’d never really contemplated the relationship between justice and divinity before, but I realise that there is one. The religions that include deity, afterlife and/or reincarnation tend to have justice at their core – the idea that someone will have kept score, that balance will be addressed, good folk will finally get their dues, and wrong-doers get what they deserve as well. Most of what actually happens to us, it is preferable to believe was not deserved. So much of life is random. The desire to believe in deity is partly fuelled by the desire to find reason, to have it make some kind of sense. If there is justice, then there is sense. Equally, without justice, it’s very hard to believe that anything benevolent watches over us.
Experiencing justice reinforces a feeling that human culture is good, and that there is some inherent fairness in life. Feeling that makes it easier to believe in deity. However, there’s a great deal of injustice out there, not only in human culture, but in the random, senseless things that life dishes out. How then can we hope for a knowledge of justice, and a love of it that enables us to believe in deity? I absolutely resent any approach that goes ‘god knows best’ and assumes that whatever happens to us is inherently good because god wills it. It’s a cop out, pure and simple.
I don’t personally believe that our lives – be that big events or small details, are directed by gods. My notion of deity is a lot more vague. I believe that many things happen for no reason. Just every now and then some happy random event will make me wonder if I am being watched over by benevolent external forces, but it’s not something I’d gamble on. I’m not very good at belief, when you get down to it. I do believe there are energies and awarenesses other than human ones that affect things, but I don’t really think anything is keeping score, much less standing by to put it all right.
Justice, when you consider it, is actually a very personal thing, and what constitutes justice for one of us, might make no sense at all to another. Being heard can be enough justice for some people. Others cannot be satisfied with less than an eye for an eye. There’s no tidy definition of what justice looks like.
If there was a higher power, it ought to be concerned with fairness and justice, yes? The book religions suggest a lot of people think that way. There’s not much evidence to support the idea that some bloke with a beard actually metes it out at all. Not anywhere we can see at any rate, and justice that isn’t seen to be done… doesn’t really count, or help much. What we can do, as individual people, is consider what this higher, more aware justice ought to look like. Justice that isn’t about revenge or point scoring, but in righting the balance, restoring what has been damaged and allowing people to move forward from whatever has injured them. Justice that gives the wrongdoer chance to learn, atone and improve wherever that’s at all possible. That would be divine justice.
We don’t appear to have any gods making that happen in a reliable way. So what it comes down to is us humans taking inspiration from the idea, and making it happen as best we can, by our own effort, our own insistence upon it. And in doing so, perhaps there are some glimpses to be had of what divinity looks like.