Monday, May 27, 2013

Oh, the Irony! Atheists Provide the Best Evidence that God is Real!

Seeking a more logical cosmology.

I've been involved in a lot of discussions lately about the existence of God or, conversely, the folly of faith. Mostly these have been fairly civil dialogues on Soul Pancake or The Great Silent Majority page on Facebook. I recommend either or both to your attention if you think it's fun to think and write about life's great questions with people who are willing to listen politely, even to those they consider to be idiots. I've distilled much of what I've posted elsewhere into this little treatise on why I believe in God and why I do not think this is lunacy.
Atheists like to assert that there is no evidence to support the existence of God. Believers then are held to be an ignorant and superstitious lot who need religion as a crutch to face the crushing realities of a meaningless existence. Or, as comedian, Bill Maher, quipped:
Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking. It’s nothing to brag about. And those who preach faith, and enable and elevate it are intellectual slaveholders, keeping mankind in a bondage to fantasy and nonsense that has spawned and justified so much lunacy and destruction. Religion is dangerous because it allows human beings who don’t have all the answers to think that they do.
Maher is a funny person and a bonafide wit, but he has no more philosophical leg to stand on here than Dr. Stephen Hawking who has suggested that the laws of nature prove that there is no God. According to Hawking the universe 'popped' into existence, in accordance with the rules of quantum physics, as an 'infinitesimally small, infinitesimally dense' proton—so small and so dense that it could not admit time. There was therefore no time for a creator to have acted, and, indeed, no need of a creator except to explain all these things before we had quantum physics to take over the task.
For Hawking, Maher, and all the rest whose understanding of our existence is rooted in the physical sciences, God is a construct. They believe that men invented gods to explain the mysteries of the universe. Presumably they believe that, in modern times, Yawheh, Allah, and the Father of Jesus, all the same God, are just more complex and fully realized versions of the same superstitious hokum.
The Big Bang is a theory whose purpose is to explain the existence of the universe without God, and its proponents have made good on its promise. Of course this is rather easier when the theoretical construct was made without any reference to God. When it comes to accepting theory as scientific fact though, in the absence of any as yet complete proof, a certain amount of faith is required even though those who advance the theory would probably deny it.
On the other hand, be He construct or reality, God has always required faith. The faithful already know this—the ones who actually think about it at any rate. There is no conclusive proof of the existence of God. I will submit that there is a lot of evidence, but there is no proof. I'm talking about objective, scientific proof—the kind that can be tested and verified by repeatable experimentation. There will always be some theological wankers about who will quote the Bible as an authority in an argument with an atheist as if Scripture carries any weight with a non-believer. Most of us realize that this is not just an exercise in futility. It is stupid. The Bible does not prove that God exists with any authority except to those who already accept it. This won't work to bridge the chasm between objective reality and the metaphysical plane. For that we need faith.

Faith is bigger than certainty,
but it may still require
heavy equipment.
For the intelligent believer, faith must necessarily contain an element of doubt else it isn't faith at all but certain knowledge. Certain knowledge does not move mountains. Certain knowledge does not even build churches. Certain knowledge is not spiritual, religious, holy, nor full of grace. Certain knowledge, or at least the requirement for it, is the necessary fundamental limitation of the physical sciences. Science requires proof to keep it honest. When science makes an assertion that is not backed up by proof, it is required to keep looking.
Doubt, on the other hand, is the liberating principle of faith and the ultimate foundation of metaphysics. A metaphysical philosopher must ask a question of the discipline that no self-respecting physicist ever would or could ask about physics, and that is, 'Is metaphysics even possible?' Asking this question makes metaphysics at once more honest and analytical than physics will ever be. Why? For the simple reason that it forces the philosopher to consider, with humility, that he might be wrong.
As I've already said, atheists believe that God, or the gods, are a construct of the human imagination designed to explain the mysteries of the universe. I believe that this human ability to conceive of a creator god is the best evidence we have that one actually exists. Here's why.
If you subscribe to Stephen Hawking's idea of the Big Bang—that a prototypical, protean proton 'popped' into existence and exploded, and that all of the untold trillions of selective events that happened between then and now, leading to our current state of evolution and development, were completely natural and godless and random, then what in our experience of this process would lead us to conceive of a creator cause?
Someone once said, 'all art is derivative.' (I've been trying for several days now to find out just who said it first, but it's all over the internet without any attribution. If anyone knows who said this first, please let me know.) What this means is that, even in the arts - presumably mankind's most creative endeavors - nothing is truly original. Everything is built on something that went before. I submit that this is true of everything that men do.
There is nothing man has accomplished that is not rooted in something else that already existed. To be sure there are materials that exist today that did not exist at the dawn of time, but every one of them is comprised of stuff that did. There are concepts and designs and theories that seem new and wondrous, but all of them are derived from and built on the foundations of the past. Even at the height of its power, humanity is not capable of producing anything from nothing. Everything humanity has done is derivative. Science does not beget; it discovers. Or, as Ecclesiastes has it:

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.


Beatific vision or
atmospheric pollutants?
If we are nothing more than the sum total of all the random electro-chemical responses that have flowed into our genetic makeup, how did any of us come to conceive of a creator at all? If there is no God then there could be nothing in our naturally-selected history upon which we could begin to assemble this concept. If God doesn't exist, we couldn't possibly have made Him up. What I think instead - no, what I choose to believe - is that we are predisposed to believe in God because we were imbued with a spark of divinity by the creator.
I believe this because it has been given to me to do so. I am not a fool, and I am not insane. I know full well that I had to make a choice to get to this state—a choice that is not supported by any objective, scientific logic, but one that nevertheless makes perfect sense to me.
There is a word in ancient Hebrew, 'ruach.' It is usually translated as breath or spirit. We first encounter it in the Genesis account of creation. I am not offering this as any kind of proof. I am offering it as an explanation as to why I believe what I believe. I am not getting into an argument of Genesis vs. evolution. I believe in evolution, and I accept science, as far as it goes, as demonstrably true. I also believe Genesis—not as a literal account of creation, but as a lovely, poetic allegory for the metaphysical reality of man's place in it.
There are famously two accounts of creation in Genesis. They are different from one another, our first clue that the Bible, even for believers, is not meant to be taken literally. As to the origins of man, the thing I mean to consider here, Genesis 1:27 says, 'God created man in His image, in the divine image He created him, male and female He created them.' In Genesis 2:7 it says, 'the Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.'
These two accounts are different, but they are meant to be taken together. They are two different ways of looking at the same thing. The Aramaic word for 'breath of life' in chapter 2 is 'ruach.' Its parallel in chapter 1 is 'the divine image.' God breathed His divine self-image into mankind, male and female, and made of us something entirely new. This is the only reason I can fathom that we are even able to conceive of things beyond our knowing.

Pondering imponderables.
Were it not for this ruach, we would not be able to ponder infinity. We would not be able to embrace divinity. We would not be able to approach holiness. We would instead be imprisoned by our mere chemistry. Without the breath of divine life we would be incapable of bridging the gap between the physical and the metaphysical. We would be the pinnacle of mammalian existence, but we would be incapable of imagining anything else.

This for me is the best evidence that God exists. It doesn't have to be in the Judeo-Christian-Muslim tradition. Virtually every religious tradition has its own creation narrative, and they all presuppose some sort of relationship between mankind and the divine. My point is that, no matter the faith tradition, somewhere, somehow God has enabled us to know something of Him, and had He not done so, had He not intervened in our evolution, we would not be able to think Him up on our own. Of course I rely on my faith to tell me this...so I could be wrong.

2 comments:

  1. You propose an interesting conundrum. If God doesn't exist, then the concept of God must be an emergent property of the workings of the universe. However, Stephen Hawking rejects the idea of emergent properties.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hadn't thought of it quite this way, but you are absolutely correct, Lawrence. I'd like to see Hawking weigh in on this, wouldn't you?

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