Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Existence of God

I got a response from the writer of the piece I cited in my last blog entry, which is posted under “The Illusion of Free Will,” and I would urge people to read it in its entirety. But here are some of my responses:

****I hope my blog entry didn't stereotype all Christians as "idiotic, bigoted, closed-minded [people]." ***

You didn’t say that Christians per se were stupid, but it felt a little like I was on the dumb end of the spectrum just because I chose to believe in God, something that’s necessary to Christianity. Incidentally, I’m more interested in Christ as a role model than as the purported “Son of God” – in the broader scheme of the Bible, he’s an essential part of the mythology; setting aside the issue of his divinity (especially as his being more divine than the rest of us), he’s a pretty good role model with a few questionable actions. It’s too bad I can’t ask him, for example, why he mouthed off at his mother when he was just twelve (“How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?” Luke 2:49 KJV). My answer is that he was a twelve-year-old boy in a patriarchal society that thought adulthood came on at age thirteen.

***Your experience with [Kaye] covers many years of daily contact - sight, touch, communication. She [is] a physical reality in your life. God, if such a being exists, is an invisible, supernatural entity. Could you explain what your experience with [Kaye] and your experience with God have in common and how you can reason God into existence?***

What do we know about reality? We are limited by our experiences. I’ve had some experiences that no one else has had – some of these are labeled “hallucinations.” If I had the same kind of contact with God that I have with Kaye, you’d write me off as a lunatic. So it’s a no-win situation for me. Some things can be proven through reason. Faith is what you have when you can’t prove something through reason. You choose to have it or you choose not to. I choose to believe that there are things out there that I don’t know about. Although I don’t think it much matters which philosophy or religion you have, as long as you don’t use it to excuse your bad behavior, I chose Christianity because I understand the mythology, having been brought up with it. Yes, I consider it a mythology – but the ties between mythology and history can be delicate.

The thing that frustrates me is atheists' unwillingness to acknowledge that atheism is itself a belief system. It’s the agnostics who honestly say they don’t know. You can’t prove God does or doesn’t exist, so whether you opt for atheism or some religion, you’re making a leap of faith. Atheists have faith that God doesn’t exist. They don’t know.

Ultimately, though, to answer your question, I don’t think you can reason God into existence. Once, I had to have reasons for everything. I still want them. But I accept the fact that some things just are. So I didn’t and can’t reason God into existence. I just chose to take a leap of faith. I still know I might be wrong.

***Atheism isn't a belief system. It is an absence of belief in any kind of god. And it doesn't take faith, because faith is the choice to actively believe something without any verifiable proof of its reality.***

Sure it is. It’s not a lack of belief. It’s a belief that God doesn’t exist. I suppose what I am is not so much a believer as a hopeful agnostic. Agnostics are the ones who don’t believe in something because they don’t know it exists. Atheists are sure it doesn’t exist. That’s a belief.

***You can't prove that the Flying Spaghetti Monster does or doesn't exist. But do you have to exercise faith not to believe in its existence? No, because there's no reason to believe. So it is with atheism. No faith is needed because atheists don't think there's any good reason for belief in God.***

When there is scientific evidence about something, such as evolution, I believe it’s true. It’s hard for me to know it’s true, because English and Computer Science don’t really give me the tools to understand the raw data. I have to have faith that the experts in the relevant fields know what they’re talking about and are telling us the truth; for example, I don’t think “Creationism” should be taught in schools because I think it’s nuts, whereas evolution makes sense. I don’t think evolution and the existence of God are mutually exclusive. I just don’t think I see the whole picture. I’m pretty smart, but I don’t know as much as I once thought I did. When I was eight, I was an atheist because there were no dinosaurs mentioned in the Bible.

No sensible person can believe in the Bible – the first two chapters of Genesis are mutually exclusive. The Bible is not evidence of God; it’s a story of a culture. It’s a pretty good story, and it’s important because it has, for good or ill, influenced Western culture and continues to do so.

1 comment:

Udge said...

Quite right.

(Found you via your comment on my "Spring" post. Interesting stuff, thanks for the link. I'll be back.)