Thursday, January 26, 2006

A personal entry

I have often (rightly) been accused of bringing a plethora of arguments against theism, bombarding my beleaguered opponent in what appears to be a “shock and awe” mentality. That I consequently write long posts, longer responses, and immense replies, and can become boring.

The problem is that, for me, the lack of evidence for theism did not rest in one book I read, or one principle, or one particular thought. When I began to investigate, it frayed apart so quickly and completely, I was stunned. I knew there were concerns (hence claims of “paradox” or “limited human understanding”) but never dreamed it was this bad.

Because of my background, I initially addressed the God of Christianity. The evidence compelled me to conclude that it was impossible for such a God to exist. Someday, I will discuss that journey, but for now I am starting in the middle of my tale, rather than the beginning. I find the arguments regarding theism as a whole more interesting at this moment.

Ever have a project completely unravel on you? No matter how you tried to fix it, no matter the solution it just steadily went from bad to worse? The other day one of the headlights on my car went out. I opened the hood, jiggled the wires, and it came back on. Problem solved, right? Close the hood. Bang. Pop. Hood wouldn’t latch. Try it again. Bang. Pop. Nope, something was stuck. I got a hammer out of the tool box, banged around the latch for a bit, hoping to hit the right bits to free up the situation, and slammed down the hood. Bang. Solidly latched. Pleased with myself, I put my hammer away; managing to knock over that tin we all have of various screws and nails that some day might come in handy. All over the garage floor.

As I am on my hands and knees, hoping to find every metal object before it finds its way into one of my tires; I couldn’t help but be amused by the fact that I may get a flat tire from trying to get my headlight to work. The situation had gone from bad to worse, just to fix a loose wire. In attempting to analyze theism, I felt the same way—no matter what resolution I came up with, the problems only seemed to get worse.

O.K., I had lost the God of Christianity. The one I had been familiar with for 37 years. While parts of what I had known may still be true, the entire picture was not. As difficult as this was, I still knew there was a God. Maybe not the one I was the most comfortable with, maybe not even one I preferred, but my entire mind was infused with the idea of a God, and to remove that would be to remove my very essence.

Now what? I have an essentially clean slate. God could be anything: big, small, mean, nice, hairy, clean-shaven. The only thing to do is look at what is around me, process what I know and see what conclusions (if any) I can safely come to about God. There is a god—what does it look like?

Well, might as well start with creation. No real sense in believing in a God, without having it resolve abiogenesis and cosmology. Of course it is possible that the Universe made a God, which made us, but then is the Universe ultra-natural, God super-natural, and humans natural? Recognizing the possibility of infinite regression, I figured I had to get my feet wet somewhere and creation is as good a point as any, so to prevent insanity, I rested on God being a creator.

A simple axiom that follows is the created (humans) cannot be more than the creator. Whatever we have came from this creator. Otherwise, we would have something that we got from another creator. Which would mean there is more than creator. And I verge on more problems than resolutions.

FINE. A creator that created what I see. Now, for the first time, rather than fit what I see about me into a God molded for me, I can review the evidence and no matter where it leads—good, bad or ugly, I can confidently state that we obtained it from a creature that provided it.

I see Love. God must loving. BUT, I also see Hate. (You can see where this is going.) God must also Hate. I see good and evil. God must also be good and evil. I see surprise. What can surprise a God? I see fear. What is God afraid of? I see death. Can God die? I see jealousy. What could God possibly be jealous of?

At this point, I realize how little I can conclude about God, just by observing the world about me. Is it possible for an eternal creature to make something less than eternal? For something that lives forever to create something that dies? If God was all-knowing, how could He even conceptualize surprise to create it? I don’t know.

I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. Time and again, as my mind took a path, I hit a dead-end of “We can’t know.” Perhaps observing the world about us, doesn’t really tell us anything about a God at all.

Talking to God was natural. I continued, even acknowledging that I didn’t know who I was talking to, but if there was one, I was talking to it. I received no response. Another observation I made was that this God was non-communicative.

As humans, we don’t communicate with other specific humans for two reasons—we are either unable or unwilling. If God wasn’t communicating with me, I could only presume that He was either unable or unwilling. But how can I possibly tell the difference?

Was He unable due to some constraint on His time, power, nature? Was He unable because, in the fit of creation He expired? Was He unwilling because of how I was communicating, why I was communicating, when I was communicating? I don’t know. I don’t know. Or maybe there is something unknown to me, some God-quality that restrains him. How could I possibly determine what that is? I don’t know what I don’t know!

Observations leave incomplete answers; communication is not occurring.

At this point, I have to take a step back and re-evaluate how we can determine anything about a god. Do I use natural means such as observation to determine a supernatural creature? If not, I know of no supernatural means within me by which to use. In fact, can I use logic? I realize that logic is just a way to make sense of the world about me. To communicate within myself, or to others in a manner that we have some consistency, rather than incoherent babbling.

In order to talk about God, we have to be able to do it logically, right? Right? I must be confident to state:

1. A equals B
2. B does not equal C.
Therefore:
3. A does not equal C.

But if God uses some different form of logic, perhaps, in my limited way, I do not know in His world:

1. A equals B
2. B does not equal C
Therefore
3. A does not equal B, B equals C, and C may or may not equal B or A.

To even begin the discussion, I would need to presume even God is limited by logic. But why stop there? If He is limited to logic (which I cannot confirm), couldn’t He also be limited to time? Could He be limited to space? Could He be limited to power? Could He be limited to a system of morality? Could He be limited by limits I don’t know?

If I give you a list of numbers, and say, “some of these numbers do not belong” we must come up with some methodology by which we can determine what those are. If the list is “1, 2, 3, 5,…” perhaps it is even numbers that do not belong. If the list continues, “…7, 11, 13…” perhaps it is prime numbers. In some way, though, we derive a methodology to make this determination.

Once I claim one limit on God, no matter WHAT it is (nature, logic, holiness, you pick) how do we come up with a methodology by which we can determine what He is or is not limited by? C’mon—you know the answer! We can’t.

I can’t know what God is. I can’t know what God may or may not be beyond what I don’t know. I can’t know even the method by which I can determine what I don’t know!

Look, I can read the fun philosophical debates as to determinism vs. free will. I can read evolution vs. creationism. Bottom line, it all boils into a lack of ability to verify means a complete lack of knowledge. Like it or spike it.

Realizing I know absolutely nothing about God, and have no way to gain even an iota of knowledge, why did I hold onto the belief of a God? I had to step back and see my bias toward a belief in a god, from years of constant indoctrination in the belief. (Note: Not indoctrination in a bad way at all. Like being indoctrinated in a good work ethic. Not a bad thing, just how I was raised.)

It wasn’t a problem with free will. Or how creation developed. It was a realization that the whole concept was inherently flawed. I read numerous arguments for a god from a variety of philosophers (admittedly, toward a Christian bias) and I see all these long fancy word manipulations in an attempt to blur the very basic simple statement—we don’t have a clue.

Once reviewing how the idea of god(s) formed over the course of history, it became evident that humanity created god(s). Not vice versa. There is no god.

Perhaps I didn’t start in the middle. Maybe it is high time that Christians start from the ground up and develop what a God would look like, rather than attempt to smash a God into a Bible-shaped form. Maybe the attempt to formulate a God from observation and analysis would demonstrate how difficult it is to make brash and bold statements as to its wants, desires and intentions. Maybe Christians would get just a hint of why other people believe in other gods, with good justification, and some are convinced by the overwhelming evidence that there is no God.

Merely a stepping stone on my life path.

3 comments:

  1. the only way you can derive God from observing the world around you seems to be two approachs:

    1) everything works, that's not an accident (Rick Warren on eyeballs)

    2) you can't understand it

    on the first point, evolution is not an accident. So meaningful and deliberate changes over time to respond to environmental stimulus are not "accidents" - any more than the prey predator relationship is an accident.

    on the second point, if you cannot understand God, then why try to pretend you believe in him? I mean, if the man is so above your intellect, it seems like even broaching the topic is above your pay grade (intellectually).

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  2. I think you make some great points.

    First you say that observing the world around us (natural revelation) can't tell us anything about this God. Well, that's mostly true. It can tell you something such as He exists (cosmological argument) and that He creates (same) and that he exists outside time (since time is part of the created universe).

    But where do we go from there? I would argue with you that we can't know much more. This would stand in agreement with those who tout Intelligent Design. This is precisely why ID is NOT Biblical Creationism as it is often charged with.

    In light of what what we can discern from nature and reason, agnosticism (with a loose allegiance to Theism) seems the appropriate response.

    It is precisely this fact that leaves Christians admitting, along with you, that to know anything meaningful about this creator we need Him to condescend to contact us and tell us about Himself.

    That's what the Bible is.

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  3. I have also made the argument that we need god to enlighten us, however, i don't believe it was done in the bible. I do believe there is a god though. No matter what form it's in.

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