by Brad Nelson 8/31/14
The question that has always plagued my mind is, Shall God be real or shall god be a source of emotional satisfaction? Both are possible at the same time, of course. But those who would say so, do they really care if God is real as long as they are emotionally satisfied with the idea?
To me it matters if the story of Noah is true. And “true,” as far as gauging the veracity of what we might generously call “old accounts,” requires assessing their plausibility and not simply their ability to satisfy or to create believers.
From what I understand, it is generally acknowledged that the New Testament, for instance, isn’t a biography of Jesus or a history book, although it may contain biographical and historical elements. The point of the New Testament is to create and bolster Christian faith.
This is not necessarily a bad or dishonest goal. But it’s not the goal of truth and evidence. And for God to be real, at least to me, he must be more than an idealization or wish. And any idea of God must account for the world as we see it.
Some would say that the various myths and Christian tenets (such as original sin) do so. But they do not do so for me, this one in particular, if only because the story of reality contains too much contingency, bad luck, and inherent suffering to be reasonably explained away as original sin.
For me, such an idea as original sin is a rationalization to further the idea of a benevolent God. Rationalizations might even be true and justified, but blind rationalizations may be no different in kind and motive from the ones typically engaged in by Darwinists who find any evidence to always be for the idea of a pointless, meaningless, radically materialist world.
Life is clearly more complicated than that, and on both sides of the aisle, neither incredulity nor a visceral distaste for a Creator are ample evidence for or against either major worldview (the Religion of Leftism/Atheism vs. the various theisms). Nor do I present myself as a Solomon-like creature who will cut this baby in half in order to find the truth.
To me there is an inherent, not secondary, barrier regarding the truly Big Questions. Short of a burst of personal revelation (which one could plausibly say happened to people such as Thomas Aquinas), we are left to posit what is reasonable and likely – unless we prefer not to do so for other reasons, emotional satisfaction being a primary one.
I do, in a sense, make a martyr out of my emotional satisfaction. I put it on the cross as I attempt to understand this world beyond mere belief. Belief and faith, of course, are unavoidable elements. Faith regarding certain things is more than justified. It would be foolish, for instance, to wait to get dressed and go to work every morning because one is watching to see if on this day the sun does indeed come up again.
And, to a large extent, religious faith can be justified in this vein. Given our inherent limited ability to know the Deep Truths, we can either wait until we figure those truths out via standards of evidence higher than the standards of religious belief or we can just go ahead and believe. In this respect, I do not see religious belief as necessarily irrational but instead as pragmatic, even commendable.
But that still doesn’t get to my main point: Is it true?
Now, as I had quipped to Glenn elsewhere, I think my God is an awesome god. The evidence of reality, life, and consciousness makes this self-evident, for whatever or Whomever created this is quite beyond genius. “Awesome” is an apt description. Still, although awesome, my God is a quite uncommunicative God. Perhaps that is fine. As the old atheist (I think it derives from atheism) chestnut goes, “If you talk to god via prayer, that is normal. If God answers back, you’re likely crazy.”
Still, consider what it is that drives the intuition that God, not Darwin, is the creator of DNA and thus of life. It’s all that fabulous and complex information in DNA (about two billion bits for humans, enough, as one author noted, to stack type-written pages in a normal-sized font as tall as the Washington monument).
And it’s information as to a personal God that I find in rather short supply. But a Deistic god — one who gets the universe rolling and, from time to time interacts with it — I find plausible (which is not the strict definition of Deism, but I’m giving it some wiggle room). No other explanation of reality, at minimum, can account for reality, especially including atheism, which I see as more of an implicit rant at God — perhaps for some of the reasons I articulate.
But hopefully I am not all rant. There is much to be thankful for, and even more to be in awe of. (And more than a little to be terrified of.) But still, the whole thing of it needs to make some sort of sense to me. As Timothy said elsewhere:
If you get too active a notion of God running the universe, then you end up like the Muslims, for whom the explanation for anything that happens is “Allah willed it.” This makes it hard to develop science, which overall (despite the flaws of so many scientists, who after all are human just like the rest of us) is a very useful field of knowledge and thought. I much prefer the Watchmaker or Programmer (particularly as a programmer myself) to Allah.
Too much God and we are left in that Muslim position of absolutely nothing happening except via the wishes of a Creator. And this is certainly a possible situation but, again, does not jibe well with the world as we see it and live it. We do make choices for ourselves. There is an abundance of randomness and indeterminacy to the universe. It seems at times that there is just enough to obscure a clear intuition of God, but not so much to not warrant the possibility. Is this another universal “constant” that is set this way for some unknown reason? Is it much like the one wherein if there was just a little more “oomph” to the Big Bang, the universe would have diluted itself in expansion long before galaxies and suns (and thus life) could have formed — and a little less “oomph” (apparently, as even Weinberg has calculated, one part in 10 to the 120th power) and the universe collapses in on itself long before much of interest could happen?
On the other hand, not enough of a notion of a Divine Creator and we are left adrift in currents of illogic. “Nothing comes from nothing” is a reasonable logical tenet, and to deny this tenet is to likely go down a dark rabbit hole of rationalizations far worse than any offered in terms of psychological comfort. And the radical materialists give every sign of a kind of cultural and psychological insanity that flows from this belief, the various 20th century atheistic regimes (which killed over 100 million people) being prime evidence of this insanity.
Whatever the case may be, I still fall back on my main point, which is not offered from a radical skepticism perspective (which we have far too much of these days) but as a logical proposition: Is it true?
Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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