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Be Thankful That There Probably Is No God

2010 November 26

It is asserted by some that even if god does not exist it would be nice for all of us if he did.  Left to ourselves, it is thought, we should be without guidance, order or purpose.  Additionally, some suppose that there might be no grandeur in the world at all if god’s hand were not behind it.  Fortunately, it is quite likely that none of these assertions is true.  Not only is it likely that there is no god, we should be far better for his absence.  What follows is not a complete list of reasons for gratitude, but to my taste a thorough one.

The god proposed by the Abrahamic religions boasts omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence, which to me have always seemed a rather fearful triumvirate and one which human society has otherwise gone to great trouble to destroy.  This god would have access to knowledge unknowable by those of us below, the unlimited power to act thereupon and an eternity in which to do so.  The simultaneous maintenance of the first two presents a difficult contradiction (for if god were truly privy to the expanse of all his future actions it would be rather problematical for him to stray because it would mean that perhaps he hadn’t been privy after all.  Or if in turn he couldn’t stray it would do some harm to his potency if not his reputation.), though this seems to trouble no one.  For that matter, the third hardly solves any great question about the origin of the universe because we might as easily say that the universe itself has always existed and settle debate there.

Aside from these logical problems – which don’t seem to trouble the faithful, who tend to distrust logic on these matters anyhow – there are a great number of other distresses which should indeed trouble anyone.  Were god permitted to oversee our thoughts, as many would have him do, we must thusly allow him judgment thereof, consequently permitting thought-crime, as is ritually atoned for by Catholics and others disposed to this detestable belief.  It is a fair assumption, I think, that this dreadful notion is duly taught to children, and, if it is so, I should think it a wicked practice no less severe than abuse.  I cannot think why this sleepless celestial surveillance should be desired by any sentient person, though yet apparently it is.

Should god exist we would thusly be compelled to respect his demands for worship.  While compulsory reverence seems to me to miss the point, it is nonetheless demanded by many alleged deities and performed dutifully by their subjects.  This sort of unconditional adulation reminds one of the relentless devotion commanded on similar threats of violence by some of history’s more repugnant despots, murderers and frauds.  If we nodded off a bit in our schooling, we have the great misfortune of living beside the worsening atrocity of North Korea, where one such maniac falls short of god-like horror because his reign is escapable by the gift of death.  Under god we should have no such satisfaction.

In spite of this, it is consistently maintained that a life without god would not be worth living at all; that without divine breath we would not know transcendence, awe or beauty.  I have long thought that the world is conversely rather unimpressive if it is the simple work of a waved hand and find instead tremendous splendor in the long and meticulous processes of nature, its efforts molded by time and trial toward an ever-changing, ever-growing present lush with the deepest complexities of organic life.

Religion is said to inspire humility, though I find this humility lacking when I am told that one is wise to the thoughts and intentions of the creator of the universe and that his grandest gestures were made so that we might have something to gaze at through our telescopes.  Our insignificance to the expanding universe can no longer be doubted by science, and it is thusly to science that we must turn for humility.

There is certainly humility in the Darwinian notion that we are all present on earth by the most improbable of accidents and that the unborn persons, of whom each of us was almost certainly one, far outnumber the sand grains of the magnificent beaches and expansive deserts we find so endlessly inspiring.  It is also a wondrous thing to look at each plant and creature that populates our shared planet and know that we are looking upon a true relation.  How incredible to know that this kinship is not metaphorical, figurative or supernatural, but as genuine as that between sisters or cousins!  And does this not unite us to our brethren and fellow creatures more thoroughly than any mystical explanation could possibly accomplish?  And does this not move us more resolutely toward environmental endeavors and animal and human rights campaigns knowing that we are, in so doing, preserving this great and unique legacy of life?

Not only are we fortunate enough to have been born at all, we also have the great fortune to have been born human animals.  Available to us exclusively are the capacities for recognizing and producing beauty in the world.  We may never see the worlds perceived by our fellow creatures, but we may take refuge in knowing that ours is most marvelous and distinct.  No other species and possibly no other human being on earth experiences the same bombardment of spectral color produced nightly on the earth’s horizon.  Nor can any other species feel so deeply the comfort of a lover’s kiss or the solace of a vigorous embrace.  None can look upon the Sistine Chapel and know its perfection, nor can they hear a Mozart symphony and feel in it the warmth of home.  If any of us feels short on magnificence or majesty, I suggest looking again at the photographs taken by the Hubble Telescope, or getting oneself to an ocean shore and setting one’s eyes long upon it, or walking oneself to a shaded wood and feeling instead of solitude the grand presence of true family.  Is it not also extraordinary that the comprehension of these marvels is no longer beyond us?  That not only is there beauty in their spectacle but in the intricate understanding thereof?  It is sometimes said that science spoils mystery, but how could this be so when each explanation provides innumerable new complexities to behold?  That the great products of nature required no miracle is a miracle surely greater than any conjured by our mystics and sages.  We should be thankful this and every day that we have been permitted by faintest chance to be around at all to see it.

12 Responses
  1. Sir Trebor Masrod permalink
    November 27, 2010

    Very interesting to observe what your mind’s eye sees when you look at your surroundings.

  2. Dawn permalink
    December 7, 2010

    “I find instead tremendous splendor in the long and meticulous processes of nature, its efforts molded by time and trial toward an ever-changing, ever-growing present lush with the deepest complexities of organic life”

    ———————–

    You DO realize that God also created the “long and meticulous processes of nature” that you speak of, right?

    • Brian Fabry Dorsam permalink
      December 8, 2010

      I am aware of that hypothesis, yes. It isn’t the one described by the Bible, however. And anyhow, I personally have a fondness for science and am subsequently bound to the notion of evidence and proof. Of course it is impossible to prove the non-existence of god, but this should not dissuade anyone from severely doubting his existence. In its long history, science has yet to produce any finding that points to a creator. As I have mentioned before at the Busy Signal, we are not so deficient in our scientific capabilities that we need turn to supernatural answers for natural questions. Hypotheses about a creator do coexist in many scientific minds, but there are many minds in which they don’t, and the latter are those with which I ally myself. God, as is generally presented, seems a bit tacked-on to me – precisely as if he were dreamed up by a tribe of mammals in the infancy of their intellectual development. Perhaps it is a coincidence that history has it this way as well.

  3. Kennedy permalink
    December 8, 2010

    You have totally missed the point.

  4. December 8, 2010

    You do know that Darwin’s origin is a theory, right? Even among evolutionists, there is much disagreement about the theory.

    As for nature, I’ve come to believe, after much thought and after many years of trying to push my religous upbringing away, that there is a one True God who created this beautiful world you speak of. I have faith. Surely, there is no harm or ignorance in that. There is little to no proof to what you describe as true, yet you believe it so. You have faith in something which cannot be proven, as well. In fact, Biblical history provides much to support a one True God over anything any human scientist, or so-called scientist’s assertions of evolution or Big Bang theory has ever managed to do.

    What point are you trying to make? That there is no room in our world for belief in God? No wonder our world is crumbling under oppression and greed. Lack of belief in following God’s way. God’s love and redemption of sins.

    • Brian Fabry Dorsam permalink
      December 8, 2010

      There are quite a lot of points to address in such a brief comment.

      Evolution by natural selection is a model that is universally accepted as fact by all serious contemporary scientists. I think you would be hard-pressed to find even one that suspects its truth. Perhaps you misspoke in this regard. The disagreements are over the details of the process, not whether the process itself is factual.

      As for the evidence for my claims, I can’t be quite sure of what you speak, but in either regard I’m sorry to inform you that you’re plainly wrong. My claims about the absolute power of god surely square with your version, no? My claims about his willingness to inflict eternal torture upon creatures should also square, if the notion of hell is to be believed. Our disagreement seems to be over the desirability of these attributes. And as for my scientific claims, if you doubt their truth I suggest sincerely that you do a bit of research; I think you’ll find them overwhelmingly supported by a host of demonstrable evidence. This is how my beliefs differ fundamental from yours. Mine are based upon substantial and definitive evidence and are thusly subject to change when new evidence arrives. Yours are based upon faith, which actively rejects contrary evidence, and is consequently quite honorable to some, though I don’t hold it so highly myself.

      In this regard, Biblical accounts do little in the way of proof. These texts are very old and speak a lot of nonsense (which we now, by the entirety of scientific work, are able to recognize as such). Personally, I am immediately suspect of a 1,900 year-old text that claims impossible things, because it sounds as if it was written by someone who couldn’t have hoped to know better. Incidentally, it was, which also adds to my doubt. It might delight the reader to know that there are descriptions of the divine that pre-date even the Old Testament, though they have since fallen out of fashion. Also, it might be of interest that there was a sequel to the Bible that has millions of followers throughout this very world. In fact, there are a few sequels, which confuses things, if we are in the business of taking these sorts of accounts at their word. The Mormons tell an interesting version which takes place quite recently (which may lend it credence, as far as historical accountability goes), and there is another version entirely that is very popular in the Middle East, though it has a less substantial following in this country. You’ll have to sort through all of the contradictory business yourself because I can’t be sure what your method of discrimination is.

      To address your closing point, I have a great deal of trouble believing in the eternal love of any being who has created for his critics a place wholly devoted to everlasting and unimaginable torture.

      • December 9, 2010

        Brian,

        I work in the science field and, like you, believe it imperative to use the scientific method to determine what is proven and what is not(at least not yet). For you to profess that all “serious” contemporary scientists believe that we humans were not created but evolved through natural selection is to show your ignorance about what constitutes credible science. There are many “serious” and credible scientists who do not believe as you do. The more modern evolution-minded scientists try to prove the hypothesis, the more it falls apart. In fact,there is a great divide in the evolutionist community because of this.

        Dr. Jay Wiles, a noted geologist, talks a lot about the pitfalls of evolution. Interestingly, he was an atheist for a good part of his adult life, and is now a Christian. There are many others, if you will consider looking for them. I think it’s important to read as much from many different viewpoints, because good science–credible science–demands that we leave our personal beliefs aside, whether that is belief in God, as I do, or an atheist, as you seem to uphold.

        One more thing. You make a good point about how science is fluid, ever-changing. Many claims made by “credible,” or as you state, “serious” modern scientists have not only been disproven in a short period of time–as little as ten or twenty years–but have put many people in harm’s way. I’m not so easily swayed by someone’s research just because it supports my belief system. I require more than that. You’ve got just as many, maybe more, who believe so fervently in evolution,that they’re willing to disregard countless credible scientific material disputing the theory. And why? Because it directly opposes a supernatural power, which supports their belief system,that God does not exist.

        So you see? What is substantial and difinitive evidence to one sort, isn’t to another. I guess, personal biases are difficult to eliminate entirely. For us all.

        Good talking with you.
        diane

      • Brian Fabry Dorsam permalink
        December 9, 2010

        Diane,

        I hope you’ll forgive me for speaking plainly: Dr. Jay Wile holds the belief that the earth began at about the time general consensus places the beginning of pottery. I don’t think the kind of science that leads one to this conclusion can be considered credible or even intriguing.

  5. December 8, 2010

    Not sure that we are yet to the point where we can claim that the mysteries of the universe are within the grasp of our understanding. We still have some pretty serious cosmological problems to deal with if we are actually understand any of this. You seem to be romanticizing atheism in a way that is unbecoming to atheism.

    I am not a theist or an atheist, I find them both incredibly cocky. We don’t really have any idea what is going on here, and to presume we do is utter folly.

    The universe, in all likelihood, always existed. The modern concept of the “big bang” is a reactionary response to Christian theology. We should be moving in a different direction altogether, rather than running in these same ancient circles.

    • Brian Fabry Dorsam permalink
      December 8, 2010

      I think we’re largely in agreement. I never intended to claim that we presently have access to all knowable knowledge – I apologize if it came across this way. You would be, in this case, quite right to call out my arrogance. The section you’re addressing, I believe, was intended to communicate that we in fact know a great deal about things we previously thought beyond our reach. Contrary to your claim, we have a very good idea what is going on here. There are many more questions indeed, and it is extremely likely we may never know each of their answers. I am excited by the pursuit, however. A related point is that we, as I have written now a few times for this blog (once in an above comment), are in no such decrepit state of scientific capacity that we must turn to supernatural explanations for natural questions. God, at this point, is quite unnecessary. If any such coincidentally anthropomorphic figure is required I am certain that science will discover it. In this way, you bring up another point that it may surprise you to find we agree on: that is, that any true atheist knows there is no such thing. The non-existence of anything at all is impossible to prove and so we must (begrudgingly, in some cases) confess at least a fraction of doubt regarding any inane or ludicrous proposal. I am obligated to admit that, no, I cannot be 100% certain that unicorns do not exist, though I might anyhow call myself an a-unicornist for argument’s sake.

      As for your final claim, I cannot come along with you. The Big Bang has a great deal of evidence supporting it and is far from reactionary. Scientists seem to me largely unconcerned with the myths of understandably ignorant old tribes. We do know, as you have indicated, much less about that beginning moment than other subjects, though we are making some exciting headway: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/18/antimatter-breakthrough_n_785252.html

      • December 8, 2010

        I think we can be relatively sure a man in the sky didn’t create the earth 10,000 years ago. There is sufficient evidence to dismiss such claims completely. We cannot, however, be sure about much of anything else. The problem I have with most people claiming to be “scientific” in nature is that the presume to know far too much, and that seems to be hindering science rather than advancing it.

        I personally find the modern version of Einsteinian cosmology (could be called “Hawkinian cosmology” at this point) to be something which we should all be a whole lot more skeptical of. The problem is that it has become such a basis for the way we think about science that we are too entrenched in it to ever view it objectively.

        There are some new theories being advanced at a rapid pace regarding something called “Plasma cosmology”. It is my hope that this concept will be examined much further, as it erases the need for most all of the fantastical concepts that Hawking has put forth.

        I think where we are now is similar to the place we were when we believed in a flat earth or a heliocentric universe. Reexamination is needed severely.

  6. Elizabeth Byrne permalink
    December 23, 2010

    Dear Brian,

    Are you in New Hope for break? If so, you, me and Grif should hang out. I’d love to debate this stuff with you, especially since I’ve been studying it for four years now (in a this is what I’m getting two degrees in) sort of way.
    I would quibble with you in regards to some of the minutiae on this, and would love to see specific passages that substantiate your claims (it’s the academic in me, I see where your points are coming from, I just like backing them up with a little more weight). The three O’s aren’t really backed up in a Hebrew Bible sort of way. (Alluded to in ambiguous passages, yes, explicitly stated, not so much.)
    By the way, for transparency, I’m mostly apathetic, certainly non-religious and if forced to choose I would go deist and say that whether or not there is a god/God/gods is irrelevant because his/hers/its hands would be tied.

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