Since I am a philosopher, people often ask me what I think about God. Also, religious friends are inclined to ask me what I think. Although I can present the views of various philosophers on the subject and have given the matter considerable thought, I have come to realize that my ideas of God are actually rather limited and underdeveloped. So, under the pressure of such questions and my inability to provide a proper answer, I’ve decided to ramble a bit about God.
The most common question I get about God is whether I believe in God or not. I always reply with a question: “what do you mean by ‘God’?” Since most folks really have no idea, they tend to have no way to answer beyond some vague stuff about God being God, all good, all powerful and so on. Of course, I must admit that all I have about God is that vague stuff. I, like Pascal, suspect that is about as good as it gets when it comes to God.
When thinking about this and the fact that so many folks believe in something they really have no idea about, I got to wondering about what sort of basis there could be to believe. Obviously, it is easy to explain why many folks believe: they were brought up that way and so on with the usual psychological and sociological answers. But, my interest is in laying aside what I have been told and seeing if I can find any evidence for God (whatever He is).
Naturally, people tell me that the bible will show evidence of God. But, the bible is just a book written by men. When I read it, I see no signs of a special avenue of certainty. After all, it does not glow with truth. It does not contain irrefutable arguments establishing God’s existence beyond all reasonable doubt.It contains nothing that the folks at the time did not know. To be honest, if I am going to believe on the basis of a book, it needs to contain real proof or at least do some magical glowing stuff to prove its supernatural bona fides.
As a source of proof it is biased and most of the key events in it are not properly documented in other historical sources. And, of course, there is no objective evidence remaining for the key claims: no sign of the garden of Eden, no remains of the ark, no signs of a global flood that exterminated most of mankind, no sign that the Red Sea destroyed an Egyptian army and so on. Also, even if the ark were, for example, found that would not prove that God exists.
People also point to the miracles in the bible as a sign of God’s existence. Of course, I can read about all sorts of impressive supernatural stuff in other books as well (such as the Lord of the Rings) and I have as much evidence for the biblical miracles as I do for the existence of Excalibur, vampires, and werewolves. Interesting, there are no real miracles today. True, people do talk about seeing the face of Jesus in grilled cheese sandwiches and folks do claim to be healed by miracles. However, there seems to be no objectively documented cases of miracles. As such, I have no more reason to believe in them than I have reason to lose sleep out of fear of being attacked by werewolves.
Looking at my own experiences, I have had no encounter with the supernatural or the divine, or so it seems. True, the existence of the world and its seeming design does provide a nice foundation for an argument from design for God, but this hardly points towards the sort of God most folks talk about in church. Of course, perhaps I am somewhat jaded by video games and role playing games. In these games, the fictional gods are active and grant significant powers. For example, my paladin in D&D can call on the power of goodness to smite evil creatures, to heal the sick and destroy the undead. In real life, priests are just dudes who have no powers at all. As such, there seems to be no evidence of a supernatural being that was said to answer prayers and grant powers to work miracles. Or maybe He just did that stuff back in the day, before the notion of objective record keeping and scientific investigation really got rolling. To be rather flippant, it is hard to believe that there is a miracle providing supernatural being when even the Pope can’t do so much as heal a paper cut.
At best, the world points towards a largely indifferent creator who set things up, got the planets rolling and then took an extended vacation. He doesn’t seem very concerned about our individual well being or happiness, since evil and misery strike the just and unjust alike. So, if there is a God, then He seems to be the God envisioned by the Deists.
Having rambled all that, I do believe in an objective moral order. So perhaps that points towards God. Of course, it need not. After all, Plato argued for the existence of the Good without accepting the existence of God. But, this will be the subject for another rambling on God.
Brian Kopps says
Great read here … Thanks for sharing
Sheesh, have you been reading Schopenhaur lately or what?
“As a source of proof it is biased and most of the key events in it are not properly documented in other historical sources. And, of course, there is no objective evidence remaining for the key claims: no sign of the garden of Eden, no remains of the ark, no signs of a global flood that exterminated most of mankind, no sign that the Red Sea destroyed an Egyptian army and so on. Also, even if the ark were, for example, found that would not prove that God exists.”
Must I list all of the things recorded in the Bible that have in fact been verified by archaeology?
As far as the ark goes–you think that finding one object from so far back in history is a given? Where is George Washington’s outhouse? Guess it doesn’t exist. And there are many people from history that we are certain existed but we don’t know where they are buried. And the ark again–even if it were not mystical, don’t you think the Israelites could have made a box and carried it around? Are you saying, too, that Jesus didn’t exist? Where’s his cross? People lose their keys and never find them but we expect that relics thousands of years old should show up and not degrade to the point of being unrecognizable?
All I’m saying is that not finding those things is not evidence it’s not true–it’s very likely that we would nver find such things and most people would not expect to except that unbelievers expect far more from the Bible than from more recent historical documents.
“At best, the world points towards a largely indifferent creator who set things up, got the planets rolling and then took an extended vacation. He doesn’t seem very concerned about our individual well being or happiness, since evil and misery strike the just and unjust alike. So, if there is a God, then He seems to be the God envisioned by the Deists.”
Well those exact laments are posted by people in the Bible like Solomon and Job. But I like Jesus’ words: “Yea have not because yea ask not.” The key, like Paul said, is to be happy no matter what and not worry about things too much. Even death.
And so what if Plato argued for the existance of good without a God? Even so–what are good’s advantages?
Magus: “Must I list all of the things recorded in the Bible that have in fact been verified by archaeology?”
No. Just the ones that prove that god exists. And while you’re at it, omit the ones that could likely have been known and recorded by an average gullible guy looking for a story to tell around 3000+ years ago. No Geraldo-Rivera-and-Al- Capone’s-vault-level material. Also, try to exclude the metaphorical, metaphysical, crystal-ball stuff that moves the conversation nowhere.
“As far as the ark goes–you think that finding one object from so far back in history is a given?
Here’s just one more thing that confuses me. 🙁 Why must those arguing in favor of the theory of evolution provide every last link, find every last bone to satisfy the creationists or whatever they call themselves these days, when there are massive amounts of fossil evidence to support the theory —yes, the ? Yet, those same oh-so-demanding-folk will readily excuse missing proof of Micheal’s list: “no sign of the garden of Eden, no remains of the ark, no signs of a global flood that exterminated most of mankind, no sign that the Red Sea destroyed an Egyptian army and so on.”They need nothing more substantial to support their “belief” than their belief. And that’s all well and good as long as it remains at that level. ‘I believe’ that level should remain at the level of ‘belief based on faith’:
“I believe in God. He’s real for me. Period. I believe the Bible is the word of God. If you don’t, I can only feel sorrow for you and/or consign you to Hell in my mind, and the God I believe exists will, according to His Word, do the rest. I will not sit in judgment in any way on or harm another human being based on my unbending belief that the Bible is God’s Word, because I am not fit to feel certain that my interpretations of His Word are correct. I am only fit to believe in Him. If I hear what I think is the Voice of God before, during, or after prayer, I must realize that the sane and the insane hear voices that command them to do things. And I’m intelligent enough to know that an insane person is not capable of judging his own sanity.
I don’t claim to have proof God exists. There are however some things that point to the existence of a Creator.
And so, what you say about evolution may be true; so let’s just say both theories have their problems and that scientists are just as dogmatic as theologians.
Nahh. That wouldn’t be very Progressive.
Here’s what you’re dealing with. A lady wrote a letter to the editor of a local newspaper. The letter ended with the following:
“Is it any wonder the U.S. seems to be going out? Read your Bible-the U.S. is not mentioned in the future.”
I giggled because the tone of the thinking here is vaguely reminiscent of the guy in SC who said “Keep your government hands off my Medicare”.
I wonder if the ‘Biblical expert’ in the letter I quoted realizes that the only countries mentioned (most of them not by their current names) are countries in the world? Some entire continents are “omitted”:North America, South America, Australia, etc.
Of course, if you’re into the metaphorical game-playing that goes on when trying to make a Biblical interpretation suitably scary, you could probably find a metaphor for the one-room schoolhouse where I spent first and second grade if you ‘thought real hard’. 🙂 In the winter the outhouse was pretty hellish.
3rd paragraph: “are countries in the world” should read “are countries in the then-known world”
“Here’s what you’re dealing with. A lady wrote a letter to the editor of a local newspaper. The letter ended with the following:
“Is it any wonder the U.S. seems to be going out? Read your Bible-the U.S. is not mentioned in the future.”
That’s a complete cheap shot on Christians, biomass. Want me to name some geniuses who were Christians?
Paul of Tarsus
I could go on and on. And you know it.
No cheap shot in what you quote from my post. Real letter. Real woman. Take it for what it’s worth. I never claimed there aren’t intelligent Christians. But please know that there are enough Christians like the one I quoted who, even though they believe in God, are just as ill-informed as she and need to “get a grip”.
Attended a wedding this past Sat. The minister went on at length about the mind, soul, spirit connection. He then absolved both parties of any past sins so they could embark on their future with a clean slate. Then he introduced us all a little device he had set up. A laser beam (red light, coming from what looked suspiciously like a laser pen attached to wire) aimed at a chunk of crystal. He went on to proclaim that a quantum physicist friend of his told him that rocks have memory and that the entire ceremony would be recorded in this crystal that he was going to give to the bride and groom after the ceremony. A few amens from the crowd. His scientist friend assured him that in the very near future science would develop the ability to read the information stored the rock. At the reception, the minister diligently spread epoxy over one side of the rock and mounted it in a shadow box to give to the happy couple. Apparently his quantum physicist friend had also informed him that epoxy would in no way alter the information contained in the stone?
Any, I digress. But not really. The same people who might say, “Who’s to say such a thing might not be possible?” might also say
“Evolution is a lie.” That thinking confuses me.
The only cheap shot is in the comparison to the goofball at the tea party
but I just couldn’t resist. 🙂
I’ll happily retract that.
michael reidy says
I lurk and enjoy your drollery. Aren’t you in this case like Mulla Nasruddin who was looking for something he’d lost. Even though he’d lost it in the house he was instead searching under the street lamp because that area was well lit and his house was unfortunately dark. The clarity of proofs and evidence will not reveal what you seek; for that you must go within. What counts as knowledge for you is useless in the search for God. However I think that the point you are at now is a good one, knowing nothing and expecting nothing via knowledge. There is a sort of apophatic clarity in that.
Good to hear that your leg is on the mend. Cue: Chariots of Fire.
“What counts as knowledge for you is useless in the search for God.”
Would you accept that what I’m searching for is not necessarily “God”?
Since my knowledge (presumably your knowledge as well) is useless in the search, perhaps we’re both looking for something ‘not-God’ that is greater than God. Or something that is equal to, or less than God. How would we know–if/when we find it– that we have found the real thing and not just an elaborate fiction that has overtaken our minds and is masquerading as the truth?
michael reidy says
Contact with the divine ought to be natural for after all, we, according to all scriptures, are in ‘the image and likeness’ of the divine. Living an alienated life and living a true one is like the difference between good air and bad for your lungs. Take a breath.
The ‘how would we know’ sort of question comes from the knowledge economy. You desire a benchmark but none will be vouchsafed unto you
I wrote:”Would you accept that what I’m searching for is not necessarily “God”?”
So your answer to that is. . . . . .Yes? No?
Huh? Perhaps? Whatever?
“God” with a capital “G” is the god of Christianity. I would not want to omit the gods of the Eastern religions from consideration. Are you implying by your non-answer that there are none but Christian choices out there when one is seeking grace? And how would you “know” that since “The ‘how would we know’ sort of question comes from the knowledge economy” which is apparently useless when approaching anything of a religious nature?
This whole process of surrendering to God the mental ability he has given us seems like a perverse reverse one-and-a-half somersault with a half twist on the old “boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back” story.
In this version “boy is born with a mind created by God, boy learns to use said mind, boy is then told that if he hopes to find grace he should not use that mind but,rather, he should surrender to blind faith. Boy dies–perhaps after Alzheimer’s has made Swiss cheese of his mind.” The End?
Do not believe in God. Then you always have the option not to believe in God.
When Othello lived in love with Desdemona, all was well. But when he came to view his love as liable to proof or disproof, he only believed in his love up until Iago’s urgings made him lose his belief.
T. J. Babson says
An American scientist once visited the offices of the great Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Neils Bohr, in Copenhagen, and was amazed to find a horseshoe was nailed to the wall over his desk.
The American said with a nervous laugh, “Surely you don’t believe that horseshoe will bring you good luck, do you, Professor Bohr?”
Bohr chuckled. “I believe no such thing, my good friend. Not at all. I am scarcely likely to believe in such foolish nonsense. However, I am told that a horseshoe will bring you good luck whether you believe in it or not! How can one argue with such logic?”
Here’s a whole list of good luck symbols:
I guess it all comes down to “whatever floats your boat.”
You wrote:”I don’t claim to have proof God exists. There are however some things that point to the existence of a Creator. ”
I apologize. I thought that the following was tantamount to such a claim.
Michael:”Also, even if the ark were, for example, found that would not prove that God exists.”
Magus71: “Must I list all of the things recorded in the Bible that have in fact been verified by archaeology?”
Coming as it did immediately after the words “…would not prove that God *exists*” I thought that the reference to a list of verified archaeological finds was intended as a claim as to His existence.
“So let’s just say both theories have their problems and that scientists are just as dogmatic as theologians.
Nahh. That wouldn’t be very Progressive.”
There are theories and then there are theories.
My opinion:Comparing theological theory to scientific theory is comparing apples to oranges.
If you look up “theological method” you’ll find many articles that dance around varied abstract descriptions of a very personalized process. There’s nothing wrong with that. Look up “scientific method” and, depending on the simplification of the presentation, the method is rigorously consistent. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But they’re hardly “‘just’ both theories.”
I have a hard time with your use of the word “dogmatic” as I know and understand it, to both theologians and scientists. Nothing can shake the theologian’s belief, because by it’s nature his theory cannot be disproved. And every effort is made to keep it so.They would, for example, take the subject of evolution and try to introduce the dubious concept of “Irreducible Complexity” into it, thus in effect, stopping further inquiry. ‘It’s the way it is because it’s the way the Creator made it. End of story.’ So, unfortunately, there seems to be precious little effort on the part of those using the “theological method” to their beliefs or entertain theories that might call their beliefs into question.
Scientists, on the other hand, as part of the scientific method,seek to disprove, which eventually leads to a point where the theory is as provable as it can be until something comes along to disprove it or strengthen the theory. Whatever that something else is, it has to undergo rigorous peer review before it’s ever published in a nationally recognized professional organ. Thus, nothing sensible has come down the pike to weaken the theory of evolution, and recent developments in genetic coding have only served to strengthen the theory. While legitimate science has moved forward and has not yet disproved evolution, one of the arms of theology, creationism/ID, has settled into a defensive stance where they’re attempting to create their own peer review world, mostly online, outside real-world peer review. Thus far they’ve added nothing to real science. And it’s likely that what they do attempt to add will be on a scientific par with ‘irreducible complexity.’
And, if that’s “Progressive”, color me progressive.
Please forgive minor typos and omissions; I’m making too many lately. 🙁
michael reidy says
While you patrol the well lit highway with your giant mallet of Reason & Rationality the pertinaceous mole remains within his darkened house or emerges from the hole of Direct Intuition of Transcendental Truth. Very teasing of it particularly when you seem not to be aware that there is such an exit.
My Giant Mallet of Reason and Rationality 🙂
So, you’ll never simply answer the question ”Would you accept that what I’m searching for is not necessarily “God”? with a simple “yes” or “no”– or even a “maybe”? Like any good guru you demonstrate amazing “restraint”.
So let’s barter. On occasion you can be my guru, –but please keep your so-called “‘pertinaceous’ mole” to yourself– and from time to time I’ll lend you my Mallet. Just prove to me that you can do better than some bald, skinny guy, wrapped in a loin cloth, sitting under a tree repeating “Inside every old person is a young person wondering what the hell happened. Happy Birthday.”
On second thought, maybe I should just purchase an impertinent, astute mole of my very own and be done with it. 🙂
michael reidy says
unless you’re the alter ego of Mike Lab. no mention of your searching for anything had come up at that point. I can’t respond to a statement that wasn’t made but if you have something to say on the subject of search fire ahead.
Note that Michael’s (Please feel secure in knowing that Michael is Michael and I’m some other person using the name “biomass2”.) article is “Rambling on God:Evidence”. Your initial post,to which I specifically replied, contained the statement “What counts as knowledge for you is useless in the search for God.” Is that a statement that holds true only for Michael B? Or is that a general statement that you believe applies to others? I suspect the latter. To get a sense of my search,,then, all you have to do is connect two dots. I’m leaning toward the suspicion that your lament that “I can’t respond to a statement that wasn’t made” is merely an excuse. Also, I believe that the ” Giant Mallet of Reason and Rationality 🙂 *” reference that you addressed to me (and the post that contains it) makes it abundantly clear that you’ve “sense[d]” the nature of my search all along.
So, again:”Would you accept that what I’m searching for is not necessarily “God”?
*Again, kudos on that one.
“Any, I digress. But not really. The same people who might say, “Who’s to say such a thing might not be possible?” might also say
“Evolution is a lie.” That thinking confuses me.”
The devil is of course in the details and maybe they are both not mutually exclusive.
A man claims that a simple laser beam aimed at a ragged unprepared piece of quartz will record the events at a wedding that soon we’ll have the technology to access that information. Another person is willing to suspend whatever critical thinking skills he or she may have and accept that claim, though it’s basically the stuff of science fiction (i.e. It falls under the heading of “Fringe”–oh, what the hell, let’s be nice and call it “‘Extreme’ quantum physics”
That same person looks at a scientific theory that has undergone extensive testing for well over a hundred years and is supported by massive amounts of fossil evidence and says that it is without doubt a lie.
“maybe they are both not mutually exclusive’
I think they are.
The kind of thinking that allows those two kinds of ideas to exist within the same brainpan (accepting the possibility of a what is currently a fairy tale while simultaneously rejecting a scientific theory that has yet to be proved false by any reputable scientist) doesn’t care about “mutual exclusivity” or what we might call “maybe…mutual exclusivity”.That person operates on blind faith. Only in that true believer’s mind are these two ideas mutually exclusive.
Scientific theory exists so legitimate like Darwin’s can be proven right or wrong. Recent genetic finding have made the theory even stronger.
So far, from what I’ve read, quantum physics hasn’t effectively separated itself from philosophy and religion
So, yes, I’m confused how one can attempt to grasp–and believe he has hold of– a mere wisp of an exceedingly obscure idea and reject outright a strong scientific theory.
That is bizarre but science always surprises us with new discoveries. A spinal cord’s fluid contains a person’s history of all the chemicals they have taken in. Any drugs you have taken can be found in traces there. There is no drug flushing you can do to get rid of it.
If a crystal could record events somehow as in sound or light just being inanimate close to the event I wonder how much it could store and how proximity would effect it?
I wonder how close a ‘healing crystal’ needs to be for effectiveness. Should I bathe in them, inject them under the skin or do an odd two crystal dance like some hopped up raver with glow sticks?
Michael LaBossiere says
They (healing crystals) work best when placed in the nostrils.
” A spinal cord’s fluid contains a person’s history of all the chemicals they have taken in. Any drugs you have taken can be found in traces there. There is no drug flushing you can do to get rid of it.”
You state this with such assurance that I just ask for documentation of the claim.
Religion is detrimental to the progress of humanity, plain and simple. It’s not just harmless reassurance anymore, “God” is being injected into policies, and getting people like George Bush put into the most powerful Office in the country.
Dammit, we are going to end up blowing the planet to hell in the name of Jesus (or whichever version you happen to believe in).
I won’t bother addressing in detail your college-induced opinions on God, Jesus and George Bush.
I must however add that your hat and sunglasses are detrimental to you getting a girlfriend.
Advice hot off the keyboard of the “sunglass expert”! (Or is that “sunglasses expert”? See below.) 🙂
I’m no sunglasses expert, but magus71, you’re smokin’, and I think it’s all about those shades.
Can anyone explain to me why outlets that sell ‘sunglasses’ have names like Sunglass Hut, Sunglass World, etc. yet you’d likely be laughed out of the place if you asked to purchase a ‘sunglass’? But you can buy a pizza or four at a Pizza Hut, a donut or a dozen at the Donut Hole, a toy or too many at Toy Emporium, and/or a t-shirt (My sweet lord, how I love t-shirts.) at T-Shirt Hell, etc.
Why create an adjective for “sunglasses” when nouns seem to suffice in similar cases? I, for one, could live out the remainder of my existence reading/writing/saying “Sunglasses World”.
This calls for change. Anybody with me on this?
Michael LaBossiere says
No idea, really. Unless it is that the signage costs by the letter, so they save a bit by dropping the “es” off the end.
Magnus, you bumbling idiot. I’m a grown ass married man, but that should be of no interest to you. I went to a fucking community college and took strictly computer repair courses, that had nothing to do with my political or religious views.
Everything I’ve learned is from my endless hours of fucking research and years of experience, so if you’re going to insult me, make it relevant.
So fuck you and your soapbox, all you’ve accomplished is avoiding the issue and looking like a god damned dick head.
Michael LaBossiere says
Religion (in the most general terms) has often been detrimental to progress. But, science has also been detrimental as well (it has given us the means to blow the hell out of the planet).
The obvious reply is that science has provided much in the way of good (such as medicine). That is true, but the same can be said of faith. People have opposed significant evils on religious grounds (for example, the American anti-slavery and latter civil rights movements originated among people of faith).
Religion, like science (and philosophy) can serve evil as well as it can serve good.
sleepyeagle has set a new record for f-bombs dropped on Dr. L’s blog. I’m sure there is significant collateral damage and NATO will be investigating.
Michael LaBossiere says
I need to make an award for that.
May I suggest the recommendation of one minister’s “quantum physicist friend”?
Perhaps a small, ragged quartz rock mounted in a shadow box. . . ? Laser pen optional.
“Religion is detrimental to the progress of humanity, plain and simple.”
Wow! That is a very broad statement. Elaborate please. We try to be more critical than ” “God” is being injected into policies,…” Examples would be nice so we can actually have a discussion that is more than a drive-by shouting of rambling theories.
We have been discussing ‘Birthers’ lately at length but are you a ‘Truther’?
sleepyeagle’s a Truther all the way. God told him Bush did it.
No, I’m not a truther. I don’t believe there is any need for those fat cats to go out of their way to commit such a ridiculous bloody act, when they already have to spend all day counting money.
So lay off, you bored little jackal, and find something else to worry about.
Nope, but I will elaborate on my comment. Think about how god is being forced into the military through organizations like The Family. There are stories of soldiers running down innocent citizens in the street because they object to the “Jesus Killed Muhammad” sign on the side of their Humvee.
People have been using God as a means for senseless wars for centuries, but turning our soldiers into religious crusaders is not beneficial for a country who claims religious freedom.
Did you watch the news at all when George W. Bush was elected? Thousands of people admitted that they had not looked into his policies, but he would get their vote on faith merit alone. Even a religious person can see the fault in that system.
I’m worried that rational thought is being replaced by religious superstition, and even more worried that nobody else cares. Why is it wrong for Islam to wish death on us, but it’s okay for us to eradicate them? It’s all about logic, another casualty of religious power.
“If a crystal could record events somehow as in sound or light just being inanimate close to the event I wonder how much it could store and how proximity would effect it?
I wonder how close a ‘healing crystal’ needs to be for effectiveness. Should I bathe in them, inject them under the skin or do an odd two crystal dance like some hopped up raver with glow sticks?”
And that’s the problem with the idiot minister, his followers, and their ilk. Aside from the fact that the whole laser/crystal thing is mere tin-foil hat futuristic speculation at this point he was flat-out claiming that at some time in the not too distant future the currently happy couple would be able to return to that crystal to access a record of their wedding.
None of his believers are asking questions like those you’ve asked concerning proximity, storage capacity, etc. Nope. It’ll work —“‘cuz da preechur he said so.”