::Literate Blather::
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Essay: A Question of God
On the surface, the question of God is an enormous one.

“Does God exist?”

But in reality the answer is quite simple: No.

It’s a matter of probability. There is no scientific evidence – not one iota – that there exists in the universe an omnipotent, omniscient being that can read the thoughts and direct the actions of every living being.

"When did I realize I was God? Well, I was praying and I suddenly realized I was talking to myself."
- Peter O'Toole
Pascal’s Wager
One is tempted to fall back on Blaise Pascal’s wager in this situation. The mathematician said that the chances for God’s existence were slim, but the penalty for guessing wrong was significant. If you believe in God and are right, you are rewarded with everlasting bliss. Contrast that with not believing in God and being right. The reward is a dirt nap. Wrong, however, and one faces eternal damnation.

So, according to Pascal, it’s better to believe. But Pascal may have been being facetious because can you really fake belief in God?

“Pascal’s wager could only ever be an argument for feigning belief in God,” Biologist Richard Dawkins writes in his book “The God Delusion.” “And the God you claim to believe in better not be the omniscient kind or he’d see through the deception.”

Coming to the realization that I’m an atheist was not an easy path. I’ve struggled with the idea of God and religion since I was a boy. I was raised Catholic – with all the trappings, ceremonies, and solemn mysteries of faith (as well as the not so subtle threats not to wander off the reservation or face dire consequences).

"I'm not normally a religious man, but if you're up there, save me, Superman!"
- Homer Simpson
I’ve flirted with church attendance throughout my adult life – going to Catholic masses and even a period where I went to a Congregationalist church. But the bouts of faith never took. Organized religion always falls back on tired religious platitudes, the contradictions and downright silliness of the Bible (not to mention the outright cruelty), and the bizarre absolutism of church canon (is it really wrong to never to have an abortion?).

In the end, I fell back on wondering why the most powerful being in the universe would care if I ate a hamburger on Fridays during Lent.

Science vs. Faith
It also comes down to science. At one time, Christians insisted that God placed the Earth at the center of the universe and that the sun, the planets, and everything else revolved around it. Christians persecuted scientists who dared to suggest otherwise – calling it an attack on religion and God. We now know that the Earth is but a tiny satellite in the far corner of the universe – revolving around the sun. Christians had to reluctantly adjust. And despite, mounds of scientific evidence that man (and all life on earth) evolved through natural selection – fundamental Christians continue to fight the obvious.

Christians (and I don’t mean to pick on Christianity, but it’s the religion I’m most familiar with) continue to explain any gap in science with one answer: God. Until, that is, science finally fills the gap with a more logical explanation. Then they scurry back to another gap. Unfortunately for religion – the gaps are getting fewer and harder to find.

"The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible."
- Oscar Wilde

As human knowledge progresses (chemists are now trying to create life in the laboratory – and eventually they probably will) it begins to be clear that belief in an omnipotent, omniscient being who controls the universe like some enormous puppet master is rather archaic. Religion appears to be a leftover remnant of our primitive past when lightning and thunder were God’s wrath rather than a naturally occurring weather pattern.

Long Odds
Fundamental Christians argue for a “designer” theory; that the universe is too complicated to have randomly occurred. But everything is random. Take a look around you. What were the improbable odds that the coffee cup on your desk would have ended up there? A thousand years ago your own birth was an improbable equation. Think of all the events that had to line up to make it happen and how the odds improved each time the event before it occurred. Then, finally, your parents are born and all that had to happen was the long-shot of them meeting, falling in love, and reproducing (and the one sperm among the millions that was you had to win the race).

The fact that any of us are living – is an astronomical ridiculous mathematical improbability. But those long odds are true about everything in existence.

Darwin’s theory of natural selection will also remind us that moles, lily pads, elephants, and redwood trees didn’t just “occur.” It was a long, slow process of evolution where the hardiest, most beneficial traits survived. Moles and redwood trees didn’t just “occur” they were slowly and painstakingly created over millions of years.

Celebration of Death
There’s also another factor. Call it the gut check. If the average religious person (and 73 percent of Americans believe in God, according to Harris Poll taken in October, 2006) truly believed in God and an afterlife, wouldn’t that belief manifest itself in the way we view death? Americans view death as sorrowful and the prospect of it scares most people.

"Angels dancing on the head of a pin dissolve into nothingness at the bedside of a dying child."
- Waiter Rant
But why is this? If heaven exists – wouldn’t death be cause for celebration? Wouldn’t we look forward to our deaths? Wouldn’t we envy those who died before us because they are with God and in heaven with all of our ancestors? The answer, of course, is that most people – deep down – understand the contradictions and improbability of the existence of God – especially one who reads our thoughts and intervenes in our actions sporadically and without design.

The idea of no God, however, frightens most people. But it shouldn’t. Life is just as precious without a supreme being. You are still you. The people in your life still exist and our societies will continue to function and run and thrive. The control, however, belongs to us.

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Anonymous Nikki_Jilton said...
Organized religion and the church rises and falls as history progresses. The Church was very prevelant back in the middle ages when there was virtually no community, no social security, and generally every man for himself, it gave the people a sense of community necessary for their survival. However, as technology advanced along with ideas and economics, strong religious ties were not necessarily needed to maintain a community, so as the church imposed more and more on free will, it was eventually overthrown.

America was founded in much the same way, being a new country where every man was generally for himself until the system got set up, and strong ties to religion keep the communities together until the America of today finally did get situated. In today's times though, religion no longer provides security or a sense of community that cannot be achieved elsewhere minus the dogma, so it is generally fading into insignifigance once again.

I mean lol The Da Vinci Code made more money than The Passion of the Christ. heheheh.

Blogger AnthonyW said...
Religion and the notion of god are redundant methods for controlling mass populace, for example Christianity, evolved out or the requirement for the ruling elite to maintain their grip on the society which fate had them preside over.

it has been with us since the birth of civilisation and unless a reasonable coherent alternative is provided, we will still cling to it for comfort.

But you must ask yourself the question how did existence itself occur? it is such an absurd thought that all of the universe is meaningless, it might as-well not exist if we were not here to observe it.

And Finally its a waste of time to debate the existence of god, humanity needs to debate over his replacement which should surely be the worship of the known, the visible, the Environment and the fundamental laws of the universe.

and if all of that's to heavy just listen to some music.


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