Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Does God Exist? Why Or Why Not?

Jason Boyett over at Beliefnet is asking that age-old question and soliciting responses. He frames the issue by giving a rundown of some of the best-known arguments for God: The Ontological, the Transcendental, the Teleological, and the Anthropic arguments. The board wasn't crowded with responses, so I thought I'd weigh in with my own opinion:

The mere fact that we have to continually ask this question is a good indication that there is no God. If there is one, then he/she/it has decided to exist at such a remove from our affairs as to be undetectable and inferred only by stretched arguments as detailed in your introduction. Many people have personal experiences and strong convictions that convince them there is a God (I once shared such beliefs - I'm judging none of my brothers or sisters here), but understandings and definitions of God are countless and often mutually exclusive. It makes more sense to think of God as a place holder word for the things we do not understand or the things we wish to be true.

I feel no need to substitute the genuine mystery of how our universe came to be with anyone's ancient myths. There's no reason to think that our fore-bearers had any greater purchase on truth than we do now; in fact, we should reasonably expect that they had understanding limited in comparison with our own. With science, our knowledge is improving at an admirable pace, and it's the best we can do to objectively learn about the universe. One by one our poor ancient guesses are being replaced with evidence-based explanations; often counter-intuitive to the intuitions we evolved for survival. Our religions come from charismatic individuals who have told us with straight face their teachings come from the almighty. We have seen it in modern times with the likes of L Ron Hubbard, David Koresh and Joseph Smith, and we can extrapolate backward that similar individuals convinced their contemporaries with claims of special knowledge. I demand better.

We would live forever if we could, and we would like there to be a supreme law-giver who rewards good, punishes evil, and defines both. I say "we" because those options sound good to me as well. And yet I am content to live in the real world where I only get to live once. I am thankful that I have won the genetic lottery to accomplish even that. There is ample opportunity to live, love, do, and share. I am also content to admit the truth - morality is tough, rarely straight-forward, and is something we need to struggle to agree upon and improve upon. The march of history, while filled with setbacks, is encouragingly advancing on the trajectory of civil rights and a widening circle of regard for our fellow humans, our animal cousins, and our planet.

I wish you all the best as we ponder these wonderful questions together.

Weigh in yourself, here or at the original site.