Your god makes no sense

Fri, 8 Apr 2011 | wilfred

A "living God" is nothing like what Christians, Muslims and Jews believe.

I think it was Karl Popper who observed that while science offers a process to discover and to build knowledge, religion does not. Any knowledge that religion may have is the result of accident, and religion has no way to evaluate knowledge to determine whether it is true. Instead it can only advocate spiritual experience as a foundation for faith.

But we know that experience can be thrown off track by magical thinking and confirmation bias. So it's not all that reliable.

While there may be a reason the universe is the way it is, the reason might be nothing more than "because of the laws of physics".

But I'm pretty sure that any "living God" is nothing like what Christians, Muslims, Jews, Zoroastrians and Atenists (early Egyptian monotheists who basically threw out their pantheon, and reduced it to one aspect of the god Ra, called Aten) believe.

I'm going to mention two problems I have with the idea of the Abrahamic god. The first is that his nature is now ridiculous considering what we have learned since the Jews came up with him. And the second is his consciousness.

When Jews came up with their god (a very different entity to what Christians now believe in, but that's beside the point) they had no idea how old the universe is. So let us consider their god in light of what we know now. God created the universe (or started creating the universe, depending on whether you lean closer to Intelligent Design or Genesis) between 13 and 14 billion years ago. Then he did nothing for a long, long time. 10 billion years later, life came about on at least one of the many, many (MANY) planets in the many, many, many galaxies. 1.5 billion years after that multi-cellular life developed. And about (I'm a little hazy on this) 40000 years ago, one kind of African primate had developed the ability to consider hypothetical scenarios and communicate abstract ideas, and migrated into south-eastern Europe. At this point the Jewish god did absolutely nothing. He waited for many, many generations of "godless" humans to come and go, while they annihilated Neanderthals and spread across the whole planet, without revealing his benevolent loving-kindness, or giving them laws. They had religions, though! And laws! 30000 years later he decided to end the religious confusion and misery of a bunch of Egyptian slaves who were mostly of Canaanite heritage. (But, of course, only them. He couldn't care less about the rest of humanity for a few more millennia.) He gave them rules that showed his awareness of the dangers of pork, but not of the dangers of opiates and refined coca (only available in America, and not a problem at this point), and conveniently ignored the social problems caused by alcohol. After a few millennia a man was born who was simultaneously both primate and god, and he was unique in this regard. He gave his followers "The Great Commission", which was the point at which the god of the Jews finally decided to become the god of humanity. Of course, not all of humanity was willing to accept this honour, and some of them took a lot of persuading. Over the two thousand years between then and now, a lot of spilled blood was involved in the persuasion process. Whatever the Abrahamic god did (is doing?) to these murderers in the afterlife they believed in is unknown to us, but certainly most of them don't suffer in this life any more than anyone else, and the mangod, who returned from the dead only to disappear into clouds shortly afterwards, promised that "all men who believe in me will have eternal life", and we can assume he meant murderers of the hard-to-persuade too.

I don't buy it. I don't buy the mangod thing. And I don't buy the miracles or the prophesies, including the "I'm going away for a little bit, but I'll be back" story. It might sound convincing to people who thought miracles and monsters were facts of life, that stars were attached to the sky and that the universe really was created in six 24-hour periods (Genesis is based on Canaanite mythology, and at the time people took it literally), that their ancestors had lifespans of hundreds of years, that angels lived among men, that rainbows didn't exist prior to The Flood and that Noah had invented wine. But we've come a long way since then, and I think, if we're brave enough to admit it, that it's more far-fetched, and even less likely, than something written by Lewis Carroll or J. M. Barrie.

My second objection is the idea that man and his god share an image in common. We now understand enough about the brain to know what causes emotions; emotions that man and the Abrahamic god share, like jealousy. They are caused by chemicals. We've also studied consciousness a lot, and although I may be falling prey to philosophical induction, it seems that any entity that is self-aware and capable of understanding natural language (how else could prayers be heard?) must have an intelligence that emerges from a network of interconnected nodes that communicate with each other, as our brains do. For such a structure to exist and to work, it must be subject to its own laws of physics. These laws may be the same as those in our universe, or slightly different, but they must exist. And so a god in our image must live in its own universe. Who created that universe? The question puts us back in square one.

So that is why I suspect that if there is something we can label "god", it isn't remotely like the entity that any monotheistic religion on Earth worships. We are not created in its image. It has nothing analogous to jealousy. It isn't conscious in the sense that we are. It doesn't listen to prayers. And when we die, our consciousness dies with us.

It is quite obvious to me that none of the gods ever worshiped by humans are revealed. They are all created by us, without exception.

However, the fact that people try hard to live up to the expectations of their omniscient imaginary friend can be a good thing. I'm all for it, as long as they don't believe anyone who tells them that their imaginary friend is right, and someone else's is wrong, or that their imaginary friend wants them to hurt someone else.

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