For thousands of years, humanity has attempted to explain that elusive being called God, but the commonly accepted mental manifestation of Him today reeks of overcomplicated and distorted human ideals that a God simply would not have.
Throughout much of recorded history, we’ve had gods, eventually culminating in the One True God of monotheism. The explanations for their existence are clear in hindsight; they are, and always have been, intended to explain the unknowable to those who have never grown comfortable to the thought of doubt—which, admittedly, is many of us, this author included.
We began with dozens, perhaps hundreds of gods who oversaw the myriad forces of nature such as Zeus, the god of thunder, and Anubis, the god of the underworld. We now have the One True God with His dozens of angels to govern His domain. Himself, an evolution of the concepts that attempted to tame man’s initial ignorance. So the next time a creationist tells you evolution is a myth, explain to him or her that religion has itself evolved from simple roots. As a matter-of-fact, Yahweh was originally the Israeli God of War, evolving into the One True God around the time of the Babylonian Exodus, which seemingly explains the barbarism of the Old Testament…but I digress.
I believe (irony?) the modern incarnation of God is now (not necessarily always was) word magic and misdirection in the name of politics and power. A mental manifestation, crafted to satisfy our basic needs of closure and certainty, which subsequently evolved, for a few, into their base needs of power and control.
In today’s modern scientific age, there is a conflict between the scientific rationalism that has emerged over the last four-hundred years and the superstition that is slowly dying (well, in some parts of the world at least). Many debates, arguments, attacks, and various other means of communication have been devoted to the exploration, explanation, and examination of these two opposing, and seemingly immovable trains of thought.
During any one of these communications, the inevitable questions will arise: ‘Where did everything come from?’ or ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’
For theists, the inability to answer such questions may be tacit proof that God exists, for if there wasn’t a god to create the Universe, then whence did it come? At face value, it seemingly passes the rigor of logic, but digging past that shallow veneer shows it as nothing more than the aforementioned word magic, and leaves one pondering the question: a long time ago, in a land far, far, away, did ignorance became proof of God?
So where did the Universe come from? Let us say God for argument’s sake, a rational person would then ask the same question again: Where did God come from?
Many will claim that He just is and always has been, using such words as timeless, uncaused, and infinite, etc., and that’s usually where the discussion ends with the theist satisfied in his answer, little knowing nothing was answered. Otherwise known as the Cosmological Argument, or to philosophers of religion, a weak, and to some, wrong version of the Cosmological Argument.
The crux of the Cosmological Argument goes something like this: there must be something (God, unmoved mover, uncaused cause) that has within it, the reasons for its own existence, and that anything that does not contain such a reason within it, is necessarily reliant, or contingent, on something that does, or something that doesn’t based on something else that doesn’t based on something else that does. Hope that made sense. But then how is this different from the immaterial (and non-sentient!) Quantum Field of Quantum Field Theory discussed in the previous chapter that invariably, and mechanistically, creates something from (a redefined) nothing? It does not, indeed cannot, provide a basis or proof of God except to metaphorically describe that immaterial process as God, which all by itself, invalidates all religions, based as they are on a personal, caring, infinitely powerful, and intruding deity.
“The first principle is you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.” ~Richard Feynman
And if God has always been, then why cannot the Universe always have been? Or if the Universe did indeed have a cause, then why cannot that cause be natural, as particle physicist Victor Stenger suggests. Why immediately leap to the conclusion that it was supernatural? Having a God raises the same questions as not having one, as he goes on to say in his book, The God Hypothesis, putting a twist on the classic existential question, “Why is there God and not nothing?”
Merely postulating that God is the creator, seems to be a sneaky method of subverting the question of where the cosmos came from without answering it, and I believe that it was invented, in so much as you can invent an answer, for precisely this purpose. Even were Quantum Field Theory to have no say-so on the matter, how are we to say, with confidence, that the Universe has not the reason for its own existence inherently within it? Or that the Quantum Field has the reason for its own existence within? The Universe, from where we sit inside it, seemingly already violates, certain fundamental laws we take, ironically, as universal! For example, we know, thanks to Edwin Hubble that space-time is expanding, and thanks to Einstein, that the speed of light is the fundamental upper speed-limit of the Universe. No matter how close to the speed of light you travel, were you to shine a light in the direction you were traveling, the shining light would travel away from you at the speed of light! With a big enough telescope, looking in any direction from Earth, you would eventually come upon a distance or time (since they are intertwined), where you could see no further (now this distance is blocked by the Big Bang, but the model still applies). The reason why is not that you’ve reached the end of the Universe, but that light from the other side of this fictitious divide has not reached us yet and never will, or stated scientifically, the objects on the other side of this divide are moving away from us faster than their light is racing towards us. Wait…What!? What’s actually happening is, though galaxies seem to be moving away from each other, what is really happening is that the space in-between them is expanding, giving an illusion of movement, and as more space expands, more space expands in-between the more space. If you go out far enough, so much space is being created that the speed of light cannot travel the interceding distance, similar to laying down an infinite railroad track in front of an incoming train so efficiently that the train never reaches the end, and the more you build, the faster you can lay down new tracks, until observers on the train can no longer see the end of the track and never again will. So while the speed of light is immutable, the Universe is not bound to it. Just as many arguments for God are contingent on cause-and-effect to be applicable at the universal inception, they are really only assuming it to be true. Cause-and-effect, so relevant inside the Universe, does not necessarily bound itself to the Universe as a whole. In fact, according to Quantum Field Theory, down at the sub-atomic level, cause-and-effect doesn’t exist, things just happen; particles pop out of nowhere, annihilate with other particles and disappear back to nothing. Theoretical physicist Sean Carroll thus writes on the website, Cosmic Variance, “causes and effects aren’t really fundamental. It’s the laws of nature that are fundamental, according to the best understanding we currently have…”
So even were Quantum Field Theory to be dispensed with (nigh impossible), does not give anyone the necessary argument or conditions to validate the Cosmological Argument (except to say that is immaterial and mechanistic and simple), for while cause-and-effect will always remain seemingly fundamental within the confines of the Universe, we know, by the light example and others such as creation of energy from nothing (see chapter How, Not Why), that the Universe is not bound to the instantiated laws of nature within it.
Moving onto the Judeo-Christian God, which is where a lot of earthly troubles manifest themselves, guised as religion. Before moving forward; I do not mean to insinuate that religious belief is fundamentally wrong, neither god belief, and to be fair, unbelief. Clearly, two of the three options are wrong, and that why recently, there has been a struggle for the intellectual high-ground, which at the very least, is a vast improvement on past debates—shunning, burning, murders (though this still happens in some parts of the world). But human beings, being mostly irrational creatures, and partly rational, often have difficulty separating their mental and physical worlds, and while the majority of religious folk keep their beliefs to themselves, as I imagine, do a majority of unbelievers, a minority (just as in every subject and field) feel the need to proselytize and otherwise harm society at large due to their belief, mostly in legislation, subsidies, and as such, holds back the ascent of man—though this is not to say they don’t do any good, but big picture, the bad outweighs the good. You don’t need religion to do good things, but you often do need religion to restrict the rights of others in areas of their own well-being—contraception, abortion etc. With that said, moving on. Assuming a God exists for the following section. With our current incomplete scientific picture, there are two ways that exist today that attempt to explain the Universe (there are more but they mainly differ in detail, not scope). Let’s call this juncture the metaphysical fork in the road. There is the Theistic picture and the Deistic picture, henceforth referred to as Options T and D, both of which attempt to use the Big Bang model to explain God.
God, after waiting billions of years for us to evolve, sends His divine law through His human prophets 197,000 years after the appearance of modern humans, which are only transcribed into holy books years after their prophets’ deaths, into our own changing, evolving, and context-specific languages. They are then subjected to differing interpretations, numerous mistranslations, and selective understanding leading to division, conflict, repression, discrimination, war, and genocide, along with the singular benefits of social cohesion to those who share a similar worldview and perhaps inner peace.
He knowingly commits to these holy books, laws and commandments that contradict our basic human urges, while claiming to have created us separate from all other creatures, despite planting clear evidence to the contrary, thereby instilling in us the means of our own enslavement and guilt, while subsequently sending updated holy books, further sub-dividing those who did believe against each other as well as against those who don’t.
Through these actions, He limits these theologies to a geographic area of no more than a few thousand kilometers in diameter. There is limited or no worldly punishment for breaking His rules but immense personal reward to do so, byway of abusing the trust of those who don’t, often at the expense of others who have no voice or who have decided, through their own choices, to take no part in.
He created the Universe and set within it, laws for it to be governed autonomously and without exception, such as gravity, electromagnetism, chemistry et al. We are forever subjected to these absolute forces, over which none have any control or any choice but to obey.
Neither can any one (or being) accidentally or otherwise, mistranslate the intended meaning of such laws without volunteering for Darwinian de-selection, nor have they the power to place themselves above these laws, rendering all objects in the Universe which He created, equal before the physical laws under every and all circumstances.
All are forever bound to these laws and they to us, and nothing can or ever will change that.
So which, T or D, is more worthy of an omnipotent, omniscient creator who would be, by the very definition of the qualities we ascribe to Him, incapable of mistake.
Does not option T sound like it was written of the people, by the people, and for the people to satisfy the peoples’ delusions of self-importance and closure? He makes mistakes. He sends three books instead of one. He sends His revelations to a few instead of to all, relegating revelation to hearsay (which would have removed any doubt forever and always). By doing it in the manner He chose too, shows a willful intent to cause the repression, subdivision, misunderstanding, corruption, and wars that inevitability followed. But He loves us, so to some, that somehow makes it better, betraying yet another imperfect human emotion.
And does not option D sound like the majestic masterpiece that the Universe actually is? The mind of a scientist is not needed to recognize the inherent beauty of the Universe or the fallacies inherent in option T; it requires only an open mind, one that is open to the evidence that is inherent all around us. The evidence that He put there, if we are to follow this conclusion through to its logical end.
Going further still, why does the Universe need a God for its creation? By demanding the Universe had a beginning (which it does only by our perspective of time, which, if you recall from high school physics is not absolute, but relative), then God by simple extension of logic, must also have had a beginning at one point—unless, of course! God also has a One True God. The conundrum deepens! If He had no God of his own, how could his intelligence be instantiated? If He is formless, timeless, and causeless, then how can he be intelligent or have thoughts, intent, and purpose? How did he go from zero to sixty, without first passing through one through fifty-nine.
Option T does not add up under any circumstances, no matter whether it is dressed up as the cosmological argument, which merely involves passing the buck to God without applying the same scrutiny to God as to creation, or as the teleological argument from design, which shows an ignorance of probability. As David Duetsch writes in his book, The Beginning of Infinity, a good theory is an explanation that is hard to vary while still describing reality, and all religious arguments fail this basic test, because they are too easy to vary, and all too often, fail to describe reality no matter which way they are varied (of course, they can describe reality by accident as sometimes happens). Not only that, but during discussions, the goal posts are often moved around and around, back and forth, this way or that way, bending inwards and outwards, all to rationalize why the Universe is like this and not like that. It’s impossible to even have a basic discussion
I remember when I was in kindergarten, I asked my friend, “What is one plus one?” To which he responded “two,” and I countered, “Wrong! It’s eleven” putting the two numeral ones together and feeling smug in the act. A few days later, I would ask again, and if he answered with “eleven” I said, “Wrong! Its window,” drawing the condensed equation inside an enlarged equal sign. The third time I asked, he said “window,” and I said “two.” First off, to my friend that I played this on, I’m sorry, but I was just a stupid kid (still am stupid sometimes). But if you are the victim of this prank, you cannot win arguing against this logic, yet this is the logic of a theist, whether they know it or not, when they try to explain away or gloss over, the many fallacies inherent in a creationist, biblical, or godly universe, instead of just recognizing the Universe for what it is, and that God simply is not required or even necessary (it might still be possible, but to postulate God is too not answer or theorize a good explanation to the question in the first place).
Merely postulating a creator, especially a personal one, adds a burdensome step to the equation, an unsolvable step no less! Just like I’m adding this sentence, delaying you from finishing my book by a few extra seconds, yet providing no function of any kind, except to some book zealots who take comfort in that fact, because the value of their investment increased (it would help if this sentence was the first sentence of this book, but then it’d make no sense).
This brings me finally to a simple explanation of God. What we think of, as God, is simply an anthropomorphized Universe. The God of Spinoza, Einstein called it, after the philosopher Benedict Spinoza, who viewed the Universe and God as one and the same thing. Though I prefer to go one step further and call the latter a mistranslation. But be that as it may, out of one, sprang forth Religion, and out of the other, Physics. Same base, different explanations, one is mostly wrong and ignorantly self-propagating (if it left out the details and tried to only explain human relationships would be one thing, but it doesn’t, and that’s why science and religion are in conflict). The other is mostly right and self-correcting, with time, revealing more of objective reality though never quite reaching. But the difference between the two foundations seemingly, is semantic. God was a way to bring humankind in touch with the mystery of the Universe, in a way that our brains could understand, namely; a face, a name, emotion, and human-like qualities, but as history has shown us, that romanticized history and explanatory effect has been woefully mistranslated and led to a wide-range of social ills, in the form of institutionalized religion.
I believe we’ve gone beyond a need, or at least some have, of personifying the strange, immaterial, and counter-intuitive nature of the Universe. No longer is it rooted in word magic, deception, misdirection, or over-complications. By removing those unwanted, shortsighted, and anthropic layers, what remains is our beautiful, majestic, and seemingly infinite Universe, formerly anthropomorphized to fit our preconceived notions and assumptions (and perhaps evolutionary needs), instead of accepting it for what it is much as we have done since the dawn of civilization, and perhaps even farther back since the invention of language. The Earth was Gaia, or Mother Nature. The sea was Poseidon, or Neptune. Thunder was the wrath of Zeus. Winter was Demeter’s sadness and so forth. Each culture had its similar explanations, and each of them, was subsequently wrong, or very occasionally, right by accident.
The Universe is far grander, far more beautiful, and far more exquisite than the feeble mental construct we have of an aging white man who while perfect, infallibly exhibits our full range of imperfect emotions, lacks the foresight to see the ramifications that stem from His own judgments and decisions in regard to the human cost in lives, limbs, and lies—much as we have done to ourselves since the dawn of civilization. It is no great leap to say that the Judeo-Christian God was created in our image, rather than we in His.
This line-of-thinking doesn’t replace the meaning behind God, seeing as how we habitually personify inanimate objects and processes, but gives meaning to Him, or rather, It (the Universe), and elevates it above the aging 3,000-year-old (mis)interpretation, removing the influence and subterfuge of religion as the middleman. Our creator is here for all to see, everywhere and always present, in every nook and in every cranny, in all our lives, making up our being, visible through a telescope and under a microscope, everywhere and anywhere you look in this grand design of our Universe.
It’s quite clear that the Abrahamic god was created in our own image, and institutionalized religion morphed, evolved, and wrapped itself around that false concept, capitalizing on the self-importance we exhibit, while in reality, we were created in the image of the Universe (see chapter How, Not Why).
“Did God invent humanity? Or did we invent God?” ~ Morgan Freeman
By Spinoza’s dictum, there is no distinction between the Universe and God, or at least, shouldn’t be. After all, if the original intent of a god (or gods) was to explain the unknowable, then its meaning is finite in its separation from reality, in a dynamic, knowledge-building society that is, as is ours. We can see a clear progression in the meaning of God from before the common era, to now. At first, prior to the monotheistic religions, nature’s laws arose from nature herself, with Gods managing and keeping the chaos at bay, which was assumed to be the default state. Then, around the Babylonian Exodus, God became the cause of everything, including (especially) us. Then Darwin came along and gave us the beautiful theory of evolution, though some then argued that evolution was divinely guided. Then Physics and through it; the Big Bang and Inflation came along, and God became God of the ever-evolving and decreasing Gaps relegated and demoted to ever-decreasing pockets of scientific ignorance. While there will always be more to learn, we can (and I feel need too) trump the psychological need for the Abrahamic god as an end all, be all to understanding our origins and our Universe. While it will never be possible to fully disprove God (you cannot prove a negative), what science has given us is an alternative, not to mention, more plausible explanation.
How our Universe—an immaterial entity—was responsible for our creation, as accidentally inevitable as it may have been and the creation of all and everything that ever was, and came to be, is nothing short of a beautiful mystery. We may never know why, but to say a god did it is a poor explanation.
For me, it’s a beautiful and humbling thought, with no need for credulity, the suspension of reason, or the need of superstition. We are part of this Universe and come from it, rather than in spite of it; something that religion claims man must do using the word ‘God’ instead.
“The idea that God is an oversized white male with a flowing beard who sits in the sky and tallies the fall of every sparrow is ludicrous. But if by God one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying…it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity.” ~ Carl Sagan