The rational search for God.
|If (a big if) I follow through with this, it will take some time. I will compose it in sections, and will jump around in my writing, working on different sections as needed. Thus, what you read first might not be what will wind up at the beginning.|
Deism in Theory and Practice:
The rational search for God
- Rejection of supposedly revealed religions
----- The unfortunate sacred-cow-ness of belef
- Rejection of atheism
- Arguments in favor of deism
------ evidence from spiritual events such as NDEs and reincarnation studies
------ Apparent fine tuning
------ Infinite emergence
- The nature of a deist god
------ Not omnipotent
------ Does not control our lives, but there are reports of limited intervention
------ Does not make itself openly apparent, possible reasons for this
------ Possible ways a supreme being could manifest (omega point)
------------ super scientist
- Moral beliefs that naturally follow
------ The lack of an absolute standard of morality
------ The human innate sense of right and wrong
------ Not controlling others
------ Innateness of love
- Personal practical philosophies
- Spiritual practices that are not inconsistent with Deist belief
------ taoist-like practices
------ History of deist thought
------ Famous deists
------ Potential methods of testing for the existence of God
The Monkey and the Madman:
Imagine a monkey. We will call her Mirabel, just because that is a pretty name. Mirabel is a simple monkey. She is curious about the world, but is not smart enough to understand the things she is curious about. If you give her a glowing toy, she might play with it and study the way it lights up, but she will never comprehend the underlying electronics that enable the toy to glow.
Now imagine a madman. We will call him Gwydderig, because that is a Welsh name that means "Wild, Conspicuous" (and because there are likely to be very few readers named Gwydderig to be offended). Gwydderig is also curious about the world, but unlike Mirabel, he is very smart. He is able to understand the electronics in a glowing toy. Also unlike Mirabel, he feels he must have explanations, even when no reasonable explanation is apparent.
Why is he a madman, you ask? Simple: He is so obsessed with having explanations that, when the truth is not known, he invents his own explanations, and convinces himself they are true. As we shall see, Gwidderig takes this practice to such an extreme, he becomes truly mad.
One day, many years ago, when Gwidderig was just a little nutty and not yet a full-fledged madman, he got to wondering why he existed, what would happen to him when he died, and whether or not there was a creator. Because he was naturally afraid of other people, and was raised by a doddering old grandmother who taught him to speak, but taught him little else, Gwidderig was never exposed to the religious beliefs of nearby priests and shamans.
Gwidderig, being the extreme loner that he is, decided he would take a great quest around the world to answer these questions for himself. He traveled to high mountains, and prayed to anyone who would listen. He traveled to lonely deserts where he ate hallucinogenic fungi that gave him dreams of sky gnomes and animal spirits. Eventually, while traveling through South American jungles, he sat under a bodaciously large tree to ponder what he had learned in his travels. As he sat, he observed a monkey playing in its branches.
Gwidderig was exhausted, hungry, and a little delirious with fever from a parasitic infection he had picked up a few days prior. He prayed for understanding as he watched the monkey. He prayed, slept, and prayed some more. As he sat there desperate for answers, inspiration struck him.
"The great sky gnomes have guided me to this spot," he said to himself. "This beautiful monkey, whom I shall call 'Mirabel,' is an incarnation of God, the holy creator of Earth and destroyer of the wicked. I see it all now! By studying the actions of Mirabel the Monkey God, I shall be empowered to divine all truth of life and death, and all truth of right and wrong."
Having committed himself heart and soul to worshiping his monkey god, Gwidderig was unable to consider the difficult questions:
- Is it reasonable to believe that God would manifest as a monkey, and pass on the secrets of life through the patterns of Mirabel's actions?
- If God had meant him to know, without doubt, the secrets of the universe, then wouldn't God have found a more believable way to convey his message?
- Is it reasonable to believe that God, the super-intelligent creator of all existence, would really convey his occasional displeasure with me by having Mirabel throw her feces (as monkeys are wont to do) at my head while I sleep?
Gwidderig felt that God could communicate and manifest however he wished, and it was no place of humans to question His will.
It was at this moment that Gwidderig became a madman, albeit a madman with good intentions. He believed his fevered imagination, and would not allow himself to honestly question his beliefs, because he felt to do so would offend his monkey god.
Having found inspiration in Mirabel, Gwidderig overcame his shyness and spread worship of God-who-manifests-as-Mirabel-the-monkey throughout the world.
The tragic tale of the monkey and the madman will continue later. For now, ask yourself a question: Would you rather be Mirabel, who is happy, curious without comprehension, and honest - or would you rather be Gwidderig, who is also happy, quite intelligent, but lives on lies?
There is no provably correct answer to that question. It is subjective. Fortunately, we are not limited to a choice between ignorant honesty and intelligent self deception. With great courage, we can challenge the beliefs we have been raised with (or rebelled against), and seek true answers. Sometimes, the most honest answer is to say "I don't know."
In this book I will endeavor to show that we may reject the path of the monkey, reject the path of the madman, and yet still conclude that God is probably real. I believe, and hope to convince you, that the most honest application of reason and evidence leads to a belief in the likelihood of God. I do not offer certainty. If you insist upon certainty, even though honesty precludes it... Well, I hear that Gwidderig is accepting followers.
ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR OF DEISM:
- This is not a rational argument supporting the existence of God. It is the idea that people are born with a particular knowledge or a basic concept of God. If innatism is true, then people already know of God, independent of any arguments supporting or opposing his existence.
- Philosophers, as they are wont to do, have argued the idea of innatism endlessly. John Locke claimed humans are born as a tabula rasa (Latin for "blank slate") and that no knowledge is innate. Modern science seems to have proven that humans are not a complete tabula rasa. For example, neurolinguistics has established that the brain possesses both structures and processes devoted to learning and using language. Thus, one could say that knowledge of the idea or possibility of language - of representing objects and ideas with sounds - is innate. Another way of saying this is that while knowledge of a specific language is not innate, the predisposition for language is very much innate.
- The question for this book is this: "Is there evidence that the concept of God (or gods) is innate?" or "Is there evidence that a predisposition for belief in God(s) is innate?"
- This section will introduce an analysis (hopefully brief) of Andrew Newburg's work, and the work of others, into neurotheology. Basically demonstrating that there are aspects of our brains that enable spiritual experiences. Whether or not these components of our brains actually evolved for spiritual experiences - or just evolved for other reasons but are still capable of enabling spiritual experiences - they are there and cause us to have spiritual experiences. Thus, a belief in God, or gods, or a spirit world, is quite natural. This can also be demonstrated by the history of religious thought.
- Understanding that many humans have a predilection for belief in the supernatural is important in evaluating deism as a belief system. I believe that deism is attractive to some people precisely because they find belief in God appealing, but reject the irrationality of the various supposedly revealed religions.
- This produces a bias that must be recognized. If we are to fairly evaluate the arguments supporting deism, we must acknowledge our own biases.
- Similar biases can be found on the part of traditional theists and atheists, who frequently assume their own belief system is true until proven false.
supreme being: That being who is most powerful in all of existence
god: A being with the power and intellect to create a reality such as the one in which we reside
God: The hypothetical god-level supreme being
universe: A 3d reality such as our own
emergence: The process by which complex things arise from simple things, such as human intelligence coming into existence
self-sustaining: Seeks to continue its own existence, and maintain its status
1) The outermost dimension of time regresses forever. In other words, there is no getting something from nothing.
2) The laws of physics of the outermost reality allow for a god-level supreme being to come into existence. In other words, it is possible for an intelligent entity to evolve or be created that has the power and intellect to create a 3D reality such as our own.
P = The probability of a self-sustaining supreme being (who is also a god) coming into existence during a given period of time (say, 1 trillion years)
1-P = The probability of event P not occurring during a single trial period
N = The number of trial periods being considered
(1-P)^N = The probability, assuming independent trials, of event P not occurring during N number of trials
1-((1-P)^N) = The probability, assuming independent trials, of event P occurring at least once during N trials
As N approaches infinity, meaning as the number of trial periods grows larger and larger, (1-P)^N grows smaller and smaller, approaching zero. Thus, 1-((1-P)^N) approaches infinitely close to 1, or 100 percent, as the number of trial periods increases toward infinity.
Thus, if it is at all possible for a self-sustaining god-level supreme being to emerge, then, given forever, it will happen.
Furthermore, being self-sustaining, it will seek to maintain its status as supreme being. This will mean that, once such an entity comes into existence, the trials will no long be independent. This means, rather obviously, I suppose, that you can only have one supreme being.
The moment of God's emergence will always lie in the past. If time regresses infinitely, then, for any moment in the outermost dimension of time that you pick, the number of trial periods preceding that moment will be infinite. Thus, for whatever moment you pick, God's emergence will have already happened. This is very similar to saying that God has always existed, but is not quite the same.
The main counters to this argument, in my experience, are to argue that the laws of physics do not allow for a god-level being to exist, or to argue in favor of acausality - saying that time did not exist in any form before our universe began.
Acausality is just a fancy way of saying "it just is" and pretty hard to argue against. It does not really explain very much.
I have found discussions about the physics of a god to be quite interesting. M theory, with its infinite regression, multiple connected universes (multiverse) projected from an outer reality (the bulk) would seem to support my argument. Hawking's universe-from-nothing explanation would certainly run counter to my argument.