Let’s talk about God.
Does he, she, it or they exist?
It is a subject that has fascinated me for most of my life. And it is acquiring a certain personal relevance as my life story wends its way closer to “the end” than “Once upon a time.”
When I’ve drawn my last breath, do I have an eternity of nothingness to look forward to – or a stern-faced bloke with wings reading from a book: “Hmmm, Mr Once, we have been a lively little sinner, haven’t we?”
So I guess it’s a pretty important question. Do I carry on sinning or put a few coins in the next charidee collection box I see?
As it’s a big subject, I am going to split it up into several blogs. I have no idea if anyone will still be listening by the time we get to the end. Maybe it will just be me talking to myself. Maybe that is all that life ever is.
I’m going to try to be even-handed. This won’t be one of those “God exists and I am going to prove it” sort of sermons. Nor is it a fat paperback with the title “The God Delusion” screaming from the front cover.
In case you are wondering, I am going to conclude that a sort of God exists, but probably not what you think. That might annoy everyone – included the bewinged fella with the book, but hey it’s my blog.
And along the way, we are going to see that the pro-God people use more or less the same arguments as the anti-God lobby. Which is more than a little surprising.
Let’s start with the attempted knock-out punches.
Some people in this debate seem to want to end all discussion with a single devastating blow. An upper-cut logical haymaker that floors the other side instantly.
Fr’instance, there’s the “it’s your job” argument. In recent weeks I have seen atheists arguing that people of faith must prove the existence of God. And similarly we have religious folk saying that science must prove that God doesn’t exist.
And what both are trying to do is to get someone else to do the work. They want to be able to sit back, fold their arms and pick holes in whatever the other side says.
That’s not arguing. It’s a cheap debating trick. We have two opposing points of view – either a world with a place for god or one without. We can try to prove either one or the other. We can disprove either one. Or we can come up with a more plausible alternative explanation.
Frankly, I will cheerfully take any proof that comes up. So let’s have none of this “they’ve got to prove it” argument. It’s the logical equivalent of the playground tactic of sticking your fingers in your ears and chanting “Na, na, na, I can’t hear you.”
We can also quickly dispense with the attempts at a logical proof.
One of Thomas Aquinas’ arguments was the argument from degrees. He said that just about everything exists in different degrees. Some things are more perfect than others. Therefore there must be a most perfect version of anything. Therefore there must be a god.
He really did argue this, and several other versions of the same theme. This sort of argument might sound plausible in the absence of any evidence, but it soon falls to pieces when you examine it critically.
If we imagine that there is a sliding scale of … let’s say, attractive blokes. At one end we have Quasimodo, Thomas Merrick and me. At the other end of the scale we have George Clooney (according to my wife) and Brad Pitt (according to Patti).
But it’s quite obvious that blokes don’t keep on getting more attractive until we reach divinity. After a while, we reach a sort of natural limit. The gap from me to George Clooney is huge, but you can’t add that same amount of gap on after George. There isn’t a super-bloke out there who makes George Clooney feel like me.
Sorry, Aquinas, but that’s no proof of anything. My car is a little bit faster than my neighbour’s car. But that doesn’t mean that there has to be car out there capable of a gazillion miles per hour.
Or that such a car would be God. Which is an interesting concept.
To be even-handed, let’s deal with a couple of equally silly anti-God arguments. If God is omnipotent, could he create a rock so big that he couldn’t lift it?
Yeah, yeah, very cute. What that argument does is to play with the concept of omnipotence. The problem is that we don’t know what omnipotence looks like. We don’t even know if God is literally omnipotent or just a heck of a lot more powerful than we are. We could be back to the difference between George Clooney and me.
Then there’s the daft “what happened before” argument. There can’t be a God because what came before God? To which the answer is … there can’t have been a big bang, because what came before the big bang?
Whatever explanation for the world we come up with, we could always ask “what happened before”. It doesn’t help either way.
Whether there is or isn’t a god, we are not going to settle this by logic. Sorry, philosophers, but we won’t be needing your services. Unless you happen to look like George Clooney, in which case my wife would like to meet you.
So next time we will look for some hard evidence. Which may or may not involve George.