Sunday, January 1, 2012

God's TV

I've posted a lot of things in various social networking media that apparently have led some to believe I'm an atheist. I thought I'd take the time to set the record straight.

I'm not an atheist. I believe in Intelligent Design. I don't believe that it happened a mere 6,000 years ago, however. There's way too much evidence to the contrary, and I just can't accept that the fossil record is some trick question on God's Final Exam. What kind of god gives us intelligence and reason, then plants numerous items which that intelligence would lead us to believe something that would cause him to punish us eternally? Seems cruel and unnecessary to me.

I also can't believe any religious text literally. I think they all have something in them which can be used for inspiration to lift our spirits and/or guide us in our lives. I think every one of them also has a lot of useless dogma and misinformation due to being written thousands of years ago with an incomplete understanding of the world and the universe. Hell, we have an incomplete understanding of the cosmos now.

I think God put the ball in motion, so to speak, and just sort of watches. Kind of like building an engine. Once you start it and it's running, you don't have to push the pistons by hand. It's not necessary to manually pump a fuel/air mixture into the combustion chambers. Now, of course it's entirely possible to tear down an engine after it's built and inspect for damage, make repairs, or even install upgrades. It's also possible, in a metaphorical way, for components of the engine to call out to their builder. A good mechanic can hear when timing is off, or when the valves are out of adjustment. He can tell if the motor is burning rich or lean by smell. I suppose that's a good analogy for prayer. Fixing the problem is the analogy for divine intervention.

Another analogy I like to use a lot is the ant farm. God built the universe much like assembling an ant farm. He put the framework into place, added in some dirt, food, building materials, then added the ants. Now, he's just sitting back, watching the little bugs go at it. Maybe earthquakes and tsunamis are just him moving the ant farm from the bookshelf to the dresser.

So, no. I don't believe God has a plan for each of us. This is the entity that created existence with words if most theology is to be believed. If he truly had a strong desire for specific life plans for each of us, is there really any way we could avoid that path? I don't think so. We evolved with logic and reason and free will. We choose our own paths. Our paths can be controlled by others through force, but for most of us, we choose our actions. Besides, there are around six billion people roaming the globe right now. Add in the uncountable billions (trillions, maybe more?) that came before us, and even if the world ends tomorrow and the population comes to an end, that's a whole hell of a lot of people. What difference could one individual's day to day life possibly make to an all-powerful god? Why would he care? People refer to “doing God's work”. What could he possibly need humans to do for him? He created everything by speaking it into being (allegedly). There's nothing we can do for him that he wouldn't cause just by asking us to do it.

I don't know that God hears all our prayers. I don't discount the possibility of some of them getting through, though. I think he can probably focus on individuals and groups here and there, sort of like how a crowd, like in a mall, can be just a buzzing static of white noise, but if you try, you can home in on a specific conversation. I suppose a large group praying the same thoughts would be easier to hear. I do wonder, though, about some prayers. For example, praying for victory in war. I definitely understand why you'd want God's help if you're heading into battle. Ironically, by helping you, you're also asking him to kill others. Others who are also asking him to help them by killing you. I don't know what a truly worthy prayer would be. I grew up in a church who tended to ask God to do things (heal sick people, help comfort the bereaved, etc), and they'd add “if it be thy will”. I find this curious, because I'm pretty sure the creator of everything isn't going to go against his own free will. Speaking of which, if he's truly omniscient, then he already knows your wishes, and if it's his will, then he'll do it. If it's not his will, asking him won't convince him. Kind of makes one question the need for prayer at all, eh?

So, no, I'm not an atheist. I just don't think God has a plan for us, and I think his intervention in earthly affairs is extremely rare. I don't think he steps in to reward or punish. I don't think he cares where we spend our Sunday mornings, or if we drink, curse, make love, or play hooky from work once in a while. I'm sure he doesn't mind a prayer of thanks here and there, but I don't think he requires supplication, either. I really think he just kind of sits back and watches us like we're a big TV and he has ALL the channels.

In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for anything I knew to the contrary, it had lain there forever: nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer I had before given, that for anything I knew, the watch might have always been there. (...) There must have existed, at some time, and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers, who formed [the watch] for the purpose which we find it actually to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use. (...) Every indication of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the watch, exists in the works of nature; with the difference, on the side of nature, of being greater or more, and that in a degree which exceeds all computation.
William Paley, Natural Theology (1802)

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