Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hang-ups to seeking God, Part 3: God isn't a superior hypothesis

Some assume "God" is an extra layer or texture spread over existence like jam on bread. God isn't an extra or an add-on. Whatever you are aware of is your level of awareness of God. If you are only aware of yourself, don't underestimate that. There are those who plumb the depths of existence through learning, meditation, praise, etc, but they are technically not "closer" to God than you. They may be more appreciative, and that could translate into a greater benefit, but they aren't somehow more "special". Again, if you want to know God at a deeper level, get to know and cherish others:

"Let none turn over books, or roam the stars in quest of God, who sees him not in man."
-Johann Kaspae Lavater, Swiss poet

And the thing is, speaking from my own experience, you could even be given or discover a logical metaphysical system that is better at explaining things than atheism, but that doesn't mean you'll just be like "Oh, OK, I'll accept God now."

God isn't a superior hypothesis or a better idea - (seeking) God is an entirely different orientation to existence. God isn't a thing, a being, or any other phenomena. God is like a shorthand for discussing the totality encompassing existence, its sustaining power and source. That is what some are getting at, like Tillich, when he talks about true Depth of existence, the object of Ultimate concern or the Ground of Being.

What I am suggesting is that if we assume/choose God, then everything is part of that revelation. On the surface, it may appear that "God" and "no God" are identical. This is not so. Let's make you an archeologist. If I give you an ancient bone with marks and squiggles on it but you assume it was before Homo had occupied the area where the bone was found, you might dismiss it as the effect of root etchings. If you think Homo may have been there early, you would be open to analyzing it as potential symbolic markings and do additional tests. In the same way, if you assume "God" then you aren't just going to keep seeing that same old same old the same way.

From a purely philosophical perspective, which is unfortunately where such discussions spend too much time, to switch orientation from "God" to "no God" is no more onerous or burdensome that switching from "no God" to "God". Each adds and subtracts an assumption. One suggests there is a greater depth and interconnection and meaning to existence, while the other dismisses this as wishful thinking.

If we are talking about recognizing a greater depth to our existence than the surface level suggests, an orientation towards a more expansive set of possibilities for experiencing life, then sure, that's something that goes along with "God". The whole "God"/"no God" issue is a basic axiomatic assumption, a metaphysical orientation.

On the other hand, for some, switching to the orientation of "God" from "no God" does add a sense of obligation, a sense that they were born for a purpose, and hence that even if their vocation and lifestyle is humble and modest, they are a part of something grander, something that compels them to love one another and comforts them that there is more than just expediency and cost-benefit analysis underlying ethical and moral decisions. Of course, there are those who claim to be on the "God" side who act as if there is in this sense "no God" (except the petty idol of their own flaws they have made) and there are those who state they are on the "no God" side who act as if there was a God (including that aforementioned sense of depth and possibility).

"Christ does not save all those who say to Him, 'Lord, Lord.' But he saves all those who out of a pure heart give a piece of bread to a starving man, without thinking of Him in the least little bit. And these, when He thanks them, reply: 'Lord, when did we feed thee?' An atheist and an infidel, capable of pure compassion, are as close to God as is a Christian, and consequently know Him equally well, although their knowledge is expressed in other words, or remains unspoken. For 'God is love.' "
-Simone Weil, French philosopher, Christan mystic, and social activist

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