Monday, May 31, 2010

The (non)existence of God -- more on why God isn't a superior hypothesis

Anselm of Canterbury was one of the first to a...Image via Wikipedia
Many  contemporary theological issues at the non-specialist level continue to swirl around the notion of God-as-hypothesis, which is derisively framed by the irreligious as the shrinking God-of-the-gaps and coincides with the idea that religion in general and theism in particular is a failed primitive science.

Is that a fair or accurate assessment?  How else might one consider this issue?

Again I am quoting a small bit from the Faith & Theology blog, because it is just that good and coincides so well with the themes I've been exploring here, albeit in a more professional and erudite fashion than my amateurish knowledge and experience can offer.   By all means for more go there and get a deeper and richer discussion of these matters, but for now:

A hypothesis is either probable or improbable – but the existence of God is neither probable nor improbable; indeed the non-existence of God is inconceivable. A deity who might not exist is contingent and therefore not worth the name of Yahweh (Exodus 3:14). Kierkegaard drives the point home: “God does not exist, he is eternal.” That is the truth behind the unfortunately named ontological argument (Anselm’s “proof” is, in fact, a prayer). At least it is for believers, who, if they engage atheists on the field of probabilities, are acting in bad faith, i.e., in either a fraudulent or downright idolatrous manner. The Creed does not begin “On balance, we believe …”

A visitor also chimed in with a quote from God Matters by Herbert McCabe:

"[I]t is clear that God cannot interfere in the universe, not because he has not the power but because, so to speak, he has too much; to interfere you have to be alternative too, or alongside, what you are interfering with. If God is the cause of everything, there is nothing he is alongside. Obviously, God makes no difference to the universe; I mean that we do not appeal specifically to God to explain why the universe is this way rather than that, for this we need only to appeal to explanations within the universe... (pg 6)

To repeat what I've written before:

All "gods" in the sense that atheists use the term are in fact human-made. That is no surprise. All words reflect human mental constructions pointing to some idea or experience.

Even the lesser gods of polytheism reflect something humans perceived not only about the world outside of themselves but the world within. But if atheists think to little or narrow of God, we have theists to thank for it.

Any God that can be accepted or rejected is not God. What is accepted or rejected are images, depictions, and descriptions of God. To paraphrase Fr. Rolheiser from The Shattered Lantern, God's existence does not depend upon the quality of our imagination. My own phrasing is that the deep knowledge of the heart which carries an awareness of the Divine cannot truly deny or reject itself.

Instead need to ask, "Does our notion of the Divine bringing us closer to a greater awareness of the Source and a deeper appreciation of our participation in and as an aspect of It?" In this instance Source refers to what the philosopher Tillich refers to the ground of Being -- the focus of ultimate concern.

That is, God is not another thing, even the biggest or best of a category of things. God is instead freed from such limitations, even as this description itself falls short of completeness. God is allowed to be both immanent and transcendent, beyond what we can conceive and as closer than our own breath, source and sustainer of all that is.

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".

God isn't a superior hypothesis or a better idea - (seeking/experiencing) 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.

If we assume ("choose to believe in") God, then everything is part of that revelation.

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