Why…

5 09 2010

I don’t know how old I was when I stopped believing in a god. I’m not even sure it was any form of concious decision on my part not to believe, more of a sub-concious overtaking founded by an almost innate desire for rationality. Try as I might, I cannot marry together the two notions of science and religion, I just can’t. At this point, it is perhaps best to admit that I really don’t know what I’m going to write. The debate, fuelled spectacularly by Stephen Hawking’s apparent rejection of the notion of a god, is one to which there is obviously no right or wrong answer. There cannot ever be. No-one will successfully prove or disprove the existence of a deity, thus for a large part the argument is trivial to the extreme.

I just don’t believe. I have nothing against people who do, but I simply don’t. I do have various views on some elements of religion however, such as the long-held belief that religion causes more problems than it solves (the Middle east is the classic example of age-old religious problems, but throughout history nearly every conflict has been, to some extent or other fuelled by religious intolerance). I also cannot shake the nagging thought that religion was initially conceived as a tool of the rich to control the poor (again, for me the Bible is prime evidence of this, written as it was by educated people for rich people). If we couple these thoughts with the notion that somewhere beyond time and space there is a deity sitting/standing/lying/existing somewhere then it becomes clearer to me why I do not believe in a god.

There is a more fundamental problem too. What does this ‘god’ look like? Most stereotypical images have an elderly man in a white robe with white beard. Yet it is a typically human trait to imagine things in our form. Take the idea of aliens for example, practically all film/television aliens have easily identifiable human features, eyes, mouth, legs or arms. They are there to provide familiarity to the viewer. The same applies to a ‘god’. God created us in his own image is the line that is spewed forth by religious folk, but this seems somewhat egocentric to me. Why must this all powerful deity have a face, or a body at all? It may be something completely unrecognisable to us humans. Something beyond our limited imaginations.

There are a number of other practicalities which do not add up in my mind. Why must the god in question have a book to pass on his word? I feel that this ‘god’ cannot have it both ways, it cannot sit back and watch our world objectively, far removed from any input; whilst simultaneously expecting us to surrender our lives to it based upon the ‘teachings’ written in a book of whichever god we are going to choose to believe in. If there is to be objectivity, do not have a book with your lore in it, there cannot be removal from the subject if there remains interference.

Which moves me back to the problem with the book. Any religious text had a starting point. Of course it did. Most were written by people who were literate, born out of stories designed to inspire fear, and generate control. As with any story, the drama of it made the tale worth telling. All the stories had a moral. All had a point to make. And most finish with some version of the apocalypse raining down upon us. Of course this was another storytelling feature, there had to be a consequence to the tales, something to keep the people in line. Some form of warning about the dire outcomes of not heeding the teachings of the book. Of course, scientifically, this is not far wrong. We all know that eventually our sun will explode, swallowing the Earth and destroying whatever, if any, forms of life that may be left. Truly apocalyptic, and yet known fact too.

Which moves me neatly onto the problem of science. I am no scientist, I do not appreciate the intricacies of physics or biology or chemistry. I do, however, appreciate that they are there. I appreciate that there are fundamental rules which dictate to us how the world works, and why it continues to do so. There is a rationality to science which appeals to me. Cold, hard logic dictates to me that there cannot be any god. It is the oft-quoted Sherlock Holmes which sums up the world best, “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”. This is how science seems to work in my mind. Scientific fact continues to press home my own understanding of the world. Science, which can do so many things, cannot do the one thing it really needs to however. It needs to disprove a god. As demonstrated this week, that cannot be done.

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One response

6 09 2010
Brig

I always imagined that the way religion started is very much along the lines of how it is used in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation. A planet is trying to re-civilise its neighbour where society and knowledge have collapsed some time previously. In order to get them to use the nuclear power plants correctly and with the observance to safety procedure they require, rather than explaining it they invent a religion full of reverence and rituals, with the mechanics revered as priests, unaware of the science that makes their actions work…

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