Tuesday, March 24, 2009


The murder of God by proving his non-existence has long been a major sport for human beings. The fact that we are still at it thousands of years after its first recorded exponents started having their fun suggests two things:

1     1)  proving this negative is very important to many people,

2     2) we’re very bad at it, because despite heroic efforts we’re still at it.

Of course, the god in question, i.e. the god who has been the object of murderous intention, has not always been the same god despite his bearing the same name (linguistic differences can be ignored for the moment). He’s been changing constantly. One could almost say that he’s been adapting! The assassins of various gods, however, became more organised with the emergence of the monotheistic God (who will henceforth be dignified with his capital letters) and very much more organised again, once the monotheistic God looked like supplanting all others.

The killing of God is nowadays big business and there are many organisations spending large quantities of cash on their various contracts with various hit-people. But it remains obvious to all that the would-be victim of these attacks by hired assassins is looking healthier than ever and seems not only to survive every attempt on his life, but to emerge transformed and more robust after each attack.

The stock weapons in the assassins’ arsenal have for many years been these:

1) alleged scientific evidence that God’s existence is impossible since there is no room for Him in the universe, except in the gaps in our knowledge and we are busily filling these; 

2) the moral case that His existence is incompatible with the horror that is prevalent in the biosphere and in human affairs; 

3)various forms of entertaining ridicule involving witty apercus, or just plain abuse derived from 1 and 2

But many people have tired somewhat of the weary old materialistic-deterministic-mechanistic theories that supposedly leave no room for the action of a God nor yet for a ghost in the machine; and the assassins have begun to develop new lines of attack. The latest in these are: 

1) the theory that the human God-obsession is all down to a little gizmo in the brain that tricks us into thinking that we need Him, or that He is close to us, or whatever obsession it is that keeps us interested in Him (just like the little gizmo that tricks us into thinking that objects of sexual desire are intrinsically desirable). 

2) the theory that the almost miraculous and protean creativity of the biosphere may look as if it is the work of a Creator, but actually, it’s just the result of a mathematical quirk of the universe – one more! – definable in Boolean logic, that makes the types of order we see in the biosphere inevitable as emergent complexity.

But one has to ask this question: when the God-haters demonstrate their thesis, will that stop the God-lovers? Will the human race be any better off if we prove that God is just an excited neural network and that life is a mathematical inevitability? Will the lovers of God not simply retort that the gizmo in the brain and the maths are down to God anyway?

Why can we not see that the theist-atheist conflict is just another of nature’s dualities? This would be a useful thing to notice because other opposites in nature’s dualities have these features:

1) natural opposites are not in symmetrical opposition, 

2) these opposites attract.

The theists are indulging in poetry because poetry can be ultimately more satisfying than many other things, sex and nutrition included (that also arise from other little brain gizmos). The atheists, by contrast are irritated at the theists’ sissy pleasures and want to spoil them like mischievous little boys everywhere. The atheists think that the theists are into explanations; but they are not. They don’t care for them. Explanations are means of control and work with respect to things close at hand. The atheists think that because explanations work on things close at hand, they work on everything. In this, they are like the individual who, seeing that he can climb trees with a ladder, imagines that he can get to the moon with a very long one. Or they are like the bloke who, on being met searching for his keys under a street light and asked just where he dropped them, replied, “over there, but I can’t see anything in the dark.”

But suppose that one day the atheists suddenly get what they want and the theists say, “O.K, the game’s up; God doesn’t exist; He’s just an excited neural circuit!” What will they do then? They'll suddenly be out of a job. They’ll have to then prove that belief in the rational or mathematical comprehensibility of the universe is also born from a little brain-gizmo, for this belief is vulnerable to the same arguments.

But hey, this is to take the whole game too seriously! Why can we not simply see that the atheist-theist debate is part of the universal dialectic in human culture and that it is this dialectic that maintains the energic potential that keeps the whole thing going? It is an exciting clash of language-games, to use Wittgenstein’s phrase. The atheist-theist debate is just one aspect of the complete polarisation of human affairs without which there would be no difference in potential and no gradient down which our energies can flow.

Among the sillier beliefs around today is the one that holds that the debate can be resolved one way or the other. Whichever way it were resolved it would give us dogmatic bigots and totalitarians of the mind who are always of the same ilk, be they religious, scientific, political or whatever. Fortunately it has about as much chance of being resolved as a magnet has of resolving its internal conflict.

And what of agnostics? Are they really only sitting on the fence? Or could it be that some of them at least know something that those who claim definitive knowledge don’t?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think it has to do more with the fact that many of these theist try and impose irrational beliefs on other people. So I guess in the end it is not about whether god exists but who gets the power to impose those rules in this "rational" world.