Yes Or No?
In this article I will demonstrate that the title question, “Is There A God?” is not, in fact, a “yes or no” question. If you still think it is, I would maintain that you haven’t thought the question through adequately. And yet the question has been the source of some of the most acrimonious debate on the planet.
Let’s put this in perspective. When you were in school, did you ever take a “true or false” quiz only to discover that one or more of the questions required a thoughtful answer that couldn’t be answered with one word? Or perhaps you ran across a “multiple choice” question where the correct answer was “none of the above” – but “none of the above” wasn’t one of the choices you were offered. When this happens, it generally means that your understanding of the question is better than that of the person who posed the question. You’ve thought about it more critically.
It is in this critical thinking spirit that I offer the analysis that follows as a pathway to reconciliation between Theists and Atheists, Monotheists and Pagans, Believers and Infidels and Agnostics. In like manner it can serve as a bridge between adherents of the world’s organized religions – including Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims and Hindus.
The arguments, struggles, battles, and outright wars between such groups have, since the dawn of history, been pretexts for the “divide and conquer” strategies of governments and the elite who own them. For humanity to thrive I suggest that we have to outgrow such divisive thinking and focus instead on maximizing creativity, awareness, love, objective truth and personal evolution.
Definitions and Ambiguities
There are three parts to the God Question (the GQ):
- “Is there…”
- “A…” and
To reply meaningfully to the GQ, it is necessary to understand it. Yet the three phrases above are not defined – so no meaningful reply is possible until we’ve unraveled the ambiguities inherent in the unstated definitions that apply. So to start our discussion, let’s examine the obvious possibilities – bearing in mind that the person who asks the question probably hasn’t thought the matter through.
The Meaning of “Is there…X?”
There are two interrelated major ambiguities associated with questions that take this form.
- Operational Ambiguity and
- Linguistic Ambiguity
When new information comes into human awareness, that information may be true or false. We don’t know which is the case until we test the information. The discipline that has been found most effective in performing such a test is known as Science – and the criterion for information to be true is that belief that the information is true must increase one’s intelligence. By “intelligence” we mean the ability to predict or control events in the real world – or, equivalently, to create or sustain causal relationships between events in the real world. The cornerstone concept required to understand Science is known as the Operational Point of View. This concept simply means that every scientifically meaningful question must contain, directly or indirectly, a description of the procedure, experiment, or test by means of which the answer to the question may be found.
Since the question, “Is there…X?” doesn’t contain such information, it follows that the answer cannot be found scientifically – hence the term “operational ambiguity” applies.
To understand the Linguistic Ambiguity inherent in the GQ, we need to have some understanding of the concept of the “Universe”. From a practical perspective, the Universe is comprised of all the events in the space-time continuum that can conceivably have a discernible effect here, either now or in an imaginable future. By “discernible effect” we refer to something we can perceive or measure.
Relativistic physics tells us that there are vast reaches of space-time possible that can never be discernible – that are therefore outside of our universe. This makes possible the existence, at least conceptually, of other universes – and in fact quantum mechanics and string theory suggest the un-discernible “existence” of an infinite number of such universes. This only makes sense if one postulates a “multiverse” with significantly more dimensions than we humans can perceive – an unproven hypothesis, but thus far not disproven – and, mathematically useful in theoretical discussions of cosmology.
Note too that such other universes are, by definition, forever beyond our powers of discernment.
Now let’s go back to our “Is there…X?” question. In attempting to answer it, where are we to look for X? The possible answers seem to be:
- In some location within our universe,
- Everywhere within our universe,
- Nowhere within our universe,
- In another universe,
- Outside our universe – but not in another,
- Nowhere in or out of our universe.
Note that these possibilities are not altogether mutually exclusive – though some are. It is the validity of this list that I label the “linguistic ambiguity”.
With this list in mind, let’s go back to the GQ and see what we can learn. Let X = GOD. Now item (6.) in the list is the only answer that would yield the answer “There is no God.” This is the view to which atheists subscribe – generally without considering the other 5 possibilities.
Could God be in locations (3.), (4.), or (5.)? If true, then by the definition of “universe”, God could have no effect on us or our universe once the initial “creation” (usually attributed to God) was complete. In this case it makes no sense to give the existence of God any significance at all.
That leaves us with the need to examine only the first two possibilities:
- God is somewhere in the universe, or
- God is everywhere in the universe.
If God is a localized phenomenon, somewhere in the Universe, several questions present themselves:
- Where precisely is God?
- If God indeed created the universe, where was he/she/it at the time of the creation?
- Did God create itself along with the rest of the universe?
- Might the universe have created (or evolved) God? If so how?
- Is there any evidence bearing on God’s location in the universe?
Since we have no definitive answers to any of these questions, it would be illogical and presumptuous to jump to a conclusion – any conclusion. So we might score a point for the agnostics in our world.
Now how about, “God is everywhere in the universe.” This view appeals to Taoists and seems congruent with the concept of the “holographic universe” – but still raises questions:
- Is God distinguishable from the rest of the universe? If so, how?
- Did the universe create itself?
- Did God create itself?
- When people pray or speak to God, what are they really doing – talking to the universe, talking to our “collective unconscious”, talking to themselves…?
- When people say that God speaks to them, what do they mean? Do they mean the whole universe is taking an interest in them? Isn’t it just as likely that their subconscious minds hear their prayers and obligingly create “God’s voice” as a hallucinatory experience? I’m sure a capable hypnotist could induce such an experience in the mind of a “believer”.
Again these questions are all non-scientific, because they provide no operational basis for finding their answers. They do, however, cast suspicion on the mentality of anyone ready to answer the GQ with a simple “yes” or “no”.
About the “A” in the GQ…
Here again an ambiguity is introduced into the GQ. The article, “A” in the GQ is synonymous with “One”. So the GQ could be restated, “Is there One God”. Again, an ambiguity is introduced. Does the question now mean:
- Is there one God – as opposed to multiple Gods, or
- Is there one, and only one, God?
While pagans usually believe in multiple Gods, they are quite inconsistent when comparing one form of paganism to another. So while one pagan group might conceive of the Gods of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water – another might refer to the Gods of the North, the East, the South and the West – while still another might attribute a separate God to each individual species of animal (bear, crow, raven, snake, frog, etc.) It is of some interest to note that the latter concept provides an operational window into the nature of God – assuming that close observation of the animal in question tells us something about the God associated with that animal. Native American religions often seem to presume this view.
As for the “…one and only one” question: We note that Christians, Jews, and Muslims all claim to believe in one and only one God – though they refer to that God by three different names. One has to wonder why they are so much at odds with each other. If indeed there is only one God, then these three religions must be referring to the same one. Same God…different customs. Could it be that the apparent differences between these three religions reflect a kind of monopolistic turf competition among their leaders? Else why would these same leaders not put aside their differences and focus on a joint effort to work in harmony with one another? Might a psychopathic passion for dominance on the part of some of those “leaders” be involved?
So I conclude that the word “A” in the GQ just adds further confusion to the meaning of the question – making it that much less amenable to a one word answer.
What is God?
The GQ doesn’t tell us how we might recognize a God – so operational ambiguity applies. In my own experience, I’ve encountered the following descriptions:
- Author of the Bible
- Author of the Torah
- Author of the Koran
- Author of the Book of Mormon
- Creator of the universe
- Creator of the world
- Creator of mankind
- “Higher power”
- Supreme being
- Omnipotent being
- Omniscient being
- Universal spirit
- Father / Mother Principal
- Force of Nature
- Nature Itself
…to name just a few. My personal favorite is, “that toward which life evolves” – though I don’t make anything especially mystical about the choice.
Multiple ambiguities are not additive in their effect. They are instead multiplicative. So if the vagueness of the GQ involves 50 unanswered questions (and there are at least that many), the resulting real complexity of the GQ is increased by a factor of 50! (fifty factorial) which is of the order of magnitude of 1064 . In simple terms, this means that the GQ is vastly oversimplified – to the point of being meaningless.
The Faith Argument
There are those who say,
- “Have faith”
- “Doubt not”
- “The Bible is the word of God”
- “Jesus loves you”
- “Heretics burn in hell”
- “The scriptures contain ALL truth”
- And so forth ad nauseum!
To such air-heads I can only say, “get a brain”. Blind faith has been exploited by the elite power brokers for thousands of years. It has empowered such atrocities as the Christian Crusades and the Vatican Inquisition. It is faith that justified the “divine right of kings” – source of many atrocities, from genocides to child slavery and molestation. Today it is faith in the bogus “authority” of governments that threatens to enslave or eradicate humanity. If you think faith is “the answer”, you’re focused on the wrong question!
The real question is, “What has to happen for humanity to thrive?” In seeking a meaningful answer, critical thought, the operational point of view, and the scientific method are the most powerful tools available. Using these tools, and the evidence of many intellectual disciplines, I arrive at the following inescapable conclusions:
For humanity to persist and to thrive, we must:
- Learn and teach the most valid ethic, one that maximizes creativity and its logical equivalents: awareness, love, objective truth, and personal evolution;
- Create ethical legal, educational, and financial systems – independent of any government influences;
- Value individualism – as opposed to collectivism;
- Identify and remove the psychopaths in our ownership and political classes;
- Shut down the charade and pageantry of politics – because government cannot be fixed;
- Build ethical social institutions based on HoloMats of Octologues – instead of hierarchies; and
- Withdraw our support of all current regimes.
Should we fail in this, I predict we’ll be extinct in a few decades! I know you don’t wish that fate on your children and grandchildren, so come to our Titanian meet-ups, learn the lore of ethical life, and become part of the solution to humanity’s Big Problem.
And while you’re at it, make a donation in support of our cause. We need your support and your participation.
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