Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Which God Do Monotheists Believe In?

One thing that I find difficult to convey to some theists is the disconnect between God and religion.

Just as an example, it’s quite common when talking/discussing/debating/arguing with a Christian about the nature of God to be confronted with a two-faced deity. As an atheist who has read the Bible, I am quite familiar with what it has to say on the matter. I feel comfortable saying that the God described in the Bible does not exist. I can say this with as much certainty as I can say that the Earth orbits the Sun, in that the evidence is quite clear, even though I lack personal, first-hand observational proof.

While the Bible hasn’t had anything added to it in quite some time, Christian theology didn’t get the memo.

Since the days of an anthropomorphic deity waltzing through a garden, flooding the Earth to start over, and sending himself as his son to be tortured, Christian theology has advanced. The result of all of this thought put into Christian theology is a picture of a divine being that is a dramatic departure from the Biblical YHWH.

Now, I could bore you with a bunch of examples where Christian theology oversteps its bounds and goes beyond Biblical revelation. Hell, the whole Catholic Church is one big artificial Christian theology. Instead, I want to boil down the whole of Christian theology to one trite little statement of pseudo-intellectualism.

Christians tend to go back in time for their proof (since God isn’t anywhere in the near present… you know, since around the time we created reliable recording equipment). The modern Christian theology boils down to this fallacy: that there had to be some sort of beginning, and that whatever that beginning was shall be defined (ipso facto) as “God.” Of course, none of this takes into account the possibility that there is no beginning.

“But Bret, of course there had to be some sort of beginning.”

Not really. If we’re just performing exercises in thought experiment, I can imagine a universe that is uncreated and unending, that progresses through to it’s “end,” and then begins all over again (the same or different). Or, even cooler, all of existence may begin to go backwards in time through everything that just happened all the way to the “beginning,” where it will start again. In this model, whose to say we’re not moving back towards the beginning right now? It would explain why everything seems so backwards all of the time. It would also explain déjà vu.

I like the idea of living this all over again in reverse, because that means that in the future, I will get to come back to life as an older me and live my life backwards. I would have so much to look forward to, like all the sex and drugs I had in college and high school, or the happy childhood that will follow that. Sure, it will suck to die by being pushed into your mom’s vagina, but I was born via c-section, so it won’t be too bad for me.

I derailed the thought process there a bit, but I think you see what I mean.

But suppose time is linear, not cyclical. What gives anyone the idea that they can just arbitrarily call the initial cause of everything “God?” I mean honestly, of all the words in all the languages on the planet, why would one choose “God” in the context of a philosophical thought experiment regarding the first cause? Is a word so loaded with social and emotional connotations really the best choice when simply denoting a first cause?

But let’s just say you’re really attached to the label “God” for the spark that caused the universe to be created. What do you do if that spark no longer exists? What if it was here a moment and gone the next? Isn’t that a little insulting to the overall idea of “God?”

Because that’s what we’re talking about, here. Don’t forget, this argument for an abstract physics concept being named “God” is being made by someone who also believes in the Genesis story of creation to some degree, even if just as a metaphor. These people convince themselves that the Bible is “poetry,” thereby excusing the glaring inaccuracies. They try to reconcile the Bible with the creation of the universe by imagining that the “six days of creation” are tremendously long periods of time… but it doesn’t occur to them that what “created” the universe probably only had an effect for the briefest of instances.

If you wish to syncretize the scientific account of how the universe came about with the Biblical account of creation, the six days would not be very long. Instead, these “six days” must be extremely short, the briefest of moments, a fraction of a split second.

During that moment, the physical blueprint for the entire universe would have had to have been laid out and put into motion like a vast chemical reaction which spawned the cosmos over the proceeding billions of years, during which time the Sun and the Earth were formed, the Earth was pelted with water-bearing comets, and simple life developed and evolved with increasing complexity, until one being was able to put chalk to slate and calculate that God was nothing but a spark that set off a massive explosion.

Or, you can come to grips with the notion that the Bible is little more than a collection of fairy tales from an unfortunate desert culture lucky enough to write them down.

So do me a favor, if you’re religious: read your holy books. Read them daily, and ask yourself if the God in that book is actually the same abstract, complex philosophical concept that theologians have developed as a far more plausible (though still rather flawed) substitute. And if you’re a monotheist, I guess you have to ask yourself: which one do you believe in?


  1. I am always confused about the Trinity. How is that NOT polytheism?

  2. "It would also explain déjà vu"

    Hum, no. Déjà vu is a neurological disorder in which perceptions are recorded into memory before they are brought forth to the conscious mind, giving the illusion that the memory was pre-existing.

    1. actually i took that to be humor on his part rather than a serious suggestion.....

  3. Andy: I get the trinity. That part isn't really complex to me. Ice, water and steam are three completely different forms, but they're all H20. It's the Saints and Televangelists I don't understand.

    HLTGTA: Sure... that's what they want you to think. They being psychologists, who are trying to keep you from reading Dianetics and achieving "clear" status.


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