Do we need God?

23 augusti 2009

Thesis

In Sweden today not many people care about religion. People think it is something that belongs to history, but we still need it as an inspiration in our lives.

Problem

Fewer and fewer people in the Western society believe in God. He is considered to be outdated and Christians are often seen as backwards people. Christians say that God is loving and gives people a reason to live, but atheists and apatheists seem pretty happy to. This raises the question; do we really need God or should we let him belong to the history?

Investigation

First of all we need to get our terms straight. “We” means all human beings on this earth. “God” refers to the highest being. This God could appear in different shapes to different people and no one is right to say that his or her image of God is better or more correct than anyone else’s, because we can never be totally sure whose image is the most complete. This is one of the advantages of religion; everyone is free to believe in whatever they want to, there is no right or wrong. We also need to some basis for God’s existence, but since belief is called belief for a reason we cannot know for sure, so there will be arguments against atheism.

To answer whether we need God or not we need to know why there is religion. The most common reason is probably that people seek answers. This could be answers to any question, big or small. Why do we exist? Where do we come from? What created the universe? As the centuries have passed we have learned a lot and science has answered some of these questions. We exist because the earth has perfect conditions for life, it is on a perfect distance from the sun, the temperature allows us to live and have access to liquid water and we have an atmosphere that allows us to breathe. We have evolved from the early primates and if you go even longer back from simple bacteria. The universe was created by the Big Bang, an enormous explosion.

Ok, so science can answer our questions, then religion must have played out its role? Not really, science does not really know that all this is really true, and a lot are only theories. Even though it does seem likely and makes some kind of sense it might not be perfect explanations. Atheists often abuse this knowledge to prove religion wrong, and claim that believing in something there is no evidence for is plain stupid, why believe when you can know? But atheists do not know either, sure theists believe but atheists only believe they know. One of these atheists is the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, known for his books The Selfish Gene (1976), The Blind Watchmaker (1986) and The God Delusion (2006); the latter has become some kind of an atheist bible. Dawkins says that the Christian God does not exist since the Big Bang created universe, not God. However the Big Bang is just a theory that has never been proven. It also shows the outdated image of God that he shares with other atheists; the one as the creator who created the earth in six days, following the Book of Genesis to the letter. However, as most other texts in the bible, this is a symbolic text. God did not write the bible, men did. There were not even any scientists by the time the Book of Genesis was written, so how can you expect someone to write a totally correct description of how the universe was created? The message of this text is simply “God created the universe”, God is the Big Bang. There simply has to be a first mover, even a scientist has to agree on that point. There can be no uncaused cause, and saying that there out of nothing, with no reason or cause suddenly appears an infinite, and expanding, universe is not logical and does not follow the laws of nature. And the laws of nature are what atheists use to base their philosophy of life on. In that way atheism proves itself to be wrong, or at least incomplete.

In an effort to prove that God cannot be the first mover Dawkins argues that he is a too complex being. As an evolutionary biologist Dawkins knows that complex structures are preceded by more simple structures in a chain of development. But God is neither biological nor physical. Dawkins’ own description of complexity is something, whose “elements are combined in such a way that chance itself could not be the reason”,[1] but God is a unique spiritual being and has no elements. So God is no improbable complex being. This shows one of Dawkins’ disadvantages; he argues about philosophical questions, but he is no philosopher. He is a biologist who assumes that materialism is true, just because he experiences it, but what if it is not? While the never-ending search for a first cause will continue ad infinitum for atheists, who seek a material explanation, a theist can solve it by saying God, who is immaterial, is the first mover. Atheists can at their best say that it was just chance, but that is not very scientific. As Albert Einstein said, “God does not play dice”.[2]

But at the same time it is important to remember that science and religion do not have to be opposites. Many scientists are religious and scientific discoveries only strengthen their belief. They have often kept their belief secret, but many have come out of the closet recently. This started in the late 20th century when astronomers, physicists and mathematicians saw the complex, yet perfectly designed structures and physical constants that allows the universe and life as we know it to exist, if they had been slightly different from what they are, we would never have been here. [3]

If we cannot know whether there is a God or not, then why should we care about it at all? Why cannot everyone be agnostic? Some people might refer to Pascal’s Wager and say that you could gain a lot by believing, but lose a lot by not believing. The safest bet should therefore be to believe in God.

Believing just because you could gain something from it is not real belief though, and both you yourself and an omniscient God would know that you are only a “gold digger” and you would not gain any of the advantages of belief, so Pascal’s Wager is irrelevant in that aspect. However, the reasoning behind Pascal’s Wager might help people find God. If someone, by using reason decides to look up what religion really is about and finds it nice and helpful for him or her, then Pascal’s Wager is indeed very useful.

However, you could argue that Pascal’s Wager is incomplete, as it only gives you a choice between the Christian God and no higher power at all. What if the Norse God Odin is the highest power? A possible counter argument might be that all the different Gods that people believe are ultimately the same God, but that people experience and interpret him in different ways.

Besides, there does not even have to be a God to make religion help people. So what if there is no God? A religious person could still have gained a lot from his or her belief. Religion gives people a purpose in life, and makes them feel loved; important ingredients in what we call happiness. It is also the reason why Karl Marx claimed religion to be the opium of the people. Marx said that religion offers a false happiness, but how can it be false if you experience it? If religion makes someone’s life better, then what is false about it? And would not it be better with “false” happiness than real unhappiness? The material world offers few things that we have total control over and that we can be certain of, but we can control our spiritual belief (though atheists want to take away that only thing from people too). You can lose your job, your house, your family, your arms and legs, but you will always have your faith and hope.

No person, not even humans are of any importance in nature, as we are nothing in relation to infinity (the universe), but if you believe there is a God and that he loves you and cares about you, then you are important. Of course this is not the only thing that gives people a reason to live; many other things do as well. But what if your partner, friends and family for some reason leave you? What if you suddenly lose everything you have taken for granted? Would not it be nice to have some kind of backup? Someone who might not always like what you do, but who still loves you?

Personal thoughts

I do believe in both God and scientific theories like evolution and the Big Bang. I consider myself a Christian Lutheran pandeist. Being a pandeist means that I believe God is the first mover, who caused the Big Bang and now is omnipresent (present in all living beings and non-living things). In short, I believe that God created the universe, and that the universe – is God. I believe there is a reason behind our existence, the atheist view that the universe was created by chance and that life began was pure luck is not appealing to me. It actually scares me a bit, what would make life worth living if there was no reason for anything? That everything is just the result of chance or luck? So what if someone loves me if it ultimately is only the result of luck? Would life really be as nice as it is if the only purpose in life was to spread your genes? Is true happiness only about maximizing your dopamine levels? I think there is more to it. The atheist philosophy of life seems dull and boring to me, there is so much more that makes life worth living!

It is not like I go around thinking about God all day long, and I very rarely pray. But it helps me appreciate more things in life. The closest thing I have had to a religious experience was when I was watching an astronomy programme on TV. As said earlier, some scientists experience God by looking into science. This was exactly that kind of moment for me. My belief has also helped me understand the meaning of life is. It is to explore and enjoy myself, others and nature. It is meeting other people, having fun with them and loving them for what they are. For me this equals to loving and coming in contact with God, since he is present in everyone and the connections between people.


[1] http://www.credoakademin.nu/index.php/articles/article/dawkins_trasslar_till_begreppen/ (2008-05-14)

[2] http://www.hawking.org.uk/lectures/dice.html (2008-05-14)

[3] http://www.dn.se/DNet/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=1194&a=630703 (2008-05-14)

Annonser

22 svar to “Do we need God?”

  1. Hey said

    This is a very thorough and thought-fueling post.

    Do you believe that God judges people and rewards or punishes their behavior? And do you believe such a God would punish mere nonbelief?

    • pandeism said

      I don’t believe in a personal God, but I believe other people (in whom God is present) will judge us. Not in the afterlife (if there is such a thing), but during our time on earth. If I do bad things to other people, then it will affect me.

      If a person is a nonbeliever, then that’s their ”problem”. As long as they don’t do bad things to other people, why should they be punished?

      They miss out on a, to me, important and interesting part of life though. But that’s their problem. But, as I said, they can have meaningful lives without believing in God.

  2. Hey said

    Then I surely agree. When people try to tell me that God condemns nonbelievers to Hell, I shrug at them and ask if they believe God is good. And, naturally, when they say that God is good, then I reply that only an evil being would condemn mere nonbelief, and so long as God is good, belief is unaffecting.

    But is it not a common element of Christianity that nonbelief indeed brings condemnation to eternal torture in an eternal Hell? It is well, I think, to give great weight to the actual words and lessons of Jesus, who made many pandeistic observations for example of how man treating another man poorly is doing that to God (for God is the Universe), but being a ”Christian,” in my experience, requires adoption of beliefs about intolerance and condemnation and eternal torment and such that fly against the actual words of Jesus.

    That is one reason that I am a pandeist, and no longer claim to be a ”Christian” tho I’m a sure follower of the humanitarian lessons of Jesus.

    Also, my particular expression of pandeism is one in which the Universe returns to being the one God at the end of its time, and all of us are restored within that God and share in all of the experiences that were created. Thus those who actually create bad experiences for others will share in those bad experiences, in other words appropriate punishment but without ”judgment.”

    • pandeism said

      Christian belief varies a lot in different cultures. From what I know of Christianity in the United States, there is more focus on the ”bad sides” of the religion, such as hell. Here in Sweden I’ve never heard a priest talk about hell. Liberal theology is wide spread here, which I think is a good thing, even though I’m conservative.

      I do understand that some people might think pandeism and christianity don’t match. But I think it does. 🙂

  3. Simon said

    Well written, deep thoughts. I am intrigued and interested in them, and I have been thinking about pandeism since you talked about it. By the way, you probably would like going to CredoAkademin, if not else then for a seminar or two.

  4. Eddie said

    Thank you for posting this insightful blog! I was raised in the ”Christian tradition” and aways enoyed and found great meaning in worship. I have studied many western and eastern religions over the years. My biggest problem with most organised religions is the need to be ”right” in their beliefs. This means others who hold different beliefs are ”wrong”.

    I agree that religion was born from humanity’s desire for answers to some fundemental questions and that deciding what those answers are and holding on to them to provide meaning to our existence has resulted in religious doctrine(again, those who believe are ”right”)and not believing can have some serious consequences both in our material existance as well as in the afterlife.

    I feel strongly that there has been too much emphasis placed on having the ”correct” understanding of how the etherial and the material aspects of ”what is”. We cannot know. We can only believe. We become so attached to what we believe to be true that we are uncomfortable when we are presented with different spiritual perspectives presented by religions that differe greatly from our own. That need not be the case.

    When we state that we believe in the ”one true God” we exclude and discount the beliefs of others whose religions may be thousands of yeasr older than christianity. This pious position creates a separation among us when we already have to many things that separate us already.

    How about a religion of love and respect. A doctrine of unconditional love? Why must we judge our selves and others based on something that has been passed down to us through many years of varied interpretation, especially when those doctrines contain so much bias.

    My personal beliefs are irrelevent. It is the type of person I strive to be that is important. I choose to work to implement unconditional love in my every experience. That effort is focused inward as well as outward. Most religions havethe same intent as their basis, but when we speculate about universal truth and hold our beliefs as greater truths than those held by others, we move away from the basic doctrine of unconditional love. We start believing that by bringing others into our fiaths as the only true faith is an act of love, but is an act of piety.

    Let us allow everyone the freedom to hold their own beliefs and to follow their own path to joy. Let us celebrate the joy that is found along that path without judgement. This is the answer to personal as well as world peace.

    • pandeism said

      Thank you for your kind words. 🙂

      ”How about a religion of love and respect. A doctrine of unconditional love?”

      That is Christianity to me.

  5. Hey said

    I can see how pandeism and Christianity would match up. For those that don’t I think it’s Christianity that they’ve got wrong.

  6. Hey said

    Ever think of writing about it? I mean, like a book, to put your ideas out there for total consumption?

    • pandeism said

      Not really, I don’t think I could write that much. 🙂
      I’m happy just posting the texts here on my blog, so a t least a few people might read it. 🙂

  7. Eddie said

    I certainly agree that “respect and unconditional love” are ideas at the core of Christianity, especially as exemplified by the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. My only problem with Christianity are some of the other core beliefs, such as the belief that one must accept Jesus the Christ as the “one true” savior and Son of God. If one does not accept this very important aspect of the Christian faith they would not be considered “eligible” for entry into to heaven, the ultimate union with God for eternity. I do not particularly like to use the word “God” as there are too many interpretations of who or what God is, but is seems to be the easiest way to reference what I perceive as the prevailing force of “good” which I believe to be the essential nature of humanity and the rest of the universal consciousness that humanity has perceived that permeates all this “is”.

    Now it is possible that this is a “knee jerk” reaction to the primarily fundamentalist Southern Baptist atmosphere of the area of the United States in which I reside, but the idea that one cannot enter the gates of heaven without accepting Jesus as their one true Lord and savior is separatist ideology. It implies that by not accepting this fundamental aspect of Christian belief means that your faith is wrong. Respect and unconditional love can be offered to “nonbelievers” by Christians, as that was part of Jesus’ message to the world, however the love and respect offered in this instance carries the with it the idea of eternal damnation of the souls of those who don’t believe. This is a little too judgmental in my humble opinion.

    Now add the teachings of the Bible into this mix and we have a multitude of “rules to live by” as grounds for more separatist ideation which are believed to have been divinely inspired words. Most Christians selectively accept these “rules”, and where the Old Testament is concerned, by Judaism and Islamic traditions as well.

    So maybe I should rephrase my question in my original blog to “How about a religion of love and respect. A doctrine of unconditional love, without judgement, without the idea that one is correct or incorrect in their beliefs? Though, in the United States, we are supposed to have a separation of church and state, this judgementalism plays a very big role in our legal system, again a doctrine of right and wrong. Of course we do need a system of right and wrong acts, punishable acts, but I am speaking to the social and civil aspects of there rules of law (political and religious).

    Allow me to provide an example; I am a gay man, aged 53. I have been aware of this aspect of myself since my earliest memories. When I was entering and going through puberty I became even more aware of what would be required for me to lead a life of fulfillment and happiness. At the same time I strongly perceived the prevailing social consideration that acting on my feelings would not be be acceptable by the religion in which I was raised, and that acting on these feelings sexually would be illegal. I had accepted the judgement embedded in the blibical teachings that I believed to be at the center of the Christian tradition.

    I used to pray each night that I would not wake up feeling the same way the next morning, or if that was not possible that I would die in my sleep. I considered suicide many times during these years and the depression that accompanied almost every waking moment. Fortunately I was able to come to the conclusion the God’s love was unconditional and without judgement (contrary to what I was raised tto belive) and get on with my life, mostly in secret at first. I have always been very spiritual, which for me has been an ongoing journey that continues to develope to this day. I have come to conclusion that it is vitally important to understand the difference between ”truth” and faith and to work to love unconditionally without judgement, with the excewption of instances where faith has crossed over into our legal system. I am by no means an activist but have understood how accepting faith as truth tends to create judgementalism and ultimately a chasm between people, societies and cultures. Faith is a wonderful thing when it is introspective on an individual level and it is ”truth” for the individual and as long as we understand faith as a personal path to enlightenment and joy, it serves us and the rest of humanity well When we decide that our faith contains a universal truth and a basis for judging others I believe that we are following a path fails to include the idea that we are all part of the same creation born out of the unconditional love of the creator (whether the creator is an entity or simply a cosmic force).

    • pandeism said

      I agree with what you’re saying. A loving God would not condemn people for lack of belief or the ”wrong” belief. That’s just stupid, why would a loving God judge people because of mere ignorance? I’m sure there are many Christians (and non-Christians too) who would say I’m not a real Christian, but who is right to say one persons belief is more right than the belief of someone else? And if their beliefs make others feel bad, as in your case, then I think they need to do a bit of rethinking. Religion should be something good, not something that makes people want to commit suicide!

  8. Fråga said

    Jag är nyfiken, Varför är det så att du skriver allt på svenska, men på engelska?

    • pandeism said

      De texter jag lagt upp här som är på engelska är gamla skolarbeten jag gjort. Undervisningen var på engelska, så därför skrev jag dem på engelska. 🙂

  9. Joe said

    This is something that I thought should interest you — a scientific proof of pandeism: http://phy.duke.edu/~rgb/General/god_theorem/god_theorem/node4.html

    This link is to the middle section of an article with four or five sections, but it is the meatiest. It is published under a free license, so you can copy and repost if you wish.

  10. branderudanders said

    Hello!
    You wrote: “I do believe in both God and scientific theories like evolution and the Big Bang. I consider myself a Christian Lutheran pandeist. Being a pandeist means that I believe God is the first mover, who caused the Big Bang and now is omnipresent (present in all living beings and non-living things). In short, I believe that God created the universe, and that the universe – is God.”

    According to science our universe has a beginning. [note 1]

    It is a fundamental law of physics (causality) that every physical occurrence in the universe has a cause. Since space-time has a beginning there was a first physical occurrence. Every observed physical occurence has a cause. By induction also the first physical occurrence has a cause. The fact that space-time has a beginning implies that this Prime Cause is non-dimensional and independent of space-time.

    Since the universe has a beginning [note 1] the universe is not the non-dimensional Prime Cause – the Creator – proven in the last paragraph. The law of nature origins from the Creator, but the universe is not the Creator.

    It is also possible to deduce with formal logic – based on scientific premises- that His instructions are found in Torah, and that His purpose of humankind is for us to practise those Instructions in Torah. [Note 2]

    Notes:
    1. http://bloganders.blogspot.com/2009/10/universe-doesnt-have-beginning.html
    2. See the post ” Proof for an Intelligent and Perfect Creator (English and Swedish (Svenska))” in my blog in note 1 in the right menu.

  11. colette said

    You have captured my sentiments EXACTLY. 🙂

  12. E2 Pandeism said

    Linkback from Everything2: http://everything2.com/title/Pandeism

  13. Max said

    Whether the big bang actually happened or not does not prove or disprove a god. Science can never prove or disprove the idea of a god. It can only disprove certain myths surrounding certain gods. For example, science can prove whether or not the biblical tale of Noah’s ark is possible. But God is a concept that can only be proved or disproved philosophically using a priori reasoning.

  14. John James said

    Thank you for the above posts. They are somewhat old now but they have aged well and I have found them helpful to think about. The idea of pandeism is attractive as they give answer to many problems of theism and atheism. Peace upon your journeys.

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