The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

A humble treatise on the existence of God

Does God exist? (I speak specifically in regards to monotheistic faiths, Christianity in particular. Polytheistic belief systems, by my estimation, warrant separate analysis.) Atheists maintain that He does not, citing a lack of scientific proof of His Divine Presence. Religious folk maintain that He does, reminding their disbelieving counterparts that while science has yet to conclusively prove the existence of a divine being, it also has yet to conclusively disprove such a construct. Additionally, they remind us, humanity has no idea what triggered the Big Bang, the most popular creation hypothesis of the secular world.

So, we have a problem. Two versions of reality, both equally logically sound, have been asserted. We have G, a world in which God exists, and -G, a world in which he does not. These sets are entirely incompatible; as any student of philosophy would be more than happy to corroborate, two directly contradicting statements cannot exist simultaneously (assuming a human, not quantum, perspective). One cannot, for instance, both drink and not drink from a glass of water. One cannot sit while standing or stand while sitting. So, God cannot exist and not exist at the same time. As either reality is valid, you might as well pick your favorite. (I, for instance, worship God on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, swear off religion on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and dance naked around a marble bust of Charles Darwin while chanting in Aramaic most Sundays.)

Such a line of reasoning, however sound, does little to diminish irritating and pointless Oroborus arguments, prevent atrocities from being committed in God’s name or persuade ornery atheists to treat the religious beliefs of others with respect. Thus, I humbly beg your leave to present a third paradigm: it doesn’t actually matter. Not only in a Holmesian sense, our lives remaining the same regardless of which reality wins out, but due to the fact that even if God does indeed exist, we play far too small a role in the grand scheme of things to possibly understand or interpret the will of such a being.

Let us examine the sets G and -G. -G, by virtue of its contents, becomes immediately irrelevant. God doesn’t exist. Okay. Done. We know nothing. As for G, let’s pretend that the world’s top scientists create a God-detecting machine. It tells us, with absolute certainty, that God is real. Let us also assume that the machine produces accurate results. So we now know God exists. Okay. Done. We still know nothing. Huh?

Stop reading for a moment. Google “Voyager photo of Earth.” All of the results, save one rather amusing photo of a chubby meerkat, will show a picture of our solar system as seen from its absolute edge. There will be an arrow pointing to some unremarkable speck of white. That speck, that miniscule dot, you’re informed, is Earth.

There are roughly 100 billion similarly-sized solar systems in the Milky Way galaxy. The Milky Way is one of 10,000 discovered galaxies in our observable universe. Assuming (for the sake of mathematical viability) a finite universe, that’s a grand total of 1,000,000,000,000,000 (1 quadrillion) solar systems. At minimum. And Earth is but one planet within one system.

Additionally, what makes us assume the existence of only one universe? I, for one, am of the personal belief that every possible version of existence, well, exists. For instance, if I come to a fork in a road, a universe exists in which I take the leftward path and a universe exists in which I take the right. With seven billion humans each facing hundreds, if not thousands, of choices per day, that’s at least 700 billion universes (7 billion humans, 100 choices each), each with 10,000 galaxies of 100 billion solar systems each. Which adds up to 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,0 00,000,000 planets. Again, at minimum.

Bear in mind that we’re limiting ourselves to a snapshot of a constantly expanding infinity, and that we haven’t even delved into inhuman “choices,” from a breeze ruffling each petal of a flower in a thousand thousand possible micro-directions, to the planet’s oxygen molecules bouncing off of one another in one fashion as opposed to another. We also have the universes that result from overlapping outcomes; Universe A, in which I turn left, Joe asks Mandy out, Oxygen Molecule number 1,004,567,322,100 collides with Molecule number 67,000,000, Leaf Four on Plant 1,674,365 ruffles this way, and etcetera. Universe B in which I turn left, Joe doesn’t ask Mandy out, Oxygen Molecule number 1,004,567,322,100 collides with Molecule number 67,000,000, Leaf Four on Plant 1,674,365 ruffles that way, and etcetera. Universe C, in which … and so it goes.

But that’s all speculation. Much like the existence of God, no multiverse theory has ever been conclusively proven. I could be quite correct in asserting the existence of a parallel-structured multiverse. I could also be quite incorrect. So, let’s stick with our measly one reality, 1-quadrillion-solar-system universe, whose existence has been definitively proven by scientists the world over. But God, even when examined within a finite hypothetical world, is still so far beyond our understanding as to beggar the imagination. God still created an entire universe. God still created (or set off a chain reaction that allowed for the creation of) One. Quadrillion. Planets. At minimum! God still resides within every aspect of every one of Its creations, from the smallest quark to the largest galaxy. God is still all-powerful, all-seeing, all-experiencing, all-encompassing, all-understanding and all-knowing.

Then we must take into account the possibilities stemming from our 1,000,000,000,000,000 discovered solar systems, each of the planets within each system, and the overlapping choices between and among all of them. Light wave (or is it particle?) number 1,900,567,125,876,2 34,109,863,893 does such-and-such, Asteroid number 198,451,189 narrowly avoids a collision with Asteroid number 491,523,081, Oxygen Molecule number 1,004,567,322,100 doesn’t collide with Molecule number 67,000,000 … and Joe asks Mandy out. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera ad nauseam. Even working within a finite cosmos, our total number of possibilities quickly approaches infinity, or at the very least, the incalculable.

Keeping this in mind, how can humanity thus claim any knowledge of the divine? How can we, mere ambulatory dust specks, possibly possess an intimate understanding of a being so powerful as to defy logic and reason? How can we possibly accept that God singled out humanity, of all possible life forms on all quadrillion planets, for the receipt of divine truth? That It wrote (or inspired others to write) it all down and put it in a book for our benefit? That the absolute, universal truth and wisdom of an entity capable of creating an entire universe would contain such gems as:

“When men fight with one another, and the wife of the one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of him who is beating him, and puts out her hand and seizes him by the private parts, then you shall cut off her hand” (Deuteronomy 25:11-12).

“The Prophet said, ‘When you eat, do not wipe your hands till you have licked it, or had it licked by somebody else” (Quran, Volume 7, Book 65, Number 366)?”

What possesses any pope, imam, monk or rabbi to think that they know, or can possibly dictate, its entire will; can an embryo speak for its parents? What makes us think that God harbors any feeling, or takes any particular action towards humanity? That God could possibly be limited to lowly human emotions and thought patterns in the first place? Notice my use of the pronoun “It” when describing God; the assignation of gender to God is yet another human conceit. God, as we’ve hopefully realized by now, transcends all human concepts, gender very much included.

All concepts, that is, save faith. Humanity cannot possibly understand God. We don’t know, nor will we ever know, Its will, Its scope, or Its purpose. We don’t even know if It exists; people far smarter than I have rationally, logically and persuasively defended both sides of the argument. But that doesn’t matter; God doesn’t need our approval to exist or not exist. But God doesn’t need our approval to exist or not exist’s existence (or lack thereof) requires no human approval. A belief in God does not demand a full accounting of God; we believe passionately in many things not fully grasped. I would not, for instance, ask you to abstain from thinking, despite science’s lack of an understanding of consciousness.

God, like thought, is not held to rules of logic, but dwells instead within the hearts and minds of the faithful, comforting, inspiring, protecting and guiding those in need. Assuming the perspective of a believer I would go so far as to say: as God inhabits the entire universe, along with everything within it, all people who believes that they speak with Its voice and carry out Its will are, in fact, correct. Do I have a problem with individuals claiming a relationship to God superior to those of others? I do. But it is far from my right and far from my ability to repudiate the God-given free will of any of our seven billion earthly deities, be it the will of a collection of God-atoms forming a priest or rabbi, or the will of those comprising a lowly carpenter. After all, with God in the mix, who can foretell what wonders that carpenter may one day work?

Please bear in mind that the piece I put before you lays no claim to absolute truth; it is the far-from-enlightened opinion of an agnostic college first year with too much time on his hands. It, I’m certain, contains many possible avenues for disagreement or debate. Please feel free to seek me out for friendly discussion or, if you’d prefer, publish a response! I’m quite interested in what my fellow students have to say.

But that’s all speculation.

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