Friday, February 26, 2010

Why I Believe in a God that Doesn't Exist

Do I believe in God? Yes.
Can I define the nature of God? No.
Does God exist? No.
Do I believe in my computer? Yes.
Does my computer exist? Yes.

An odd group of questions wouldn't you say? As odd as this group is, working through these questions will actually help us make more sense of being human, spirituality, science and even our ideas of God. Since we've been considering the idea of faith, lets begin with my believing in the computer I'm writing this post on.

By now it should be obvious to you that I believe in my computer. If I didn't, I wouldn't be writing on it. Now, does my belief- or faith- in my computer, have anything to do with making it real or unreal? No- right? However, because this computer is thus far credible to me, I believe in it to a level where I'm willing to type my thoughts here and send them to you for your analysis; if I didn't believe, (or have faith) in my computer, I'd have to find another computer that demonstrated enough credibility, to garner the belief necessary to write on it.

What about my computer existing? Let me just say here that we're safe to infer the obvious. Besides, it's not late enough, and nor are we in a bar together.

So now I hope you're wondering how I can believe in God if I at the same time assert that God does not exist! And if we were indeed at that bar together, I'd answer with the best Bill Clinton I could muster, "well, it depends on what your definition of "exist" is." Refreshing myself with a sip, I'd go on to explain that the etymology of the word exist, gets at the idea of standing out from. (As a side note, and by way of explaining what I mean with out going down a path that deserves a hike, just not now- you could say that a huge herd of people try out for American Idol; only those that stand out in specific ways will get a chance to win: to stand out the most. The question for later, centers on asking if this standout contestant also exists more than the herd from which he exists- or stands out?)

Are you getting the picture? God does not exist because God does not stand out: any consideration of God's nature, has to begin with understanding that existence is a standing out, and as such, any "God" that stands out is not yet God, but just another existent thing. God that is any God at all, will be that from which existence stands out. In other words, that which God stands out from, is God. In the parlance of Christian language, any God that exists is an idol.

Oops, it looks like I just defined God. It looks that way but I don't think I did. All I pointed to was what God couldn't be- an idol. This is important to understand, because usually, when we've entered into faith through God, God becomes the ground of our world; here we're apt to take our ability to form nouns seriously: what are nouns? persons, places or things (or ideas); in other words, things that exist. And as I'm trying to show you, idols instead of God combined with certainty instead of faith, make for an explosive concoction in the making of our personal ground.

Earlier in past commentary, Stephen told of his working out the synthesizing of his Christian faith and his Science faith. We're building the ground to do that work; not only to solve dissonance, but to recognize that by doing so, we'll be closer to filling out the Human Being that is here to Exist.

Yes Virginia, there is a God who doesn't exist.


  1. Although everyone seems to have some sort of concept of God, it's a word that should almost be defined every time it's used. Usually most people take it to mean the Christian God. As I mentioned in one of my other posts here, I can classify a decent number of words I consider exactly (or nearly) synonymous with "God."

    "Does God exist?" Is one of those questions that can cascade into a very large discourse.

    The concept of God exists - I guess we can say that much.

    I agree that there is nothing we can physically point to (obvious) - or to mentally construct that would define God.

    I think of concepts of God, Love, and Beauty. All very ambiguous terms. Yet they are most dear to me. They require the use of our imagination, and abstract thought processing.

    So I suppose that is where faith comes in. Faith requires imagination.

    It's funny how humanity has dealt with the concept of God. So many books about it! Yet there is no concise conclusion about the whole thing that everyone can agree upon.

    I was thinking about this recently - I don't remember what the actual correlation was... but I was comparing the problems of quantum physics with some sort of conceptual problem. The particle is displaced by the act of observing, just as trying to get a "clear picture" of God distorts the situation.

  2. Stephen,

    Though I'm making use of irony when I say that God doesn't "exist", I'm really trying to say something profound. We expect God to be a thing which like any other thing interacts with our forces. And when God doesn't act like a thing among things, we say that there's no proof of God.

    On the other hand, we've become so accustomed to thinking of life in terms of machinery that we have a rapt dullness when it comes to considering our non-machine like qualities. Its these qualities that prevent me from experiencing faith in an ultimately mechanical framework; such a framework just is not credible to me.

    If I remember right, you're a biologist aren't you? I would ask you to consider the ideas of denotation (scientist's crave this) and connotation (Poets crave this) and how you relate to their ways of understanding, and how each let you see differently. I'm interested in what you come up with.