|Coffee from the alley...|
Today, I was sitting in the downtown Bend library drinking a maple latte from Lone Pine Coffee Roasters. And I read an article, in a magazine called “Skeptical Inquirer,” about skeptical scientists trying to figure out why, over eons of history, human beings have believed in gods.
Whether a pantheon of distant deities, or one towering all-powerful cosmic figure, whether a vague idea of something higher or a elaborate and detailed doctrine, this belief has marked centuries of human history with a broad and sweeping brush.
“God” has toppled dictators and begotten tyrants. “Life after death” has inspired men to spend their lives as barefoot hermits, or to end their lives along with their enemies in a blaze of fire. “Morality” has spawned unimaginable kindnesses and inconceivable horrors. What is it about this idea, that, though expressed in a myriad of different and even opposite ways, always boils down to the same basic idea?
“God created the world. There is an afterlife, and men will be judged after death by their deeds. Men ought to be good.” Even in the varying ideas and expressions of “goodness” we find, at their origin, overwhelming similarities.
|Sir Isaac Newton. Famous scientist. Famous theist.|
So how does a materialist, a skeptical follower of the scientific method, explain this phenomenon? The article I read attempted to offer a satisfactory explanation. First, they explained the problems with a number of common reasons given for why men would invent gods. None of them proved convincing enough. So they offered their own explanation.
According to the “Skeptical Inquirer,” people have an innate desire for everything to have meaning. For the trees to be there to give the animals oxygen to breathe. For the animals to exist to provide human beings with food, help, and companionship. For human beings to exist for the pleasure of God.
And because of this innate desire for meaning, humans invented god. A belief that is so entrenched in the human psyche that it takes years of education and conditioning to stamp out. So built in that even the children of non-religious parents believe it, at least until they’re twelve years old or so.
God comes from a belief in meaning? Where did the belief in meaning come from? Why believe in meaning if there is no such thing in the universe? Where does the beauty and mystery in the world come from, why do we persist in seeing something, if it is not there?
|Artists or barbarians?|
The article made a vague claim that a belief in meaning had some sort of evolutionary advantage, but that doesn’t make sense to me. Why would a man who spent his time sitting around pondering the meaning of the universe have an evolutionary advantage over the man out hunting and not bothering about such metaphysical concerns? It seems to me that it would be just the opposite.
In the article, the insulting and erroneous assumption was that religious beliefs are the domain of the poor and uneducated, and that the cure for God was education. I know from my own experience that this is completely untrue. I know many well-educated and intelligent people who believe, if not in a specific God, in at least some higher Power. In a meaning to the universe. It is a part of the human soul that even the anti-God education system has failed to eradicate.
As for me, I do not base my belief in God on the fact that over the ages, everyone has, although I see in that fact a problem that the skeptics still have not been able to explain away.
I believe in God because I see a meaning in the world. I see a beauty that defies chance. I see actions that prove Love exists. I see a beauty and a mystery hiding behind the cosmos that shouts of a God that not only exists, but created, as we his children attempt to create, that loves, as we his children long to love, that has the plan that we his children yearn for.