James A. Haught: “Does God Exist?”


Does God Exist?

Well, it depends on what you mean by God.

The universe is a maze of mysteries. How can gravity – an invisible, unexplainable force – pull the Milky Way into a spiral? How can atoms contain such awesome power that an amount of matter smaller than a dime produced the energy in the bomb that killed 100,000 Hiroshima residents? How can the double-helix thread of DNA create all living things, from bacteria to trees to Beethoven? How can electrons, dormant in every atom of your body, explode into violent lightning bolts when they’re detached? Finally, why does anything exist, at all?

If you say that the power of gravity, atoms, DNA, lightning and all the rest is God – that God is E = MC2 – then God exists. Those baffling forces are undeniably real.

Or if you say, as some do, that God is the love and pity in every human heart, then God exists. Those feelings are real – just like the paranoid capacity for suspicion, hate, jealousy, anger, and the like.

But if you mean church-type deities – the three gods of the Christian Trinity, the 330 million gods of Hinduism, the wrathful Jehovah of the Old Testament, the multitudinous Greek and Roman gods, the invisible feathered serpent of the Aztecs, etc. – you’ve entered the Twilight Zone.

Human logic can find no trustworthy evidence to prove, or disprove, the existence of unseen spirits. Weeping statues and holy apparitions aren’t reliable proof. So the only truthful answer for an honest person is: I don’t know.

But honest people can go farther and speculate intelligently: Do demons exist? Angels? Leprechauns? Fairies? Vampires? Werewolves? Lack of tangible evidence leads educated people to laugh off these imaginary beings. It’s a small step to apply the same rationale to holy ghosts, resurrected saviors, blessed virgins, patron saints, etc. You can’t prove they aren’t hovering invisible in the room with you – but it’s unlikely.

Sigmund Freud said the widespread belief in a father-God arises from psychology. Tiny children are awed by their fathers as seemingly all-powerful protectors and punishers. As maturity comes, fathers grow less awesome. But the infantile image remains buried in the subconscious, and attaches to an omnipotent, supernatural father in an invisible heaven. Without knowing it, Freud said, believers worship their hidden toddler impression of the biological father, “clothed in the grandeur in which he once appeared to the small child.”

That makes sense to me. It says the father-God is just a figment of the imagination. But you can’t prove it’s true.

Through logic, you can see that the Church concept of an all-loving heavenly creator doesn’t hold water. If a divine-maker fashioned everything that exists, he designed breast cancer for women, leukemia for children, cerebral palsy, leprosy, AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, Down’s syndrome, etc. he mandated foxes to rip rabbits apart (bunnies emit a terrible shriek at that moment) and cheetahs to slaughter fawns. No human would be cruel enough to plan such horrors. If a supernatural being did so, he’s a monster, not an all-merciful father.

When you get down to it, the only evidence of God’s existence is that holy men, past and present, say he exists. Priests have built worldwide, trillion-dollar empires on their claim that an unseen Deity waits to reward or punish people after death. But such priests once said that witches exist, and burned thousands of women on charges that they flew through the sky, copulated with Satan, changed into animals, and so forth. Priests later dropped this claim (but never apologized for the witch-hunts). If their assertion about God is as valid as their assertion about witches, their trillion-dollar empires rest on fantasy.

The universe is a vast, amazing, seething dynamo which has no discernible purpose except to keep on churning. From quarks to quasars, it’s alive with incredible power. But it seems utterly indifferent to any moral laws. It destroys as blindly as it nurtures.

Martin Heidegger said we know only that we exist for a while and we are doomed to die without knowing why we are here. If you are scrupulously honest, you can’t say much more than that.

Are the profound forces of the universe God? I don’t know. Is human love God? I don’t know. Is there a personal God waiting to reward me in a heaven or punish me in a hell? I don’t know – but I doubt it.

4 responses

  1. Good post. I don’t think your representation of the “all loving God” is accurate in the context of Christian belief. Christians believe that God is all loving yes, but we do not believe that love is represented fully in the brokenness of the world. The Christian conception is that God set humanity in a perfect world with none of the tragedy or violence you mentioned. He gave man responsibility in this world with a basic set of rules to abide by. Man failed to keep those rules and this existence was corrupted and is now subject to the tragedy and violence you described. Man’s rebellion activated God wrath on himself and humanity. The Christian story is that the world is broken and we are all the target of God’s wrath because of the first man’s rebellion. We are all enemies of the Creator of the Universe and we are all doomed to wrath. The story continues by saying that God demonstrates His love by providing a way for humans to escape God’s wrath by becoming human and dying as a substitute for condemned humanity. I get that you see this as a fairy tale, but it seems like you would want to be accurate in your representation of the Christian story if you choose to reference it.

    Best Regards,

    Tony

    1. Thank you, it was written by James A. Haught. Anyway, I understand everything that you explained with regard to how God supposedly created a perfect world for mankind and that it was us who theoretically ruined his Creation. And yes, you’re right, to me this is a fairy-tale, and if for no other reason because it is illogical. We are told that God is a perfect being, that he is all-knowing and all-good. Following this line of thinking, God knew that man was going to falter, otherwise he could not be all-knowing. Therefore, how can he set up man to fail by putting that snake in the Garden of Eden to tempt Eve, and then punish all of mankind (’til the end of time) for man’s “failure” to abide by his rules? It’s similar to telling a two year-old not to touch the cake on the coffee table and leaving the little one alone in the room. Then after the toddler takes a bite out of the cake, punishing the rest of your children because the toddler “failed” to follow instructions, even though you basically knew that the small child would take a bite out of the cake. This is an obvious set-up, among other things, but it is not just and loving? The central tenet of Christian dogma is irrational at best and quite frankly (in my opinion) diabolical.

  2. Sorry. I missed that you were quoting someone. I get what you are saying since God is all knowing He knew that the first humans would disobey Him. The assumption here is that we understand how all that works. If God knows everything because He sits outside of time and can see the begging and the end of human events simultaneously, which is the Biblical assertion, then how does omniscience work? Is God controlling my actions, this response, or is it that He has full knowledge of it because He already knows about it seeing time from end to beginning and beginning to end. If I never typed this or engaged in this conversation would it exist? I guess I resolved sometime ago that there are things that will not logically work out in a faith relationship. The reconciliation of the all knowingness of God and my ability to freely choose my next action is one of them, but what I do know is that when I spend time seeking God in the Bible, the book speaks to me and transforms me. It has revealed God to me in Jesus Christ and I can’t shake it. The challenging thing for me understanding is why it effects me in this way and not others. Appreciate the time and the dialogue.

    Tony

    1. Thanks for your response. Even though we stand at opposite ends of the spectrum with respect to religious belief, it is refreshing to be able to exchange ideas with an individual who discusses matters of faith intelligently and from a personal (and honest) perspective.

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