Posts Tagged ‘God’
Are we moral because we believe in God, or do we believe in God because we are moral?
Frans de Waal argues in his latest book that the answer is clearly the latter. The seeds for moral behavior preceded the emergence of our species by millions of years, and the need to codify that behavior so that all would have a clear blueprint for morality led to the creation of religion, he argues.
Most religious leaders would argue it’s the other way around: Our sense of what’s moral came from God, and without God there would be no morality.
Christians are sorely mistaken about when human life begins, yet the bible tells believers in several places when a fœtus becomes a living being. It is not at the moment of conception as the pro-lifers have insisted for the last thirty years…, though not before!
The bible does not support the idea that God makes a human being at conception. Conception is when a living sperm from a male penetrates a living ovum in a woman forming a living fœtus, but it is wrong to think that, from then on, the fœtus is a living human being. The bible says a fœtus must draw a breath to become a living person with a soul.
It is clear. God formed the first man in Genesis 2:7, but Adam was not a living being until he had taken a breath. God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and it was then that the man became the living being” whom God named Adam.
There is nothing in the bible to indicate that a fœtus is considered to be anything other than living tissue and, according to scripture, it does not become a living being until after it has taken a breath. Thus Job 33:4, says:
The spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
Plainly, life is conferred not by the union of a sperm and an egg, but God’s breath. No one can be alive until they have gasped God’s breath—taken a breath. How does God revive the dead bones in Ezekiel? It cannot have anything to do with conception. Not at all, Ezekiel 37:5-6 states:
Thus says the Lord God to these bones, Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.
It is absolutely clear that God instils life into dead matter by His breath. Exodus 21:22 adds that if a man causes a woman to have a miscarriage, he shall be fined, but, if the woman dies then he will be put to death. The death of a fœtus is not equal to the death of an adult woman because the punishment for the abortion is merely a fine, whereas the death of the living woman was its equal—death! The bible does not class the death of the unborn infant as a capital offense.
The bible does not equate destroying a living fœtus with killing a living human being, even though we know the fœtus has the potential of becoming a human being. One can not kill something that has not been born and not yet taken a breath because it simply was not considered alive. Equally, a stillborn child could not be considered to be a living human being either. Of course, a mother will feel the loss because a fertilized egg has the potential of being born and therefore of becoming a living being. But sadly, not all of them do! Indeed, every living sperm has the potential of becoming a human being, although not one in a million will make it. The rest die, but it is absurd for a mother to grieve over all the potential children she could not have.
The Christian has to accept that God has provided for around a third of all pregnancies to be terminated by a spontaneous abortion during the first three months of pregnancy, and that some more will be terminated even after the first three months. Like it or not, God does not regard the loss of a fœtus any differently from the loss of a placenta or a foreskin, both of which were living tissues which grew from conception.
On the other hand, God made it plain that murder of a living being, one which had breathed a breath of air, was wrong. It was wrong to sacrifice one’s infant son, like Isaac. The Commandments say it is wrong to murder, and a judicial murder is justified only in particular circumstances that are far from common, and indeed Christ’s plain instruction is that such judgements should be left to God.
US Christians particularly get terribly exercised about abortion but have a psychotic inclination to condemn adults all too freely to often cruel deaths. They take a line diametrically opposed to the teachings of the bible, particularly the teachings of Christ, whose unmistakable message was one of love of others. Needless to say, murdering people is not loving them, though US Christians cannot see anything wrong in it.
In contrast, tissue that has no soul, until God breathes life into it, according to the bible, is defended as if it were Christ himself facing crucifixion anew. They really ought to discard their wicked pastors who teach them what suits them rather than Christian morals, and start to read the bible, especially, as Christians the New Testament, for themselves. Aborting a fœtus is not pleasant or optional, but it is not an equal sin to killing a living, breathing human being.
… The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. These subtilised interpretations are highly manifold according to their nature and have almost nothing to do with the original text. For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.
In general I find it painful that you claim a privileged position and try to defend it by two walls of pride, an external one as a man and an internal one as a Jew. As a man you claim, so to speak, a dispensation from causality otherwise accepted, as a Jew the privilege of monotheism. But a limited causality is no longer a causality at all, as our wonderful Spinoza recognized with all incision, probably as the first one. And the animistic interpretations of the religions of nature are in principle not annulled by monopolization. With such walls we can only attain a certain self-deception, but our moral efforts are not furthered by them. On the contrary.
Now that I have quite openly stated our differences in intellectual convictions it is still clear to me that we are quite close to each other in essential things, i.e; in our evaluations of human behavior. What separates us are only intellectual ‘props’ and ‘rationalization’ in Freud’s language. Therefore I think that we would understand each other quite well if we talked about concrete things.
With friendly thanks and best wishes,
Yours, A. Einstein
When those who deny the existence of God at the same time reveal that they ardently want Him not to exist, are we justified in feeling skeptical? It seems a parallel case of the one presented a couple of posts back, in which we decided we were justified in being skeptical when an ardent believer asserted that God exists.
The trouble is that the case of the atheist is not truly symmetrical with the previous one. The argument which held before now fails. The two cases are not symmetrical because God is not now the base case. That is the natural world we experience. We do not experience a supernatural God. Believers may say they do, in one way or another, but while they may experience something, it is their assumption or hypothesis that it is God. After all, the same experiences can be simulated by means that can only be natural ones—drugs, fatigue, starvation, electrical stimuli to the brain.
God is formulated as the explanation of experiences we cannot otherwise explain, but we are no better off, no nearer an explanation to say that a figment of our imagination explains these things. With nothing more than wishful thinking to support the hypothesis of God we have to eliminate it on the basis both of skepticism and Ockham’s Razor.
The base case is the skeptical case, not the credulous one—we reject what we cannot demonstrate as true. By Ockham’s Razor, we have no need of the entity, God. So far, like Laplace, we have been able to explain our experiences without that hypothesis.
J C Flugel, an eminent psychologist of the mid twentieth century, pointed out (Man, Morals and Society):
When those who assert the existence of God, at the same time reveal that they ardently desire Him to exist, we are justified in feeling a little skeptical.
The skepticism arises because one has to suspect “wishful thinking” is the basis of their assertion. The desire that God exists burns so furiously in the believer’s busom that they convince themselves it must be so. It is a self deception.
There is another, a better reason for skepticism, that of the scientist. The scientist is skeptical on principle about any claim that is not tested until such time as it is adequately tested and shown to be so. It is a principle that excludes all self deception and gullibility, which otherwise would lead us to accept whatever we choose or prefer out of the many available explanations whether possible or impossible.
Added to the skeptical principle in science is the principle of Ockham’s Razor, introduced in the later middle ages by a cleric in an attempt to eliminate what might be called Sufism—the multiplication of “explanatory” entities—from Christian theology. It found its most valuable place in science in successfully keeping scientific hypotheses to a minimum of complexity.
So, for example, the believer will say the postulation of God explains inexplicable things like the existence of the universe, why we are here, what we do after death, and so on. It does no such thing, and violates both the skeptical principle and Ockham’s Razor.
Take the case of the creation of the universe. We can certainly observe the world in which we live, but we cannot observe a God. The believer invents an entity, God, for which there is no direct evidence, to explain a very large and evident entity that we know does exist, then says that the nonentity created the large and evident entity, QED. On the skeptical principle, we have to reject the argument because there is still no evidence for the imaginary entity, God, other than our new conjecture that He created the universe. That is circular. God is a fudge! His imagined supernatural nature is another fudge, one which explains why God cannot be detected!
And we now have two entities to consider, the universe which we confirm in our daily lives, and God, which is a fudge to explain the universe, but otherwise leaves no traces anywhere. We are actually no better off, because, even if we are convinced by the fudgy explanation, we still have something to explain—God. Contrary to the clerical Razor of Ockham, we have mutiplied entities from one to two, and are left as badly off as before with an explanation for one of them still needed.
That, of course, is no problem to the Christian, devoid of any need for principle, but overflowing with Sufi answers. The existence of God needs no explanation because He is eternal, He lives forever and is the Prime Mover of everything else. Yet God is explained by introducing a new principle, that of an eternal life for God. But, if God, the imaginary entity, can be eternal, we are left with the question of why the universe itself could not be eternal, again using Ockham’s razor to cut out the superfluous entity with the astonishing properties it has to have for it to perform all these miracles.
The universe is before us. If it were eternal, then that would suffice to remove the need for the postulate of God. The believer will jump forward full of agitation, telling us that science has shown the universe has a beginning in the Big Bang. It is not eternal, so we must go for the believer’s hypothesis of God. Well, if believers could formulate God mathematically, we might begin to be convinced, but so far they cannot. Science however has found and tested a large number of mathematical theorems that can still offer us naturalistic explanations, even if they are getting more and more wonderful, beginning to look like Sufi science, perhaps, with the difference that these mathematics work!
The discovery of complex numbers allows physicists to postulate virtual events, events that take place in complex time. Maybe complex time is God, for the Big Bang has been explained as no bang with the use of complex time. We think of time as being linear, starting from the Big Bang, but complex time yields a multidimensional time, not just the linear one, and that means time need not begin at all. The linear time that we experience is an illusion, and what seems like a bursting forth of vast amounts of energy in linear time is more of a continous pulsation in virtual time.
Then again, there is the theory of quantum mechanics which has led to truly wonderful things, not least of which is the notion of the multiverse. It seems that all events possible can happen somewhere in this multiverse which therefore is indeed conceptually infinite, though there may be a limit set by the graininess of space and time themselves, but even so there could be so many universes withing the multiverse, that even God would need assistance. Unless of course we postulate a multitude of Gods serving each possible universe, and perhaps a multi-God in change of the lot!
Science is apparently confirming that something transcends the universe we can observe directly, just as believers have believed. It is the multiverse. Perhaps that is God, but it is not a personal God at all. If anything, it is like the God of the Stoics and the Deists, a set of transcendent laws that even the believer’s local God must be subject to.