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Is God an Atheist?
One of the things I hear from time to time from the believer camp is that they see atheism as a faith-based position. To them atheism, the disbelief in gods, requires more faith than it does to believe that there's someone or something in charge of and above it all. When atheists are honest enough to admit that we don't have a definitive answer to where the Universe or Cosmos came from or what the fundamental nature of reality is some believers see that emptiness as a place where they can insert their God.
This is a common argument but it is a fallacious one, sometimes referred to as a God of the Gaps, sometimes called an appeal to mystery. Either way it is a subset of what is called the Argument from Ignorance fallacy. This is where believers take something we do know about the world BUT don't yet have a full grasp of (or something we just plain don't know) and insert their God as a fill-in-the-blank that comfortably makes the questions go away. They wonder how I can look at the complexity of the Universe and the mysteries around me and not say that a God was responsible.
In this hub I'm going to talk a subject that I've touched upon in a few places but never written about at length and that is the fundamental ignorance about God that leaves a belief in God uncertain and often undermines the very arguments that Christians and other believers make for their God. That and the question – if the Universe or the human mind/body is so complex that it SCREAMS in the direction of a creator, what does that say about God himself?
God is the Greatest
Among the Abrahamic faiths some believe that God is the greatest possible of all conceivable beings. While some Christians, Muslims or Jews may claim God is inconceivable many apologists and other believers would simply state that God is the greatest being conceivable within the human mind. When put into a formal logical argument this is called the Ontological Argument for God. Rather than simply address the ontological argument I want to look both at the Biblical God's characteristics as portrayed in the Bible and by believers and apologists. I also want to touch upon some commonly made arguments and how they undermine the very God the believers just argued for.
We'll start with this idea that God is the greatest conceivable being. Usually this establishes God as in possession of the major OMNI characteristics, all knowing, all powerful, perfectly moral and loving and present in all places and all times. One of the biggest problems with this is that it relies on flawed human conception, the ability of a human being to conceive of God, to prove that God exists. In a world where God had created no minds to conceive of him it would be utterly illogical to say that God is the “greatest conceivable being” - because the question then would be “Conceivable by whom? There isn't anyone in this world to conceive of him”.
What if God had created human beings differently, or what if there are aliens on another world with different conceptions of what makes something the greatest conceivable being?
Never mind that the Ontological argument could be used to prove the greatest conceivable ANYTHING, just replace Being with any other word and you have reduced the argument to what it is, a word game meant to define God into existence.
Either way not all aspects of God are known to man or even conceivable to him, just God's "existence" is conceivable.
We Are Like Ants to God
When talking to believers about the Problem of Evil/Suffering and other issues they will often resort to saying something along the lines of “God's mind is to us as our minds are to ants”. They do this to obfuscate any sense of responsibility that God might have to adopt - so God can treat us as if we are insects, mere pests stealing from his picnic basket and whining when he steps on us with natural disasters, diseases and all manner of disaster.
But if our conception is so limited that we are like ants than God is quite a few notches above our own perception. What I am getting at is that God is so far above us that he may in fact be able to conceive of a being GREATER THAN HIMSELF.
Now some may complain at me saying this and argue “but he's the greatest conceivable being that is logically possible”. Disregarding for a moment that none of God's characteristics stand up to scrutiny logically speaking my argument is that if you were equal to God's level your understanding, as well as your ability to conceive of other things, would be exponentially increased. Being the God of an entire Universe would give one an astonishing level of understanding far beyond what humans have and thus open up possibilities we might see as logically impossible or utterly inconceivable. Some believers would admit this but either way they cannot possibly rule out the idea that God can conceive of a being greater than he is.
If we are to God as ants are to us than God is to this UBER GOD what ants are to us. If we can do it than God can do it and no believer can make the argument that God absolutely CAN'T conceive of an even greater God because to do so is to presume to know God's mental capabilities.
Almost all arguments for God, at some point, require special pleading to exempt God from rules of logic or biology we would hold any other being within the bounds of. The most common I can think of is the idea that life or Universes always require some sort of intelligent source because they are too complex to originate on their own – so there MUST BE a God, yes? But after pulling this argument Christians insert a God that breaks the very principle they just stated. If a complex life or lifeforms must have its origin in some intelligent agency, or at the very least come from another biological life, then God MUST be subject to that same rule. Who created God?
But God is God, believers say, there is none like him - he doesn't need a creator because is defined in such a way to exempt him from that. There are no other Gods before him. He is the Alpha and Omega and laid the foundations of the world. The problem is that even if I, for sake of argument, take all the things the Bible, or the Koran, or the Jewish scriptures say about God as actually things God said about himself that wouldn't prove anything.
Keep in mind please that the Bible was written by human beings who, presumably, were under some sort of inspiration from the Spirit of this God. Even if every self-aggrandizing word God said about himself REALLY came from an ACTUAL God there would be absolutely no way for the “ants” to know that this God was telling the truth about himself. There is no way to rule out God deceiving us which brings me to my next point.
God is an Arrogant Atheist Asshole
There's tons of arrogant atheist assholes on the internet. Some folks would likely accuse me of being one of them. I'm certainly arrogant, definitely an atheist, but I'm not sure I cross into asshole territory. One being that definitely does fit the asshole label is the God of the Bible, for being a war-like, plague bringing, child murdering, slavery condoning, genocide demanding psychopath. God requires that animals, or humans (Jesus) be slaughtered in a form of ritual blood magic to appease his wrath.
God's wrath, mind you, stems from one time that human beings ate some fruit they weren't supposed to and because of that act God let sin corrupt his entire Creation and decided to send humans to a fiery torture pit that he had created earlier for some other guy who rebelled against him.
While I have never been asked this I have seen other atheists be asked this. Sometimes believers will say something like, “Oh I see, you're an atheist, that means you've exalted yourself up above God. You think you're God!”
Ironically their own God, the God of the Bible, might be one being in a vast array of Cosmic supernatural life. There may be an Uber God above Yahweh and maybe there are peers too - other Gods each with their own vast Universe's to govern. And when they get together they scoff at Yahweh for going around telling the people in his Universe that he is the only God, that there's no one else and that to worship anyone else is punishable by eternal torment. They tell Yahweh that there must be a creator for them, after all it takes too much faith to NOT believe in Uber-God.
God Has Never Written a Word
At the beginning of this I granted for sake of argument that God had really been in communication with the authors of the Abrahamic holy texts but now its time to revoke that. None of the things written in the Bible were written by God, every last word there is written by the “ants”. We the ants, mere insects huddled onto a small piece of rocky debris hurdling through an infinite Cosmos, are trying to understand our world. In our attempt to understand the baffling natural world around us we have formed religions and we have investigated with experiments. We have only begun to grasp the fundamentals of our Universe, which may be one of many and which contains billions of galaxies each with billions of suns.
Do you really think that some folks in the desert a few thousand years ago got it right? That a God who is said to have brought down plagues and famine and commanded soldiers to slaughter men, women, children and cattle with the sword was actually really the creator of all the Earth? And not just the Earth but the billions and billions of stars that fill the Cosmic emptiness with light? I say to the theists, O ye of little imagination - to look at images of other Galaxies, other suns, newborn stars and swirling nebulae and then turn to a book that says homosexuals and people who pick up sticks on a Saturday have offended the creator of ALL OF THAT beauty and should be stoned as a result.
How can you be so cruel? How can you be so blind? How can you be so sure of yourself?
It is not I, as an atheist, that have faith. I have freed myself of that prison as much as possible so that I can imagine whatever possibilities might come our way as we the ants investigate the world around us. I no longer see the bizarre barbaric gods or imaginative myths of the ancient past as being good answers. They are comforting answers only for as long as you can keep the self-deception going.
Is God really the best answer that we ants can come up with? Really all he is is just us multiplied to infinity. The most powerful - The most loving - The most knowledgeable. Do you not see the logical inconsistency with saying that the complexity of the human body must have had a designer but the infinitely more intricate and complex ethereal being you've just inserted (God) does not need any designer at all?
Maybe there's a swarming sea of strange gods out in those impossible rifts of emptiness, between realities, surfing on cosmic waves between Universes in a multiverse. WHO KNOWS? One answer I think is fairly certain, it wasn't a bunch of people who thought tearing out a bull's intestines was the best way to bring on the rainy season.