Thursday, February 12, 2015

Poppy God

Discussions about God often take a nasty turn. Nonbelievers often get the feeling (not at all unjustly, unfortunately) that believers are trying to force their ideas on them. Believers are sometimes troubled by the feeling that nonbelievers are trying to take their belief away from them (that happens, too).

It just isn't important for me to try convert anyone to belief in God. It is enough for me that after years and years of struggling with the matter, I feel I have come to terms with it. At least for myself.

Do I ignore the difficulties of belief in God? No. The problem of suffering, for example, still weighs on me. It's just that I am more moved by the wondrousness of the cosmos and human existence.

On the other hand, it seems to me the atheistic viewpoint takes the absurd unlikeliness of the cosmos emerging by chance alone too lightly. They can't find a Supreme Intelligence behind it all because they rule out the possibility of such to begin with.

That is their privilege, of course, and I think everyone should have the right to think for themselves about it.

As I was reading Professor of History and Religious Studies Jeffrey Burton Russell's short book A History of Heaven, the following passage jumped out at me because it so speaks for the way I think:

We do not understand the poppy by plucking and dissecting it, but by being embraced by it, by its poppiness, and through it by God, who has brought it forth from himself. Though we cannot know the divine essence, God shows us his energeia, his manifested nature in the cosmos, through all that comes from him. Every creature is a theophany, a manifestation of God.


  1. Yeah, CS Lewis says we know everything in the universe from the outside - except ourselves, who we each know from our inside. We can learn from both types of knowledge, and it is foolish to ignore either. Not the same as what you are saying here, but similar.

    1. Lewis has always been a favorite read of mine!

  2. "They can't find a Supreme Intelligence behind it all because they rule out the possibility of such to begin with."

    I beg to differ - We can't "find" a "supreme intelligence" ONLY because there's no evidence to suggest one (a god) exists. Most atheists do NOT "dismiss the possibility to begin with" ... it's dismissed ONLY after examining and pondering the evidence ... and since there is very little outside of scriptures, once you reject the scriptures as not reliable scientifically, it doesn't take long to draw the conclusion that a god or "supreme intelligence" is not a viable hypothesis ... but lets be fair - most atheists would be happy to examine and incorporate new evidence and do a complete 180 on the subject if the evidence pointed to that being a possibility - it wouldn't even have to be solid concrete proof that said "here's god" it would just have to suggest the possibility for such a being is viable.

    I doubt the same could be said about most theists - the more literally their interpretation of scripture, the less likely they are to even be open to entertaining new evidence (see: Young Earthers etc.) Search your feelings, Doug, You know this to be true ;)

    Of course, to accept a "supreme intelligence" on the current evidence begs the question - "Who created the creator?" (you HAD to know that was coming ;) )

    In any regard, if by supreme intelligence you also include a highly advanced life form such as aliens - which for all intents and purposed could effectively give the appearance of being god-like to our early ignorant ancestors - then I'd be more open and receptive to the possibility based on the evidence and what we know about life and evolution to date ... but that's still only a remote possibility versus a god (as commonly defined with the attributes given by most religions/scriptures) which just doesn't have any appreciable evidence to support it as possible.

    We agree that everyone should and does have the right to think and decide for themselves ... I know for me, I am constantly reading and looking at new angles and re-reading scriptures to reassess if I've interpreted it in a way that works logically ... to date there has been little to give me cause to seriously reconsider a supreme intelligence (god) ... aliens have a slightly better possibility, but that's not saying much.

    1. Hello again Robert. Allow me to expand a little on what I mean by the portion of my post you take issue with.

      I'm speaking of atheists, that is, those who are convinced that no god exists. Obviously people don't start life as atheists. The conviction that God doesn't exist is one that develops over time and after exposure to that particular worldview.

      The problem is, theists and atheists disagree about what should be considered as evidence.

      Something coming from nothing - and not just something, but a highly organized and functioning something (which is what "cosmos" means, an organized, harmonious system) - seems to believers to call for an explanation.

      The atheists say it is a coincidence. Perhaps an astounding one, as Francis Crick puts it in his book The Astounding Hypothesis, but a coincidence nevertheless. Some of us just can't rest satisfied with that explanation.

      Many of us - perhaps the majority of those of us who believe in God - hear that inner voice, or are aware of an inner light that reveals God. We take that voice and light as evidence. The atheist would dismiss this as a purely subjective matter, I suppose.

      I used those two examples purposely. Because - speaking here just for myself - they do not rely on scripture and are therefore more convincing. Speaking of evidence, you say there is "there is very little outside of scriptures." I disagree. People who look to the Bible as their sole evidence of God's existence and character argue circularly. (Incidentally, I don't take any holy book as a direct message from God.)

      You say "most atheists would be happy to examine and incorporate new evidence and do a complete 180 on the subject if the evidence pointed to that being a possibility." But what is wrong with the "old" evidence?

      Robert, I do feel, as I've written before, that humans are born with a God-consciousness or divine sense that can either be nurtured or suppressed. And that is my point. Atheists can't believe in God because they have convinced themselves of the impossibility (or at least high unlikelyhood) of God existing. They believe in astonishing coincidences, but not in the possibility of divine power and purpose.

      All I'm doing is giving you my take on your take. I'm not trying to be hateful or haughty and I didn't take it that you were either in your response to my post. In short, I believe in God because I believe in purpose and meaning and that these are better explanations for the cosmos and our place in it than coincidence. And I confess that on the subject of God I stand very much in ignorance. But still I believe.

      I embrace the poppy and you are "plucking and dissecting" it. :-)

  3. Part 1 of 2

    First, let me start here:

    "All I'm doing is giving you my take on your take. I'm not trying to be hateful ..."

    I certainly didn't think you were at all - and I'm glad you didn't think I was - we're just talking from our position and sharing what we each know/believe to be true. When you or I point out or state that we "disagree" with the other should, in no way, be considered as insulting or diminishing in any capacity, any more than disagreeing on who should be elected president changes whether we're an American or not (I assume you still are ;) )

    That said, here is where we fundamentally disagree:

    "Obviously people don't start life as atheists"

    "I do feel, ... , that humans are born with a God-consciousness or divine sense ..."

    I see it the as polar opposite - ALL people start as blank slates without any type of theism ... which by definition is a-theistic. Probably the purest sense of what the definition of the word "atheist" means "lacking belief in gods/deities" ... I suppose an argument can be made that a baby, fresh out of the oven, is "agnostic" but I'd think one would at minimum, need to at least be presented with a hypothesis to conclude that it cannot be known. So, the way I see it, atheist fits better. If a human baby could be raised in a non-spiritual information vacuum, I simply do not think said baby would ever grow to believe in any supernatural beings. "I don't know" would be a perfectly acceptable answer to the question "how did life begin?", "what started the universe/multiverse?" etc.

    I think another fundamental difference is simply, that I can accept "I don't know" as a reasonable place holder to questions that we currently don't have an answer for. Whereas, you require an "answer" and that answer is "God". And that is fair and acceptable provided that your acceptance of God as the answer does not come with a requirement for others to accept that answer.

    I think you and I both agree that the god(s) of the Bible/Koran/Torah simply does not exist and never has - at least not as defined and presented in these scriptures. You aren't compelled to combat or evangelize others nor force them to submit to your god's will. You (I think) believe God is the catalyst and answer to the big questions in life/cosmos but I don't think you or your (as I perceive, your definition [although you haven't actually defined] ) God care if I masturbate or have premarital sex - I think your version of God is for the big fantastic things - not the micro managing, jealous dictatorial god of the scriptures. We - you and I - can happily coexist and even get along and be friends despite our disagreement. the gods of the scriptures frown upon such relationships.

    1. Part 2 of 2
      "... those of us who believe in God - hear that inner voice, or are aware of an inner light that reveals God. We take that voice and light as evidence. The atheist would dismiss ..."

      Yes - the atheist dismisses subjective evidence - not because we "don't believe you" but because we cannot verify and test it ourselves - it cannot be corroborated. That does not mean that an atheist does not "hear" or "feel" similar things that you do but only that we interpret it as manifestation within our own minds internally whereas you believe such thoughts/feelings come from a source external - God. But when we say we "dismiss" it - it's not because we don't think you actually had the experience - it's still "evidence" but it's not objective evidence that we all can see.

      For example - I cannot "prove" to you that my girlfriend loves me ... and there is not much I can do in this forum, other than tell you with words that this is a true statement ... it would be fair of you to reserve acceptance as truth of this statement until you actually see her demonstrate her love for me yourself. But you will accept my statement "my GF loves me" as truth because you've seen and experience love of others and yourself so it's not a fantastic claim in the slightest.

      To conclude (for now) I think if there is a God - we are ALL very much in ignorance of his/her/its true nature - that much we agree on. I think those who claim to "know" God most, actually know him least.

      Cheers :)

    2. I certainly hope you and I can happily coexist together and even be friends ... I just added you to my My Friends With Blogs list!

      I really have no problem with "I don't know" as an answer. My theism is agnostic theism. But I do believe my intuition, and I intuit that God exists and is the reason for the cosmos and us, and I don't know what all else. That is enough for me. I don't expect it should suffice for everyone else. After all, my blog is about my own personal spiritual journey.

      You confuse me just a little when you talk about the inner voice. You write: "Yes - the atheist dismisses subjective evidence - not because we 'don't believe you' but because we cannot verify and test it ourselves."

      But if you truly believed me or those of us who hear that voice, or even yourselves as you admit that atheists might" 'hear' or 'feel' similar things," you would not dismiss it.

      That fact is, atheists don't believe those of us who hear the inner voice and, as you said, "we interpret it as manifestation within our own minds internally." That is, atheists do dismiss it. Even if God were to speak to an atheist or does speak to them, they would or do dismiss it as something else.

      And that was my original point to which you objected. Atheists rule out God to begin with. Atheists can't find God in their hearts or in the cosmos because they aren't looking for God.
      For when an atheist does convert to belief to God, it is because they have allowed their minds to be open to the possibility. As long as one insists that the natural is all there could possibly be, then yes, there is no - could be no - evidence of God.

      It reminds of a story I heard about a rabbi who when he was a child was told by his father that God is everywhere. And the boy thought for a moment and countered with the thought: "God is everywhere we let him in."

      Robert, you may be right and I might be a bit psychotic. But I choose to think I let God in and am not deluded. Either way, I'm glad to have you along for the ride here at my blog.