All we see

Theological ruminations in letters to the Guardian.

…there is nothing to lead any person to postulate a teapot circling the sun, but look around – all we see came from somewhere and although such a thought does nothing to prove the existence of a creator, it makes such a being worthy of consideration.

Well yes, all we see came from somewhere, but the question is where. ‘A creator’ could mean any number of things; there is no more reason to leap from ‘somewhere’ to ‘God’ than there is to leap from ‘somewhere’ to Jennifer or Bubbles or Squirrel Nutkin. ‘A creator’ could be a machine or a natural process or software or mice or some entity that we can’t even imagine. The fact that all we see came from somewhere does not by itself provide a reason to identify somewhere as any one particular thing much less any particular person much less a particular person described by some desert goatherds 30 centuries ago.

A vicar says That’s not Our God.

I don’t believe in the God whose existence Dawkins denies either – nor do most people in the British Christian churches.

Really? Really? How, exactly, does the God of the British Christian churches differ from the one Dawkins doesn’t believe in? And how explicit are the vicars in British Christian churches about that different God?

A professor of mathematics at York is not afraid of banality:

Science cannot decide between these world-views, but scientists on both sides believe that science supports their own faith (for atheism is also a faith – as even Dawkins says, you cannot prove there is no God).

Norm comments on that:

Atheists – or at least the kind of atheists whose atheism I am ready to defend, being one – think there is no God because they think that the balance of everything they know, all the putative evidence, all the would-be reasons, for believing in God fall short, whether singly or in combination, of establishing that He exists…It is no more persuasive to call atheism a faith than it would be to say that scepticism about the existence of beings that believers themselves regard as mythical – dragons, unicorns, mermaids – is a faith.

No it isn’t, and yet the attempt keeps being made (and it does at least convince the already-convinced). Why is that? Partly, I would guess, because people have been trained (by the steady drip-drip of just this kind of endlessly-recycled bad argument) to think that, for instance, the fact that all we see came from somewhere means that it came from a particular guy called God. This means that few people think that the existence of all we see constitutes evidence for the existence of dragons, unicorns, mermaids, but they do think it constitutes evidence for the existence of ‘God’. They’re wrong, of course, but they don’t know they’re wrong. The thought is so familiar it’s like a well-worn path that it’s hard to abandon. Part of the definition of ‘God’ is that it is a being who created all this stuff; that’s not true of dragons or mermaids. The problems with the notion that a guy called God created all this stuff are not familiar to most people who believe that (and the believers to whom the problems are familiar usually don’t bother spreading that familiarity around), so it comes to seem like a crude mistake not to think a guy called God is the somewhere from which all we see came. And then professors of mathematics pass it on.

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