My Religious Paradigm (4) Two key questions

Continuing this series, in which I’m asking myself, having once been a preacher, what my current religious ‘paradigm’ is, I’m now at the point of thinking about what I can positively say about ‘God’ and belief in him/her/it. While noting that the word ‘God’ can mean many different things, let’s leave its definition open for the moment.

Historically, a number of classic ‘proofs’ have been offered for the existence of the traditional God, the one who’s all-powerful, all-knowing and all-good. Rather than go over long trodden ground, I’d recommend to anyone interested, the concise exposition and refutation of these in chapter 1 of a slim, accessible and inexpensive paperback, “Philosophy – the Basics” by Nigel Warburton, Routledge, 2013.

In this 21st century of ours, I think two key questions remain. The first is, why is there something instead of nothing? From the point of view of simplicity, it might seem there ought to have been nothing, with no consequent need for any explanations. But there is something, in the form of our universe, so how has it come to be? Current scientific evidence points to a ‘Big Bang’ as the beginning of time and space, in which case, any talk about what happened before the big bang (being a question about time) is meaningless. It’s like asking, what’s north of the north pole? 

Everything now existing in the universe was once contained in a single, dimensionless ‘point’, of inconceivable density, pressure and temperature, and it continues to spread like shrapnel from an explosion, in ways determined by the laws of physics. Today’s top atheists say the existence and form of the universe is fully explained by these laws, but the question then remains, why do these laws exist? Where did they come from? They suggest some form of intelligence, and some measure of design. This cannot, however, be regarded as proof of the existence of a single ‘being’ who is an intelligent designer. That would necessitate a huge ‘leap of faith’.

As human beings, we automatically see things through the ‘spectacles’ of our own experience. We therefore assume that intelligence requires a ‘being’ to house it, and ‘design’ a being to originate it. It’s hard for us to visualise ‘Being as such’, including intelligence and design, without clothing it “in our own image”, scaled up in size. As the Greek philosopher Xenophanes pointed out long ago, if horses believed in a god, they would imagine it in the image of a ‘super-horse’. But let’s you and I stick with just intelligence and design for the moment.

The second question is, why do the laws forming and governing the universe include ‘constants’ which must be very finely ‘tuned’ to determine the existence and structure of the cosmos as it is. If any of these had been very slightly different, there would have been no such universe, and no us living in it. The chances against such a fine-tuned, just right, ‘goldilocks’ cosmos, can be described as ‘astronomical’, and so some see this as proof of the necessary existence of a creator god. The difficulty here lies in the fact that the chances of anyone having the precise numbers to win the EuroMillions lottery approach 150 million against, but someone regularly holds a winning ticket. You and I may simply be the lucky winners in a cosmic lottery!

In pursuing my religious paradigm, then, I’m suggesting that our universe evidences inbuilt intelligence and design. The cosmos is not chaotic and self-destructive as it could well have been, but is mathematically and predictably ordered, and can at least in part be understood by our human minds. This would seem to make belief in a god, plausibly defined, a not unreasonable proposition, but for the traditional God there is a major stumbling block we need to consider …..

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