A Down-to-Earth look at God (i)

Following on from my previous post, I’m continuing to give thought to what can be said about God, reasonably, meaningfully, and believably. Most of us might agree with the proposition that ‘believing in’ God has more to do with faith than knowledge. There’s a difficulty, however, in that different people have different ideas about what the words ‘faith’ and ‘knowledge’ actually mean. There seem to be many whose words, attitudes and actions suggest that they regard their beliefs as being decidedly and demonstrably ‘true’, whereas all contrary beliefs on the part of others are, therefore, to a lesser or greater extent, ‘untrue’. Faith seems, somehow, to have become indistinguishable from knowledge.  

This kind of thinking is very often based on ancient books which purport to tell us all about God, and which are even claimed to have been written, dictated or otherwise ‘inspired’ by God (which ought likewise to be regarded as a matter of faith rather than knowledge). A further basis for such thinking is likely to be adherence to a particular religion, or ‘church’, with leaders and teachers either claiming, or considered, to be divinely authorised interpreters of what these books, as well as their divine author, demand in the way of belief, behaviour, service, and worship.

It seems to me to be important to reflect on the fact that there are almost as many ideas about, and definitions of, God as there are people who believe in God. In addition, all these abundant ‘sacred’ books, which fill innumerable shelves, paint individual and multi-varied pictures of God. There are therefore many different kinds of religions, both in the East and the West and, within these, competing ‘denominational’ groups, each with its own particular way of seeing and doing things. Within these, again, there are invariably further sub-divisions, often fragmenting over the interpretation of what might appear, to the outside observer, to be trivial minutiae. What seems to unite them all, however, is this belief that they are ‘right’ and that, therefore, all the others are more or less ‘wrong’.  

I have the idea, if we think about this mathematically, (though this is not my forte), that in the light of this immense array of innumerable and widely differing options, the chance of any individual believer, ‘denomination’, or religion, possessing the genuinely true article, must be 1 to the power of many thousands against ! In which case, belief in God should surely be accompanied by honest, rigorous scrutiny, tentative humility, open mindedness, and polite respect for other points of view. This tends to be the exception rather than the rule, but it would be good to see a big reduction in the realm of creed and confession, doctrine and dogmatism. 

What, then, can be said about God, reasonably, meaningfully, and credibly? Since I ‘preach’ open-mindedness, I try to practice it, and have recently read a brief e-book, “God’s Not Dead”, by the philosopher William Lane Craig, a conservative evangelical christian. This explores the same issues as the more impressive 500 page, “Return of the God Hypothesis”, by Stephen C. Meyer, geophysicist and philosopher of science, which I’ve also read. If there are to be well-founded 21st century arguments in favour of ‘God’ then, providing too much is not claimed, the origin and ‘fine tuning’ of the universe, the origin of DNA and life, and the existence of mathematics and conscious awareness, may be interestingly fruitful areas for exploration by unprejudiced minds. But space, as usual, has run out, and so this must wait until next time …..

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