5 Ways We Get God Wrong

We must be willing to rethink God in light of knowledge we didn’t have before.

Why do we still think about God the way people did in biblical times when slavery was considered normal, women were subhuman chattel, and everyone believed the world was flat?

That old image of God is drastically out of sync with present reality — but it doesn’t have to be. Science and God can support each other if we are willing to rethink God in light of knowledge no one ever had before.

ABRAMS-AGodThatCouldBeReal-forewordsGod is arguably the most powerful concept in the human mind. But there’s no single idea of God. Rather, they’ve been evolving nonstop for thousands of years.

Unconscious evolution of God-ideas is inevitable, but conscious evolution of God-ideas always seems to be harshly discouraged. This has to change.

We’ve discovered that everything astronomers can see with the greatest instruments — all the stars, planets, and glowing gas clouds in our galaxy, and all the distant galaxies in the entire visible universe — total less than half of one percent of what’s out there.

Our universe is almost entirely made of two dynamic, invisible presences called dark matter and dark energy, which were unknown and undreamed of until the twentieth century.

For billions of years they have been in unending competition, with dark matter’s gravity pulling ordinary (atomic) matter together and dark energy flinging space apart. Their cosmic interaction with ordinary matter has spun the visible galaxies into being and created the only possible homes for the evolution of planets and life.

While science can’t tell us what God is, it can rule out the impossible — and really, nothing short of that will ever free us to discover a God that actually exists in the scientific universe.

What’s surprising is that the major source of conflict between religion and science is simply traditional theology — these are not things essential to our relationship to God, which is fortunate, since they’re all impossible.

So, here are five things we need to accept to truly understand God:

1. God could not have existed before the universe.

The whole history of the universe shows that complexity evolves from simplicity. At the Big Bang there was nothing but free particles and energy, not even atoms, yet over time atoms, galaxies, stars, elements, planets, and life slowly evolved. That’s how our universe works.

Something as complex as a God who could plan and create a universe could not have been there to start things off.

2. God did not create the universe.

There is no clear beginning to the universe. Cosmologists are continually pushing back the beginning. For a few decades it was thought to be the Big Bang, but a larger theory called “cosmic inflation” now explains what set up the initial conditions for the Big Bang, and cosmic inflation is now part of our origin story.

What caused cosmic inflation? A fascinating theory based on mathematical extrapolation but zero data describes a strange state of being called “eternal inflation” that may have come before cosmic inflation — and is still continuing outside our universe. There could be countless universes immersed in eternal inflation.

So where’s the beginning? Before eternity? That phrase doesn’t mean anything. If we insist that God can only be God by having created this universe, then we don’t understand what we’re crediting God with having created and never will.

3. God can not know everything.

In our universe, no consciousness can know everything, because there is no possible unified view. According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, events don’t happen in the same order for two travelers moving at close to the speed of light with respect to each other.

It’s not their perception: the same events really do happen in different orders in their frames of reference. So there is no absolute truth that God could even know. Much truth is local.

Furthermore — from any point of view — most of the universe is forever beyond contact. Every galaxy is surrounded by a cosmic horizon, because there hasn’t been time enough in the age of the universe for information to arrive from beyond the horizon — that’s what creates the horizon. Nor will it ever arrive, because the expansion of space is accelerating, pushing the most distant galaxies out of our sight over the cosmic horizon, emptying out the visible universe.

So no intelligence anywhere could ever know what was going on or had gone on “everywhere.” Nor could God “be everywhere” (and thus know all local knowledge) or God wouldn’t even be in touch with its own self.

4. God can not intend everything that happens.

At the level of elementary particles, nature is random, according to quantum physics, and the behavior of any single particle can never be predicted. Probabilities are all that can be predicted.

For example, physicists can predict the number of atoms in a gram of radium that will radioactively decay in the next minute, but not which atoms. On the larger scale of biology, evolution is also unpredictable in principle because it depends on random mutations interacting with a changing environment.

Consequently, no God could have “used” the process of evolution to create us, because if such a God had any intention before starting — for example, to create human beings — that would never be what ended up evolving. For the same reasons God couldn’t intend us, God can’t intend what happens to us.

5. God can not violate the laws of nature.

Nothing that exists in the real universe can violate the laws of nature, since what exists is an expression of those laws. The belief that God can violate the laws of nature is based on the assumption that the spiritual realm is somehow separate and independent from the physical universe, so God is unconstrained by physics.

Yet this nonphysical God can presumably reach across in some inexplicable way to affect events in the physical realm. This idea may have been attractive in an era when no one understood the nature of our universe, but that time is past. A God that resides outside our universe cannot have any contact with us. It can’t be our God.

*  *  *

Many atheists think these impossibilities prove there is no God, but that conclusion doesn’t follow. We’ve merely stated what God can’t be. We haven’t considered yet what God could be.

We’ve all grown up so steeped in some tradition or another that it’s hard to grasp our chance to re-define the uncannily powerful word “God.” But we can do just that, and the wisdom — or fear — we use will play a leading role in shaping the future of our planet.

How do we begin?

With the bottom line. Once we let go of the grandiose, impossible claims, what is the essence that is still God? For me, to be worthy of being called “God,” God has to do for us the central things that the divine has always done: give us serenity, hope, confidence, and a big new perspective.

God has to nurture our aspirations and open our minds and hearts so we can feel our deep ties to each other, to the future, to our planet, and to this astonishing universe. God must inspire our personal quest for meaning and bravery in an often frightening world and give us common ground. Less than that is not worthy of being called God. But more than that is unnecessary.

If we humans are ever going to have a God capable of helping us survive in the long term, we have to take more responsibility for discerning what it is or might be. We need a God that connects us spiritually to the real universe and can guide our globally connected species toward a long-term and honorable civilization.

The opinions expressed in this piece belong to the author.
Image courtesy of Juskteez Vu.

Nancy Ellen Abrams
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  • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

    So, arguably the most powerful concept in the human mind can’t really do much at all?
    A God that can’t do everything is a contradiction in terms.

  • Martin Hughes

    The argument seems to treat the supreme spiritual being as if bound by the same rules as material things, but that is a bit strange, indeed completely unwarranted.
    God is supposed to know all knowable things but that does not imply that he knows the unknowable. It’s as nonsensical to say that God knows the unknowable as to say that I do.
    But I don’t see that even if it is true that the order of events is different in different frames of reference – and even we seem to know this – then I don’t see why God shouldn’t be able to identify both orders of events correctly.
    I agree that the concept of an all-knowing mind is very problematic but we’ve always known that without all this weird science.

  • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

    At that point you’ve entirely divorced your definition of “God” from theists’ definitions of “God”. One common thread through all theistic definitions of gods is that they’re supernatural, but here you explicitly defined your god as being natural. That necessarily removes it whole cloth from the theistic venn diagram of all other gods. Don’t get me wrong, you can define your god however you like, but recognize you’re now fundamentally separated from all previous religious traditions.

    • Sam

      I wouldn’t say all previous religious traditions. Certainly the Abrahamic ones though.

      • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

        All religious traditions that are universally recognized by anthropologists as religions, that good? Though I guess that solves all the jokey Jedi and FSM religions, but scientology remains a contradiction to my statement. Still, I would class scientology as a blatant scam rather than a religion, since it was designed that way from the top down.

        • Sam

          There are a number of deistic and pantheistic religions that exist/existed.
          And I don’t it would be honest of an anthropologist to impose our concept of natural/supernatural on culturals that don’t define a separation of the two.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            Pre-scientific peoples are certainly interesting regarding the interwoven nature of their explanatory and spiritual beliefs, but I don’t think they’re relevant to her article and contemporary theism. Besides it’s kind of silly to suggest that people who believed a storm god threw each individual lightning bolt didn’t believe in the supernatural. Maybe they wouldn’t know what supernatural or natural means, but they also wouldn’t have spoken english and we can still talk about their beliefs using an entire language of words they wouldn’t understand.

            Are there any naturalist deistic or pantheistic religions? I don’t know of any.

          • Sam

            Her article discusses religion in total and thus doesn’t exclude anything from the conversation.

            And the vast majority of non-Western religious traditions do not have the demarcation between supernatural and natural that you are speaking of. Taoism for example has all the elements in play together without the need for defining the difference between supernatural lightning and natural lightning. The basic difference is how the universe is shaped and molded.

            So Taoism is in fact a naturalistic deistic religion or pantheistic depending on how you want to interpret it. And that really gets to the point, definitions. If you insist on understanding the world from one perspective and denying that others exist than you are denying what is obvious to others. If you do that than how can you be upset that they don’t see what is obvious to you.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            Taoism doesn’t have deities so it’s an atheistic religion, like buddhism.

            You’re right in one way because supernatural is poorly defined and/or self-contradicting. Like spiritual, supernatural never had a set meaning and changes from person to person, and may ultimately not have a coherent meaning at all. This makes it difficult to nail down the shifting distinction between natural and supernatural.

          • Sam

            It is disingenuous to say Taoism and Buddhism don’t have deities. The majority of participants in both religions believe in whole pantheons of gods, but they do not hold the position that the God of Abraham does. It is a fundamentally different relationship more akin to pantheism and natural theism.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            Why do you believe that taoists and buddhists believe in entire pantheons? I’ve talked to some buddhists, and they didn’t even want to categorize buddhism as a religion let alone that they have any beliefs about gods or even anything supernatural. Though I realize western buddhism is different from buddhism in other parts of the world where there’s more emphasis on karma as a real force instead of a metaphor, and nirvana possibly being an actually achievable magical state of existence, along with other weird mind powers and such. Still, I haven’t seen hide or hair of gods in buddhism.

          • Sam

            That is interesting. Have you done much research into Taoism and Buddhism or is your knowledge base limited to the buddhist that you have spoken to?

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            I have tangentially but it hasn’t been a focus like islam and christianity. Buddhism and taoism are also much less centralized, whereas the quran and hadith are short and the bible is eminently readable. I notice you didn’t answer my question about why you believe those religions include deities.

          • Sam

            Because the evidence is overwhelming. Buddhist and Taoist first-hand documentation shows that they do. While there are some who claim that no deities exist in these traditions the vast majority of adherents and historical documentation shows otherwise. There are even atheist Hindus but such claims are contrary to the beliefs of most Hindus and the documentation thereof. A simple Google search would show this to be the case, but as you said that isn’t your focus so it is understandable as to why you haven’t done any research on this. I don’t understand though why your skepticism would allow you to just believe the few people you have meet about this. I think Stephen Batchelor would be an excellent source on this. He is part of the recently developed “Secular Buddhist” trend but in his Confession of a Buddhist Atheist he makes the point that his break with traditional Buddhism was because of his theistic and supernatural skepticism and how this break put him outside the Buddhist mainstream.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            Like I said, buddhism and taoism are less centralized. We’re not going to be able to point to a single scripture and say that’s the religion, so you and I could go back and forth picking anecdotes that support a theistic or atheistic version of buddhism but neither describes a “home plate” to which the religion must return because it was never that thoroughly grounded.

            Regardless the hindu gods aren’t natural, they’re supernatural because they have magic powers, so I still don’t see how that makes buddhism a naturalist theistic religion even if a buddhist adopted all the devas and asuras and the rest of it from hinduism.

          • Sam

            As you wish. You seem intent on believing what you want regardless of the evidence, so, just like discussing with any true believer “why bother”, right?

            “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”

            ― Daniel J. Boorstin, The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself

            Oh, and, best wishes. May your journey lead to unfogged eyes.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            you: “gosh, I made an argument and he made a counter-argument… he must be a stubborn, evidence-ignoring, true believer.”

            The condescension is strong in this one. Maybe if you stopped trying to psychoanalyze your debaters and spent more time thinking about what they say and forming a response to it you can unfog your eyes. Best wishes.

          • Sam

            Sure, buddy. 😀

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            I was honestly confused as to why you’re behaving like this, then I found this: “I recently had a conversation where an individual insisted that Buddhism and Taoism had no deities, and could more accurately be described as “philosophies” than “religions”, because of their personal interactions with secular, Western Buddhist. This same person was willing and to attack and demean every aspect of Islam and Christianity because they “knew” far more about those subjects. Their unwillingness to even be skeptical of the “Buddhist” claims while know that horrors emanate from a belief in “God” is emblematic of the white washing and lack of critical thinking that takes place not just against Islam but any and all ideologies that people disagree with.”

            Now I get it, you just think I’m an idiot to be observed and mocked. That’s fine then, and you can pretend your lie accurately represents my views and how I came to them. I’m done talking to you. Enjoy the last word, or not.

      • Raphael Revels

        The author is talking specifically about the God of the bible otherwise they would not have used the words (biblical times)that being said yes there are and were religions that had (gods) that were natural beings such as the Greek and roman (gods) who were considered forces of nature but none of those religions have a god that has the qualities that the author says God can’t have. Either way the author is wrong because the God of the bible is a spiritual being who exists above this universe and cannot be defined through science because he is not a natural being but a supernatural being and science can only explain what is natural.

        • Sam

          Let’s put our personal faiths aside for a moment and actually look at what is being written. You and I both know very well that no discussion about “your faith is wrong” is going to bear fruit.

          To your first point, I don’t see where the “author is talking specifically about the God of the bible”. The statements that refer to god as understood in the biblical times refers to just that, our understanding. The author is not saying the God of the bible but is saying the way that we understand god is still framed in that perspective.

          Last, I don’t think I agree with your understanding of science. Karl Popper held that the foundations of science was falsifiablity. He was also wise enough to realize though that as our understanding of the world, and the tools that we see it with, will change. Take atoms for example. When they were originally proposed by schools of thought from Greece to India they were unfalsifiable but now they are accepted as common knowledge because of the change in our understanding of the universe and the tools by which we glean that understanding. We have seen this repeated again and again from biology to weather.

          • Raphael Revels

            Name one God other than of the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faith that has all of the qualities that the author is talking about. There is nothing wrong with my understanding of science, it can only be used to explain the physical world because it can only explain what is observable.

          • Sam

            Ahura Mazda for one, Para-Brahma for another. A third is Waheguru with a fourth being Olorun. There are more.

            But that is off point again. The author is using the God of Abraham as a reference point for comparison. If you wanted to explain television to virtual reality to someone who has only ever experienced radio would you not use radio as an example. If you wanted to explain a desert to someone who has only ever known a rain forest would you not use the rain forest to explain it?

  • Syttende Mai

    Admit it Nancy. You’re an atheist.

    • Sam

      Sounds more like pantheism (is the belief that the Universe (or nature as the totality of everything) is identical with divinity, or that everything composes an all-encompassing, immanent God. Pantheists thus do not believe in a distinct personal or anthropomorphic god) to me than atheism (is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Most inclusively, atheism is the absence of belief that any deities exist).

  • Geoff, God of Biscuits

    If god existed, there would be proof. But there isn’t.

    • Laurence Charles Ringo

      Hmm…that depends on what your concept of “God “is,doesn’t it Geoff? Lay that out,and we can take it from there.So…who is God to YOU,and what would constitute”proof” to you of said God?

      • Geoff, God of Biscuits

        Clear words spoken audibly, perceptible by more than a single person at a time and recordable on audiovisual media.

        • Laurence Charles Ringo

          Are you a boxer,Geoff? I ask because you’re doing a fair amount of bobbing and weaving here.I must insist that you give a better definition of who “God”is to YOU in the sense in the sense of which YOU mean”God”; in order to deny the existence of a thing,the thing whose existence you’re denying should have coherence and structure,and when it comes to denying the existence of God,who are you referring to, exactly? As for the examples you gave of what would constitute”proof” to you…Seriously,dude? Try again,and this time try to articulate a real answer that actually leads somewhere.—PEACE.

          • Geoff, God of Biscuits

            No: it isn’t really my responsibility to held prop up your superstitions.

          • Laurence Charles Ringo

            Well,there it is,Geoff…the last refuge of the pseudo-intellectual. And I didn’t ask you about what I believe,I thought that was clear.It’s a known axiom in Philosophy that”burdens of proofs”work both ways; the origin of the Church is predicated on the preaching of the event known as the Resurrection of Jesus The Christ;no other explanation or proof has EVER been given for the Christian Church’s origin.It certainly didn’t exist prior to that Event,whether one believes that The Resurrection actually occurred or not.The burden of proof would lie with anyone attempting to prove the origin of the Christian Church via some other medium,and that’s NEVER been successfully done.And since the vast majority of those in The Christian World believe the Being we refer to as God was the Agent responsible for the Event referred to as The Resurrection,frankly,that constitutes proof enough for the existence of God to b a viable option.Prove the origin of the Christian Church WITHOUT the Resurrection,and the reality of who God is as we (Christians )perceive Him can be thrown into question,otherwise such efforts will turn out to be an exercise in futility.Call it”superstition”if you will(which frankly smacks of pseudo-intellectual laziness), but you don’t have the wherewithal to prove it to be so,and I have to.So…reply or not,it doesn’t matter.Amighty God is as real as

          • Geoff, God of Biscuits

            It is so much easier to type than to make sense, isn’t it?

          • Laurence Charles Ringo

            So be it…you’ve shown your true colors,Geoff,and that’s all I need.Au revoir,and God bless you.

          • Sam

            What true colors?

          • Sam

            Interesting perspective.

            Do you think this same logic holds when others use the same reasoning and same dismissal of counterclaims. Let us that Buddhism for example.

            Well,there it is,[Laurence]…the last refuge of the pseudo-intellectual. And I didn’t ask you about what I believe,I thought that was clear.It’s a known axiom in Philosophy that”burdens of proofs”work both ways; the origin of the [Buddha dharma] is predicated on the preaching of the event known as the [enlightenment] of [Siddhartha Gautama];no other explanation or proof has EVER been given for the [Buddha dharma]’s origin.It certainly didn’t exist prior to that Event,whether one believes that The [Enlightenment] actually occurred or not.The burden of proof would lie with anyone attempting to prove the origin of the [Buddha dharma] via some other medium,and that’s NEVER been successfully done.And since the vast majority of those in The [Buddhist] World believe the [State] we refer to as [Buddha nature] was the [Nature] responsible for the Event referred to as The [Enlightenment],frankly,that constitutes proof enough for the existence of [Buddha nature] to be a viable option.Prove the origin of the [Buddha dharma] WITHOUT the [Enlightenment],and the reality of [what Nature] is as we ([Buddhists] )perceive [It] can be thrown into question,otherwise such efforts will turn out to be an exercise in futility.Call it”superstition”if you will(which frankly smacks of pseudo-intellectual laziness), but you don’t have the wherewithal to prove it to be so,and I don’t have to.So…reply or not,it doesn’t matter.[Buddha nature] is as real as anything else,and what you believe or not is your perogative.

            So, what do you think? Is the Buddha’s enlightenment beyond question now? Is his founding of the Buddha dharma something that must go unquestioned and blindly accepted? Have we proven that Buddha is the one to follow?

          • Laurence Charles Ringo

            Interesting premise,Sam…since I have no idea exacty what the so-called “Buddha dharma”is,it ought to be obvious that someone like me would not leave it unquestioned and blindly accept it;that’s absurd.Someone once said that…”An unexamined faith is not worth believing”…So true.The Buddha is fine for those who wish to follow him.I’ll take Jesus the Christ ALL.DAY.LONG.

          • Sam

            The premise is not whether you know anything about Buddha or the Buddha dharma but rather whether the argument we have made makes it true and beyond reproach. I took your very argument and I used it to prove a different point. Does it hold or do you find that someone should, obviously, question Jesus and the origin of the Christian Church?

          • Laurence Charles Ringo

            Hmm…I notice Geoff didn’t bother to offer his definition of who God is to you,Sam,and he won’t.Calling a belief system”superstition”is much easier,and again,caters to the pseudo-intellectual laziness of most atheistic thinking;it’s far too much work to actually engage with the thinking and philosophy undgirding deeply held beliefs.But no matter.Getting back to our dialogue,the issue is not the questioning of Jesus and the Origin of The Church;that issue has been ongoing in unbelievers’minds from the beginning,To believers and honest secular historians,it’s bizarre and baffling.The idea that Jesus didn’t exist,as one poster continously attempts to assert on this post,is so patently absurd that one can only marvel at such obstinacy;only a few fringe pseudo-“scholars”and die-hard atheists cling to that outmoded,long-discredited premise.I have in my possession a nearly 900-page tome from IVP Press entitled”Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels”that has over 75 contributers who’ve all earned PHD’S in their fields: History,philosophy,Ancient and Near Eastern studies,Ecclesiastical history,Theology,Biblical studies,individuals who earned these degrees from, and now teach and lectures at,some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the world.So if they’ve spent all this tremendous intellectual potential affirming the non-existant,well,Sam…that doesn’t say much for our educational systems,does it? Harvard.Yale.Princeton.Rutgers.Cambridge.Oxford.You know what all these prestigious institutions have in common, Sam? They ALL have Divinity schools,dedicated to the study and pursuit of the Christian faith,and the reality of who Jesus was and is.Little-known fact Sam: monks started the university system in Europe,at a time when Theology was consider the “Queen of the Sciences”.Go figure.At any rate,that’s where I’m coming from,Sam;I am an unabashed,die-hard,Spirit-filled,Spirit-led defender of The Christian Faith,without shame or apology.Touching upon your complaint about my”tone”,I freely admit that I’m no diplomat,but I do strive to not be rude or insulting when I engage with my fellow posters,although I don’t always succeed,LOL! But I’m passionate about my faith,and as it’s been said…”What you love the most is what you’ll fight the hardest for”…for me,that is My Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.—PEACE IN HIM,ALWAYS!

          • Sam

            I think Geoff finds you disingenuous in your desire to dialogue but I could be mistaken. Here I bring up your tone because it makes me think of Matthew 25:40. Is it appropriate to cast stones?

            And I don’t really think that your claim of “pseudo-intellectual” is an appropriate term to be throwing around. I think we effectively took apart your argument through a simple substitution. So name calling I don’t think is accurate or effective. Matthew 7:3 comes to mind.

            “Jesus didn’t exist” The documentation to support the actual existence is spotty at best. So it would be easy to make the case that the documentation does not support his existence and this can be found among both “honest secular historians” and “honest Christian historians”. So while you may have a “nearly 900-page tome” that has contributions from “75 contributors” with PhD’s doesn’t prove anything except there are 75 contributors who support that claim. The evidence of “experts” claiming alternatives to these truths are wide spread as well and to deal with this subject honestly one would have to respect the serious scholarship that went into that work as well. Otherwise it would be “pseudo-research” because it would only cover items that agree with you and to honestly research items you must cover all bases. So if all these different understandings of history exist what would it say of our educational system if people willfully ignore it, Laurence?

            And, Laurence, I don’t know if you know this but educational institutions throughout the middle east and east Asia have programs dedicated to there own faith traditions. Does this prove that their traditions are correct? If not, then why do you bring up how Western institutions have their own theology departments? And would this “Queen of Sciences” be a result of societal and cultural influence?

            And, Laurence, little known fact but the Christians who took over the Roman Empire destroyed schools and libraries and it was only through their lose of political domination in these areas that a number of these documents were saved. What does it say about Christians and Christianity that not only did they destroy libraries, lock up and execute scientist and people who disagreed with them, and force their interpretation on others, not to mention the pogroms and slavery endorsed and defended by the various churches. Does this history lesson prove something about Christianity and Christians or is it superfluous?

            And I understand, Laurence, that you are a “unabashed,die-hard,Spirit-filled,Spirit-led defender of The Christian Faith,without shame or apology” but does this mean that regardless of facts or evidence you will hold on to what you want to believe or will you let the truth be the truth? Would you ignore scholarship that disagrees with you because you know it is “wrong” or would you honestly consider it because being a “pseudo-scholar” is something to be avoided? Would you honestly cover-up and hide something that might disagree with what you “know” or would you let it come to light?

          • Sam

            I don’t agree with Laurence’s tone, but I am curious what operational definition of God you use. I don’t think asking for that would be “prop[ping] up your superstitions.” If anything I think that having a mutually understood definition would allow further mutual understandings to take place. So, if you would be so kind….

          • Sam

            I think it is disingenuous of you to treat Geoff that way. You asked a question and he answered it rather succinctly. Well at least the ” what would constitute”proof” to you of said God”.

            While he did not answer the “who is God to YOU” we can deduce that he feels that God would have an overwhelmingly physical presence, as we currently understand it. I would also appreciate a clearer operational definition of God by Geoff. I’ll ask him.

        • Sam

          “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
          – Arthur C. Clarke

          How would you know that such a voice was not some alien, or human technology? Or perhaps some development of a human superconsciousness that was hither too untapped?

          Would it actually have to be audible with our ear drums, like from a giant speaker, or would a direct experience by people where it side steps the ear drums and goes directly to the brain?

          And what if the language is one unknown to you and those who hear it? Would this allow it to still be “[c]lear words”? Or if the voice was in a language that has not existed for thousands of year would that still qualify?

          You said “recordable on audiovisual media” but what if everyone heard it but not record was made? Would that disprove the “God-ness” of the experience and message?

          • Geoff, God of Biscuits

            Gish Gallop.

          • Sam

            I am afraid I don’t understand how that is a response to what I said. Do you really not want to explain your position or, as many theists say about atheists, do you not have a position that is actually well thought out? If not, that is fine I suppose, but that puts you firmly in the same boat as most (I want to say all but I don’t have that level of certainty) theists regarding their position.

          • Geoff, God of Biscuits

            Fine: ask ONE question at a time.

          • Sam

            You stated:
            Clear words spoken audibly, perceptible by more than a single person at a time and recordable on audiovisual media.

            Would we need to hear the voice using our eardrums and auditory senses?

          • Geoff, God of Biscuits

            Yes. The crucial part for me is that it would *not* be some ‘inward feeling’ but would be accessible to pretty much 100% of the people who perceived it in 100% the same way.

          • Sam

            That is a fairly high bar for anything to pass.

            Regardless, how would you be able to differentiate between an auditory experience from a divine or supreme being and a technologically advanced group? The cargo cults are an example of this inability to differentiate.

          • Geoff, God of Biscuits

            *That is a fairly high bar for anything to pass.*

            Not really. You’d think it would be easy for a supposed creator-god to actually manifest-presence him/her/itself that way. But, as you say: It is apparently too much to ask.

            *Regardless, how would you be able to differentiate between an auditory experience from a divine or supreme being and a technologically advanced group?*

            People regularly mistake their own thoughts inside their heads for the voice of god. Why would my idea be so much more error-prone than that?

            But, in the event, we could differentiate by the *content*–that is, knowing things only an omniscient god would know, etc. And if aliens knew things that only said god would know then, well, they’d *be* gods and we’d be justified worshiping them wouldn’t we?

            *The cargo cults are an example of this inability to differentiate.*

            Pacific cargo cultists aren’t weird kooks or outliers: Cargo cults are absolutely *emblematic* of religious belief. Religion is *nothing but* people worshiping things they shouldn’t, mistaking mundane for transcendent, taking their own intuitions for divine writ.

            Mormonism is just Scientology plus 100 years. Christianity is just Mormonism plus 1800 years.

          • Sam

            The cargo cults are emblematic of people confusing advanced technology with the work of the gods.

            And how could you know what only a god would know? What could possibly be content that would lead you to worship? (Sorry that is two questions and you already stated you can only answer one at a time, but if you could make perhaps an exception. If it would be easier you could avoid answering the non-questions like you did before this.)

            Another non-question:
            Sure an all powerful God could make everyone hear the same thing. Interesting proposition.

          • Geoff, God of Biscuits

            *The cargo cults are emblematic of people confusing advanced technology with the work of the gods.*

            I guess I just don’t agree.

            *And how could you know what only a god would know?*

            Couple of ways I can answer that:
            1.) Something genuinely surprising. As Sam Harris says: If there were, in fact, a clear mention in a 4th century BC text about how, “About 2400 years from now, you humans will invent a system of communication that will span the globe (btw, the world is a globe) and it shall be called the internet.” Y’know, an out-and-out *proof* of omniscience? Something clearly *not* just a misunderstood aphorism or reference to millenniae-old politics, understand?

            2.) Many, many hundreds of millions of people walk the earth right now who are pretty sure they know what one or another god knows: They’ve read (or heard read) from some little old book what said god thinks. Mostly it involves “Don’t commit X, Y and Z sexual acts” or “Praise me constantly for my awesomeness”. So it’s hardly some act of colossal arrogance on my part to suggest that it might be possible for a human being to know these things.

          • Sam

            I understand.

            I guess I just don’t agree.

            Thank you for your time.

  • T_Ford

    Me thinks that if the author were to draw a picture of God, it would look an awful lot like Nancy Ellen Abrams.

    • Sam

      Hi,

      I have seen your profile pics symbol around but I don’t understand what it means. I know that it is a letter in the various Arabic scripts but context leads me to understand it has something to do with being Christian.

      Could you help me out here?

      • T_Ford

        It’s the symbol for “Nazarene,” or Christian, used by Islamic State militants in Iraq to brand Christian properties in Iraq as part of their effort to drive out an ancient Christian community with threats to convert or die. Using this avatar is my own piddling gesture to show solidarity with Middle Eastern and other Christians persecuted by Muslims.

        • Sam

          Thank you.

  • Jon Herrin

    Anthropomorphism at its very best…. God re-created in human likeness…and limitation. But a fun read. Thanks for giving me pause to think. Cheers!

    • Sam

      I always though that anthropomorphism would be Zeus, Thor, Vishnu, and other depictions of God as a human…

  • Ralph A Jansen

    Too many problems with this article.
    1. God could have existed before the universe came into being, and if people understood God, would understand that he HAD to exist before the universe came into being. God is eternal. Eternity has no beginning and no end. If God ceased to exist even for a moment, He never existed. No beginning, no end. If He had a beginning, then He is not eternal. Yet we know He is, therefore God existed before the universe came into being.

    2. God did create the universe, as everything comes from somewhere. (Regardless of the attempts to make it as though Pasteur’s experiments never took place…now that is science.) Cosmologists will NEVER be able to show anything about a one-time event. Science cannot show anything about a one-time event. Science is observable and repeatable. How does one repeat a one-time event that one did not observe? Models don’t count because no one can model anything properly. (Look up uncanny valley, and that only deals with an infinitesimally tiny part of what might as well be a speck on planet earth.) If one cannot figure out a speck on planet earth, how can they be expected to figure out a planet over 100 million light years away?

    3. You start with a flawed premise that God does not exist outside of our universe and fills every corner of it. God created the universe, and therefore can actually view all of it at the same time. Kind of like when you make a model. You are in complete control of the WHOLE model. Where the pieces go, when they will go there etc. Now imagine if you were the perfect designer who knew everything. You would know the temperature of each piece, the color, the malleability of every piece since all pieces may not be equal, etc. There is a lot to know. God knows all of this stuff because everything was created by Him. He even created natural laws. (Well, they are part of His nature which is visible in the world.)

    4. You start from a faulty premise and world view. God can intend everything that happens because He created everything and is therefore in control of everything. The question is what level of control does God actually *take*. Does God make everything happen? Does God make it rain, snow, hail, etc. Or are there systems in place that God put in place that causes this to happen? When dealing with the meta-physical, it can be difficult to understand. (To ancient people science may appear as magic. To people who do not understand the true nature around them, the metaphysical may appear as magic/legend/did not happen.)

    5. God does not exist in this universe. His existence is completely separate from that of the universe. The universe did not give God form, God gave the universe form. God can violate natural laws because natural laws came from God. You have failed to understand who God truly is, having fabricated this graven image in your mind.

    • Sam

      1. Concur.

      2. I don’t think the uncanny valley is a good example here. Everyday designers in various fields get closer and closer to impeccable replication.

      3. Concur.

      4. While I concur I don’t think it is beneficial to be as dismissive in the final sentence. Just a thought. 🙂

      5. Concur, but see my response to 4.

  • beyond partisan

    Wow! Talking about missing the forest for the trees! God couldn’t have existed before the universe began because God is complex? Whaattt? Gee, did you ever stop to think that there is MORE to existence than this particular universe or even “multi-verses”? Or that it might be possible for a complex God to develop PRIOR to the creation of this particular universe? The lack of deep thinking in this article posing as “deep thinking” is truly scary. Stop and really THINK for once. You have completely limited your thinking here and yet write smugly as if you’ve figured out some grand truth.

    • Sam

      The multi-verse point can still work in the framework provided. If anything that would justify how a “complex” God could have existed prior to our universe.

      And according to our current conceptualization of time it is inextricably tied to space and matter so to develop time and thus space and matter would have to exist.

      • beyond partisan

        God exists outside of our current space/time continuum and is therefore not limited to it. You never saw Tron? God is the programmer. We’re inside the program.

        • Sam

          That line of argument removes divinity from God. If God is just a programmer than who programmed His (or would the be ‘his’) reality?

  • Steven Small

    Any sentence that begins with “God can not “is utterly wrong before the period.

    • Sam

      Which brings up the question:

      Can God create a stone that is too heavy for God to lift?