This is DAY 6 in a seven-day discussion of issues raised on my Facebook Wall by some "non-theist" friends.
Some have put forth the contention that an evolving “God concept” in our brains somehow created the biological need for us to believe in God, which presumably means that all the biblical and social testimony of God's divine interaction with people throughout history must all be made up.
But frankly, for me, this assertion takes too preposterous an amount of “faith” (in the sense in which some have used that word) to believe. Why? One reason is Occam’s Razor … the simplest explanation usually is the best. Unless there is evidence to the contrary, I am inclined to take the historical and biblical accounts of God’s influence on human history, the testimony of multiple eyewitnesses recorded in Scripture, at face value, believing their testimony to be internally and externally consistent and that those who testified can be deemed trustworthy. It takes more faith for me to believe that somehow it’s all a big conspiracy, a big lie to get me (for whatever reason? There really isn't one I can think of that makes any sense at all) to believe in a God who isn’t there.
I simply can’t see a postulated negative motivation of all those eyewitnesses who provided their compelling accounts of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. Not to mention all the Old Testament prophets and others who witnessed to God’s interaction with humans throughout Scripture. What was the cost of these supposedly manufactured lies? In many (if not most) cases it was a grisly death by martyrdom. If there were recantations (“Please don’t kill me! I confess, I really made it all up!”) they’re not recorded.
And how do you explain the Apostle Paul? His dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus? You could plead insanity or some such, but as we are studying the brilliance of his logic in the book of Romans, I just don’t see it. I’ve read what crazy people write (believe me, I have), and it doesn’t ring the same.
Most of all, of course, there’s Jesus himself. He claimed to be God. These claims were either manufactured by someone, or else he was a liar, or he was deceived (a lunatic) … or they were true. And then there's his resurrection, which we celebrate this weekend. Eyewitness accounts claimed that he was raised from the dead! No one who believes otherwise has been able to produce a body to prove these accounts false.
It also seems to me there’s a logical problem with postulating that a God concept has “evolved” within the human brain. You can't have your cake and eat it, too … if this “God concept” evolved for communitarian reasons, because it had social utility, then how could some “advanced” individuals (who are really somehow smarter than everyone else) think that their rejection of this concept makes them smarter than everyone else? Wouldn’t that rejection instead be a step backwards and away from group survival?
Furthermore, even if the evolutionary hypothesis of religion was correct, it doesn't prove that God doesn’t exist. Even if our brains did evolve a God concept, we are still responsible to assess whether the claims of Christ are true or not. It's actually worse than that: the whole question of truth becomes a real problem if evolution is true, which in and of itself calls the claim to truth for evolutionary theory into doubt.
Couldn't the supposed "evolution" of a God-concept in reality be a hard-wired, God-shaped “hole” placed there by God himself, who claims that he created us and that we need to connect with him in order to fulfill our purpose?
I’ll be honest here, because another possible explanation presents itself. I confess a predisposition to suspect that every crisis of faith is more likely to find its roots in moral crisis than in intellectual struggle. As I’ve followed what has been written by at least one avowed non-theist, it looks more (from where I sit) like her personal turning point coincided with just such a slide, possibly accompanied by (or precipitated by) some sort of interpersonal trauma; rather than some sort of an intellectual challenge to her supposed faith.
But, obviously, I can’t say this with any degree of certainty, as I don’t really know her personally and have not yet seen any rational arguments or any evidence for what she claims to be true. (Frankly I'm not even sure what she claims to be true. She seems to have spent all of her energy attacking what others have said, rather than exerting herself to say anything of value.)
All I know is what she has written, and what I read in the papers, as they say.
I have read a bit on the topic of the so-called “God concept,” written by people like Richard Dawkins, Nathaniel Branden and Ursula Goodenough. As far as I have been able to tell, they all start their constructs from a presupposition that God must not really be there, that evolution alone is a more sensical explanation for all that we see. Then they seem to proceed from there. Really makes me wonder if the primary motivation for their presupposition is that they don’t like the fact the idea of God imposing his moral code on them, either.
Also, despite their utter commitment to evolutionary theory, none that I have read ever get around to addressing the fundamental issue of ultimate cause (what caused the initial proteins and amino acids to get together and align themselves in such a way as to create sustainable and reproducible “life”? what was the initial, causative agent?); but then I realize they would also claim that we theists (and deists) have been unable to answer the question, “What caused God?” I guess we’re both in a quandary.
The Bible says that God had no cause, that he simply was. (“Before Abraham was, I Am.”) I'm not going to try and explain that, my brain is far too small. But the evolutionist’s quandary is even worse. If there was no creator, then what caused us? (And the life that preceded us?) What was the initial cause of all that exists?
Christians often speak of how we are created with a “God-sized hole” in our hearts, which only he can fill. This is not a literal biblical concept (not in these words, though I think Scripture supports the idea), and to support it directly people most often quote St. Augustine’s Confessions: “You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you.”
It seems to me that anyone who postulates that our brains now have an (evolved) need to entertain a God concept is focusing on the flip side of this principle. Or perhaps it is simply an attempt to explain the power and influence of conscience?
In writing to the Romans his basic theological treatise, Paul builds a case that some of the fundamental things that can be known about God, even “apart from the Law” (his direct revelation of his standards, designed to demonstrate to us the vast gulf that separates our character from his), are revealed about him a) in creation (nature), and b) in our hearts (what old-timers called “natural law” -- our consciences, our more-or-less innate sense of right and wrong). The unbeliever looks at natural law and says, “Oh, that’s common sense, everyone innately knows the difference between right and wrong just because that’s common human experience. Self-preservation declares that it doesn’t make sense to lie and cheat and steal and take our neighbor’s wife and do injustice and murder.” The believer, of course, looks at these same things as evidence of a standard that God created within us. He cites as evidence the fact that if natural law were not from God, we wouldn’t break it a thousand times every day, even though we acknowledge its value.
I guess you can chalk up this disparity to the difference in perspective between disbelief and faith. It always does seem to boil down to that.
The really interesting thing to me (which I’m sure could be “explained away” by brain biologists) is that our conscience convicts us even when we do these things in a way that no one else knows about, that “hurts no one else” … for instance, even when we steal our neighbor’s wife in our hearts only. To fantasize about adultery with my neighbor’s wife surely doesn’t harm my neighbor, or his wife? Right? And yet my conscience convicts me even of this secret pleasure, nonetheless.
Christ, of course, linked the two – he said that me lusting over my neighbor’s wife is fundamentally the same thing as simply taking her and having adultery. Ouch. He must not have understood the biology of the brain.
The biblical position of course is that all such sin hurts us, and pains God in that it separates us from him and is therefore an affront to his love for us. It doesn’t lessen or diminish him in any way (by definition, God cannot be diminished by our sin, or else he wouldn’t be God), but that isn’t to say he doesn’t hate it for what it does to those he loves. And that he doesn’t ultimately act to put a stop to it.
Tomorrow: We'll finally wrap this up with "God Vs. Evil." How could a loving God create, or at least tolerate, the presence of evil?
Good news from Malawi!
5 years ago