Yesterday I posted something political, so today I’ll head into religious territory to grapple with that age old question: is there a God? To be sure, it’s really more of a recent question. Go back far enough and you find certainty that there are many Gods. Even the Hebrew God that now dominates three major world religions started as a local God – the Hebrews were not originally monotheists. Still, the question has merit, it can’t be dismissed.
Consider: Why is there something and not nothing? By all our logic and laws of physics, we shouldn’t be able to get something from nothing. Some might claim that reality is infinite – infinite in the past, and in the future (which would be two infinities, but OK). We can get out of that problem with an obvious observation: our space-time universe emerged from the big bang, and thus had a beginning. One could even claim it was “created” (either by volition or chance).
That actually gets us somewhere. If the origin of our space-time universe comes from outside space-time, then it is utterly incomprehensible to us. I don’t mean just hard to understand or figure out, but beyond human understanding. Our minds are programmed for a space-time universe. Try to think of something without it having a space or time – maybe you can imagine something really abstract, but one can’t truly imagine a reality – a world – outside of space-time. All our concepts of processes, change, evolution, mutation, etc., assume space-time. We don’t even get space-time right. We think of them as separate – time is the progression of events, space is where these events take place. But physicists know that space-time is a single entity, even if that is hard to comprehend (and don’t get me started on quantum physics).
So to the God question. If you posit “God” as some old man with a grey beard, well, that’s a space-time kind of being. Any “God” that exists would be outside of space-time, and thus incomprehensible to us. In fact, one could posit “God” as simply the source of this space-time universe, emerging from “outside” space-time. I have to put “outside” in quotes, and emerging should be in quotes too, since those are space-time concepts that really can’t apply to something not in space-time. But I have no choice, we can’t think in terms truly outside space-time.
I’m ready to accept that there is a God according to that definition, but it doesn’t tell us much about what this God is like or even if it is volitional (rather than some kind of accidental process…and terms like “process” are space-time terms…you get the picture).
Do we have any way to transcend space-time and sense what might be outside it? Maybe. Intuition, emotion, meditation, out of body experiences, and forms of spirituality do claim a non-corporeal and perhaps non-temporal nature. The problem is that once we try to translate these into something communicable, we run into the same problem – our language and our rational minds are bounded by space-time.
Yet if our universe had to come from outside space-time, and if we can’t comprehend anything outside space-time, then a belief in a God-concept (even if not a particularly well defined or traditional God) makes sense. And I think that’s as far as I can take this. There is likely a God, but that’s only if we define “God” in a way that is so broad that we cannot know its attributes, or even if it has volition.
There is one more tool we have that might help – imagination. One reason art speaks to us is that our imaginations seems to hold knowledge and understandings that are beyond communicable thoughts and words. Music, the visual arts and even poetry all try to communicate something beyond our usual rational mode of operation.
So I’ll choose to imagine “God” as something that we are all a part of, connected to, and we have chosen to live in the space-time world to learn lessons and have fun. Note I left out suffering – we can choose that, if we need it to learn, but that’s not why we’re here (and if that sounds callous, well, if we’re all part of the same entity, then we all suffer when one person suffers, even if we don’t experience directly at that moment in space-time).
This God is thus personal, and its laws reflect a kind of golden rule – if we’re all connected and part of the same whole, then we should treat anyone else as we would like to be treated. But since we are separate entities, we have differences, and in dealing with others we have to recognize those differences – I like to be left alone if something bad happens, others like to be consoled. So the golden rule has to be taken a step deeper, not just how we would like to be treated, but what would be kind and considerate treatment for other individuals based on their identity.
Can I prove this? Of course not. Do I believe it absolutely true? Nope, it’s an imagined notion of God I choose to hold playfully without dogmatism. Is that good enough for me? Yes. But it’s up to you all to use your imagination and then decide if you find a God concept good enough for you. This does mean that forcing beliefs on others makes no sense. So I believe there is a God, but I reject religious dogma.