If we consider the classic definition of God personified as some big dad in the sky that watches over us and punishes those that do wrong and rewards those that do good...OR puts the good through pain and suffering so that they may “grow” and “learn” while the evil profit and enjoy success because that is the pact they made with the devil and they are simple relishing in the Devil’s end of the bargain - then yes, by this definition they are all atheists and perhaps, so am I.
Although Brad Pitt is not known for his eternal wisdom as a great philosopher, at Cannes Film Festival he uttered some cynical words of wisdom when it comes to Christians’ belief and God and His role in our lives: “...We’re told to pray to God and everything will be all right but some times it’s just not and when it’s not, then we say it’s God’s Will.”
Having grown up in a Christian household and even praying quite often throughout my life I have to say this is a maddening contradictory progression of logic which yields the end result of “Why pray?”
So needless to say after four decades of trying to be discipline in my faith, believing that my wish is granted if I ask for it in Jesus’ name has waned as life has given me quite often the very opposite of what I ask for...for example the loss of my baby girl when my wife was five and a half months pregnant. This was due to a botched amniocenteses by the doctor in residency. During that time of complications I truly believed and had faith that everything would be just fine...because I had faith. And it wasn’t. My wife had to go through the arduous task of giving birth to a baby that we were told did not have lungs developed enough to survive outside the womb. Imagine going through the same drama of child birth, knowing that you’ll have nothing in the end. No matter what mistakes she and I made in our lives, thoughts, decisions or “sins” I simply do not believe that anything we did merited this kind of retribution from a “just God”. Nor can I accept that it was meant for some greater good yet to be realized.
Whether I wanted it to or not, my belief systems would evolve over the next four years. Beliefs are a tricky thing. They are there and you can’t simply just change them at will. They change on their own depending on your environment, experiences, and what you focus on. More importantly your beliefs are a conundrum that are based on...what you believe. They seem to have their own life that resides in your body. They are your conjoined twin, whether your a clergy or scientist. Your beliefs may even be contrary on a subconscious level to what you verbalize or believe on a conscious level. And that’s when all hell breaks lose. We have anxiety, make wrong decisions with our lives, or just completely suffer a nervous breakdowns. The nervous break down comes from when our strong beliefs, or convictions, are broken and our nervous system is in chaos trying to make sense of it all. The great motivational guru Anthony Robins says of beliefs, “Our beliefs are like unquestioned commands, telling us how things are, what’s possible and what’s impossible, what we can do and not do.” [Awaken the Giant Within]
So do I still believe in God? Not in the traditional sense. My definition of God has simply been transformed. Ironically my more pragmatic approach to God which takes into account as many of the laws of the universe and physics as I can understand, the end result is still the same as when I believed in the traditional approach of being able to figuratively pick up the phone and talk to God via ritual of prayer. The Universe is still sovereign just as we say God is. Probably a better word for it is what I hear a lot of New Age gurus say: “Source”.
Still it’s hard to find the right word. “God” is too much like a person sitting in a director’s chair in the sky “calling the shots”. “Universe” which makes sense because that word simply encompasses EVERYTHING. However the word is cold and because we are alive and many things are alive and know emotion and the ultimate emotion of love, I do not believe that the Universe is completely cold and so maybe not the right word unless we change our association with it to offer some love and perhaps even reverence to it. If it was completely cold - figuratively speaking - there would be no life. “Source” is as good as it gets I think since it gives us some label that simply means “where we came from.” Though it still feels separate if anyone can think of a better word that represents the idea of our origins and justifies the existence of life and love, let me hear it. It may be the word I use from now on.
For this article, though I shall use the word “God” since this is the most known term amongst all that sparks the debates of the centuries.
So now let’s get back to those scientists out there that I have heard say they do not believe in God (Source).
I can remember watching 60 Minutes when reporter Steve Kroft interviewed Craig Venter, microbiologist and CEO of the Celera Genomics. This is a man studying the road map of life and in his lab he has even created the first man made form of life that replicates itself. They essentially created DNA for a blue organism that multiplies. When Steve Kroft asked him about his man made life, that part of the interview went something like this:
KROFT: “Aren’t you playing God?”
VENTER: “We’re not playing anything. We’re just trying to understand the rules of life.”
KROFT: “Do you believe in God.”
VENTER: “No...[sic]...the mystery of life is a software program [DNA] and that’s more interesting to me than miracles.”
Are you kidding me? You DON’T believe in God? This man is fascinated and you see his eyes light up when he talks about our living life existing because of a set of instructions that are nothing more than a software program in the form of DNA. Life IS his God in my opinion. He does believe in God. His name for it is DNA because he speaks of it with every bit of a sense of awe and wonder and perhaps more so than some of the most devout Christians that I’ve ever met. I would correct him in saying that he does believe in God; it’s just that his image of God is different than Pat Robertson’s. Venter is still exploring a mystery. He is still feeling quite small in is theater of immense discovery. The difference between him and a theologian is that he has a library of mind-boggling evidence of just how small he is in the scope of this universe that we happened upon like a pop-up ad on a website. Craig Venter studies the tiniest of mysteries and and is in awe of his insignificance compared to the vast data of the human genome.
So Craig Venter, you do believe in God. It’s just an evolving god.
I’m using Craig as an illustration since he is one of the most recent scientists I’ve seen on TV. I would argue the same for any scientist who studies the “nature of things”. The best example of this would be physicists, especially those dealing with the universe and quantum mechanics. To study the nature of things is to study God since, from a human being’s point of view, it has all been allowed to be created. I say “from a human being’s point of view” because the very fact that we have the ability to observe and partake means that there is a creation. To reference point that the father of philosophy Descartes suggested through his work and the point that is probably the most argued point that atheists wrestle with in their defense of their view, “I know I am something and something cannot come from nothing.” (Although this is not a direct quote of his, it is considered inferred through his work as the most fundamental supposition of the existence of God).
A side note here. If you type a search in Google for “I know that I am something” and/or “something cannot come from nothing” it is very interesting how many atheist websites show up. Obviously this is one of the most argued points that atheists try to explain away just as believers in a personified God try to explain away our knowledge of biology and the universe that often conflicts with their literal interpretation of the Bible.
Now maybe it’s too late to say this but this article is not intended for fundamentalists who absolutely believe in the literal translation of Adam and Eve. This is for those that believe the creation of the Universe is God and the nature of things it the study of what God has put in front of us.
Why don’t I believe in the literal translation? Simple philosophical logic. You can be a Christian and follow my logic here. As we all know Jesus spoke in parables and when pressed “why” by his disciples, “He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” So it seems that Jesus’ knowledge of the Universe (this includes everything in it: physical and spiritual realm) is so vast and complex that he must tell simple stories for man to grasp the nature of it.
If God is just and loving of man, why then would God use a literal telling of his creation of the planet when man’s collective intellect was even less evolved than it was when Jesus would walk the earth three thousand years later? Supposing that man’s collective knowledge of our world expands with age, we were in our simplest of minds when Genesis was written. Would not God of Jesus use a parable to explain the most complicated and grandiose acts of all creation...Creation itself?
So with that said, in a way I do believe that scientists’ pursuit of science allow them to know more about God and therefore they could be considered more “Godly” than those of blind faith. God, Universe, or Source seems to be beckoning men (and women) of science to explore further. In the future, when our species has evolved enough to understand, we just may be close to understanding SOURCE.
p.s. Do I personally believe in God? Not in the personified vision of God that Fundamentalists hold. Do believe that we (all of life) are all connected and are required to seek connections and love of one another. Without love and communication with one another we will cease to exist. So there is SOMETHING to love and the necessity of it. Although hesitant to take a complete humanist approach we are all part of God (Source/Universe/etc.) The sum of all that exists, in my opinion, is God. Physicist Frank J Tipler in his book The Physics of Immortality suggest that God IS. What is, is God. Existence is God. The funny thing is that we are still learning about our existence and everything that IS. And we can make this statement because not only do we have the ability to stand here and observe this existence and declare that we exist (Descartes) but we have the ability to share this feeling and that also suggests to me that we must. Finally to quote with love and adoration one of the greatest of all atheists, Steven Hawking, we must “keep talking.”