Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Atheist's Paradox - A discussion with my friend, Edward

Edward, a friend of mine and a believer in God, recently posted a comment on my Facebook page which presents the "Atheist's Paradox". I had asked him to place the comment here, but technology didn't seem to want to cooperate, so at his request, I am presenting our discussion here. I will update further discussion between us on this topic here as time permits.


The atheist's paradox: Those without experience of God's presence are in no place to talk about him, and those who have are in no place to doubt.


The Atheist can comment about the god character he or she has read about and say, "If an omniscient, omnipresent god like this did exist, why would this god leave such a confusing message behind, and punish those who didn't believe with everlasting torture?" These are valid questions, and for many Atheists, a satisfactory answer has not yet been given.

So, if a non-believer is in no place to talk about this god, how would believers expect to engage them a dialogue which would allow them to provide a convincing argument otherwise?


Darwin was quoted “Man understanding God is like a dog trying to understand calculus.” We often want to push our perspective on what God should be, which usually is the perfect father or mother figure we wished was in our lives making us safe and happy. We also by nature seem to want God to be omni-fare making life the most well monitored playground imaginable.

But the most casual of observations will teach us that God did not make this universe a child’s dream like candy garden. The God who made little fluffy bunny rabbits also made foxes to kill and eat them; then when we protect the rabbits from the foxes we only hand the rabbits to crueler fate of starvation via overpopulation. No matter what, rabbit loses; doesn’t sound much like an all loving and kind God does it. To have a positive relationship with God, one must get past the notion that the meaning of life is to be coddled and cared for by your creator.

God like the like the mass of a photon may well not be directly observable. So if we are not quick enough to catch God winking at us, then the best we can do is secondary observations borrowing from statisticians and sociologist the tools to see if evidence exits.

I would be interested to see the source of that quote from Darwin. The closest I could find was the following:
"I feel most deeply that this whole question of Creation is too profound for human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton! Let each man hope and believe what he can."

In any respect, I believe I understand the point you are making here. I have heard Atheist skeptics say that if you want to ask them about belief in God, first you need to define what "God" is.

Reading what you have written, I am reminded of Mathematician and Philosopher Gottfried Leibniz, who is famous for saying God created the best of all possible worlds. Note he was not saying that it was a wonderful place where everything is delightful and joyous. He meant that the world was the way it was simply because it could not be any other way. Put another way, he believed that God was a perfect being who made the world the most perfect way possible. Making it any different would simply have resulted in a worse world.

It doesn't convince me of God's existence, but I do think it's an interesting way of viewing the world. So, to bring this back to the issue of the paradox with the definition of God that you have provided (your last paragraph), I, an Atheist, am talking about (or blogging about) God although I do not believe I am experiencing His presence. Perhaps the paradox should be worded as my late father (a former Baptist preacher) used to say when I was a child:
"For the non-believer, proof cannot be found. For the believer, proof is not necessary."

This I can agree with. Given your definition, it does come down to an issue of faith. Faith is the stickler point for me. Darwin said, "...this whole question of Creation is too profound for human intellect." Then he followed up with, "Let each man hope and believe what he can." Seems like he left "belief" up to the individual.

To believe or have faith that there was some "creator" responsible for the Big Bang and life on Earth is understandable and maybe even plausible. However, to also believe that this "creator" is interested in our morals and day to day activities, demands that we worship and praise him, and wants us to accept 2000 year old writings as his word and commandments for how we are to do these things just seems (forgive me) absolutely ridiculous.

I am of the mind that just because I don't have all the answers to the questions of "life the universe and everything," it doesn't mean that I fill in all of those unanswered questions with "God did it." Today's scientists, through experimentation, study, and peer review, have managed to answer many questions that were unanswerable in Darwin's day. So I still hold out hope that we will someday have those answers we seek, although it most likely won't be in my lifetime.

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