This is an assignment I recently wrote that got very meta and I am thus posting it here. I don’t claim to be an expert and I have borrowed exercpts and ideas from lots of heres and theres, but if ever you want to call it plagiarism, think of the following as borrowed and arranged content in accordance with a simple stream of personal thought, and if ever you choose to condemn me as a pretentious nerd trying too hard at something beyond her, I say that we are all one of those in one way or the other and I am not embarassed.
“If we ever reach the point where we think we thoroughly understand who we are and where we came from, we will have failed.”
– Carl Sagan
For generations, the classic argument concerning the existence of God has remained frustratingly unresolved. The Universe, as inexplicably vast and unfathomable as it is, has baffled scientists and theologians alike and man has speculated about the creation of the cosmos and the reasons for his own consciousness a thousand different ways.
Many schools of thought with a diversity of views have come into being to seek the final answer to the God question.
There are many intricacies in the faith that people place in their respective convictions but, to generalize, religious men, who abide by scriptures, traditional writing and prevalent belief systems, can be said to hold the stance of ‘theism’, which is a belief in the existence of a god or gods, specifically of a creator who intervenes in the universe. On the other hand, hard rationalists, who refuse to acknowledge anything that is not scientifically proven, tend to be ‘atheists’, a stance that advocates a stubborn disbelief in the existence of god.
Apart from these two basic streams of belief, there is also the question of the knowability of the reality of god. Those who think we can know whether god exists or not are called ‘gnostic’ and those who think that there is no conceivable way for us to confirm the existence or non-existence of god are called ‘agnostic’.
There can be numerous elaborate debates in favor of and against all these claims.
The size of the universe is very impressive, with us on a tiny particle whirling around the sun, among a hundred thousand million suns in this galaxy, itself among a billion galaxies. Man is a latecomer in an endlessly evolving drama- can the rest be but a background for his creation? Is it not narcissistic of us tiny creatures to presume that the whole infinity of things was created by an Almighty entity of our own imagination for the sake of our puny little human lives? Is it not close-minded and presumptuous to proclaim a religion as the absolute truth where there is no believable evidence supporting it? Isn’t it bizarre to believe so strongly in stories and myths that we ourselves created in ancient times when we had no clue how vast the world truly was?7 Thus, isn’t gnostic theism a logically flawed stance to hold?
To staunchly believe in something simply because you have been told to do so is equivalent to willful ignorance. Further, in the multiplicity of religions and theological stances, how do you choose which one is most authentic and honest? How do you fear penance in a hypothetical afterlife when death remains the biggest mystery?
To summarize, what do you base your convictions on but the incomplete teachings of the uninformed past?
On the other hand, agnostic atheism, the other extreme branch of thinking, which condemns all religious beliefs as naïve and ridiculous, is a tall statement to make as well, because the absence of evidence does not in any way confirm the absence of a coherent God- it simply makes the matter more uncertain.
The enterprise of Science is fueled by the curiosity and doubts of men. It is imperative to have uncertainty as a fundamental part of your inner nature to be truly rational. Nothing is certain or proved beyond all doubt. We investigate out of inquisitiveness and as we develop more information in the sciences, it is not that we find out the truth, but that we come closer to grasping what can be considered more likely. We must realize that the statements of science are not of what is true and what is not true, but what is known to different degrees of certainty.
Thus, even according to the principles of science that atheism so proudly resorts to, this stream of thinking is very condemning and obstinate.
Further, it denies people the comfort of placing faith in the bigger picture. We know that, even with moral values granted, human beings are very weak; they must be reminded of ethics to be able to follow their consciences. It is not just a matter of having a right conscience, but also a question of maintaining strength to do what is known to be right. And thus religion is important because it gives strength, comfort, and inspiration to follow prevalent moral views. It gives shelter to those men who proclaim “God, I need to believe you created me: we are so small down here.”
In a world where all our beliefs can at best stay dubious, I believe the perfect way to think about God is as a liberal skeptic.
Civilization seems to stand on two great heritages. One is the scientific spirit of adventure or the humility of intellect, that promises a journey into the recognized unknown where everything is decidedly uncertain, and the other is the heritage of religious ethics, which establishes the basis of action on love, the brotherhood of all men, the value of the individual, or the humility of the spirit. Both worlds clash and intertwine on multiple dimensions and manifest as unique realities.
If we ever hope to understand God, we must be cautioned from our own prejudices. When we blatantly accept or deny something that is not proven, we become less welcoming to potential answers and forget to be open-minded and perceptive. Even as the God Question remains full of suspense, the search for divine evidence continues to evolve. As inherently curious creatures, we humans must keep our eyes open and our minds clear, so that we are ready for any kind of knowledge when it does come to us.
Like the famous actor, John Hurt said, “We are all racing towards death. No matter how many great, intellectual conclusions we draw during our lives, we know they’re all only man-made, like God. I begin to wonder where it all leads. What can you do, except do what you can do as best you know how.”