I’ve been reading a lot of philosophy texts lately, and it’s really got me thinking on some things. Now, first of all, I suppose I should mention that I am not all that unbiased on this issue. My past experiences and knowledge play, to a large part, a very great role in the thoughts that are to follow. I do not intend to pretend otherwise, and those of you who have followed my various blogs over the decade or more that I’ve been blogging know that this journey has been a long one, and is most likely by no means at an end.
That being said, onward!
I think it is important to define the question that I see as the heart of this issue, namely, is it logical and possible that a supernatural being exists, and what are the implications of each? A simply put question, and one that I shall take a stab at in the following.
On the question of logic, I must say that I’ve read numerous arguments on both sides of this issue, from the Christian philosophers such as Augustine, St Paul, and Aquinas, to the philosophers like Kant, Russell, and others.
One main argument from the side of the Christians is that every building has a builder, every watch must have a maker, etc.
The thinking with this argument is that there must have been some supernatural being that created the universe as we know it, gave it it’s laws, substance, and the like.
This argument can easily be defeated by pointing out that everything has a maker, then the supernatural being must have a maker. To simply say that a supernatural being is above this cycle doesn’t hold.
Furthermore, is it really more logical to assume that there is a supernatural being created the universe than to suppose that the universe simply began? As Bertrand Russell argues, isn’t it logical that if a supernatural being were responsible for our existence, that he or she would have done a better job?
On the possibility of a supernatural being’s existence, I must concede that anything is possible. That being said, I certainly do not think that it is any more possible than the possibility previously mentioned, that the universe as we know it simply began.
Again, there seem to be many arguments, that the world is so complex, there is so little margin for error, that there must be a grand architect.
I think for all intents and purposes, we can at least agree that Darwin gave us substantial evidence to the contrary, though by no means did it settle the match. It is entirely possible that a grand architect did design the universe, created it in such a way and set it on such a course that everything that happens is predetermined. As the Bible says, that the supernatural being knew us before we were born. This would tend to belittle the human experience even far more, I think, then the possibility that we are no more than infinitesimal grains of sand in the universe, and our actions, however great we may perceive them to be, really have no impact in the universal scale of things. On the Christian’s dogma of free will, I’ll simply say that the evidence that logic in a supernatural being knowing everything yet at the same time allowing us free will is sketchy. Then, the two options that are left then, are 1) that there is a supernatural being and we are all puppets in the play with no free will or 2) that there is no being and our lives, for all intents and purposes do not matter nearly as much as we would like.
So, that brings us to part two of the question, which I started answering in the above, but wish to extrapolate more here.
If there is a supernatural being governing the universe, then there are two implications I would briefly like to consider.
If there is a supernatural being and, (because I this topic would make the blog way too long) there is an afterlife, one of punishment and one of reward, then it seems to me our lives aren’t so much as a journey but a balancing act where we must constantly try and please our maker to earn eternal reward. Does this seem like something a supernatural being who could create an entire universe would do? What gratification can a being such as that get from a bunch of little humans running around trying to make him happy? If that was really what he or she were after, then why not make it so that there wasn’t an alternative?
And again, if there is a supernatural being and let’s say, for the sake of our argument here, that the universe was engineered from the beginning to play out exactly as it is. That means that everything that has ever happened in the universe can be blamed or given credit to the creator. The atomic bomb, Hitler, slavery, and every other evil thing is the direct result of the engineering of the supernatural being. Along the same thread, our lives and actions are do not make any changes, nothing we ever do could have happened any other way, regardless of the idea that we had a choice in the matter. Bums were made to be bums, teachers couldn’t be anything but, pedophiles are certainly not to blame, the supernatural being made them so, which is certainly unsettling.
So since we have discussed to implications if the IS a supernatural being, I think it only fair that we discuss two if there isn’t a supernatural being.
If there isn’t a supernatural being, then we are again belittled into minuscule specks that don’t even show up on a grand universal radar. Perhaps we can find some solace in the fact that our lives at least have meaning relative to our world, which is, for the time being at least, all we are really able to concern ourselves about.
By the same token, if there is no supernatural being that we must live to please, we must both find solace in the fact that we will rot and be forgotten, and learn to live without supernatural “dictates” telling us right from wrong, therefore learning to make this distinction ourselves. I think, and many philosophers seem to agree with me on this point, that the fear of death and being forgotten are two main reasons that religion, with the promise of afterlife, are so popular and create such zealots.
Even more important, if there is no supernatural being handing out a moral code to live by… or whose followers hand out such a code, then we must find a way to make the distinction ourselves, navigating the gray areas of morality on our own, which is both scary and awesomely intriguing. If we have no higher power to live to please, then our morality must come from our own philosophizing and shouldn’t be hindered, although regrettably, it probably will and is, by ulterior motives.
Well, that friends, is all I’ve got at the moment, although I’m sure that this will lead to further excursions.