Tuesday, 12 March 2013

An infant’s regression: Deism is no threat, but you may be

I suspect anyone with a child has eventually had that conversation where they answer a question and are met with “Why?” Answer that question, and you will be met with the same question. Every. Single. Time. Until, ironically, you’re screaming like a baby, “WHY?!”

Granted, I don’t have a child, so I can’t say that this is the case. But since enough people say it, it must be true.

At any rate, to me, this is somewhat like debating with some theists. Not all of course, but some. “What caused the diversity of life?” Evolution. “What caused life, so that evolution could take place?” Probably abiogenesis. “What created inorganic matter, so abiogenesis could take place?” The Big Bang. “What created the Big Bang?”


I’ll be honest, I don’t mind when I inevitably stumble upon a question that I don’t know the answer to. In fact, my very happiness depends on it. My image of heaven is me, surrounded by books, on a pier overlooking all reality, devouring every material fact that exists. If I could also have someone to bore with all these facts, all the better (they would probably see it differently – Sartre might call it hell).

However, I’m honest about my ignorance on topics. There are many things I do not know or understand, but I will not insert supernatural explanations just to make sense of these gaps in my knowledge. Rather, I’ll shrug my shoulders and say “good question” (alternatively, I might call up Dr. Wikipedia).

The conclusion these individuals are looking for is that, eventually, we need to arrive at a first cause. And not just any first cause, but an uncaused first cause. This cause, of course, is God – timeless, all powerful and without precedent. Why? Because!

To me, that’s a few too many causes and at least one too few.

But go ahead, make my day: worship that god. I don’t care if you do. Because that god, which you’re spending so much time and effort to justify, is not Yahweh. Or Allah. Or Krishna. Or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Though it might be Russel’s Teapot – I haven’t ruled that out yet.

That god, which has no characteristics other than that it created the universe and set all the laws of physics in motion, does not tell you to limit the rights of women. It does not tell you that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman. It does not tell you that there are 72 virgins waiting in heaven for martyrs, that a wafer of bread will turn into disembodied 2,000 year-old flesh, or that poverty exists as punishment for an individual’s misdeeds in some prior life.

I’m reminded of a song called “I ain’t afraid” by Holly Near, which goes like this:

I ain't afraid of your Yahweh
I ain't afraid of your Allah
I ain't afraid of your Jesus
I'm afraid of what you do in the name of your god
I don’t challenge a deistic god. Regarding a truly deistic god, I’ll happily call myself agnostic. I just don’t care that much about it. And actually, now that I think about it, I don’t even care all that much if you worship some particular god.

But when you start making actual truth claims about the world; when you start limiting the rights and freedoms of other people; when you prevent your child from receiving medical attention because you believe in faith healing; then I’m going to get fired up. And yes, I will challenge your beliefs.

I will challenge your beliefs not because there is anything intrinsically wrong with believing in God, but because there are certain dangerous beliefs associated with God that must be challenged. Perhaps not beliefs held by most moderate theists, but by others like them – people that follow their religion religiously.

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