Scriptures are considered the word of God. If you are atheist like me, you know that all words come from men. Gods have no words. This raises an interesting question about the men who wrote down these words. Why did they imply (or flat-out say) that they were uttering God’s words?
I thought I was done with this atheism series. However, I came across this passage from Wayne Dyers’s book, Your Sacred Life. A friend of mine what sapped it as a kind of admonition to those of us who don’t believe.
I want to wrap up this series on atheism with a personal story about the point in time where I started diverging from the concept of God. I was very young then, about five years old. I had lost a pencil. It had just slipped out of my schoolbag, which was nothing more than a plastic basket with open weaves and a handle. When I realized that I had lost the pencil, I was quite upset. I think I was worried that I would get a scolding for my carelessness. You see, my family wasn’t rich. We were slightly better off than the households in our neighborhood, but quite poor by any global standards. The new pencil was, to me, a prized possession.
The atheist-theist debate boils down to a simple question — Did humans discover God? Or, did we invent Him? The difference between discovering and inventing is the similar to the one between believing and knowing. Theist believe that there was a God to be discovered. Atheists “know” that we humans invented the concept of God. Belief and knowledge differ only slightly — knowledge is merely a very very strong belief. A belief is considered knowledge when it fits in nicely with a larger worldview, which is very much like how a hypothesis in physics becomes a theory. While a theory (such as Quantum Mechanics, for instance) is considered to be knowledge (or the way the physical world really is), it is best not to forget the its lowly origin as a mere hypothesis. My focus in this post is the possible origin of the God hypothesis.
The only recourse an atheist can have against this argument based on personal experience is that the believer is either is misrepresenting his experience or is mistaken about it. I am not willing to pursue that line of argument. I know that I am undermining my own stance here, but I would like to give the theist camp some more ammunition for this particular argument, and make it more formal.
I have a reason for delaying this post on the fifth and last argument for God by Dr. William Lane Craig. It holds more potency than immediately obvious. While it is easy to write it off because it is a subjective, experiential argument, the lack of credence we attribute to subjectivity is in itself a result of our similarly subjective acceptance of what we consider objective reason and rationality. I hope that this point will become clearer as you read this post and the next one.
In the previous post, we considered the cosmological argument (that the Big Bang theory is an affirmation of a God) and a teleological argument (that the highly improbable fine-tuning of the universe proves the existence of intelligent creation). We saw that the cosmological argument is nothing more than an admission of our ignorance, although it may be presented in any number of fancy forms (such as the cause of the universe is an uncaused cause, which is God, for instance). The teleological argument comes from a potentially wilful distortion of the anthropic principle. The next one that Dr. Craig puts forward is the origin of morality, which has no grounding if you assume that atheism is true.
Prof. William Lane Craig is way more than a deist; he is certainly a theist. In fact, he is more than that; he believes that God is as described in the scriptures of his flavor of Christianity. I am not an expert in that field, so I don’t know exactly what that flavor is. But the arguments he gave do not go much farther than the deism. He gave five arguments to prove that God exists, and he invited Hitchens to refute them. Hitchens did not; at least, not in an enumerated and sequential fashion I plan to do here.
Recently, I have been listening to some debates on atheism by Christopher Hitchens, as recommended by a friend. Although I agree with almost everything Hitchens says (said rather, because he is no longer with us), I find his tone bit too flippant and derisive for my taste, much like The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. I am an atheist, as those who have been following my writings may know. Given that an overwhelming majority of people do believe in some sort of a supreme being, at times I feel kind of compelled to answer the question why I don’t believe in one.
I got in trouble for asking this question once. The person I asked the question got angry because she felt that it was too personal. So I am not going to ask you whether you believe in God. Don’t tell me — I will tell you! I will also tell you a bit more about your personality later in this post.
Ok, here is the deal. You take the quiz below. It has over 40 true-or-false questions about your habits and mannerisms. Once you answer them, I will tell you whether you believe in God, and if so, how much. If you get bored after say 20 questions or so, it is okay, you can quit the quiz and get the Rate. But the more questions you answer, the more accurate my guess about your faith is going to be.
q: When you walk into a theater, classroom, or auditorium (and assuming that there are no other influential factors), you tend to sit on the right side.
q: When taking a test, you prefer an objective style of questions (true/false, multiple choice, matching) rather than subjective (essays).
q: You often have hunches.
q: When you do have hunches, you follow them.
q: You have a place for everything and keep everything in its place.
q: When you are learning a dance step, it is easy for you to learn by imitating the teacher and getting the feel of the music.
q: When you are learning a dance step, it easier for you to learn the sequence of movements and talk your way through the steps.
q: You prefer to keep the same arrangement of your furniture; you don’t like to move occasionally.
q: You can tell approximately how much time passed without a watch.
q: It is easier for you to understand algebra than geometry (speaking in strictly relative terms).
q: It easier for you to remember people’s faces rather than their names.
q: When given the topic “school”, you would prefer to express your feelings through writing rather than drawings.
q: When some one is talking to you, you respond to the word meaning, rather than the person’s word pitch and feelings.
q: When speaking, you use few gestures. (i.e., you very seldom your hands when you talk.)
q: Your desk or your work area is neat and organized.
q: It is easier for you to read to grasp the main ideas rather than specific details.
q: You do your best thinking sitting erect, rather than lying down.
q: You feel more comfortable saying/doing well-reasoned things rather than humorous things.
q: In math, you can explain how you got the answer.
q: You always wear a watch.
q: You keep a journal.
q: You believe there is a right and a wrong way to do everything.
q: You have difficulty following clear step-by-step directions.
q: The expression “Life is just a bowl of cherries” makes no sense to you.
q: You like it when people stick to their schedule.
q: If somebody asked you for directions to get somewhere, you would give clear step-by-step instructions rather than draw a map.
q: If you lost something, you would try to remember where you saw it or used it last rather than look for it everywhere.
q: If you don’t know which way to turn, you would think taking a chance (tossing a coin, for example) is as good as going with your instincts.
q: You are pretty good at math.
q: If you had to assemble something, you’d read the directions first.
q: You are almost always on time getting places.
q: You set goals for yourself so that you don’t slack off.
q: When somebody asks you a question, you turn your head to the left.
q: If you have a tough decision to make, you write down the pros and the cons.
q: You would make a good detective.
q: You are musically inclined.
q: You believe there are two sides to every story.
q: You keep a to-do list.
q: You feel comfortable expressing yourself with words (writing), rather than pictures and colors (drawing).
q: Before you take a stand on an issue, you get all the facts.
q: You often lose track of time.
q: If you forgot someone’s name, you would go through the alphabet until you remembered it.
q: When you are confused, you usually try to figure it out rather than go with your gut instinct.
q: You have considered becoming a lawyer, journalist, or doctor (but not a poet, a politician, an architect, or a dancer).
Once you have your Score (or Rate, if you didn’t finish the quiz), click on the button corresponding to it.
Here is how it works. There is a division of labor going on in our brain, according to the theory of hemispheric specialization of brain functions. In this theory, the left hemisphere of the brain is considered the origin of logical and analytical thinking, and the right hemisphere is the origin of creative and intuitive thinking. The so-called left-brain person is thought to be linear, logical, analytical, and unemotional; and the right-brained person is thought to be spatial, creative, mystical, intuitive, and emotional.
This notion of hemispheric specialization raises an interesting question: is atheism related to the logical hemisphere? Are atheists less emotional? I think so, and this test is based on that belief. The quiz tests whether you are “left-brain” person. If you score high, your left-brain is dominant, and you are likely to be more analytical and logical than intuitive or creative. And, according to my conjecture, you are likely to be an atheist. Did it work for you?
Well, even if it didn’t, now you know whether you are analytical or intuitive. Please leave a comment to let me know how it worked.
[This post is an edited excerpt from my book The Unreal Universe]
Photo by Waiting For The Word