Big topic: why God doesn't exist. And an uncomfortable one, for most people. So I'll ease into it, before doing my best to burst some believing bubbles.
I experienced a quasi-miracle this morning. "Quasi," because it really wasn't one. But to someone religious what happened to me would be nothing short of miraculous. Aside from the fact that the miracle pointed to no-God.
A few days ago I wrote about multiple universes and my newly founded Church of Holy Fuck! Because that's what I say when I ponder the notion of many me's (and you's) populating the infinite cosmos.
I don't come across mentions of multiple universes very often. My reading usually goes off in different directions. Such as "Why I Became an Atheist: a former preacher rejects Christianity," by John Loftus.
So there I was this morning, making my way through the "Does God Exist?" chapter, and I came across…
What is the possibility of our particular universe having arisen out of an infinite VOID where there may be up to an infinite number of universes each arising out of the VOID, and where there may be no ordered laws prohibiting something coming from nothing, or something existing without beginning? Who knows?
Not me, surely. No one, really.
But I did know at that moment, or rather, feel, that something was sending a message to me. After all, what is the chance that I'd read the same sentiment about multiple universes just a few days apart, in two widely dissimilar books, when in my whole life I'd only been exposed to these thoughts a handful of times?
Well, obviously the chance is 100%, because it happened to me. Anything that happens, in fact, is absolutely certain to occur – since it did.
Religious types like to emphasize how unlikely it is that our universe could have come into being in the life-compatible fashion that it did, with gravity and other forces of nature supposedly fine-tuned to allow the formation of stars and such, which allows enough time for planets (and eventually humans) to evolve.
But Loftus points out:
Stating the odds as intelligent design (ID) theorists do is highly misleading since they presume that life must have turned out exactly as it has. All we are left with is rarity. But "rarity by itself shouldn't necessarily be evidence of anything. When one is dealt a bridge hand of thirteen cards, the probability of being dealt that particular hand is less than one in 600 billion. Still it would be absurd for someone to be dealt a hand, examine it carefully, calculate that the probability of getting it is less than one in 600 billion, and then conclude that he must not have been dealt that very hand because it is so very improbable." [quote from John Allen Paulos, "Innumeracy"]
So here's the best reason for concluding that God doesn't exist: there's no need for God.
At least, not as an explanation for why the universe is what it is. God may fulfill various human needs (sense of meaning, relief from fear of death, and so on), but there's no reason the cosmos needs a reason for existing.
Bertrand Russell observed in an interesting radio debate on the existence of God, " I should say that the universe is just there, and that's all. " Of course, he still had a lot else to say. Russell was a philosopher, after all.
This makes increasing sense to me. The more I read scientific, religious, metaphysical, mystical, and philosophical speculation about the origin of the universe, the more ludicrous all this seems.
Russell said in the interview that "the concept of cause is not applicable to the total." Similarly, Loftus writes:
Whenever it comes to unexplainable "brute facts," we reach an impasse. We all must begin with something that exists as a "brute fact." Since this is the case, agnosticism is the default intellectual position. When leaving the default position, Christians must have reasons for struggling up the ladder to a full-blown Christianity, past pantheism, deism, Judaism, and Islam. Me? It's just easier to move in the direction agnosticism already pushes me toward, atheism.
In his book Loftus discusses (and demolishes) the classic arguments for God's existence. Everyone has their favorite reasons for believing or not believing. To me, the best reason for disbelief is that no reason for the universe is necessary.
When you ask a religious believer "Who or what created God?" likely they'll answer, "God simply is. Always has been, always will be."
OK, fine answer. Seemingly there has to be a point where rationality ends, where chains of cause and effect come to an end, where human consciousness runs up against a blank wall of primal Mystery.
However, there's no need for God to be that point. The universe serves just as well. So we can just as well say, "The cosmos simply is. Always has been, always will be."
Now, this doesn't mean for certain that there is no God. It simply means that there is no need to hypothesize that God exists. Which pretty much comes to the same thing, given the lack of evidence for God's existence.
Every religion, spiritual path, or mystic teaching that I'm aware of involves a belief that the essence of God or ultimate reality is a mystery. Why, then, look far afield in a speculative transcendent realm for the Great Unknown?
The edges of the physical universe are just as mysterious. What, if anything, lies beyond the time and space we experience now? Nobody knows.
Bow down before the mystery close at hand. There's no need to believe in any other.