Back in 2006, I called my post about it "The best one-sentence metaphysics ever written." I still feel that way. But if anyone has another contender for this honor, share it in a comment.
Dick's adage came to mind today when I gave some thought to another quotation by Gregory Bateson that I see mentioned fairly often in science books.
Information is a difference which makes a difference.
So let's ponder the notion of "God" a bit from the perspectives of what Dick and Bateson said. Or, if you like, of supernatural religiosity in general.
What difference does the divinity so many people believe in make in their lives? I'm not talking about their belief in God/divinity, but the reality that "when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."
I talked about this in my original post about Dick's quote.
Out of the corner of my eye I can see a white hold-the-newspaper-down rock on the patio table where my laptop sits. Whether or not I believe in the rock, it’s there. My wife senses it too. So does everyone else who walks onto our deck. The rock is real, no doubt about it.
On the other hand, I don’t think I’ve thought once about God today. Certainly not this evening. I was focused on playing ball with our dog, eating dinner, and then watching a recording of the Oregon State—Boise State football game.
God hasn’t been in evidence, unlike the rock. Ditto for Jesus, Buddha, Allah, Krishna, Holy Spirit, Tao, Big Foot, Godzilla, King Kong, and every other entity that requires a thought to bring it into existence. Beliefs are sustained by thoughts. No thoughts, no beliefs. (Or so I believe; I could be wrong; but even if there is such a thing as a thoughtless belief, I’ll bet that it was born through thought).
Religious believers sustain their faith through (duh...) believing. Without concepts, thoughts, ideas, emotions, and such, God or some other form of divinity fails to exist.
So when religious people talk about God making a difference in their lives, that actually isn't true. Their believing brain is what makes the difference. No beliefs, no difference.
Sure, religious believers feel good when they worship; they are uplifted by their rituals; they get consolation from the words in holy books. And so on, and so on. All of these positive feelings arise from thoroughly worldly experiences.
Being in a church. Taking part in a ritualistic action. Reading books. Sensing a supposedly sacred object or person.
These are part of the reality Dick speaks of which doesn't require belief to exist. These things don't go away when belief does (though the inner experience associated with them likely will change). God, though, does go away when believing in divinity disappears.
There's nothing wrong with believing. We all believe in things that aren't objectively true, because doing this makes us feel subjectively good. Believing is part of being human.
However, we should keep in mind that everything within our mind isn't part of objective reality. That's the beauty of Philip K. Dick's one-sentence metaphysics -- perhaps better termed ontology.
It reminds us that not believing in something is the best way to determine whether it is part of the reality outside our own head.
For example, stand on a first-floor balcony and get yourself to believe that an invisible floor extends beyond the railing. Which is equivalent to not believing in falling through empty space. Then jump off the railing. See what happens.
If you fall to the ground, hopefully without breaking any bones, you've learned something about the reality that doesn't go away when you stop believing in it.
You can do the same with God, of course.
Stop believing in God. I've done this, as have many others. What I've found is that nothing changes. Nothing went away, other than my belief in God. Because, I'm quite sure, there is no God outside of human belief.