When I contemplate the question, “Is there a God?” I hear echoes of an innocent, doe-eyed child looking up and asking, “Is there a Santa Claus.”
In its childlike naïveté, which is endearing for the child but simplistic for adults, the child envisions a specific, real, tangible jolly old man who magically fills all the Christmas stockings in the world in a single night (without considering that [most] Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist and atheist children are not included).
The adult may respond truthfully that there “is” a Santa Claus, but may mean something far less literal than the child’s youthful and imaginative expectations. So, echoing the words and spirit of Francis Parcellus Church to young Virginia O’Hanlon, “Yes, Virginia, there is a God.”
However, it is not the middle eastern monotheistic [simultaneously triune?] sky god of scriptural mythology nor is it the anthropomorphic deity in whose image the legend says we were created.
Is there intelligence and energy in the universe greater than that of humans? I hope so!
Is there energy and power greater than that of humans? No doubt.
Is there something that was here before everything else? Well, something had to be first. In the interchangeability of matter and energy, was matter/energy first expressed as matter or energy? When and how did consciousness emerge out of non-consciousness matter/energy?
Is it OK, if one does not know the answer to any of these questions, to say “I don’t know” instead of feeling compelled to concoct an answer?
So: Yes, Virginia, there is a God.
In this book, we have shown with certainty that it is possible to prove that specific religious claims can be shown to be in error, such as claims of infallibility and inerrancy of scriptures that can be shown to be demonstrably fallible and errant, based on internal contradictions and inconsistencies or the fact that prophecies of specific events failed to occur within the time periods specified for their completion.
But what about more general claims about the underlying concepts on which religion itself is based?
But what about claims for the existence of God himself? (Or herself or itself?)
Can we, by reason, logic and evidence alone, disprove with certainty the existence of a supreme (or at least superior) being?
In terms of examining earlier philosophical claims about the existence of a deity or higher power, will assume the reader has some degree of familiarity with them. Many advanced theories claiming to prove or disprove the existence of God take entire books to present in full, and have generated additional whole books of discussion about them. It is not the purpose of this brief review to try to explain them in full to someone not familiar with them, beyond a cursory summary to provide just enough information to address the basic ideas.
Traditional Rationalizations for God and Counterarguments
Throughout the centuries, there have been various efforts to prove logically the existence of a supreme being, or “God.”
St. Anselm’s Ontological Argument
The Claim: St. Anselm: “Proslogion” The Ontological Argument first published in the 1070‘s. St. Anselm asserts that theists (believers) and atheists (non-believers) both agree that the concept of god is that god represents the highest (most perfect) representation of “good.” A real-world manifestation is a higher level of good, i.e., it would be something more “perfect” than the mere idea of a concept of what is most perfect; therefore, the mere idea or concept of the highest representation of perfection would not, itself, be the most perfect. Since both the theist and atheist agree on the concept of the highest representation of perfection, but only disagree as to its existence in the real world, but a real world manifestation would be more perfect than a non-existent concept of what is most perfect, the idea of a non-existent highest representation is an inherently contradictory concept and is therefore impossible; therefore a “most perfect” being must necessarily exist in the real world.
Why it Fails: The claim fails for several reasons:
1. Theists and atheists do not agree on the concept of god as being the highest representation of perfection. There are many different concepts of what a deity would entail, and not all embody absolute perfection, which many nonbelievers assert is not possible either in the real world or even as a concept, which humans are not able to conceive. Neither theists nor atheists have a true idea or concept of a “most perfect being.” They have a label, or an idealized abstraction, but not the concept or idea itself, because deity (if the highest manifestation of absolute perfection) is infinite and cannot be grasped conceptually in the finite minds of mortal humans. If it can be brought within the limited scope of finite mortals’ ability to conceive, then it is not infinite; it is finite and could always be expanded. The concept that a highest manifestation of absolute perfection exists is not, itself, either the reality or the concept of that highest manifestation.
2. The fundamental premise is flawed. Manifestations in the physical world are not more perfect than thoughts about them. Physical representations are always constrained by the finite limitations of the physical world, whereas thoughts are not subject to any such constraints. Ultimately, all perceptions, even if they originate from the physical world, are perceived or experienced as non-physical, non-constrained perceptions — sensations converted as experience into thoughts or ideas. St. Anselm offers the example of a painting, claiming that looking at an actual painting is a higher manifestation than the idea of the painting. But this is not necessarily true. The physical painting is not necessarily more perfect than the idea of the painting. Blemishes, brush strokes, inaccuracies of artistic skill of the painter, etc., may be visible in a physical object of art constrained by physical limitations. But in the mind there are no such limits. One can conceive in three-dimensional representations, and can imagine an object that is entirely free of any blemishes or imperfections whatsoever, in a way that would be impossible in the purely physical dimension. One could also argue that this perfect deity, itself, is spiritual energy rather than physical matter, rendering St. Anselm’s argument not only a rational failure, but perhaps even blasphemous.
3. The whole idea that there is something that is the ultimate highest representation of absolute perfection is not logical. It implies some kind of “intrinsic maximum” — that there is some point at which ultimate perfection exists or is even possible. If there is a god, and if we can actually conceive “it,” then what happens if “it” creates a new world or does another blessed deed? Has it increased its goodness? Become “better,” or “more” perfect? But it was already at the highest maximum perfection, how could it ever add to that? The answer is that the assumption of a “highest” absolute standard of perfection does not exist (which also goes back to the first point — non-believers might not even agree on the concept of a highest perfection). We inherently understand this in math or in space/time. There is no end to numbers; you can always add one more. There is no end to space or time; you can always go further away in space or time. These things are infinite. If one believes in an infinite supreme being then, by definition, they have also negated St. Anselm’s premise that even the theists believe there exists a highest maximum standard of perfection, which is an inherent contradiction to the infinite deity.
Blaise Pascal’s Wager
The Claim: Blaise Pascal: “The Wager” (from “Pensées” or “Thoughts”) was published posthumously after his death in 1662.
Pascal’s Wager is not really so much a claim to “prove” the existence of God as it is an attempt to show that the odds are more practical for belief in a supreme being than not to believe. It can be summarized as saying, “If you believe in god and are wrong, you lose nothing. But if you don’t believe in god and are wrong, you suffer the consequences for the rest of eternity. Do you really want to take that bet (wager)?”
Why it Fails: Pascal, a reformed gambler and mathematical expert on probabilities, treats this as an either/or proposition, with a 50/50 risk on a choice between infinite gain with minimal (if any) loss versus minimal (if any) gain with risk of infinite loss. But in reality, this is not “either/or.” There are thousands of belief options. Just within Christianity, you can believe or not believe in Evangelical Protestantism, Liberal (“social gospel”) Protestantism, Catholicism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness teachings, and others. Then there is Judaism. And there are those Moslems who say you chose to “believe” but you’re still consigned to the eternal flames of “fireboarding” in hell because you didn’t choose their version of Allah, their holy book Koran (Qur’an) or their prophet (Mohammed). Then there are the kinder, gentler pagan, polytheistic and/or Deist religions whose beliefs are about a deity who doesn’t get his/her/its/their feelings hurt so much just because you don’t believe in him/her/it/them.
Moreover, the proposition is not 50/50. While certainty or proof for or against the existence of a supreme deity exceeds the capacity of human perception and is not provable, certain specific claims are. And some of the claims that can absolutely be proven with great certainty are to disprove the claims of those Christians who claim the infallibility of an inerrant Bible, since the existence of numerous internal contradictions, factual errors and specific failed prophecies render it not to be inerrant or infallible.
Christians have asked me many times if I don’t experience fear about rejecting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. And I ask them if they have any fear in rejecting Allah, Zeus, Jupiter or the gods of the ancient Egyptians, Incas or Mayans as being literally true (though I do note that many of them seem to hedge their bets somewhat by peeking every morning at their printed horoscopes, which are directly rooted in ancient Greek religion).
I am sure that some of my current beliefs are wrong, just as others in the past turned out to be, such as my previous belief in an inerrant/infallible Bible or the bloody human sacrifice mythology of atonement until I found clear and precise evidence to the contrary. But just because some of my beliefs turn out to be wrong, that does not mean that a specific alternative (such as yours) is right, because there are many other alternatives. When I was a high school student back in the 60’s, I had a very good friend who was a Moslem from Egypt. We used to debate religion during lunch (I was a devout Christian at that time). He used to say the same thing, “But what if you are wrong?” Does that implied threat frighten you? No? Well neither does yours frighten me. Especially since I know that when someone else has nothing more to offer than these childish threats of a “cosmic death penalty,” it means they have nothing of substance to bring to the discussion.
Since every other alternative can say this, that line of thinking does not support any specific alternative. You have to find evidence that supports your positive assertions as well as evidence that refutes the evidence that shows you to be mistaken (however sincere and well-intended you may be).
Some have faith in Jesus as the Messiah (or in Paul’s distortion of who and what Jesus was). And others’ faith is Mohammad, or in Hinduism or Buddhism. Theirs is just as strong, and perhaps has less exposure to contradiction (though it still has some) since the former was written by a single writer and the others do not have the singularly-claimed canonical “word of God.” If you are going to make a competing claim based on exactly the same basis, then you are going to have to find some reason to distinguish the validity of yours.
Aristotle’s First Cause
The Claim: Cosmological Argument: First Cause; Prime Mover. This is the argument for a higher power first posited by Plato in “The Laws, (Book X)” and “Timaeus” — that the universe could not come into existence by “self-originated motion” to set and maintain motion, and that nothing can be created “ex nihilo” or “out of nothing.” The argument was further taken up and expanded by Aristotle in “Metaphysics” and it was Aristotle who coined the term, which is usually translated as “Prime Mover” or “First Cause.”
The argument essentially says that nothing can exist by itself. If you see a watch, there had to be a watchmaker. If you see a universe, there had to be a universe maker.
Why it Fails: In establishing causes of things, you can say the watch was created by the watchmaker, and he was created by his parents, and they by theirs, back to the first humans, and the first humans were created by…? We can’t see that far back so we don’t have clear evidence who created them. But they had to be created by someone or some thing; we just don’t know what it was.
But then, something had to create that, and so on, ad infinitum, until you get to Aristotle’s Prime Mover or First Cause, who becomes the “higher power” or deified as “God” (or, for the Greeks, “Gods” plural). The problem becomes a circular argument. If something cannot exist without having been created, then how did the Prime Mover get there? Why is this “First Cause” exempt from the basic assumption? But something had to exist first! So those who object to the “Prime Mover” say, why not just cut out the middleman, for whom there no corroborating evidence exists, and just say that the Universe, or the “Big Bang,” is what came first?
Objection to Belief in Deity and Counterargument
Absence of Evidence
The biggest single objection to belief in the existence of a supreme (or at least superior) creative force in the Universe is the lack of any positive reason for such a belief. Just as you cannot prove that there are no fairies hidden in the thick clouds of Venus, thriving on heat and carbon dioxide, or that there are not two-headed quasi-anthropomorphic space creatures living on planets beyond our galaxy, or one cannot disprove the existence of powerful deities represented by the Sun, Moon and Planets that formed the core of Greek mythology (that were once believed seriously be literally true and which still form the basis for belief in the “influences” of those celestial forces in astrology), so one cannot prove that there is no deity. Thus, the objection is that, if there is no more positive reason to believe in a god than in fairies or space creatures or the deities of ancient mythology, then lacking any reason for such a belief, it is more feasible to reject such belief.
“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” But absence of evidence is absence of evidence. And in the absence of positive reasons to believe in something that is not made evident by empirical evidence, it is more plausible not to believe in something not evidenced (the simpler explanation) than to believe in something (more complex explanation) for which there is no evidence.
However, the claim that there is no reason to believe in a supreme (or superior) being — that there is a complete “absence of evidence” — is questionable.
I have often heard it compared to a child’s belief in Santa Claus. It is impossible to absolutely disprove that somewhere in the Universe a Santa Claus does not exist, but the inability to disprove it doesn’t make it so, yet we could all agree that it is not a “50/50” equal probability for or against the existence of a Santa Claus.
Yet we should also agree that, in fact, the child does have good reason to believe in Santa Claus. He wakes up Christmas morning and there is a pile of presents. He innately understands that they did not just get there by themselves (something akin to understanding the argument of Prime Cause). Moreover, trusted authorities (parents) who have generally been proved to be reliable, assure him that they didn’t put the presents there and further assure him that the identity of the gift-giver is known, and it is Santa Claus. It is not at all unreasonable for a small child to therefore accept this as credible evidence.
Further, even when the details of the ruse become known, the child’s basic assumption was valid. The giver of the gifts was not Santa Claus, but still they did not get there by themselves. There was, as to the gifts, a “Prime Cause.” It just turns out that, instead of being the “Supreme Being” (magical Santa) it is merely a “superior” being — Mom and Dad — who, at least at the time of the gifts being given, had greater physical strength, knowledge and autonomy than the dependent child. (And as a further note, one could argue whether or not “Santa Claus” is real even “just a myth,” depending on how you define the magical feeling that inspires strangers to give anonymously to those in need at a certain time of the year, but that is further off topic than I want to drift….)
Thus we see that the comparison to Santa Claus actually supports the idea of at least a “superior” being, and relies on the “First Cause.”
We see the evidence of something! And thus that something needs to be accounted for.
And the existence of the created is not the only example of the something that needs to be explained. And by way of explanation, there do exist many claims of divine experiences, out of body experiences, near-death experiences and even after-death experiences. While they are not experimental or observable or quantifiable or replicable and thus cannot be consider scientific evidence (conforming to a specific form of methodology), that does not mean they are wholly invalid. Subject to individual examination of each specific claim, the credibility of such anecdotal evidence needs to be considered on its own merits. Anecdotal evidence is not the same as scientific evidence, but that does not mean it is necessarily false. Again, subject to challenges to the specific credibility and level of evidentiary support, anecdotal evidence is often used as acceptable proof, as in the case of eye-witness testimony in court or as observations of individual instances of observable occurrences that may contribute toward a record of inductively-established patters out of which future deductive probabilities can be inferred.
What was the Prime Cause of the “Prime Cause”?
Everything that occurs after the “Big Bang” can be explained by current physics. But the real question, beyond science, as to the question of the “Big Bang,” goes back to, what was before the “Big Bang”? What caused it to explode? For that matter, what was it? And, whatever it was, what caused it to even exist?
Those who argue for the need of a “Prime Cause,” including religious Creationists (or “Intelligent Design” people) using Aristotle‘s argument, say they have to account for that First Cause, so they define it as “God.”
Those questioning the “First Cause” say that, no matter how far back you go, you can’t escape the intellectual dilemma of how the “First Cause” got there so, since something had to be there first, save one step (one level of complexity) and eliminate the “First Cause,” especially if there is no externally verifiable evidence.
But when we look at physics and the nature of “existence” in the Cosmos, physics tells us that this “existence” is manifest as both “matter” and “energy” and, under the right conditions, they are interchangeable; that is, matter can be converted to energy and, reciprocally, if the conditions are just right, energy can be manifest as matter. In fact, possibly there is no such thing as matter — it is only energy. If you magnify everything to seeing things on a scale at the level of the atom, you see that even the most solid “matter” is comprised of atoms that are actually spaced very far apart, similar to the way in which star systems with their orbiting planets are spaced very far apart from other systems of stars and planets and, within the atom itself, there is massive space separating electrons from each other and from their nucleus, much like the extensive space that separates the planets of our solar system from each other and from the “nucleus” of our solar system, the sun. Yet despite being mostly empty space, the atoms create an illusion of solid matter. And even the spots of density within the atom, the electrons (planets) and nucleus (sun), are not solid the way our planets are solid. They are packets of energy, negatively charged electrons (which generate electricity) revolving around positively charged protons in the nucleus. There is no matter. It is all energy.
So if you look at “existence” prior to the “Big Bang,” and try to determine what existed first, which would thus necessarily have to have been both the first “existence” (not “created” by anything else) and therefore the “First Cause” that created everything else that came after itself, what seems most feasible (from pure speculative hypothesis, of course, since this is not observable in any scientific sense) as the nature such form would most likely take: “matter” (the seemingly static or inert form of existence) or “energy” (the active form of existence)?
Something had to be first. Is it more likely that this first existence took the form of static, inert matter or active, vibrant, changeable energy? It becomes more plausible that the ultimate reality consists of active energy, especially if one considers that, at its most basic levels of existence, matter is, itself, an illusion created by charges of positively- or negatively-charged energy, creating a barrier of resistance that acts like a force field to generate the perception of the “firm rigidity” of matter. There is no distinct entity that exists as “matter” — what we perceive as “matter” is merely an alternative expression of energy. And if one considers the possibility that some energy might be self-existent (since something had to be here first), is it that much of a leap to say that what was self-existent could also be self-cognizant or incorporate the origins of consciousness or self direction, even if originating or existing in one of the other dimensions outside our current mortal framework of existence? Further, if one considers the distinction made by religious persons between the physical (material) world and the spiritual dimension, but just exchanges the word “physical” with matter and “spiritual” with energy, the perspective no longer seems so inconsistent with science.
Again, all of this is speculation, not science, because it is not observable or quantifiable or replicable, and thus beyond the capacity of the scientific method’s protocols of observation, quantification and replacation to address. Thus, I make no claim of authoritative knowledge, but it does seem plausible to consider (especially if one does perceive credible anecdotal “evidence” of interactions with a “higher power”) that whatever existed first, and generated everything else, was a form of energy, out of which a perception of matter could subsequently emerge.
If there is any viable way to incorporate a “First Cause,” perhaps it might originate from the interchangeability of matter and energy. However, ultimately, this is not knowable in the sense of being absolutely provable (or disprovable) by human capabilities of empirical, replicable standards of observation.
Factors to consider
Explaining the universe:
In evaluating the credibility of whether it is feasible, or at least more probably than improbable, to believe in a deity, one must consider that nature of the “higher power” being contemplated. What would such a supreme (or superior) being be like?
Would it have to be the same as what is taught by Christian theologians (or Moslem or Hindu or anything else)?
Would it have to be omnipotent (all-powerful), i.e., a “Supreme” being, or could it just be more powerful than humans subject to its own set of higher limitations, i.e., a “superior” being?
Would it have to be exclusive (i.e., monotheistic)? Could there be many advanced or “superior” beings or energy sources, of varying degrees of power or advancement.
Would it have to be sentient? It might be that the power of the universe consists simply of the forces of physical Laws of Nature — powerful interactions of matter and energy in orderly ways that are more powerful than puny human, and operating in an orderly, predictable adherence to predictable patterns that makes them seem intelligent (or sentient). But just as the powerful winds of tornadoes or hurricanes, or the small steady winds and currents of erosion, or large and small oceanic forces of tsunamis or daily tides shape our world and overpower our comparatively insignificant species, it might also be that there are “higher powers” in the universe, but not in a conscious, sentient or intelligent sense. Or then again, it/they could be extremely intelligent, so far beyond our ability to grasp that we simply fail to perceive it/them, in the same way that ants crawl across our floors without the slightest regard that we “superior” beings are standing over them. Is it even feasible to believe we are the highest power in the universe? The most intelligent? In all those galaxies? In all possible dimensions? It may be feasible to conclude that we are not, even if we merely acknowledge that is a non-verified (non-verifiable) opinion that just feels like the best possible explanation for the things we see beyond what can be known with absolute certainty.
Could the power of the universe, even if unitary in its history and origins, have limitations? That it originates as pure intelligence but limited in its capacity to interact with stimuli, and therefore feels compelled to create a physical universe environment which it then populates with additional sentient, conscious beings which it ignites from its own consciousness as Source but which become distinct and autonomous individual “flames” of separate and independent consciousness, that the original Source can then interact with to expand its capacity for experience? Would the recognition of a higher energy require that it begin its existence already all-powerful and all-complete? If so, why would it have further need or desire to create? If it is already all in all, what purpose would further creation serve? If such a deity exists, there is no reason to require a supposition of omnipotence, omniscience, or omnipresence — only that it be the Original Source and that it be superior, in somewhat the same way that we might perceive our consciousness and intelligence as functioning on a higher plane than that of fruit flies or goldfish while not claiming ourselves to have absolute totally of power, knowledge or presence.
It would certainly be possible to say that one feels there is a better chance for one scenario over another, although lacking definitive evidence or certainty, as long as one maintains the recognition that such opinions are speculative and preferential as distinguished from factual or, in any sense, “proven.”
It is further possible to conclude that the need for a First Cause or to explain phenomena that are beyond the scope of human conscious understanding argues for the existence of a “higher power” who is at least superior to humans if not fully supreme (i.e., omnipotent or all-powerful), is more feasible than not coming to that conclusion, without claiming that one knows the details of what that “higher power” is actually like, just as it is also possible to acknowledge that one simply does not know whether or not there is a god.
Science vs. Theism vs. Atheism
Both theists and atheists cite the need to adhere to fundamental laws of physics and science.
The theist claims to know that there is a deity that exists.
The atheist claims to know that no such deity exists.
The agnostic asserts that the existence of a higher power, without objective evidence, is not knowable.
Theists note that, according to the laws of physics as we know them, nothing that exists can exist without having been caused or created.
Atheists note that, whatever is cited as the first cause or first creator, the same laws of physics apply to it: it also had to be caused or created by something.
But the fact remains that something, or someone, was here first. Either it came into existence spontaneously, something coming into existence out of nothing (which violates the laws of physics as we know them) or it always existed without cause or creation (which also violates the laws of physics as we know them).
At some point, the laws of science as we know them did not operate as we understand them to operate in the present reality. Which laws were violated? How were they violated? Where did the laws of science come from?
The answer is that we don’t know.
We can trace the origins of the universe back to a known point, a specific singularity (commonly referred to as the “Big Bang”), but what was there before that? Another universe? Nothing? Just an extant, eternal existence of matter that somehow exploded? God? Nothing?
What was there? What caused it to explode into the origins of our known universe? The answer is that we don’t know. For this reason, I call myself an agnostic — the willingness to admit, however unsatisfying it may be, that we simply do not know the answers, and need not be coerced into conclusions for which there is not specific evidence, while also acknowledging, as noted earlier, that “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”
Again, we may be able to disprove many specific claims of what happened or how the universe came into being, but we cannot conclude that there was nothing, nor can we refute that possibility.
We just don’t know.
Explaining spiritual phenomena:
In addition to trying to consider what is the most feasible explanation for the existence of the universe, one must also address the reality of spiritual phenomena.
One must consider that there are many reports of unexplained phenomena that supersede the capacity of human probability or capability. Certainly, many can be debunked as frauds or explained away by identifying more plausible, down-to-earth causes. But not all can be dismissed either as frauds or by alternative explanations. Of course, the fact that we do not have an alternative explanation does not mean that one does not exist, but it also leaves open the door to an explanation that involves a power greater than what is known to or understood by human experience. Often such experiences are “merely” anecdotal one-time occurrences and therefore not quantifiable, measurable or replicable in any way that could be called scientific, and so we must say they are not science, though that does not necessarily make them not valid or in conflict with science, merely outside the boundaries of what science is able to address.
But it is not just the explaining of phenomenological mysteries that needs to be addressed. Such events are rare, and even those who claim to have experienced them with any degree of credibility rarely have more than one or two such occurrences in an entire lifetime.
Beyond such rare experiences are far more common ones: the reality of powerful spiritual or mystical experiences that many people — almost anyone who seeks out such experiences — have attained, and not just once or twice in a lifetime, but on a regular and even frequent basis.
One must account for the powerful spiritual drive that motivates and compels adherence to great faith, whether it be Christians accepting martyrdom or Islamic suicide bombers seeking rewards in a paradisiacal afterlife or the quiet transport to a higher spiritual dimension attained through the meditative arts of Hindu or Buddhist disciplines.
It may be that such experiences arise out of the interplay between conscious and subconscious dimensions of the mind and feelings, or could there be an external associative process involved? Any attempt to address the great questions of cosmology must deal with this facet as well.
On the other hand, those who claim the existence of a deity must account for his/her/its allowance of cruelty and suffering of the innocent, as noted in more detail in Chapter 9. As noted in that section, this might be accommodated by allowing a “higher” or “superior” being rather than one who is fully “omnipotent” or absolutely “supreme” being — just more advanced than us, and “doing the best he/she/it can.”
The role of the unknown
When one considers the depth and extent of spiritual phenomena that many have experienced, as well as the anecdotal (distinguished from objectively observable) evidence for something greater than ourselves, it is also important to consider how much of the universe remains unknown to us, and the reasons why certain phenomena can exist that are not only beyond human understanding, but also beyond the capacity for human beings to understand.
There are simply some aspects of the universe that we do not have the ability to process experientially through the senses or into our cognitive functions, and therefore they are unknowable. That does not mean they are not real. To a fly crawling across my computer screen, the information and operations of this technology is simply beyond its capacity to fathom, but that does not make that reality any less real. Some specifics:
Anti-matter: Scientists now have the basis for detecting consequential cosmic “footprints” that suggest evidence of an aspect of the physical universe that we mortal humans are incapable of perceiving directly, known as “anti-matter” or “dark matter.” We only know of its existence because it can be deduced from the footprint it leaves in other phenomena that we are able to objectively perceive. Some may find it plausible to consider the possibility that the aspect of spiritual essence could have something to do with this aspect of existence, or that at least in the same way that the existence of anti-matter demonstrates how alternative aspects of the universe can exist, so also spiritual essence could be another such aspect that is only hinted at by spiritual experiences or other unexplained phenomena. Again, lacking objectively quantifiable data, such speculations are conjectural and not scientific, but that does not mean they are not plausible.
Cosmic influence: The key to evolution of life is mutation — small, incremental errors in the reproductive copying of the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) molecule. Not surprisingly, most such errors are harmful, because they don’t follow the carefully-evolved blueprint. But occasionally, a change is beneficial, conferring survival advantage. What causes such copying errors? One known cause is radiation, the greatest natural source of which are the cosmic rays from outer space that silently but perpetually bombard our existence. Again, purely as speculation, one could imagine that if there is conscious energy guiding the affairs of the universe, and if that consciousness desired to guide the course of development, that every so often it could mandate the occurrence of a specific, desired genetic mutation by influencing a cosmic burst of radiation in just the right genetic location.
Dimensions: We mortal humans operate within three known dimensions of space (height, breadth, depth) and one of time. Physicists report, however, inferential evidence by which the existence of additional dimensions can be deduced, but which are beyond mortal human perception. One could use the “Flatland” analogy created by Edwin Abbot, a Shakespearean actor who lived in Victorian England. Flatland is an imaginary two-dimensional place whose inhabitants are only able to experience and perceive two physical dimensions, breadth (left-right) and depth (front-back), but no height (up-down). The third dimension exists, but they just can’t perceive it. You could have a being (who does experience three physical dimensions) hovering just above them, observing them, and they would be unable to perceive its existence. So, to us in a three-dimensional existence, in which direction from left-right or front-back or up-down would a fourth (or more) dimension exist? We can’t say. Additional dimensions (directions) are beyond our capacity to experience. But that does not mean they don’t exist; on the contrary, physicists find inferential evidence to conclude that they do. As to where they are or what they are, coming to any conclusions is purely speculative. But, again, it is also possible to speculate that the link to spiritual aspects of the universe that we cannot experience in our current physical limitations, may be experienced in spiritual dimensions. It is possible to speculate that, beyond death, we return to our connection to additional dimensions and may be able to see and experience aspects of the universe that may be very close to us, but are not perceivable in our current state. And again, such conclusions are purely speculative, as we do not have the means by which to empirically test them. That does not mean they are not plausible.
Mind —> body dichotomy: There has long been debate as to whether the mind (soul) is a separate entity from the body (brain), or whether it is an illusion created out of the synaptic connections of the brain. Does the mind (the conscious process of mental and emotional experience) exist separately from the physical properties of the brain (a bodily organ)? Or is the illusion of a mind created out of purely physical, biological properties? Is it possible that an entity of experiential energy can exist as a link between the domains of matter and energy, or possibly a link from some other dimension to this one, in ways not observable, quantifiable or measurable by purely physical or objectively scientific means? Or is the illusion of such a figment created by the physical? One thing can be said with certainty: the perception of distinctly separate entities of physical and experiential clearly does exist. Whether we conclude that the more plausible probability favors the duality or the singularity (neither of which can be proven with certainty), from a perspective of how we deal with the relationship between the mind (soul) and the body (brain), we must do so recognizing the way it is perceived experientially.
It is impossible, in this mortal existence, to know with absolute certainty or in empirical and measurable (i.e., scientific) terms, how the universe came to exist and whether or not that coming into existence involved the guidance of an intelligent force of energy or if it simply occurred as a matter of random chance.
We can, however, speculate as to which of various possibilities seem more probable or plausible or reasonable, as long as we do not forget that such contemplations are just that: speculation. They are not questions of science, they cannot be answered by scientific protocols and they do not belong in the realm of science. They are matters of spiritual conjecture and philosophical speculation.
We must further consider that, if there is a deity at the center of creation and existence, this god has chosen to go into hiding from us. Notwithstanding all the claims of divine revelation, personal interactions with gods, or supposed claims of proof for his/her/its existence, none of these withstands thorough scrutiny and holds up as being the inerrant, infallible or literal experience of divine interaction. There may be credible or plausible reasons why such a deity would choose to, at least in this time and place of mortal experience, remain elusive, but our contemplation of any rational view about the existence of god must recognize that he/she/it has chosen to remain unknowable in terms of any kind of certainty, at least for this phase of our existence. We can further acknowledge, as noted above, that elusive does not mean entirely out of reach. Scattered here and there among the widespread hype, hoopla and hoax, there are occasional glimmers of credible, plausible anecdotal (not scientific or replicable) experience with the divine, or at least that which is more spiritually advanced than the normal plane of mortal experience. It may be that, whatever deity(ies) or higher power(s) there may be, do not allow a general revelation of knowledge for public consumption, but will permit personal, individual experience in a personal, individual way to those who encounter the right path toward seeking it.
But no matter what is “out there,” those who do seek it do find something very real. We must recognize the importance of taking that reality seriously, whether it be the reality of something fashioned in the depths of our subconsciousnesses, or something literally external to ourselves.
Whatever it is, there is something that people do find when they seek the spiritual dimension of our existence. Whatever it is, it is an important part of the human experience.
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