Which god?February 18, 2009 — Deacon Duncan
Commenter cl again:
Then you say, “The Undeniable Fact is that God does not show up in real life…”
I reject that entire paragraph. Don’t you equally scoff when Fundies treat their pet opinions as fact? You are not omniscient and you cannot make this claim in an intellectually honest manner, IMO.
Omniscience is not required for claims like this. I doubt that many people would scoff if I were to say, “The undeniable fact is that Santa does not show up in real life.” It’s not intellectually dishonest to make such a claim. And yet, if the Christian God were such that He actually existed and showed up in real life, He would have a much more significant impact on reality than Santa Claus. If I can know that Santa does not show up in real life when his impact on the world is so much less than God’s, why can I not do the same for the case where the impact would be so much greater, and is so clearly absent?
Truth is consistent with itself, so if God were willing and able to show up in real life, we ought to see the consequences that would be consistent with that desire and ability. Conversely, if God does not show up in real life, and is just a superstitious myth that people talk themselves into believing, then we ought to see the consequences of that as well, e.g. we ought to see the evidence for God being limited to coincidences, subjective feelings, and superstitious attributions in the absence of any genuine, objective, visible, audible, tangible manifestation of God Himself showing up in person. And when we look at the real world, it’s the latter set of consequences that we observe, not the former.
Moving on, cl writes:
However, I think your third paragraph clarifies everything for me. So, sans an empirically-detectable autograph, you’ll accept no miracle as proof of God or gods? IOW if today, you went outside for a smoke (or whatever you do outside), and somebody decapitated a man, then an hour later you witnessed this man’s head re-attach to his body enabling him to get up and go to the store, such would not be any reliable evidence for God IYO?
This is a perfect example of why I say these “miracles” that people attribute to God are not instances of God showing up in real life. Let’s say that I did have exactly the experience that cl describes: I see a man decapitated, lying dead for a hour, and then suddenly, for no visible reason, the head reattaches itself to the body, the man sits up, says “Ow, that’s going to leave a mark,” and rises to his feet and goes into a bar for a drink.
Is this evidence for the existence of God? Before we can answer that question, we need to know which God it would be evidence for, right? After all, if Zeus is the God who performed the miracle, then the miracle itself is not evidence for the existence of Krishna. But what if it wasn’t a God? What if it was an elf, or a pixie, or a leprechaun, or an invisible dragon? Or a SMERF—a Spontaneous Magical Entropy Reversal Field? Any of these things could be responsible, if they were real. Then again, the miracle itself is evidence that they are real, right? I mean, they’d have to be real if they’re going around miraculously healing decapitations.
So let’s look at the evidence, provided by the miracle, that tells us which deity or other supernatural phenomenon deserves the credit for performing this miracle. Hmm, that didn’t take too long, because there isn’t any. We can arbitrarily assume that one deity is real and that the rest are fake, and then arbitrarily assign credit for the miracle to our deity. But that’s just superstition again. There’s no tangible, verifiable factor here that would allow us to objectively differentiate between the different deities and supernatural phenomena. We must assume that God exists before we can use this miracle as evidence that God exists, which is circular reasoning.
But let’s up the ante a bit. Let’s say that during the hour the victim was decapitated, some saffron-robed monk wanders by and begins to pray, “Oh great Buddha, have mercy on this poor soul and heal him of his decapitation by your divine grace.” The rest of the story remains the same: after an hour, the head reattaches and the man walks away unharmed. Would this be evidence that Buddha is really God?
I think a lot of Buddhists would be fairly surprised if that were the case. But notice, the actual evidence of the miracle itself is no more specific than it ever was. The facts pertaining to the actual “recapitation” are exactly what they were before. All the prayer has really done is to create a context in which we might be prejudiced to prefer one superstitious attribution over another.
I’ve heard missionaries tell stories about being in strange and exotic lands where people worshipped other gods, and their prayers were answered. The missionaries explained this as being, not evidence that other gods were real, but merely the deceptive activities of demons. Even when viewing what they considered to be miracles, they did not agree that these miracles should be attributed to the gods that were being given the credit. Neither the gods nor the demons were actually showing up to perform these “miracles” in person, so it was entirely up to the personal prejudices and preferences of the individual to decide which entity to give the credit to.
Now imagine you’ve got two kinds of miracles to cite as evidence for God: Type A miracles, in which God shows up in person and can be photographed and videotaped in the actual act of performing the miracle, and Type B miracles, in which no deity (or elf or SMERF) actually shows up, and all you have is an unexplained phenomenon for which you superstitiously ascribe credit to the deity or magical entity of your choice. If you want to show that God does exist, why would you mention only Type B miracles, when Type A miracles are better suited to the goal you’re trying to reach?
When I say, “God does not show up in real life,” what I’m saying is that there are no Type A miracles, because if there were, they’d be at the top of the list. There may be some transparent hoaxes, like at Zeitoun, but these only make the apologists’ problem worse. Why would you need a hoax if you had genuine Type A miracles? And if God were indeed willing and able to bolster the faith of believers, and bring healing and salvation to millions, then “miracles” like Zeitoun ought to be commonplace. Yet they’re not, not even at Zeitoun, apparently.
A God Who is willing and able to show up in real life is a God Who is willing and able to be found by those who seek Him. Yet we do not find Him showing up in real life. We find Fantasy, Intuition, Superstition and Hearsay, i.e. all fallible, human sources of beliefs about God. But we don’t see the tangible, abiding, personal presence that would be the most fundamental and obvious consequence of having a loving Heavenly Father. Therefore I state, not just as my personal opinion, but as an empirical, verifiable, Undeniable Fact, that God does not show up in real life.