I’ve been working my way through the xml file I downloaded when I cleared out this site last year. Today, a friend’s post on Facebook prompted me to find this post in the xml file and republish it.
When anyone thinks about whether there is a God, I think they have to consider how the notion of God answers the question of why the world exists.
I once thought about the likelihood of there being a God and I imagined everything as one thing – that is, I put everything in the universe from the smallest thing to the largest objects I could imagine in one bundle and then I thought of it all as one thing.
And I asked myself whether on a balance of probabilities it was more likely that this ‘everything’ simply existed – just of itself – or was it more likely that there was an intelligent purpose behind it and that God existed.
I thought it more likely that there is a God, because it seemed less likely than that everything simply ‘was’.
In fact it seemed a bit of a nonsense to imagine that everything just ‘was’.
But I leave room for that possibility, and perhaps we are just the growing tip of the universe, as it were, to borrow a phrase from the biology of plants and trees.
Noah After The Flood
To think about why things are as they are, there is a chapter in the Old Testament about what happens after the flood. And that chapter seems, perhaps, to talk about the nature of reality.
The story goes that Noah is berating himself for having not really believed there would be a flood. He tells himself that if he had truly believed then he would have made a better job of convincing people the flood was coming. And he would, therefore, have saved more people.
Full of guilt and self-pity, he becomes a drunkard – a shell of a man. One of his sons finds him passed out dead drunk and ridicules him for what he has become.
Then his sons are sitting talking about what the future will hold, and God talks to them. God tells them that if they set up the institutions of social justice and social care he will come down and erect a tent around them and come and dwell in the tent.
I like the idea of God coming down into the world. The world is all we know – the rest we have to imagine or intuit.
I can see the attraction of a protective tent to keep me warm, rather than that I think I am spinning on a ball in cold, dead outer space.
The concept that interests me and that I think speaks about the nature of reality is the idea that God can come into the world or remain out of it.
It is an interesting concept bearing in mind that if God is everything and made everything, then it is a neat trick for him to be able to ‘not be’ in part of that which he is.
Well that’s the story and it could be poppycock – but it holds together as a thought. Or rather it raises a question – which is why does the world exist at all?
Why The World Was Formed
As I said, when anyone thinks about whether there is a God, I think they have to consider how the notion of God answers the question of why the world exists.
Judaism has an answer for this. Other religions may also have an answer to this question, but Judaism does and it begins with the notion that God is the very definition of good.
That being so, he wants to do good because it is the natural outpouring of his goodness.
And the ultimate good he can do is to give his creative power to someone else.
But there is only God. So he withdraws and makes a space – a place where he is not.
He makes the world in that space – a world made expressly so he could create man and put him in it.
In a word, the world exists for man.
He creates man and gives him independent free will so he can work in partnership with God to co-create the world as it should be – filled with sharing and compassion.
There is a deeper thread in this explanation that says that the whole entirety of the universe was ‘supposed’ to happen in the Garden of Eden where events would play themselves out in 24 hours. Then the world would cease to be, being redundant, and man would dance in a timeless dance with God.
And the explanation says that Adam saw how things was supposed to go, but he wanted to live it all to the full. He wasn’t being rebellious, he wanted to show how he could do even better than what was asked of him.
So he ate the apple from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil so that he could crawl out from the bottom of the muck-heap of life and join God in the dance.
What did he think he was doing? What Adam did was to put himself on top. He went against the express commandment of God who had created him and decided to do it his way.
Still, I’d better not complain because I’m only here because of what he did…
And so the world goes on. And no-one wants it to end. Or as Hilly Blue, the character played by Divine in Trouble in Mind says,
Everyone wants to get to heaven, but not yet.
The explanation goes on to say that God will have his way and the world will end and the dance will start on time – and we will get there either kicking and screaming and with a lot of heartache – or more easily if we cooperate.
Well that’s the explanation. I respect it because it holds together. It may not be true but it has logic and it is complete. And that is more than can be said for some explanations of what everything is all about.
I know that some people accept the biblical explanation as true. They accept is as much as they believe that the number 39 bus stops outside their house.*
Therefore, one of the things that I learned from this is to appreciate that there are people walking around who have a sense of what the world is, what time is, where things are going, and why they are going there, and in fact that there is a ‘why’ at all.
Not everyone has those insights, of course.
And it has given me an inkling of the huge gulf that can exist between people who occupy the same planet but who simply do not live in the same mental universe as one another.
I have to ask, in the absence of this explanation what idea do I have of where things are going or where I am going?
If I am the growing tip of the universe, what will determine which way I go? What will determine how I will behave?
* The 39 bus is a reference to the film of The Spy Who Came In From The Cold and a conversation between Richard Burton and Claire Bloom. She asks him whether he believes in God and he answers that he believes the 39 bus stops outside the house and beyond that he does not know.