Feb 23

Why God Is Not Beyond Us

cima_da_conegliano_god_the_fatherThe classic Christian apologetics fallback: God is beyond us.
Beautiful, efficient, and successful–but weak.

God works in mysterious ways, they say. When a Christian defender of the faith is defeated in a battle of logic, the only way for him to respond without conceding defeat is to either ignore the critic’s point altogether or to resort to non-logical defenses. The problems with these non-logical strategies include the obvious flaw that they could very easily be used to defend an infinite number of false ideas (also true, to some extent, of poor logic)–but this strategy is always the most successful in swaying the doubtful. We are not half as logical as we think we are, and we are far less than half as logical as we ought to be at times like these.

If God is, so to speak, beyond us, there are two possibilities: he is either beyond our understanding of the universe but within its objective laws, or he is beyond our understanding of the universe and also beyond its objective laws. Emotion-based theologians locked in debate with fact-based scientists often find it convenient to claim the second option, because by definition it invalidates the use of any empirical study into the likelihood of such a being actually existing–it also frees the theologian from the obligation of actually knowing what he is talking about when it comes to science and facts. In other words, theologians not only claim God is beyond us, but also claim he is beyond our universe.

Allow me to explain why this idea of a supernatural god existing beyond the objective laws of the universe makes no sense at all.

Human history shows that as our scientific knowledge of the world beyond and within ourselves grows, increasingly strange phenomena can be explained by natural laws.

Two definitions of the word Supernatural:
-attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature.-
-unnaturally or extraordinarily great.-

One relevant definition of the word Natural:
-of or in agreement with the character or makeup of, or circumstances surrounding, someone or something.-

There are many things that we know we cannot explain–the known unknowns–as well as things we do not know we cannot explain–the unknown unknowns. Many things are beyond scientific understanding, or the understanding of any particular person.

But the idea of things existing beyond the objective constraints of the universe (which of course we do not fully understand) is logically impossible–if it was possible, the objective constraints would not be objective constraints.

So by this logic, nothing within this universe can disobey its objective constraints. And as the definition of the universe is -all existing matter and space considered as a whole,- it is not possible for anything to exist beyond that.

So if God exists, and if the universe is everything that exists, and there are objective laws of nature that govern it, God cannot be in conflict with the laws of nature. So if God does exist, he is not supernatural.

Why, though, do theologians throughout human history insist on the existence of the supernatural?

The primal reason is humankind’s limited ability to explain the world scientifically, which leads us to explain things philosophically and theologically–naturally, these intellectual and emotional explanations are always false to some degree, and at best are both socially useful and in some way closely akin to reality. (Christianity gets a moderate score for social usefulness, because it consistently motivates both positive and negative behaviors, but gets a very low score for accuracy in depicting reality beyond the basic workings of human emotions. The holy trinity and quantum physics cannot, as far as we know, work together unless they are separated, hence the supernatural.)

The logical reason for the insistence on the supernatural is the idea that something cannot come from nothing–that the universe’s existence necessitates a creator. I will briefly explain why this idea is false: it commits the logical fallacy of applying a rule (everything must have a cause outside itself) to the world, then inventing a god as the implication of the rule, but not applying the rule to the implied entity known as God. The rule can only be absolutely justified if it applies to everything, and if God does not follow the rule, then he does not exist, which contradicts the implication of the rule, which contradicts the rule. Therefore, the rule is false–not everything necessitates an outside cause, because as I have just logically proven, the universe (in other words, everything) does not.

This could not be used to disprove God’s existence, but it could be used to shine a light of empirical doubt upon certain shadowy assumed qualities of God that were simply invented by theologians because they seemed logical and convenient at the time. What does this mean? It means God cannot defy the law of gravity, cannot move faster than the speed of light, and cannot be the creator of the universe–because the universe explains its creation just fine on its own. This is not the Middle Ages anymore. If God is to exist–and I have proven there is no logical existential necessity for him–he must at least obey the speed limit.