Saturday 13 March 2021

Why do modern people find God incomprehensible and superfluous?

My impression is that there is a mismatch between the usual proofs and justifications of God, and the nature of God. 

(IMO) The main thing about God is that he is the creator, and that we live in a created reality. But modern people believe that creation is explained by physics - which makes God unnecessary.

But justifications and proofs of God (from Western Christians) are usually focused upon moral aspects - i.e. God is put forward as a guarantor of virtue; because modern Christianity has become almost wholly ethical

Thus creation is seen as a matter of physics, while God is seen as a matter of morality; and there is no easy way of getting from physics to morals. It just doesn't make 'common sense'. 

And if reality is explained by physics - then obviously there is no humanly-relevant purpose or meaning to reality. Reality is apparently all about cosmology, particle physics, relativity and quantum stuff... Reality is therefore explained-by forces, particles, waves, strings, proximate causes, statistics and things like that...

So God doesn't make common sense - to the modern mind. It is not so much that God has been falsified as that modern people just can't see the need or explanatory value of a God who is nearly always discussed in terms of ethics, morals, and virtues. 

The answer? I don't see any alternative but to restore God as Creator and to emphasize that we live in a creation which has purpose, meaning, and coheres by relationships (not physics). 

That is: Reality is coherent, and God as Creator is the source of that coherence. 

That coherent reality is primary because created and being-created - and scientific truth, aesthetic beauty, and virtue/ morals/ ethics are just convenient sub-divisions of creation. 

Some such metaphysical restructuring seems vital before modern Man can again know God. 


Francis Berger said...

Fine points! I would like to add suffering and evil to the mix if I may.

Stephen Fry on why he can't believe in God:

"I'll say, 'Bone cancer in children? What's that about?' How dare you? How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault? It's not right. It's utterly, utterly evil. Yes the world is very splendid but it has in it insects whose whole life cycle is to burrow into the eyes of children and make them blind. It eats outwards from the eyes. Why?"

Fry has a point. A God who allows such evil and suffering is not worthy of reverence, let alone love. So Creator and loving creation and coherence and all the rest of it will not move moderns. Any mention of God's love in light of Fry's comment will come off as a cruel joke.

If moderns conceptualize God as Fry does (the traditional, omnipotent, omniscient, Supergod), then the anger and disgust expressed above is justified. A God like that doesn't deserve to be revered or followed. However, I believe Fry's is a false conceptualization; or, more specifically, it's outmoded.

As you have observed in great detail on this blog, this false conceptualization of God as Supergod should have been transcended through consciousness. The only way to challenge Fry's objections is to challenge the errant belief in Supergod. Moderns are immune to God as Supergod - but sadly also blind and deaf to God as not-Supergod.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Frank. I agree fully, but it is also important to note that Fry's example is something he read in a book featuring someone he never met and cares nothing about. So long as we try to understand God with reference to thirdhand media derived data, and grandstanding emotive examples, we will never understand anything. Which, given Fry's demonic agenda, is the strategic intent.

Francis Berger said...

@ Bruce - You are totally right about Fry. I referred to him mostly to draw attention to the larger point of how moderns conceptualize God/suffering.

It's become somewhat trite, but I sense the old "if God loves us, why does he allow suffering and pain?" remains a massive sticking point for moderns - an easy way to write God off, so to speak.

Of course, this stance does little more than reveal the abject state of spiritual laziness and spiritual immaturity of most moderns, but a re-conceptualization of why God allows suffering and pain in a coherent creation must form a big portion of the metaphysical restructuring you mention. As it stands now, God's perceived "creation" of suffering does not make common sense to the modern mind.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Frank - "a re-conceptualization of why God allows suffering and pain in a coherent creation must form a big portion of the metaphysical restructuring you mention"

Yes, I think it must. And the difficulty should not be underestimated, because it involves going back to before the earliest church fathers; and trying to read the New Testament afresh, naively, without philosophical preconceptions.

Maybe that is too much to ask - but I think if (as Arkle did) someone takes God the creator seriously as a loving person, and sincerely tries to 'see things from his point of view' - i.e. seriously imagines oneself to be the most ideal possible parent-creator - then the rest follows.

And what follows fits easily with the Fourth Gospel, and much of the other Gospels and Epistles.

But once philosophical abstractions and generalizations enter - the situation seems to be lost.

The give away is when people refuse to entertain any other conceptualization of God except the one that they find contradictory or abhorrent and have rejected on such grounds - such people have taken the side against God, and are loyal to that side.

Nicholas Fulford said...

Oh my.

Two points: Fry's criticism is coherent and correct if one is looking at God as omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient as compatible with God as omni-benevolent.

The universe is grand indeed, and a great deal of suffering occurs through the "red in tooth and claw" processes by which life unfolds.

As for the incomprehsibility of God, isn't that the point. A god that fits within a human frame is a projection, reduction and an idol surely. God, if God is, must not be comprehensible in itself. That is rather the point is it not? Making God in man's projected image is delusional. It iw the reason I find belief such a bizarre thing for to not believe in an imago dei is to be open to apprehension without reduction, or even the desire to comprehend. If God exists all the frames must of necessity shatter since man does not create God.

Francis Berger said...

@ Bruce - Yes, you are correct. It is difficult and this difficulty cannot be underestimated. Also, most moderns are eager to cling to conceptualizations that offer them an easy out. As always, motivation is key.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

The context Fry is missing is that we chose to incarnate here, knowing in advance what kind of world it was. There are other worlds we could have chosen, most of them far less evil than this one, or we could have remained like axolotls in the spirit world where we began, to remain mere children of God forever.

But we chose to incarnate here, and God saw that our choice was good.

Bruce Charlton said...

@NF "As for the incompressibility of God, isn't that the point. A god that fits within a human frame is a projection, reduction and an idol surely..."

Who says it is the point? Not Jesus, certainly; who talks of God as his literal Father, and of his Father's motivations and intentions.

You are not a Christian, so obviously you do not believe that there is a creator, and that creator is a parent who loves his children (including we humans) as a perfect parent would.

You only call it 'projection' because you have made the metaphysical assumptions that such a reality is impossible and therefore it 'must be' projection.

If you genuinely want to understand, you need to examine your assumptions; or simply remember how you viewed the world as a child; or read about how nearly everybody in the history of the world viewed the world until about 400 years ago in NW Europe... That would be a start - although it would not get you all the way, by any means.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Wm - Indeed.

And one only has to read about other times and other cultures to know that exactly such (alleged, secondhand) instances of suffering were *sometimes* seen as blessings by those who actually suffered them - sufficiently often that this ought at least to give pause to those who are using them (in combination with unidentified and unanalyzed metaphysical assumptions) to disprove a creator God.

A further aspect is that suffering does not disprove God, but only a certain conception of the Christian God (it does disprove not the Mormon Christian God, for example).

The incomprehensible creator God of Judaism or Islam is not, for example, disproved. Nor the impersonal deity of Hinduism or Buddhism.

And yet this argument is used by 'atheists', as if it disproved a creator God - confirming that such 'atheists' are in practice merely specifically anti-*Christian* which is, usually, pretty obvious anyway!

Hatcher said...

Physics seems to posit a realm (of “laws” or “principles” i suppose) that exists outside of creation. They have to have been there first, so to speak; they condition how “things go” before they enter the arena. This seems to prime moderns to imagine God as a Super Being who resides discretely outside of Creation; He is the Thing that Made Things Go.
In traditional cosmology, while Creation is not God, Creation is *of* God & we, as likeness-bearers even more so : “ For in him we live, and move, and have our being”. This is key, I think. We are both above creation (ie the world/“things”) & subject to it. The modern mind cannot imagine himself as outside/above Creation & seeks to fill the vacuum with a kind of technical mastery that only begs the question.