Wednesday, February 21, 2007

If God has a message for us then He is an incompetent communicator

There are those who know that there is a God, a set of gods or a spiritual karmic system that makes sense of their existence in the universe. Either they have been brought up in such a way that they accept the doctrine as truth and don’t question too closely, or else they have had an enlightenment experience where they have personally touched the divine.

But for those of us without the upbringing or the revelation there is no way of knowing the Truth. There are over 10,000 distinct religions in the world, and Christianity alone has over 33,500 denominations. Even if I were to study a new one every single day, there are not enough days in a lifetime to come to a conclusion which, if any, are right.

Given that the adherents of many of these religions believe they are the only ones who have even half a chance of getting into heaven, and that unless I subscribe to their particular interpretation I have very little or no chance of getting there myself, then I can come to only 2 possible conclusions, if I am to accept the idea that there is some higher purpose for us beyond being purely vessels for the continuation of our genetic code: either God, the gods or the system is fundamentally incompetent about getting its message across, or it is integral to the plan that we should not know the truth, that is, we are deliberately given conflicting messages in order to keep us in a state of confusion.

Therefore anyone who tells me that they know better is either a liar or deluded. But even if, by a highly unlikely coincidence I end up talking to the one person who really does know, there is no way of knowing that he or she is in fact telling me the truth.

So either there is no higher purpose, or there might be something but I’ll never find out what it is.

I think I prefer the idea that there is nothing, because if there is a God, gods or karmic system that thinks the best way of communicating to the world is to give varying and contradictory messages to different prophets at different times and places in history, allowing them just enough information for their followers to proclaim holy war on their neighbours, then it’s no comfort whatsoever.
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51 comments:

Christina said...

Hey There,
I just found a new papa DS blogger, his daughter is having openheart surgery next week, and needless to say he is really afraid. Figured you might have some insoght from a man's point of view.
The link is on my page (prince Vince) as Phineas Blogg.

Great post by the way :-)

Kim Ayres said...

Thanks Christina - in fact in a stroke of coincidental timing, I'd just commented there (having found the link on your site) when your comment arrived here :)

Carole said...

I read with interest your blog about God being an incompetent communicator. I do not now have, nor ever will your intelligence but I have a grandbaby with DS who will have open heart surgery next week. My mother just called and said my dad was asking for me, "Please have Carole come home, I am dying." And I am scared Nebraska(my grandbaby)will die and I can only know that God gives me hope. Not that they will live, but that this isn't all there is. Life, death, and pain in between.

Jen said...

Amen, brother. Or something like that.

Stinkypaw said...

Even if I'm not really sure there is a God and don't really believe in organised religions, I do believe we are here to do the best we can without hurting others.

I think that men create chaos and men use religions/their beliefs to fight in the name of Gods. let's not forget that religions are men's interpretation of God's words...

When I write men, I mean mankind, not men vs. women.

Kim Ayres said...

Carole - Welcome to my ramblings :)

I don't believe what you say about intelligence for a moment, but my heart is with you over your grandchild. If you read back a couple of posts (Meg is 9), you'll see I went through that experience with my own daughter. If you gain comfort from the idea of God then I am pleased for you. He has never spoken to me. Indeed, as I talked about in the post Losing My Religion, the whole experience of Meg's operation shaped my beliefs quite profoundly.

Thank you for taking the time to comment.

Jen - :)

Stinkypaw - personally I think that most religions are nothing to do with God's words and everything to do with politics and controlling interests. And while my beliefs may have gotten me into some arguments before now, I've never been struck by lightni... zzzpp... zzzzp... crackle...

god said...

Buck up your ideas, laddie, before it's too late.

Kim Ayres said...

Foot Eater, I'd recognise those dulcet tones of yours anywhere :)

Andraste said...

Well said, Kim. I will never understand people giving the great unknown all that power. The human spirit contains everything we need. And if only those annoying people who are so sure they're right get into heaven? Tedious company. I'd rather not be stuck with them for all eternity.

quinn said...

"I'm sooooo confused."

Binty McShae said...

My problem with God, and religion in general, is primarily the attitude towards homosexuality. I can cope with other aspects of Christianity and consider it a religion of peace, tolerance and love (despite the warmongers and bigots who use His name to justify their actions - they are not true Christians), yet the consistent stance against one form of love just because it is felt between two people of the same sex seems entirely illogical to me. I am not gay myself but have many friends who are, and this attitude is what caused me to lose my religion... I blogged about it way back in December '05 - http://averagetosser.blogspot.com/2005/12/bonny-and-blithe-and-good.html

Gyrobo said...

All I know about God is that he loves helium.

The universe is full of it.

Fat Lazy Guy said...

Gyrobo said...
All I know about God is that he loves helium.

That's because abnormally high voices are hilarious :D

Carole said...

Well I read several of your blog spots and enjoy your writing style quite a bit. You even made me laugh out loud. I have added you to my favorites so I can peek in and read your thoughts from time to time.

Kim Ayres said...

Andraste - I would love nothing more than for someone to clearly demonstrate to me that there is something more to life, but it always returns to the idea that I should have faith in their system (although perish the thought that I should have faith in someone else's system).

Quinn - you've put your comment in speech marks - is it a quote from someone, or your own feelings?

Binty - you mean your not a fan of godhatesfags.com?

Gyrobo - I don't know whether your humour is improving, or my appreciation of it has grown, but I've been aware that I laugh out loud much more at your comments these days

FLG - I'm sure thoughts of God with a high squeaky voice are blasphemous in several thousand religions

Carole - I'm honoured :) Do you have a blog?

Nikki said...

Kim, we are at the opposite ends of the spectrum on this.

Where as your daughters surgery changed your life to what appears to be a more agnostic view, or atheistic view, my son's surgery brought me closer to Him.

Let's agree to respect what one another believes.

PI said...

Kim you sound like you are crying out for someone to make you believe and I haven't got the brain ot scholarship to begin to try. Religion, to me, is belief in a higher being from a sense of need. I have believed all my life - there is no logic about it - just faith and a deep belirf in prayer.
However I cut out the middle man - priests etc, so you couldn't put a name on my religion. Am I deluded?
Possibly but that is what faith is all about.

PI said...

That sounds so rubbish. I can't write - or spell sensibly about it but it's time for my daily prayers so I'm off!

fatmammycat said...

I like to believe in something, I find it comforting. So I believe in a God. It took me a whie to reach this level of peaceful acceptance but I'm here now. Since I can't prove or disprove his existence it seems folly to be so vehemently fully for or against. And anyway- I"ve probably told you this before- when the shit hits the fan most folk pray to someone, so why not give dues when everything's going dandy.
I've just finished reading Dawkins and The God Delusion, while I find a lot of what he says is adroit, he can't disprove God either and he's supposed to be a top thinker.
Bearing all this in mind agnostics are more sensible-in my view-than atheists. Atheism is just another religion to me, "I'm right because I say I am. Yada yada yada." "No I"m right because I say I am!'
Wow, there are so many splinters in my ass from the fence I am sitting on. But you get what I mean.

Kate said...

I'm open minded about the existence of a god or gods, but I'm not a fan of organised religion - it just seems to be a way of controlling people IMO. One conclusion I have come to over the years is that if there is a god, he, she or it has a very strange sense of humour.

quinn said...

Well..it is both...I remember a character on a sitcom used to say it all the time..but ..yes I am confused...not by what you wrote I understand your point..life ..is what I am confused about ..because I just don't know what is real and what is not..or what it's all about..or what to be concerned about and what doesnt matter..or why bother with so many things if in the end nothing matters...or ..or...well..see ...."I am soooooo confused...."

Carole said...

No Kim I do not have a blog. I would feel somewhat responsible then to have interesting thoughts. So I will just continue with the guilty pleasure of enjoying your's. You have quite a following. It is most enjoyable to read your responses to their responses. And Binty Mcshae--if that is a real name--gets my prize for the best name in the world. Of course I am from the back woods of Montana so that might not be the best endorsement ever.

cabronsito said...

So there´s no question "Do you believe in God?" anymore. It must be "Which God do you believe in?".

I never got confused with this so far. Even living in a country with a 95%-catholic-believers-population now. Believers, since Spanish-Crown-Inquisitors showed them how to believe.

You found soft words to tell a hard truth, Kim. That´s great!!

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

I come at it pretty much from the same direction as fmc.

I believe in a God, but not necessarily a personal one. I believe we can't know for sure - which is why i reject atheism - but that through art and science it is possible to glimpse something, a tiny glimmer, of the mind of a God behind the veil. There's enough of a glimmer from what we already know through art and science that I think the whole must be dazzling and probably too dazzling for us to begin to apprehend or comprehend it.

Kim Ayres said...

Nikki - absolutely I respect anyone's right to believe. I'm just laying out one of the reasons I find it so difficult to.

Pat - The problem with faith for me is, faith in what? There are 10s of thousands of different belief systems, many of them conflicting with each other that each tell me I should have faith in theirs. If I could believe in a system I'd been brought up in, then it would be much easier.

FMC - the argument that you can't disprove something so it's ok not to dismiss it is, I've always felt, slightly dodgy ground, especially if there's no other evidence to back it up. For example I could say I believe there are invisible blue faeries at the bottom of the garden. Just because you cannot disprove they exist doesn't mean I have the foundation for a powerful religion.

Kate - a very cruel sense of humour.

Quinn - This is partly my point - if there is a meaning to the universe then God (or whatever spiritual system is believed in) is damned obscure about making the message clear.

Carole - Binty's a great, if sometimes sporadic, blogger. I don't think it's his real name though.

Cabronsito - it is a different approach. If you don't believe then people are always trying to save your soul and get you to believe their system. The point I'm making is that even if I did believe, I would have no hope of working out which one to follow.

Sam - I know some athiests can be as dogmatic as fundamentalist religious types, but I can't help but feel the burden of proof lies with those who say there is something. Otherwise anyone can make the most outrageous claims that can never be proved, or disproved,and feel justified in it.

Carole said...

Okay Kim, I have a favor to ask. Could you do a blog on why people who have a certain belief shouldn't want others to believe it? The one theme I see running through the responses to your post is that it irritates people to have faith based people try to get others to believe like they do. It seem disingenuious to believe that McDonald's would advertise for Taco Bell or Rolling Rock would want people to drink Budweiser or that Stephen King would do a website for romance novels. Surely it is logical that if a person believes something strongly, he would work at persuading others to believe the same. And the other point that seems interesting to me and I would love the philosophical point of view on this--If God can be explained by humans, how could he be called God and why would we assume he is an incompetent communicator instead of us being incompetent listeners. My concept of God seems bigger. I guess I don't want a God I can explain. I have a high school education. Others have college degrees, and masters degrees and PHD's and so on, but still if they can explain God, how can he be God? I am not being fresh here, I truly want to read your point of view of these two questions.

The Birdwatcher said...

On the eight day God realised he had made a terrible mistake and has never been heard of since.

Enjoyed the post:)

Mary Witzl said...

I have enjoyed reading your blog on God and all the interesting responses to it. There is a very spirited and thought-provoking discussion on God taking place right now in the on-line writing group I belong to, 'Great Writing,' with excellent arguments being made by both believers and non- believers.
My cousins had two children with severe disabilities and they are very devout Christians. I have heard people say that God gives special babies to special people, and in their case that was certainly true. But I used to care for a boy with Downs who had been neglected, then abandoned, by his parents, and indeed, there are many disabled children who are born into abusive or cruel families. Statements like that are no doubt well meaning, but if I were you, I too would find them irritating.
As for whether there is a God or not, I cannot say. I believe in Good -- the good that is in so many of us. That's what I have faith in, that's what I try to support, and that's what I worship. I like the quotation 'We're all in this, whatever it is we're in, to help each other.' I can't remember who said it, but that's pretty much my philosophy. Some people might see that as God. So the surgeons who operated on your daughter, the nurses who cared for her, the people who offered you their support at the time (I hope) -- they're all a little of what I would call God -- or Good. Even the people who made that daft comment about God giving special babies to special people -- I think they were trying too.

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

"'We're all in this, whatever it is we're in, to help each other" I like that too, Mary Witzl.

Carole makes some good points but I think it is an indictment on modern religions, rather than a point tin their favour, that they're compared to corporations such as McDonalds. McDonalds isn't pushing something terribly good for you and the analogy suggests we should be suspicious of religions if they use the same tactics.

"My concept of God seems bigger. I guess I don't want a God I can explain."

I'm with you there Carole, only I do still want to be able to explain God. I've just come to accept that I don't need to, in order to believe in one.

I've tossed it around and bent it all into a shape that fits facts and science and art and beauty and suffering in my own mind, but I'm deeply suspicious of the result as we humans can bend facts any way we want to fit an underlying impression. I'm aware my wee heap of ideas could well collapse in a heap if shaken too much, but they might not - you never know what's inside you until you're tested really. But laying facts on in layers of belief is useful to me because they magnify the features of the vague assumptions and intuitions and prejudices they're laid over. I can get a better look at what it is I think I believe if I've built it up a little.

Looking at that I've just realised that layers of facts, like snow, may not be enhancing any underlying unapprehended truth but actually obfuscating them.

Aaaaagh! Fuck! This always happens to me round at your's Kim! I start off on a train of argument and proceed to disprove or at very least muddy my own point.

Damnit!

fatmammycat said...

"For example I could say I believe there are invisible blue faeries at the bottom of the garden. Just because you cannot disprove they exist doesn't mean"
Right, but if you believe that and it gives you comfort and you don't try to make me believe it...well then you're at just about where I'm at.

Charlie said...

God is fine in my opinion.
But religion is generally a bad idea.

Charlie said...

Yesterday I went to a place as an unbeliever and came out a devotee of a new faith.
Yes sir I believe, so what is this new rapture what religion has taken my soul where others have failed?
It began when I parked and walked with others on what turned out to be a religious pilgrimage.
I entered into a magnificent building of wondrous sights. It was full of majesty and awe. All people Jews, Muslims, Christians and Buddhists united under one clear message. I was astounded I went from place to place finally I found a place were I was to make my offering I gave it to the women she smiled all understanding and I was filled with joy I offered her my mark and she said "would you like our club card?" I declined.

Yes shopping at the mall is the new religious experience. You doubt me? What other large building do you go to on such a regular basis and with such devotion? Even the most irreligious man makes this journey. I know people who hate shopping yet they still make it, try getting them to something with any kind of spiritual dimension and you will not see them for dust.

But the mall the mall oh here its name and rejoice! . The devil of course has nothing to do with it (though you do have to show his mark or as we call it the credit card) he has been shoved aside by Mammon who beams down on you as long you have money or really good credit.

This of course leads to Christmas, yes Christ mass the time of year when Christianity herald's the birth of its savoir. But I doubt at any time we will actually go to a religious service. In fact if you go to any mall it will look great, loads of decorations and lights but if you really look at them not one religious symbol can actually be seen. This is because the new religion Does not tolerate any religion buts its own. Christmas is not a religious holiday but a winter celebration. Some see this as political correctness gone mad but for the new religion its fine as all faiths can take part in a winter celebration. Mammon loves it that way.

Yes the mall is the new cathedral in the past for a place to call itself a city it had to have one now every city is not complete unless it has a mall.

Kim Ayres said...

I disappear for a couple of days and come back to deep and meaningful discussion. One thing I do appreciate is that everyone is pretty respectful to each other on this blog, which is as it should be. Unlike some tolerant people, I am not averse to deleting comments that piss me off.

I'm waiting for the call for dinner, so I might not get round to responding to everyone's comment just yet, but I will in time, please bear with me.

So, in chronological order:

Carole - Supposing God spoke to me. Supposing I suddenly realised where not just I, but the whole world had gone wrong. Suppose I now knew the solution. Wouldn't I be under an obligation to try and get everyone to see the truth? Absolutely, of course I would. In a way, what is surprising is that there aren't more people out there trying to persuade me that theirs is the right religion, if they truly believe they are right.

The point I was making in this post is that from the perspective of someone who is not committed, how is it ever going to be possible to know which one is the right one? How can I possibly know whether Christianity has a monopoly on truth that Islam does not, or that Buddhism is a truer faith that Shinto?

From the perspective of the believer, I can understand why they would want me to share their truth, but I don't start from that point.

This moves on to your 2nd point. If God is as capable as we are told, then He easily has it within His power to make His message clear. If He is capable of creating a universe as vast and complex as the one in which we exist, then He is surely capable of giving us a clear message that doesn't require tens of thousands of competing religions to interpret in different ways. So, either He doesn't exist, or He doesn't care, or He doesn't know about us (we are, after all only a tiny speck on a tiny speck in an extremely large universe - see Total Perspective Vortex for my views on that) or He is an incompetent communicator.

Just because we can't explain God, doesn't mean that He shouldn't be able to explain things to us.

Kim Ayres said...

Birdwatcher - that's a great comment and explains a great deal :)

Mary - That comment about God giving special children to special parents has, as I guess you have read in my past posts, caused me to rant on more than one occasion. As for The Good, I think it's a lovely idea. There is a great deal of good and potential for good in people. I don't think our modern culture that promotes consumerism and selfishness is much help, but I still believe most people are good at heart. I just don't attach God to it.

Kim Ayres said...

Sam - glad to be of service :)

FMC - but if you're convinced of the truth then it's your duty to let the rest of humankind know. At least that is what I'd feel if I knew the truth. I think. Probably.

Charlie - welcome back - long time no typing. Ah, shopping malls - just make sure you don't wear a hoodie into the place - very disrespectful apparently. However, I think you'll find that TV is just as, if not more, powerful a religion. And if you disagree with me I may just have to call for a holy war against you.

fatmammycat said...

Nope, my duty is to live and love and not be a prick to others, that's about it. My beliefs are my own, I stand by them-all of them- but it is not my duty to force anyone to believe what I do.

Kim Ayres said...

fair enough

Kitchen Bitch said...

Wow, this is an interesting one: I wish I'd got in on it earlier, but I seem to have bee hibernating. The whole God thing is fascinating because some people believe so vehemntly. Personally I think the very notion of a supra-creaturely entity is a bit odd. Why do we suppose that we are so special that some deity chose to create us and chooses still to keep us going? If I were a god and saw the results of such a creation I'd scrap it. War, genocide, consumerism, I'd certainly want to eliminate those things from the world if I could and an omnipotent, omnicient being certainly could. So the only reason I can think of for His not doing so is that He doesn't exisit.

Also slightly perturbed by the notion of respecting other people's beliefs on this one. It seems to me that it is just such beleifs that are used as excuses for destruction. Also, there is something dodgy about accepting one's lot in life because one believes that there must be some higher purpose for it. If your life is shit you should act to change it. But believing that there is an afterlife in heaven if only you accept the shit results in wasted lives. Such beleifs, if we really want to do good and help people to live well, should be challenged.

Kim Ayres said...

See what happens when you miss a few days blogging?

Attila The Mom said...

Hey, you could solve it all by becoming a Mormon and wearing magical underpants, you know. LOL

Kim Ayres said...

With that comment, Attila, you've pushed the comments in this post over the 40 mark, which officially makes this the highest number of responses to any post I've put up on this blog.

Audrey said...

Hi Kim, found this post from Devin's recent post on a similar theme. All the comments are so interesting. One comment struck me.. 'The human spirit contains everything we need'. I couldn't agree more, in terms of that we made that way. I think the message has always been the same. It's man that has misinterpreted it because well it's trying to fit something into a mental concept that can't be done.
This guy seems to be onto somethin :) have a read.. take care. http://www.eckharttolle.com/home.php?section=news&type=News&show=NEWS%20-%20Interviews&id=21

Kim Ayres said...

Hi Audrey - welcome to my ramblings, and thank you for taking the time to comment.

I've always had a certain sympathy with Buddhism, but like all religions and interpretations of being and the universe, it makes most sense if you are already in tune with it. If you are an outsider its truths are not self evident.

Audrey said...

Yea, I know what you mean Kim. I wouldn't say I'm in tune with any interpretations or religions either, but I am trying to get in tune with something vaster than the mind will ever comprehend, so how that guy Eckhart expresses it does resonate with me.
Either way I get the feeling, if I do or don't choose to try, life will get me anyways and will humble me and make me more real, if that makes any sense. Maybe it's the last few moments of life for some, when everything has to be relinquished, where they feel at peace and something sacred shines through or maybe not :) -(such is the freedom we have)

Kim Ayres said...

If something resonates with you then I'm really pleased for you.
There is still a leap of faith to make that there is something larger to tune into, which I cannot personally make. If you check my answer to Carole's post above (6th response) and follow the link to my post, Losing My Religion it might give you a better insight to where I'm coming from.

Audrey. said...

I had followed that link.. Very touching and thought provoking post also. have ya added to me favourites now, lots of great writing. take care.

Kim Ayres said...

Thank you Audrey. Let me know if you have, or start, your own blog.

Phil said...

Enjoyed the read - I thought you posed what some would see as controversial very gently.

I also enjoyed reading the comments. Odd how religion sparks so much interest.

I was brought up to believe - fundamentally. Through many experiences and personal searching, I now don't believe. It has been a liberation.

Phil

Kim Ayres said...

Hi Phil - thanks for taking the time to explore through some of these back-posts.

I don't have a problem with people believing, or not believing. But my background is in Philosophy, so I do have a problem with people not questioning. The thoughtful response is always more interesting to read than the rant or the lecture.

Ron Tipton said...

Kim,

I have just read the most logical explanations of why one should question the teaching of the existence of a God. I too have questioned what to me seems so obvious, that there is no bearded white haired man, sitting on a golden throne in the clouds with a white sheet draped around his muscular body, his right hand firmly holding a stave and sternly looking down through the clouds at we mortal human beings, just daring us to make one misstep so he can cast us into the eternal fires of hell. Nope, it just doesn’t make sense.

Kim Ayres said...

Ron - it's a pantomime image, that one, given strength only by Michaelangelo's scribblings on the chapel ceiling. And it's problems with mistaking such images for truth that in Islam, it is forbidden to make images of God, because to do so limits our ideas of Him and runs the risk of idolatry - or worshiping the idol rather than the being.

I tend to think they've got a point with that one, although of course as an athiest it makes no practical difference to me