There are at least two types of God people believe in: a personal God who intervenes in your life, listens and acts on your prayers; and the God who created order, beauty and elegance – provided you with everything you needed and left you alone to seek your own desires.
I do not want to offend anyone who believes in the first so except for some general characteristics, I am not going to touch on any of their specific beliefs. Anyway, there is nothing wrong in having a personal God as He serves as your moral compass to guide you though your daily grind. A personal God together with the entire church that supports it helps you through all your troubles and is the best coping mechanism ever invented so far. In some countries, religion is responsible for their great culture and the enviable discipline and work ethic of its people.
It is just that these personal gods seems a-plenty and the organized religions that oversee them cannot agree as to which one is the best or truest of them all. Instead of evolving into one religion of the world, they only got themselves in a hotly contested battle for audience share. Sometimes too, religion which purports to offer peace and hope for mankind end up being the cause of some major upheavals and deadly wars – killing scores of people including those that do not even share their faith.
Belief in gods was originally invented to explain natural phenomena and disasters. But nowadays our technology has gone so sophisticated that there is practically nothing anymore about nature that we cannot explain. The concepts of whimsical gods that must be appeased so that they will not rain us with fire and brimstone or shake us with earthquakes have virtually disappeared. The Greeks and the Romans no longer believed in their gods of mythology but modern day religions still survived today. Believers still pray to their God and try to follow his commands lest he unleashes his anger and impart his divine justice on them sinners.
There is one witty justification of why God has not physically revealed himself to us again to break the impasse of which one should we believe. It says that if God shows himself now and breaks the dilemma, then that effectively removes the element of faith. People will undoubtedly believe him not because of faith anymore. But then again, not everybody would probably believe and there would still be a group who would insist to practice their own version of religious truth. This is in fact the case of Christians who believe that Christ the redeemer has already come down to earth but ironically the Jews or the chosen people that he is supposed to lead are still waiting for their real Messiah.
Each religious group continues to portray theirs as the only way – to the exclusion of the others. Most of them are tolerant of the beliefs of others, but there are some who not only think that theirs is the only right way but also think that it is their sacred duty to spread their beliefs and kill infidels and non-believers. I just fervently hope though that they will have enough tolerance in the meantime to allow those who believe in a cerebral – type of God to share their newer version of truth to those with open minds.
I am wont to believe in a God who does not meddle in the daily lives of men. He has already created the universe with all its immutable laws, brought forth life, placed humans at the top of the food web (so far) and left us to pursue our own respective stories. While the religious people go through their ceremonies with serene and faithful countenances believing truly that their personal God sees them as they follow his commands, the critical and scientific minds on the other hand, question the truth of their man-made dogmas – taught authoritatively but without proof.
So if I would believe in the God of order, what would be my reasons for believing? I will not base them on quotes from holy books or philosophical syllogisms. Any proof that use the bible as its source is debatable. No matter how they recite those quotations as their proof of their belief, they just cannot convince those who in the first place, do not believe in the bible itself. Philosophical arguments are also not compelling enough. There is that ontological argument, which is based not on observation of the world but on reason. It says that “God, by definition, is that for which no greater can be conceived. God exists in the understanding. If God exists in the understanding, we could imagine Him to be greater by existing in reality. Therefore, God must exist.” There is also that cosmological argument – borrowed from thinkers in the medieval Muslim world, mixed with some big-bang modern science. Their syllogism says that whatever begins to exist has a cause; the universe began to exist; therefore: the universe has a cause. And if the universe has a cause, then an uncaused Creator of the universe exists, who is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful. The last of these philosophical arguments however is more compelling and which I tend to agree more and which I will explain later on. This is the teleological argument, also known as intelligent design argument, which says that, the existence of God or, more generally, of an intelligent creator is based on the deliberate design we can perceive in the natural or physical world.
I used to think that morality is a proof of God. Morality is that mysterious feeling of what is innately good or what is not permissible even if there seems to be no man-made law for or against it. Well, the one that is commanding it is supposed to be God. But as we can see, there are no more “absolutely good” among humans. Moral absolutism is gone. They are now all relative and it is never more pronounced than now. What is right in one culture can be wrong in another and vice versa. Take killing and stealing for example. We thought all along that killing is absolutely wrong. But terrorism and ISIS beliefs changed all that. They now claim to do barbaric acts in the name of their god – all in the hope that they will soon dominate the world. Even the bible at one point forbids killing but in other parts it commands killing. Well-meaning tyrants also sincerely believe they are allowed to kill bad people and steal from the nations’ coffers for the good of the majority or for his own good whichever is applicable. To me the only thing that is absolute is mathematics. It transcends time, culture and even other worlds. But I am not using Math as a proof of God. It is but a characteristic of the universe he created.
I will then cite signs that there is indeed a creator of everything we see and is the overall orchestrator of life. Cutting edge science has shown us these discoveries. Unlike religious teachings, these scientific findings allow for validation by others and can be tested and proven wrong by anyone through another scientific observation. These proofs are signs that chance or trial and error alone cannot explain. No matter how many times the universe can be re-created with different sets of universal constants and physical laws, these are the things that cannot come out from pure chance.
First is Life. Everything about life is a compelling proof of the existence of God: mitosis or cell division; self-aware macrophages or white blood cells that make up our immune system – they seem to have a life of their own as they protect the bigger body that they are a part of; and protein synthesis which happens as if something is coaching or goading them to follow the step by step procedures written in the instruction code in each of our cells – among others. Most of these reactions are in accordance with biochemistry we have learned in high school but what is amazing is the source of the signal that kick-starts the process. Once it is started, the next steps are all automatic. This God ensures that only life begets life, that they replicate and evolve into better creatures in accordance with the “may the best survive” law he has installed. Evolution does not explain the proliferation of life but rather evolution is a mechanism to better their lives after God has created the basic model.
Although man has recreated the conditions of the primordial earth in their lab and produced those first organic molecules from basic stuff, they were still inanimate. It still needed that certain spark for life to start and which they were not able to do. No matter how they build all the parts of a human being and put them all together, they still cannot breathe life to it. An otherwise healthy person who just died from asphyxiation for example, which is surely complete in all the needed physical parts of a human body but has been declared dead earlier, cannot be brought back to life. The same applies to any living thing. Once dead, they stay dead. Living things can only come from living things and it can only come from God!
Second is the DNA. While this is part of life, the DNA deserves special mention because it is the most efficient information-bearing substance of all – more compact and efficient than any hard disk, USB or any memory chip in computers invented by man. The information in DNA is stored as a code made up of four chemical bases: adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine. The entire human DNA inside those 46 chromosomes consists of more than 3 billion bases but is no larger than a pinpoint. The order, or sequence, of these bases determines the information for building all the proteins needed in maintaining our body, similar to the way in which letters of the alphabet appear in a certain order to form words and sentences. The human genome has been read or mapped and the head of the Human Genome Project – Dr. Francis Collins himself, described the DNA as the language of God. The amazing information in the DNA can never come from chance. No matter how long you put all the 4 DNA base pairs in a container and shake them continuously, they will never form a coherent code that could make proteins just like if you put all the letters in a box and shake them for the longest time you will never form sentences that can be read as a book. These protein molecules are what the body needs to make a particular body part to heal the body. When we get wounded, the wound immediately sends a message (or is it the brain sending the message or is it something else) to the cells nearby to search for the necessary code in one of the DNA strands it carries to manufacture the proteins that will cause the blood to coagulate and seal the wound. Otherwise, we will bleed to death if the wound will not close.
When viruses, bacteria or any germs or foreign bodies attack us, the cells immediately search for the code that could manufacture the proteins to combat the germs. If the foreign body has attacked us before, our immune system already has the code ready to make those anti-bodies without searching for it anymore. What goes on inside our body as it combats germs and keeps us healthy is an incredible story of continuous biological warfare. Now you tell me if all these can happen by pure chance. No way. Somebody must have written those codes billions of years ago – placed them here on earth in all the nuclei of all living things on earth at least a million years ago. The DNA is a full instruction manual for all living things and we are just starting to understand the language. Information needs an author. It must be God!
Third is the Intelligent Design that I have mentioned earlier. ID does not refer to the fantastic beauty and awesomeness of the universe as recently revealed by the Hubble telescope. Some beautiful designs in nature such as the spirals we see on the sunflower and the nautilus or the artistic meandering of a river as they seek lower ground can purely be the result of chance or random mathematical characteristics of objects. They are sufficiently described as the embodiment of the Fibonacci sequence of numbers – for example. The rich colors everywhere are but manifestations of the various wavelengths of light. The earth being in the goldilocks zone of the solar system or the seemingly perfect values of universal constants that allow the existence of a stable universe can be attained purely by chance – given the infinite length of time there is and the ability to start all over again if a certain mix of constants will not work. Randomness or sheer chance themselves form beautiful designs.
But there is this phenomenon called “irreducible complexity” of objects like that of human organs such as the eye and the brain that make chance and probability as inadequate causes. Evolution alone cannot fully explain the appearance of the eye or the brain and the start of living organisms from nonliving matter. If only some of the many complex components of the eye evolved, but without the other necessary parts, there would be no vision. For example, if the lens and the retina appeared through random mutations but there is no optic nerve connected to the brain, then the eye cannot serve its purpose yet. It will just be like a useless appendix connected to our large intestine. Over time, the eye will grow smaller, indistinct and eventually disappear as they do in normal evolution. There would be no evolutionary advantage for the process to continue. Only an intelligent designer or a creator who puts all the necessary parts together at the same time can explain these irreducibly complex organs of living things. A motley group of people do not believe the irreducible complexity argument by specifically breaking down examples as not irreducibly complex enough. But just because they can tear down an example, they could not totally break down the principle.
Part of this design is making the universe operate via immutable or unchanging mathematical laws. Complex as it seems, yet the rules that govern it are amazingly so simple. Its elegance is in its simplicity. We used to have lots of physical laws before but as we get to understand the universe, those laws are getting more simplified and integrated that pretty soon we may only have a few equations to memorize in Physics. The Theory of Everything or the M-Theory is about to integrate all the physical laws discovered starting from the Newton’s laws of motion to the General Relativity of Einstein and the discovery of the God-particle in the Standard Model by modern cosmologists we have today. The alternative which is a chaotic, lawless universe cannot exist that long enough before it perishes and disappears. Since the universe is mathematical, then if we master Mathematics, we can make bold predictions that our ordinary senses cannot allow us to. The amazing process of mathematical abstraction sends us to that place of pure thought where its conclusions are amazingly true even in the physical world. An intelligently designed universe needs a designer. It must be God!
Fourth and the last (for now) is about the incredible finding of quantum mechanics’ famous double-slit experiment. Scientists noted that when they passed several electrons through two slits – without knowing which, the resulting pattern on the screen is an interference pattern as if the electrons were a wave of light. But when they tried to determine which slit a particular electron took, the distinct two slits pattern resulted as if the electrons behaved as particles hitting the screen in a straight line. They concluded that an electron can be both a wave and a particle depending on the presence of an observer on the slits where they passed through. It is as if the presence of an observer changes the result of the experiment. That experiment points to the need of an observer before the universe can show itself. Without an observer, the universe will not appear in any of its form and will only be a blur of possibilities. Sub-atomic particles tend to take on all possible values of space and time until they are forced to collapse or compute to just one possibility according to a complex probability equation called its wave functions. This experiment apparently can now answer the old rhetorical question “If a tree in the middle of the Amazon forest fell but no one saw it happen, did the tree fall?” According to quantum mechanics, the tree may either have actually fallen or may have not. It will only be a certain answer if an observer is there to see it happen. But why would the universe need an observer before it shows all of its grandeur and glory? It appears that that observer is the very purpose or requirement first before God reveals his mighty creations!
So, with these compelling proofs of the God of Order, how do we now show our appreciation to him – if we have to? Do we have to abide by some rituals and practices like that of organized religion? Did God really want a set of rules for his believers to follow? Does God need to be adored and venerated? These needs are human needs and God is beyond that. God will love you or treat you nicely or randomly because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do. (Desiderata II) Believers of organized religions may scoff at us by saying we are just too lazy to do our responsibilities. But then again God would not care less if you follow him or not. The world and the universe continue to march on following all those laws he made regardless of how good or bad his creations have become. The Final Judgement, for those who believed in it, is still a long way to be a concern. The real end of the world will come when our sun dies in about 5 billion years or when the universe goes back into the Big Crunch (the opposite of the Big Bang but we are not sure of this happening yet). In the meantime, just by simply being observers – appreciative of his majestic creation, we are already doing God a favor.
So, if you still want follow your personal God because of your fear of the “what if hell is true bogey”, then by all means go ahead and even your chances. As they say, if you have the money, put a bet on all sides. Who knows indeed? But for rational minds, we can believe that He only needs us to keep our intelligence,search for the mind of God, be conscious, be aware, be sentient and be that observer. Without us here to see the universe, all those equations will simply stay as probabilities. Everything will simply be matter and energy endlessly converting from one form to another with no end or purpose in sight. The universe will simply be a void of everythingness but no sound no colors, no shape, no nothing. And what good indeed is the majesty of the universe when there is no one around to see it happen.
Notwithstanding the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), it seems we are the only intelligent observer of the universe! Surprisingly, the closest planet to Earth that theoretically can harbor life turned out to be lifeless. Other planets in the Solar system all turned out to have no life either despite being surveilled by our highly sophisticated space vehicles. We do not have to travel to hyperspace looking for life. Despite it being so non-sensical, we may indeed be the only living thing in this part of the universe. But no matter, even if we eventually find an ET with intelligence like us or even of a higher civilisation, it will not change my belief in my Universal God. I may just have over stepped the relative position of humans in the entire universe. It was my original religion that taught me that God wanted man to have dominion over the whole earth. I just extrapolated. In the case of a contact with ET then, I will just revert to man having dominion over earth only and not necessarily the universe. My other bases for God existence are still applicable anyway.
With no promises of heaven or 12 virgins or life everlasting, I am perfectly fine with the thought that God is there to ensure that every day that I wake up, gravity and the laws of Physics and Chemistry will still be in force to assist me on my way to the office or to the mall or to the playground with my grand-kids. I could use psychological techniques similar to praying such as autohypnosis or the mystical arts of meditation to hype my body to secrete good hormones or produce the dopamine to psyche me up. People pray without understanding the basis of why prayer works and ignorance is bliss indeed. If your technique works, then we are just on the same page. But at least, I do not have to believe on things I do not understand. Similarly, if you are a Roman who pray to your war god Mars and at the same time train your men in the art of battle and follow a certain attack strategy, then chances are you will win the battle. People can pray hard to land a job and at the same time research and prepare for the coming interview, chances are they will be chosen instead of the other who simply crosses their fingers. But it would be quite unfair or even unthinkable to pray to God for almost everything you need: win the lotto, or win the raffle, or eventually be allowed to marry one’s BFF. I will just let them pray and believe that their chances will be better. Up to this writing, no scholar has yet conducted a correlation study proving that the one who prays for a personal favor has a better chance than someone who does not pray at all.
Let each to his own beliefs then but with the proofs I cited, your faith may even be strengthened that God is indeed here but that you should now be discerning on what to believe. As for me, I am at peace with the cerebral conclusions that I have made. If all we have to do is to be ourselves, then we can focus on just doing what is best for ourselves – without jeopardising the chances of others. Adam Smith was right all along then when he described the free market as one where our individual actions are guided by an invisible hand that brings unintended social benefits to the whole. This belief will surely usher in a more tolerant, scientifically inclined society, faster advancement in technology and bring us to the next level of civilisation for humankind.
May the God-Force be with us all!