God Is Just Not That Into You

I think that there’s something that I dwell on way too much. Well, actually (sorry alex) two things: 1) God, and two, my philosophy classes concerning God, and — in particular– my (attempted) conversations with my philosophy of religion professor. Since I’ve heard it said that no novel is ever finished ( George Lucas, my personal hero, said that films aren’t finished, they’re abandoned), I started to think about a paper I wrote in my philosophy of religion class. The class topic (officially) was THE PROBLEM OF EVIL, but the last paper topic was the hiddenness of God. Officially, my position is that something that does not exist cannot hide from anyone (I realize the serious positivist faux pas, here). But, if one wants a grade (a passing one anyway) one must play along and write the required term paper. So I wrote one. Which, now that I think about it, I could have dicked off the class given the fact that I didn’t actually (sorry alex) need the class to get my degree, but took the class because ( and I’m being completely honest here) I enjoy talking out loud in class and that professor in particular seemed to indulge my want to gab. In actuality, that man, just short of ball gags, would not have been able to silence me. Now that I think about it, ball gags would have spiced up the class quite nicely. Originally, my conclusion was this: God is all around us, and if one fails to see it, or Him, then one is ignoring the obvious. God need not reveal himself to prove that he exists. I actually reworked my paper as my last blog entry. But then, I thought, somewhere in the Bible, there’s a line that says that God is a jealous God. That means, if God is capable of experiencing jealousy, then God may be so inclined to experience any number of human emotions, including plain, old dislike for someone. Brad Pitt says in Fight Club that ther reason why our lives didn’t turn out the way that we were promised may lie in the fact that God has abandoned us. That, in all probability, he says, God never wanted us. He doesn’t like us — personally. As I look about the world around me, I’m beginning to think that Tyler Durden is right. Maybe God doesn’t like some people. So then I thought about the problem of hiddenness. Maybe God is hiding from us because he doesn’t like us as much as we like him. It could be that God is really not that into us. Take someone like Joel Osteen for example. If you don’t know who he is ( and really, don’t be embarassed at all if you don’t), he’s what was called in the 1980’s a “televangelist”. He does the Lord’s work via television. And for his work, he’s been rewarded. He’s got a hot wife, lots of dough, and he’s FAMOUS. All rewards, he may say, from God. Now, look at where you are. Swimming in cash? Are you or your significant other “hot” or “smokin'”? Do you have a TV show or millions of followers who are willing to send you cash to read a from a book that is available in nearly any bookstore and that they can read themselves? Probably not. You work hard, you may even pray or go to church. So why is God not sending you earthly rewards in abundance? It’s probably because he just plain doesn’t like you. Look, any of us knows that when you like someone you want the best for them, right? You at least try to see that the ones you like are safe and secure and are to some degree prosperous. Right? Haven’t you ever stopped to think what the hell did those people in Darfur do to piss God off so thoroughly? Why some people seem to be afflicted with so much unpleasantness while for others the worst that happens to them is a stubbed toe? There’s a saying that God doesn’t give to us any more than we can handle. Which, if we interpret that saying at face value, that means that any woman living under the Taliban can kick my ass in a New York minute. But, why would this God who is alternately described as a loving God give some people a life that, if you allowed the same thing to happen to someone, you wouldn’t be asked to babysit anyone’s dog anytime soon? Don’t we want to help and protect the people that we love? So, if God loves us, and he only gives us what we can handle, I’m guessing that God doesn’t love people with really shitty lives. He piles it on these people because he wants them to suffer. And he wants them to suffer because he doesn’t like them. It’s not that God is hiding. It’s that he’s hiding from you. I’ve never seen a miracle. I haven’t seen the face of Jesus in a tortilla either, but there are people that have. There are people who have been saved by guardian angels, and survived plane crashes that killed everyone else on board. There are people who, like our last president, claim that they personally talk to God. I used to scoff at them. But now, I realize the truth. God, despite my attempts to get his attention, just isn’t into me. It’s sort of explaining why Paul ditched Jane the model and hooked up with Linda. It’s that he saw her, and that was that. I guess it kind of works the same for God. And since, presumably, God sees all, he knew when he created the world that he wouldn’t like me ( which makes the whole idea of predestination all the more crappy, doesn’t it?). My God, I think that I really depressed myself there. I’d better stop before I really say something depressing.

On One of Life’s Least Interesting Subjects Or, the Problem of the Hiddeness of God

Has anyone really seen God? I’m not talking about seeing the face of the Virgin Mary on the side of aluminum siding, or hearing a voice in your head tell you to wait before stepping into the crosswalk moments before a car speeds through the intersection , nor am I talking about any sort of metaphorical experience ( a “closer to God” sort of moment), but has anyone really felt like God had revealed himself to us? As a steadfast empiricist, I would (for the sake of consistency) have to say that neither I or anyone else has seen God, and that fact counts as evidence against the existence of one such being identified as the “Creator”. But, does the fact that you cannot see God mean that we are justified in saying that he does not exist? The fact that we cannot see or feel God in a strict, material sense leads many of us to say that we cannot — with any definitive proof — claim that God exists. Are we justified in believing in something that we cannot offer proof that it exists? Would we believe in any other claim about ourselves or the physical world if the proof of its truth continually and consistently eluded us? We wouldn’t put faith in any “truth” about the physical world is we said that the proof of it’s truth was hidden. For instance, say I tell you that I could create physical matter from mere thought. I think of a ball, I say, and one appears. Well, the first thing that you might ask, is to prove my claim. But I then tell you that I can’t quite explain or even prove that I can. The fact that you saw a ball when you walked into my living room is my proof. (ok, bad analogy, but the idea is, is that if I said that I can do something, you’d be inclined to ask for proof). I can’t get by saying that the process is hidden. Or worse yet, I can’t say that it’s not actually me but an elf that does it, and I can’t tell you where he is right now. He’s hiding, I say. Well, that’s the way that some feel about God. His hiding from us complicates that whole believing in him thing. We might, if we were funny enough, say that God seems to us like a bit of a prankster. That is, he always seems to be hiding when we need him most. Who among us hasn’t looked to the heavens and asked the Creator to strike either ourselves ir someone else down at a moment of pain or distress? But, empirical or unfunny, borderline blasphemous comments aside, we really do want to believe that we are under the watchful eye of a benevolent creator who loves us and wants us to know that he is present in our lives. But how are we to know that he is there? Biblical accounts aside, we often find ourselves calling out to a God that is not present (at least physically) in our lives. God, for the most part, and on many occasions, remains enigmatic to us, something that is hidden from our view. Ok. But is that really a problem? I was in my philosophy of religion class one afternoon, barely paying attention, when this subject came up. I think the professor was saying something along the lines of he wouldn’t put faith in a marriage if he had never seen the woman he was married to ( I don’t know, some guys would call that kind of marriage heaven). I think that the idea was, if you never see your wife, then you’re not really married. You can’t even say that you know that she positively exists. But, as so many of our examples (or “thought experiments” for the uninitiated), his example was dealing with physical objects. So, of course if I make a claim about some object in the physical world, we’d eventually have to pony up some evidence that it exists. Or else we’d assume that your “wife” is as likely to be a balding, overweight self-employed guy living on the East Shore of New Jersey, as she is likely to exist at all. But, God, if this is new to anyone, is not a physical object. Rules concerning HIS existence operate, by nature, outside of the rules concerning the physical world. Even Hume admits to that. I remember saying in class that I felt, and still do, that philosophers do not belong in the business of religion. My professor said that, given my lack of knowledge in the subject, that I was in no position to make that judgement. But, his phd aside, I still holdfast to my claim. I feel that, in matters of God and our belief (or lack of) in his existence, we should, indeed, must from time to time shrug off our philosophic coats, and try to understand God as he wants us to come to know him — by faith. Whether we “see” God is a matter best handled by the heart and not by the intellect. Any evidence we offer, whether we are engaged in fierce philosophic debate or quiet contemplation, is, at best, anecdotal. Our evidence is and will always remain the Virgin in the sheeting, or the feeling of love we feel when we are in church, or the voice in our head telling us to stay on the curb for another half second. Our evidence that God exists is based on what we personally see, or hear, or feel — what we’ve heard and what we believe to be true. And evidence of this type, as we know, cannot be verified no matter what well-formed argument that we construct. Which is why I maintained then and now that the philosopher, so long as he maintains that he can offer proof for the existence of God via an argument, will never find the proof that he wants to find. Arguments are constructed for a standard of proof that is dictated by men. And of course we know that God is notorious for not adhering to the standards of man. The plain truth is, is that, despite all of the best defenses and logically correct arguments, we can neither reason ourselves into finding God, nor can we demand that God reveal himself to ease our doubts. If we want to find God, we must remember the lessons that we were taught in Sunday school. We must remind ourselves that God is found in all creation. He tells us that we, human beings, are reflections of Him ( we are proof of God, the Father’s existence just as we are proof of the existence of our own parents, even after their deaths. The fact that a parent may be dead does not serve as a negation of the proof of their existence — especially if you are alive and well and saying to me that you indeed have parents). God tells us that to find him, all we need to do is call upon him. We may recall that God does not “prove” himself to us though spectacular displays ( i.e. God does not do parlor tricks), but through the fact of existence itself. A believer claims that his own existence justifies a belief in God. The atheist counters that no evidence short of an appearance by God himself, gives proof that miracles or other so-called evidence draws back the curtain to reveal a hidden God. But then, by holding each position, we land right back at the position where we started: each camp entrenched on either side, claiming that the other is “epistemically challenged”. However (or unfortunately, if you look at it another way) our lack of definite evidence leaves us to rely on what we know — faith. Perhaps it is faith that allows those who see God to see him. Those who do not have faith simply will not see. We know, as sinners, that it is us who must prove ourselves to God, and that our failure to see him is a sign of our separation from God rather than proof of God’s hiding from us. So, we ask, is the hiddeness of God a problem? My answer is no. A believe has no problem finding God. And, if you ask him how he knows how a God that hides from him exists, he will tell you that the point of his faith is not to see God, but to seek God. Those who do not see God merely refuse to see in the face of overwhelming evidence of the existence of an almighty Creator. All we are left to do, the believer may say, is say that those who want philosophic proof may find themselves forever lost in a torrential sea of probability and valid but unsound arguments. What we must do, he may tell us, is to deal with those who do not see as graciously as possible and that we should not hold their epistemic defectiveness against them. Eventually, our believer friend may say, the lost may simply quiet themselves and stop demanding answers. When they learn to be quiet, the answers — better yet — the proof may come. Which, by the way, is a better way of answering the question than any argument involving possible worlds or a derivation.