Bismillahi ar-rahman ar-rahim
In centuries past, believing in God was the default position. There were always atheists, polytheists and a mixture of adherents to various faiths, but ultimately the majority believed that a supernatural being was behind the creation of the universe and life itself. For most people they just couldn’t rationally make sense of a universe, of life, without a creator, without a God.
Nowadays, many people are pretty focused on their personal lives and ambition. Atheism is definitely becoming more common and normal, almost as an antithesis to religion rather than the philosophical question of God’s existence (but that’s a discussion for another time). But even many religious adherents follow their religion primarily because it’s part of their identity and culture. But at a deeper level they do not depend on God and do not turn to him as an answer for their problems and life in general, but rather they are mesmerised by the physical means by which they function in life. Many people live primarily out of a need for comfort, and fear of anything that threatens this comfort or way of life. In other words, this life becomes more precious to them than their relationship with God (this applies to many religious adherents).
Belief is not black and white, on or off, 0 or 1, but rather has degrees and stages. The lowest degree of course being outright denial of God, and the highest being absolute certainty and experience of God. Most people find themselves in the middle, comfortable with their level of faith and practice or view of life, and basically not changing and improving.
I just want to explore some of the ideas that have competed with belief in One God for how the universe and life originated and came to be. These are familar with most people but I want to add some nuances which I find people miss.
Multiple minor and major gods
I don’t think I even need to say much about this other than in the past polytheism was far more prevalent than it is today. This was mainly due to a strong belief in the supernatural but also a lack of knowledge of the physical sciences. So, myths and dieties were conconcted out of the ignorant imaginations and exaggerations of ancient cultures.
Philosophically, a single Omnipotent God makes more sense than a god behind every tree and phenomenon because of the inherent order and unity that we can readily observe in nature. If there were multiple gods then they would be jealous and vie with each other for power and the universe itself would be chaotic and lack unity. This is also evident in fictional works and myths about greek, roman and norse gods who were always fighting or scheming or messing with humans and the world in general for their individual ends.
Evolution of the universe and life
This is the main atheistic and agnostic position on this question since of course they can’t beleive in God. People who have this position are making two mistakes. The first subtle mistake they make is that if something has an explanation, this excludes God’s Hand in it (not an anthropomorphic hand mind).Just because the sun’s heat evaporates the water and then clouds rain, doesn’t mean God isn’t controlling all of this in minute detail.
Scientists look for physical apparent causes and connect them with effects. They generally deal with the “how”, but rarely if ever deal with “why”. The “why” question ultimately leads back to God and therefore is more the domain of theology and philosophy.
In any case, bringing it back to evolution, this theory of how life organically was able to, through trial and error and natural selection, to build up cells, leading to a competetion of life against life, leading to a plethora of organisms that have dispersed throughout the land and form nature as we know it.
This view of nature and this atheistic way of imagining how life originated and developed has glaring holes that make this view a very unsatisfying answer and explanation.
The main holes are: a lack of time for the development and diversity to arise as they are (because multiple upon multiple traits have to change simultaneously) for body shapes and biochemistry of the organisms to adapt); discrepancies with regards to longevity and generation times and how this fits in with the evolutionary view of life (how does a species with a longevity of 15 years and generation times of a few years develop into another species with a longevity of 80 years and generation times of decades?); symbiotic species whose lives are practically inseparable; and traits that have exist despite no selection pressure for them to exist (such as some fish and worms having dazzling colour patterns and live at the bottom of the ocean where no light reach and therefore their skin colour should have no selection pressure to develop bright colour patterns).
More importantly than all of these holes is that in reality nature is not in a frenzy for survival with scarce resources and selfish organisms who just ultimately want to survive and pass on their genes. In reality nature and ecosystems are highly tuned and balanced networks. when there is no human interference, populations of species and their food sources remain stable. Evolution can only take place when there is change, which weeds out the organsims that cannot survive the change. But if there are centuries of stability with few disasters then that puts an even greater number of generations required for evolution to occur, since in a stable environment, species won’t change much. In fact the beak sizes of finches on the galapagos islands cycle, getting bigger or smaller, depending of the scarcity of certain food sources. When soft seeds are readily available such as when there is plenty of rain, then finch beaks tend to be on the smaller side. When soft small seeds become more scarce such as during droughts, finches with bigger beaks are more common as they can eat harder bigger seeds. organism traits exist in a continuum in a certain population, with the most common traits being the ones most suitable for the environment at that time. As the environment changes slightly (as environments aren’t strictly static) then the population as a whole can cope with the slight changes even though some individuals don’t.
Yet Darwin made the biggest extrapolation ever, in imagining that because a single finch species gave rise to a variety of finch species, then it followed that a species of one type could over eons and many generations become other species. But all we ever see is an increase of diversication within species but never any meaningful permanent biochmical changes.
Variety of Monotheistic religions
Finally there are the various monotheistic religions that say they have the correct view of God. These differences and divisions between different monotheistic religions and especially within a religion itself causes many people to think that ultimately the whole thing is imaginary and made up (I mean things like scripture and holy messengers). If there isn’t one story then either one is the truth or they are all equally fictitious. It appears that for many atheists, religion looks fictitious. And they’re not entirely wrong. Large parts of any religion has been either made up, or canonised into Law but was only made up by men in the first place. For example Christians believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ (on him be peace), whereas muslims believe he wasn’t even crucified. Shia muslims believe Ali (may God be pleased with him) should have succeeded leadership of the muslims after the Prophet Muhammad(peace be upon him) died whereas Sunnis accept Abu Bakr (may God be pleased with him) as the rightful successor. Who’s right? It’s clear that any of the actual lies are then fabrications made up by humans. So an atheist feels like the whole thing is a confused jumble and is probably fictitious anyway since they are concerned only with what they can consciously experience.
There are as many opinions as there are humans but there exists only One Reality. I think that much we can all agree on. Whatever the Reality is, there is but only one way that it is. We just differ in what that reality is exactly.
Is it possible that amongst all the opinions and stories that one of them is pretty much the complete truth? I don’t see why not. The only way to find out is to be open and receptive to what is in the world. I mean, to be receptive to others’ opinions, to be receptive to new knowledge, to be receptive to scripture. If God communicates with us, he surely would have sent us messages and signs. We need to be open and receptive to those signs and messages.
Those were some points about each topic that I wanted to express, though it probably was a bit rambly. Then again the human race is a very confused bunch so I had to cover the points that lead to that confusion. (^▽^;)
Feel free to comment your opinions and suggestions for what you would like me to discuss. 🙂