Note: I've published a few essays on related topics under the heading 'Musings' but I think that series of essays is getting scarily long (20 chapters so far) so I decided to branch off here and talk about God in a separate (collection of?) essay(s). I plan to write further chapters examining the various 'proofs' of God's existence. This chapter is just an introduction. Qualia, my beta reader tells me it comes across as hostile, which wasn't my intention. Sorry about that. I'm not sure how to tone it down without destroying the point I'm trying to make.

Who Knows?

'Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear. -Thomas Jefferson*

'I want to believe' (Mulder's poster in the X Files)

I am an agnostic. I do not believe that we humans can know whether there is a God (or gods, goddesses or other spiritual beings like angels, ghosts etc.) or not. A lot of people in the world disagree with this view, either by believing that there is no God or that there is and their interpretation of Him is correct. I would like to examine some of the arguments used for and against the existence of God, and attempt to persuade the reader that definite belief of this kind about anything metaphysical, by which I mean anything which cannot be proven true or false by the senses, is ridiculous.

Many Christians argue that there it is not only impossible, but unnecessary to prove the existence of God, and that it is simply just 'a matter of faith'. When you come right down to it, having faith in something you can't prove is just wishful thinking.

'Blind faith is just the desire for something to be the case. The only thing that guides us in metaphysics is our desire, and thus blind faith is nothing but concealed wish-fulfilment. You believe in your funny God for one reason: you want to believe. Having blind faith in God is not different to saying that you would like it very very much if there was God. But, my little theist shopping conveyance, the fact that you would like it very very much if there was a God makes not a squidgen of a difference to whether there actually is a God, does it? Not a squidgen. It doesn't change things one little bit. So you want a God, to give life meaning, well so fucking what?' (Bo Fowler, Scepticism Inc p.76**)

It is natural for humans to want to believe in something greater than ourselves, that someone is watching over the world and that our lives have meaning, but that we want it does not mean that it is, ever has been, or ever will be, the case. I would quite like my pantry to be filled with chocolate, but that's unlikely to happen unless I go out and buy it myself. Sadly, I cannot make chocolate appear through the power of my desire alone. If you have faith in God, and that's some kind of comfort to you, insignificant speck in this vast universe that you are, so be it, but don't expect your faith to be convincing to others by itself, and more importantly, be aware of the pitfalls in store for those who accept things blindly without question. ***

If all you have to go on is faith, the question arises why you put your faith in any one particular God (ess/s), as opposed to one of the millions of others humanity has come up with over the millennia. I suspect I'll get reviews saying 'because *my* God is real!' The obvious counter is that is how do you know? Surely every religious person believes that their particular brand of theism is correct.

If we all started out with perfect knowledge of all the religions in the world before selecting a religion, then there would be an element of rationality in it: it would be possible to honestly say 'because my religion makes the most sense'. However, the world doesn't work that way. There are some people who go seeking spiritual insight and 'shop around' as it were, until they find the religion that seems true to them, but many more people simply follow whatever creed their parents bring them up to believe in. Even if your parents encourage you to come to your own conclusions about religion you are still influenced, or limited, by the culture you are born into. If you're born in India you are likely to become a Hindu or a Buddhist, because those are the religions whose traditions your country is steeped in. If you're born in most European countries or former British colonies you're likely to become a Christian because it is Christian dogma you have the readiest access to. The choice of which deity to have faith in seems to have a great deal to do with sheer dumb luck.

Any religious person who is honest with themselves and others has to admit that their faith is a combination of luck, wild guessing and the fervent desire to be right. Any religious person who says otherwise is kidding herself. I'm not saying that they're wrong, just that they might be, and that they should acknowledge this fact.

I have in the course of this essay been apparently very certain that it isn't possible to be certain about anything metaphysical. I suppose for consistency's sake I can't be certain about that either. What does that make me? A meta-agnostic?

'All metaphysical assertions are impossible, including this one' (Fowler, p. 63)

A paradox of sorts, I suppose. Edgar Malroy, an Agnostic in Bo Fowler's novel 'Scepticism Inc. ran across this problem, and explained:

''No. I don't claim to know that we can't know anything about the metaphysical realm.' 'What are you claiming then?' 'That we can't know that we know. When you make a metaphysical claim I don't say it's wrong, I don't say it is false. All I say is, Who knows? All I am saying is we don't know that it is right. I'm not saying that all metaphysical claims are false, only that they could be" (Fowler p.63).

Christians may be wrong, Buddhists may be wrong, I may be wrong, any of us may be knows? We're all just biding our time until we have further data (a visitation, a scientific revelation, whatever.) to work with, so for the meantime I suppose we'd best try and respect each other's differences.

* www. religioustolerance. Org

** Scepticism Inc., by Bo Fowler, Random House, Great Britain, 1998

***( I discussed some of these in one of my chapters of Musings www. fictionpress. ?storyid=1372787&chapter=12)