Disclaimer: I think it’s important to note that I use the proper noun “God” in reference to the preexisting, visualized God of various world religions, and the improper noun “god” in reference to the conceptualized supreme essence or being.
If the Catholics are right, I’m going to hell. I’ve managed to party my way through all seven Deadly Sins before the ripe age of 20. I’m greedy, lustful, envious, wrathful, gluttonous, prideful and slothful, usually in the course of one afternoon. I’ve made an art out of profanity. I’ve been dishonest to my friends and manipulative of my loved ones. When my laptop broke in 9th grade, I formally renounced God. If I haven’t made it onto St. Peter’s blacklist by now, the old fuck’s either blind or dumber than a bag of rocks.
Luckily, the Catholics aren’t right. Neither are the Protestants, the Muslims, the Mormons, the Jews or any other group that claims a direct relationship with God. The same goes for the atheists, the deists and the generally pessimistic who attest in some way to the absence of a god. I know, I know — I’m not making many friends here. But before you break out the psalms and holy water, let me explain.
Think of god as the contents in a safe. Because we’re being hypothetical, let’s make this safe the size of the Rockefeller Center in New York City. We don’t know what’s in it, and we don’t know the combination either. All we know is that it’s there, and that there’s a defined amount of space inside it.
What’s in the safe? Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe it’s an anthill, a supermarket, a Boeing 747. It could be a museum of Renaissance art from 1400 – 1500, or a museum of Renaissance art from 1500 – 1600. It could be a three-ringed circus or a single, lonely clown. The possibilities are practically limitless, save for the one restricting variable of size (It can’t be Cuba or 10,000 humpback whales).
Now consider the size of the entire universe. I’m not just talking about the stars and planets we can view from Earth; I’m including the innumerable light years of space and time beyond our ability to see or comprehend. It is this vault of nearly infinite scope and size — not one with limited size like the Rockefeller Center — that we’re up against when it comes to discerning a god.
This complicates things. How can we be certain of the existence of divinity in a universe that is mostly unknowable to us? By the same token, how can we be certain that there is no creative force, no supreme entity controlling the inner workings of life and existence? Whether it’s God, Jehovah, Allah, Vishnu, Dr. Seuss or nothing at all, it’s just one possibility amongst trillions and trillions, and its likelihood is therefore incredibly low.
That’s why I can say with so much confidence that there is no “God,” at least as we have come to understand the word in all its various social and cultural forms. There may very well be something that is omnipotent or divine, but the odds of it being a sagely bearded, muscular Caucasian male — or a human at all for that matter — are about as good as this article pissing nobody off. It is far more likely that the notion of god is impossible for us to comprehend, as remote and intangible to our primitive intellects as the theory of relativity would be to an ant’s.
Of course, all of this speculation is accounted for by the religious prophets, who proved the existence of God through numerous and “documented” miracles. But let’s not get carried away. While it is impossible for us to know what exists in the most remote and weird corners of the universe, we have a pretty good idea of what’s going on here. Snakes don’t talk, and they never have. Humans evolved from primates long after the extinction of the dinosaurs. Men cannot walk on water, part water, or turn water into wine. And once you’re dead, you stay that way.
This runs contrary to many people’s beliefs, and will not be received without criticism. But I believe it is both irresponsible and dangerous to call red “blue,” three “four” or up “down.” It is one thing to look with curiosity to the night sky and imagine all the things that could be; it is another thing entirely to look into the past and, with complete disregard for empirical proof, rewrite what already was.
This kind of ambiguity would never be acceptable in our politics, yet it remains both acceptable and sanctioned by religion. It is permissible and even encouraged in our society to question what people think, but entirely taboo to question what they believe.
I am asking you now to question what you believe.
This is not the barren, cold-hearted manifesto of an unbeliever. It is not a renouncement of god, an ode to nihilism or a treatise in the name of nothingness. It is an appeal to our remarkable capacity for wonder. It is a reminder of our ability to understand, and at the same time rejoice in, our ignorance of a universe vaster and more spectacular than we will ever know.
Some questions are unanswerable. Some things are unknowable. But without these things, what would become of our fantasies, our passions, our apprehensions? Without doubt, we would lack what makes us truly human.
It is doubt, and not faith, that will save your soul.
Mark Strong is the contemporary Doubting Thomas.
Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are submitted primarily by students.