Tim Snowborn over at Twitter asked me to chime in on a conversation he was having about this video he posted. He asked if I’d be willing to contribute to the discussion, after a brief discussion we had had on Twitter. I tried. However, I got rather vociferous and YouTube wouldn’t take my comment. So I’m putting it over here instead. What follows is the YouTube video in question, and then my response to it in text form, cuz I don’t do YouTube videos anymore. I have a face for WordPress.
You asked in Twitter if I’d be willing to contribute to this other discussion, Tim. Be careful what you wish for. =P
If there were what you or someone else might call a god, I would not use the word god. The word is useless in terms of communication, and that’s what this all boils down to: language. If to me a tomato means a tomato but to you a tomato means an attractive woman, and somehow you’ve never learned (or willfully choose to be ignorant about) the word originally meant a fruit that many people mistake to be a vegetable, then we would need to use a word other than tomato to communicate about either plant life or women. Between the two of us, we’d need to retire the word “tomato” from our shared vocabulary, if we’re going to stop every conversation cuz we can’t agree on what a tomato means. In common parlance, most people can accept that tomato can be used in multiple ways depending on context, but you can see how easy it would be to get into an argument of semantics that ends up spiraling and no one ever gets to the meat of the real argument cuz they’re too busy arguing about the terms necessary to have the argument at all.
In this video Tim, you described what a god may be and then ended up describing what I’d call an alien. You’re aware as I am of different general ‘types’ of civilizations agreed upon by people before us who discussed possible advanced alien civilizations. If we were visited tomorrow by little green men in flying saucers, most human beings would not immediately bow down before them as soon as they landed. However, if they could turn water into wine or part seas or walk on water, some people would be losing their shit and falling over each other building churches in the honor of little green men. Even if it later turned out the aliens did these things using basic scientific principles even Penn and Teller know. Some people would STILL insist on worshiping them, even as there are still follower of Jimmy Swaggart and Robert Tilton, believe it or not.
If I went back in time to the 1950s with some present day electronics, I could freak people out by showing them a device in the palm of my hand that could play everything the Beatles ever recorded, even though they’d have no clue who the Beatles were yet. That would make me a god to some people, cuz the Beatles are that good. If I could go back in time to before homo sapiens discovered fire and show off a cigarette lighter they’d either worship me or stone me, depending on what their beliefs about fire were at that time. I’d either be a god to them, or a monster that brought fire upon their neighboring village that destroyed three sun cycles before. Time travel can be a bitch.
My point is “god” is very subjective, dependent on endless variables. There’s essentially as many One True Gods as there are people who believe in them. Each believer has in their mind anything from a vague understanding to a very personal relationship with the god inside their head, and I have yet to meet anyone who can prove the god inside their head also resides in my head or anyone else’s. With some effort, any two believers will come to a disagreement about their allegedly shared One True God. None of them can present their god out here in what we laughing refer as “the real world” for lack of a better shared term.
But you can do this same trick with every word in the English language. You may think of a tomato as a vegetable, when I feel it’s a fruit. Both of us have evidence that can be used to support our position. I may refuse to accept a tomato can be green. Until they are ripe maybe I call them something else, and only red tomatoes are true tomatoes. You may point out there are some kinds of tomatoes that are always green and I’d say well those aren’t true tomatoes. We can go around and around and never get anywhere.
So I don’t use the word anymore. If we were visited upon tomorrow by something or someone that either claimed to be a god, or other human beings insisted I accept this new thing as a god, I would personally check it against the following criteria.
1. Can we prove it created all things? No? Well I’m already done here.
2. Is it all powerful? Or is it just more powerful than we are?
3. Is it all knowing? Or does it just know more than we know?
4. Is it benevolent and the kind of compassionate being that makes no mistakes and wants to help carbon based life forms? Or is it just a monster that wants everything and everyone to bow before it or else?
If we encountered something that was omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent, and the Creator of all things, I personally would probably still not refer to it as a god, but I’d be less incensed at those who do. I’d smile and nod and be impressed that he pulled off the best magic trick humanity’s seen yet. While I wouldn’t bow to this creature, I might ask what its name was and shake its hand and welcome it to Earth. If this creature said its name was “God,” I’d recommend he change his name cuz if he doesn’t he’ll get no end of flack from the human race. There’s no living up to people’s impressions before they meet you. Even if you’re omni-everything.
The thing is though, humanity’s been around for at least a hundred thousand years.. or ten thousand if you’re a Young Earth Creationist. I only need ten thousand to make my point even if I don’t believe either number. We been around awhile now, and in that entire time there’s been a lot of talk about various gods and other mythical creatures more powerful than mankind, but not a shred of evidence, now it has been pounded into my head since I was a child: “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” but I beg to differ. If you claim something exists but you can’t present evidence, then your lack of evidence is my evidence that you’re making this up. Maybe you will be proved right in the future, but you can’t prove it now, which tells me you’re either withholding the evidence for some reason, or there is no evidence and the best you can hope for is a lucky guess. Now, what’s more likely?
I can’t personally prove atoms exist. I don’t believe in them. However, there’s a great deal of science that works because engineers designed stuff based on the idea that atoms comprise molecules and if you do something to the right kind of elements they will change from one form of matter into another and/or you get energy in the transfer. That’s how most power generators work. People theorized it would work and it consistently does, and so they built it into a motor and now we got automobiles and batteries and all kinds of things. Prayer doesn’t run batteries. Laying of hands isn’t what makes a car go. I don’t believe in the internal combustion engine. I observe it works in spite of my refusal to worship it. Human blood sacrifice does not absolve me of wrongdoing, but if I am wronged or someone wrongs me, we can usually come to some kind of understanding, even if it ends up in court, which again is a man made construct not a magical god thing. Though they make you swear on a bible, that swearing on a bible isn’t what fuels the judicial system. There are countless other examples but this is already too long.
Okay one more. We used to believe lightning came from Zeus. Now we know lightning is caused by electricity in the atmosphere being discharged from a cloud that’s negatively charged to the ground which is positively charged. It’s not an upset god. It’s just matter and energy doing what they do, cuz of how atoms interact with each other. So I don’t believe any of this poppycock, and I’m sure my description is equivalent to that of a college dropout cuz that’s what I am, but I find these things evident. They work for me, and until they don’t work for me, I accept them on a provisional basis. Many people confuse that with belief. I don’t have faith in the universe, I find it evident. I accept what appears to exist whether I believe in it or not.
Back in 2009 I woke up in a hospital after what was a routine operation for the hospital but a scary ordeal for me, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover I was still alive, cuz after I fell asleep in the operating room, nothing happened. I didn’t go to heaven or hell or float outside my own body and it didn’t feel like sleep in any way I’d ever experienced it before. I simply experienced oblivion. Even using the word “oblivion” is limiting. Even Nothing is a something. I’m happy to be alive, but now I feel I know what’s awaiting me; what awaits all of us, and it’s not all that scary now. I’m cool with it. I can understand that most people can’t accept it. I used to not be able to accept my own mortality, but now I’ve seen it. I’ve felt it. I don’t believe in it. It’s there waiting for me whether I believe in it or not. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe after I really die I won’t really be dead, but I doubt it. I find (for lack of a better word) oblivion evident. Whether I like it or not. Whether I believe in it or not. Oblivion is evident. That’s not my opinion. There are mausoleums and cemeteries that support my conclusion. It was okay with all of them. I’m okay with it.
So this ongoing argument about gods that mankind has had with itself for thousands of years is to me rather petty. I may not be able to disprove the vague concept of a god, but the more you define your god, the easier it is to dismiss as poppycock, or show not evident based on what we know is. Abraham’s god as described in the bible and quran does not exist in this universe. I know this because genetics proves Eve preceded Adam long before humans walked the Earth. I know this because if Noah’s flood happened our world would not look like it does today. I know this because there are no Chosen people. I know this because Muhammad was not a prophet or a god’s spokesperson he was just just a selfish warlord with delusions of grandeur and a taste for pedophilia; aka human. Besides the quran is a bastardized retelling of many stories in the Judeo-Christian bible and other texts it’s rather offensive when people try to pass that off as a god’s word when it’s obviously written by a man who pretended to know a god. I know this because human blood sacrifice absolves no one of anything. It never did. It’s not going to start happening to work in the future. Magic is not evident, but I enjoy magic tricks, when done by competent magicians, and Abrahamics is not a competent magic trick. It worked centuries ago but not anymore, and I’m insulted when people still try to fool me with that. I don’t believe in it, and I know it’s not true.
Bottom line: When it comes to Abrahamics, I’m a Gnostic Atheist. I know and I don’t believe. When it comes to more vague god concepts, I acknowledge I’m an agnostic atheist. I don’t know cuz the “god” concept is too poorly defined, but I still don’t believe, cuz based on all that mankind has seen thus far, what’s more likely? What’s more evident? I don’t know what’s out there beyond what we know, but if there is a “god” like creature, it’s beyond anything mankind can even fathom yet, and while I won’t jump to the conclusion it’s a god, I will most likely be impressed. My impression won’t be what matters though. Whether we pray to it or try to fight it, I’m concerned Stephen Hawking is right, and such an encounter would likely not be to our benefit as a species. It would seek to use us in some way that we would not like. If we’re lucky it’d just want to use us as a food source. If we’re unlucky it would want to enslave us, and the fact we’re already predisposed to bowing to anything more powerful than we are would probably make it easier to subject us to their will. The question then wouldn’t be “do we believe it’s a god?” The question would be “does that ultra powerful god like alien force believe in us?”
I doubt it. So does Hawking.