EVIDENCE FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD FROM EXPERIENCE, PART 2: UNIVERSAL HUMAN FAITH
It’s an empirical fact that most people over the course of the millennia of human experience have held that God, a Supreme Being that is worthy of our reverence and worship, exists. When primitive humans looked to the heavens, they concluded that there must be some Being that is greater than human beings, greater than everything else. Humankind has always thought so. Laws, mores and cultural norms have been based on this belief since time immemorial. Is it conceivable that humankind has been so wrong about something so basic since the beginning of the human community itself?
Yes, say the atheists. Humankind has been wrong about a great many things since very early on. Scientifically, humans were wrong about the fact that the sun orbited the earth instead of the other way around. Morally, humans have been wrong about slavery and the suppression of the female sex, supported even by their sacred texts. Since humankind was so wrong about these, why not about God, too?
Geo-centrism, the idea that the earth is the center of the solar system rather than the sun, was a reasonable conclusion based on what humans could observe about the solar system before the advent of the telescope and modern astronomy. Observations made since then have corrected the error. But, at least those who held to geo-centrism before modern technologies could correct them were reasonable in the assumption. Even today we use expressions like, “The sun rises in the east and sets in the west,” because that is what it looks like. We know that, technically, the sun doesn’t rise or set at all. Rather, the earth rotates. Furthermore, the sun and earth are real objects that humans observe, that are part of the human experience, and not fantasies created by the human mind. But, if God is nothing more than a fantasy, on what experience is His existence based? Why did humans even come up with the idea of a Supreme Being greater than all else, Who rules the heavens and the earth, if such a Being didn’t make Himself known through human experience?
It can hardly be claimed that approval of slavery and the suppression of the female sex have been universal, or near universal, in the human community, considering that opposition to both were doubtless held in the hearts and minds of human slaves and females. While slavery and female domination have been deep, wide and long in the history of humanity, does anyone argue that they’re intrinsic to the human community? If so, then how can it be argued that they’re morally wrong? If not, then what explains them? Christians today would say that sin and broken humanity were at the root of both, even when practiced by Christians. If so, then slavery and female domination are contrary to what is truly human. John L. McKenzie, in his Dictionary of the Bible (Macmillan Publishing Company, 1965) claims, not unreasonably, that, “Historical Christianity has been the only effective destroyer of slavery.” The fact is, there have been many, and not just slaves and females, who have opposed both chattel slavery and the oppression of women for as long as both have existed.
The same can’t be said of humanity’s faith in the existence of God. Indeed, the belief in God is so deeply a part of the human community that one could justifiably argue that it is part and parcel of being human. Why is this so, if there is no God? What advantage did humans attain in holding to faith in the existence of a Supreme Being over those who rejected such? As humans evolved, we attained certain traits that benefited our survival: fight or flight, for instance. But fight or flight was in response to genuine dangers, real threats that demanded a response that, over the millennia of our evolution as a species, we retained as an advantage for our survival. What advantage did we gain by retaining over the millennia of our evolution faith in the existence of a fantasy? If God isn’t real, why did our evolutionary forebears not drop the delusion? For, what advantage for survival can possibly be gained by hopelessly holding reverence for a Being that doesn’t exist? Surely, those who rejected the fantasy would have been victorious in the battle of survival of the fittest, given that they would have been unhampered by the burden of faith, of trying to hold true to the moral and religious expectations of a non-existent entity (and given that, if pre-historic atheists were comparable to modern-day new atheists, then they were surely orders of magnitude smarter than believers, the “brights” of the Paleolithic, you might say!).
Can the universality of faith in God not be explained by carrying into adulthood the pains and fears, expectations and hopes of childhood, or the childhood image of the all-knowing, all-powerful protector we once ascribed to our own fathers? Yes, say the atheists. God is like Santa Claus, a harmless diversion for children, but nothing for a sane adult to hold on to. But, this only begs the question. It assumes God doesn’t exist, than provides a convenient explanation for our continued faith in God. It’s a circular argument: God doesn’t exist because God only exists as a projection from our childhoods. One might as well say: God doesn’t exist because God doesn’t exist. As well, it could be easily turned around: Atheists reject the existence of God because they are projecting the pain and fear of their childhood experiences with their parents into an adult rejection of God. In the end, the universality of God is much better explained by the reality of God’s existence than by the notion that the vast majority of humans over the millennia of our existence have suffered childhood neurosis. Is there any other comparable human experience, after all? Are there any other neuroses the vast majority of humans over the millennia of our existence have suffered, or is it just this one about a Supreme Being? We are asked to accept that in only this one case have humans been universally unable to absorb the vagaries of childhood and emerge as healthy adults. The claim that God is only a projection of our childhood fears and hopes strikes one as absurdist wishful thinking on the part of non-believers who, given the evidence, seem to struggle themselves with rejecting what the rest of the human community has embraced as obvious and natural.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.