the origins of god, or what does belief in god do?

One of the questions posed by atheist philosophers is: “Did god create man, or did man create god?” I affirm the latter, of course, but the reason for this affirmation is due mostly to an argument from historical progression and historical context. Just to be clear, I am not referring to an argumentum ad antiquitatem (an “appeal to antiquity” or “tradition”), a common logical fallacy, but a recognition that we do know the occasion of certain ideas – including the idea of the divine.

Originally, the concept of “gods” or “spirits” were postulated by primitive man in effort to make sense of the forces of nature (viz. sunrise, sunset, wind, rain, et al) and the events which took place throughout the course of life, e.g. death, birth, illness, etc. Monotheism – belief in only one god – is actually the latest development in the human conception of the divine. The anthropological progression was as follows:

  • animism – ascribing “souls” or spiritual forces to everything, including inanimate objects.
  • polytheism – a belief in multiple gods or goddesses, usually as representatives of natural forces, animals, realms, or objects.
  • henotheism – a belief in polytheism, but a devotion or fealty to a single deity.
  • monotheism – a disbelief in polytheism; a belief in only one god.

As science and philosophy progressed, humanity began to discover the workings of nature and to highlight the logical contradictions posed by animism, polytheism, and henotheism. For a period in human history, monotheism has been the clear logical winner among the theisms, but monotheism poses its own serious logical problems. In fact, removing the possibility of multiple deities in conflict multiplied the already existing problems for monotheism. As we have touched on previously, a singular god is either deficient or immoral (or both).

Scientifically, we have attained to the knowledge that matter and energy are never created or destroyed, but merely change form (i.e. Einstein’s Conservation of Energy Principle; E = mc2). This was essentially Einstein’s mathematical confirmation of Aristotle’s original conception of the indestructible nature of the “four elements” (viz. earth, air, fire, water). Put very simply, despite the constant insistence of a “beginning,” this principle implies that the universe (i.e. the sum total of existents) is eternal. No, I am not outright denying the “Big Bang,” but I do question its exact nature in light of this absolute principle. Even Quantum Physics, which is far from sorted out, although once thought to possibly conflict with E = mc2, has now been shown to be in strict accordance with it.

Only by positing a mystical being which is capable of the absolutely impossible (i.e. creating something from “nothing”; creating and destroying energy) can one retain a belief in a god. So where did the universe “come from”? As Ayn Rand once said, just because we may not know something does not permit us to begin making things up. The ultimate origin of our eternal universe we may never be able to know (if such a concept exists in reality), but until then we can be sure that the basic metaphysical axiom which is at the the base of all else is “existence exists, and only existence exists” – excluding gods, spirits, souls, and all other supposedly supernatural entities. In the words of Victor Stenger: god is a “failed hypothesis” – i.e. to propose the existence of god is of no use whatever and serves to explain nothing.

This leads me to my next point: what does “belief” in a god do, exactly? I have met many people, usually former religionists, who are hesitant to outright deny the existence of a god. “What if he does exist?” they ask. My response is always, “Who cares if he does? What difference is your profession or denial of his existence going to make? Where did you get the idea that simply ‘believing in god’ is what connects you to him and ensures that you will not face some sort of divine reprisal? From religion, that’s where!” The proposition that disbelieving in a god which might actually exist can get you punished is an unproved and baseless claim. If we are going to believe baseless claims, there is no end to the abject nonsense we could obsess over.

But herein, I believe (pun intended), lies the key: since the idea god is a psychological projection into the dark void of human ignorance, ‘believing’ is the only tool available to keep god ‘real’ in their minds. This is why so many atheists hold onto a ‘maybe,’ however slight in their estimation.

8 thoughts on “the origins of god, or what does belief in god do?

  1. The progression from animism through to monotheism as you perfectly laid out is possibly a sign that atheism is the next logical step. It took 900 years to move completely away from the Greek polytheism to monotheism, and probably that much time to progress to atheism. And we’ve not been at it too long with advanced science. Just a thought. This is very interesting. I don’t believe in god at all, but I could if…. that is where I am. I’m not hanging on to a partial sliver of belief, but if real evidence were presented I would look at it. Excellent and informative! Superb post!

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  2. The Zero Energy Universe Theory works well when applied to how something was created from nothing. If you create a positron and an electron and give them both opposite velocities and momentums, then you have created something from nothing and not violated the conservation of energy laws. Both particles will continue to exist as long as they are separated by space and time!

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    • Hello, Robert. Well, not exactly. “Zero” doesn’t mean “nothing,” but is a reckoning of a balance between positive and negative energy. Also, even the Zero Energy Universe Theory admits that it takes a bit of energy to begin the process, which may be close to nothing, but isn’t really “nothing.” Lastly, the theory is highly speculative and involves many thus far wholly unproved elements. From what we know, the universe is eternal, and it maybe that the question of “What is the origin or matter and energy in the first place?” may be as meaningless as “Why does gravity bring objects with mass toward on another?” or even, “Where is god?”

      See here for more information on the contents and implications of the ZEUT: https://www.astrosociety.org/publication/a-universe-from-nothing/

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      • Sorry, from what I have read about this, there is a dispute about whether space and time pre-existed the “fluctuations.” Not only this, but it does not escape the regress – if there were “fluctuations” then there was by definition something there to “fluctuate.”

        Also, you seem to be misappropriating the phrase “zero energy” by the fallacy of context-dropping. According to the theory, the energy in the universe at the present time is “zero” also, and presumably always has been.

        Theories like this are concocted in response to essentially religious questions, not scientific or philosophical ones. The ZEUT is explaining exactly nothing, and is more likely the product of Edward Tryon feeling challenged and plagued by religious thinkers maintaining that “everything has a beginning” and maintaining that since the universe is a closed system, it must have “come from somewhere.” So, there has historically been this impetus for theoretical physicists to provide an answer to meaningless questions stemming from Platonic/religious premises, e.g. “Why is there something rather than nothing?” and “Where did the universe ‘come from’?” However, such basic assumptions do not arise from what we know, but from what we do not. Thus, they are fanciful and meaningless (not to mention the logical contradictions they blatantly produce but their askers request we all just ignore for the sake of their theory).

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      • Matter is the primary reality; space, time and energy are emergent properties! In the context of nonlinear time, there was a beginning and will be an end to this physical reality! I’m sorry, I can do my own thinking and do not need authority figures to synthesize truth for me like the pope does for many like yourself!

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      • Okay, now I am a bit lost, Robert.

        So far you have made more or less baseless claims and have moreover provided no proofs for them. Terms like “primary reality” and “emergent property” require context and thus far you appear to be an avid context-dropper. Please prove your assertions or cite the sources from where you have drawn them.

        An “end to this physical reality” is a contradiction in terms, and from what I can gather it strongly implies that you maintain a belief in another “reality” – something which I completely reject as untenable. Equally untenable is the chimerical concept of “non-linear time.” I mean, even referring to the concepts of “beginning” and “end” in the supposed “context” of something supposedly “non-linear” is contradictory on its face.

        I have no idea where you get the idea that I am either authoritarian or a product of the pope dictating my thought processes. This is completely ridiculous. Also, challenging your understandings (or, misunderstandings, as the case may be) of ideas in theoretical physics or asking you to prove your assertions is not me requiring you to have your “truth synthesized,” but is a completely reasonable aspect of philosophical and logical debate/discussion.

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      • I love hunk you should re-evaluate your concepts because I am not about to repeat the last 100 years of physics to bring you to a level where we can quibble about the details! I don’t care what you believe, so good luck with your work!

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