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God Does Not Exist: Get Over It April 6, 2009

Posted by Phil Groom in Theology.
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God does not exist. And it’s high time that we as Christians got down off our high horses and gave the atheists their due: as Dawkins puts it, the idea of God’s existence makes as much sense as a giant teapot orbiting the earth.

You see, things that exist can be measured and quantified: God can’t. Things that exist — well, they’re like you and me, objects in space and time that you can walk up to, spit on and, if you’re that way inclined, crucify. You can hit them, analyse them, dissect them, write papers about them and draw final conclusions about them. You can bury them and be done with them. You can put them in boxes and count them.

But God: you can’t box him in. God isn’t an object in the universe: rather the universe exists in God. Existence is a characteristic of contingent beings and things: things that depend upon something else in order to be. Talking about God’s existence simply locates God within the framework of the universe, makes God another contingent being — just another thing, another crazy flying teapot crackpot idea.

Saying God exists — it’s like saying a river swims. Swimming is something that things living in the river do; it’s the river that makes swimming possible. It’s like calling planet Earth an earthling, when earthlings are the beings that inhabit the earth: it’s the earth that makes earthlings what they are. It’s the same with God: it’s God who (and I dare to say ‘who’ rather than ‘that’) makes existence possible.

Those analogies fail, of course, because a river itself exists within a valley; the earth exists in space. But God: God defines existence, not the other way around. God defies existence: existence is irrelevant to the reality of God. Except once, when he walked about amongst us and gave himself away and let us have our way with him and accepted everything we wanted to throw at him. Loved us, wept with us and for us, and forgave us — even when we couldn’t forgive ourselves.

Why? I suspect it’s got something to do with completing our existence. If God had never existed, had for ever remained apart from the universe, it would be like that river drying up, like planet Earth disappearing off into empty space away from the sun. There’d be a few skeletal remains, dried up fossils, proof that fish once swam in the river, that humans once walked about and built their little empires… but nothing else, just a dream that vanishes into the night…

God is the dreamer who makes our dreams of existence come true. But instead of sleeping through them, he steps into them, finds a nightmare, and dies.

Whether he stays dead is really up to us. We can live in the nightmare or reach for the dream. I don’t know how we choose one over the other: some people don’t seem to have any choice. But what I do know is this:

God does not exist: we do — thank God for that!

And I want to make the most of it.

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Comments»

1. Melanie Carroll - April 6, 2009

absolutely fantastic post! thanks Phil.

Phil Groom - April 7, 2009

Not sure that anything I’ve written quite qualifies for the accolade ‘fantastic’ (apart from one or two short stories, unpublished), Melanie, but thanks all the same 🙂

2. Spideog - April 6, 2009

As Devid Jenkins, one time Bishop of Durham, said…

“God is,
as he is in Jesus,
therefore there is hope.”

Good post, Phil.

3. Dave Marriott - April 6, 2009

Astonishing, Phil. I may have to read a few more times before I garner the whole truth within.

Slow day at the bookshop?

Phil Groom - April 7, 2009

Day off, actually: closed Mondays during vacation.

It’s just a longwinded way of saying what Paul said in Athens: “In him we live and move and have our being.”

4. bjhulk - April 6, 2009

God does exist but he is only a spirit. He’s not restricted with mass, time or space and he’s infinite, without beginning or end.

He created everything in his spirit. So all that we see is in this spirit. Since he’s infinite, most likely there is no end to the universe that we see or if that also has a limit, then he’s infinitely beyond that. He said he made things so small, that no man will understand how small it is and he made things so big, that we will never understand how big it is.

With a God like that, how can you not believe in him. Everything you see is him. Just because he hasn’t appeared to you physically doesn’t mean he can’t come and live inside you. This is what he did in Jesus, Peter, Paul, John, Timothy and all the others who received the Holy Spirit. God never changes so this same thing could happen to you, too. But only if you have faith to believe it.

5. Rachel Bishop - April 7, 2009

Really enjoyed reading this Phil.

6. Dave James - April 23, 2009

One of the better apologetic pieces I’ve read on the issue of God’s existence. I don’t know if it stands alone as an ontological argument, but it is at the very least part of a good one – and I don’t find that many that are convincing. Is this original? Just curious.

Dave

Phil Groom - April 23, 2009

Thanks Dave. Original? Perhaps in the way I’ve presented it, but owing much to the thought of Meister Eckhart

7. The Six Ways of Atheism « UKCBD: The Christian Bookshops Blog - June 4, 2009

[…] God does not exist: we do — thank God for that! […]

8. Giant Teapots and Other Atheist Myths « Phil’s Boring Blog - June 23, 2009

[…] What has me puzzled (there’s only one of me really, despite the voices in my head), though, is why the current crop of atheists are getting themselves so wound up over something that they say doesn’t exist. I’m not about to argue the toss on that one, though: as I’ve said before, God doesn’t exist: get over it. […]

9. Mike Smith - August 20, 2009

This really is an admirable piece of Christian apologetics–very interesting, and quite thought-provoking–and I say that as an atheist who, honestly, cannot even comprehend what it would take to ever believe in a god again, or even wanting to.

As a defense of monotheism–and, along with that, a defense of your monotheistic religion of choice–I would say this piece is about as good as such defenses get.

However, I have some problems with it–some reasons why it remains, to me at least, completely unconvincing.

First of all, for all its confident rhetoric, the piece presents no evidence of any sort for its claims. Everything is a part of God? Existence is an attribute of God, not the other way around? God came to Earth as a person? God came to Earth as Jesus, specifically, not as a figure from some other religion?

These statements might all sound impressive, when spoken forcefully, but the above piece provides no evidence for any of them, very likely because none of them have any evidence to offer for themselves.

If everything is a part of God, if to exist means to be a part of a god, shouldn’t you have to provide some evidence for that, other than mere anecdotes or strong feelings of conviction? How can you trust those anecdotes when so many have proven unfounded? How you can trust those feelings, when everyone feels something, and not always reliably, and often those feelings are in violent opposition to one another?

If God came to Earth as a person–and not just any person but one man, one time, more than 2,000 years ago–shouldn’t the evidence of his miraculous life extend beyond the few and often contradictory accounts of his most devoted followers? Why are there no contemporaneous accounts of Jesus during his life from nonbelievers? Why couldn’t even the churches of his closest disciples agree in their Gospels about whether or not he was born of a virgin? Why do the more miraculous aspects of Jesus’ life seem so derivative when he compared with other myths of that time and earlier times, such as those of Horace and Mythras? Et cetera!

As for your paragraph addressing why God would have sent his son to Earth–or himself as his son, if you like–that’s all speculation founded on some ultimately nihilistic philosophy–the idea that if there is no God, or no greater matrix of reality or unreality, then all of this life is just worthless, just “remains…fossils…a dream,” and I couldn’t disagree with that more. Maybe reality without God would be worthless to you, but those of us who focus on experiencing reality unadorned by folkloric or faith-based filigrees think life is wonderful and amazing enough as it is.

The Universe is so full of mystery at every level, from the quantum to the universal–real mystery that challenges us to discover it, to know it–that there’s really no need to posit the existence of other, unknowable mysteries, mysteries whose roots lie in Bronze Age superstitions, legends, and now-unsupportable beliefs.

Phil Groom - August 20, 2009

Mike, thanks for such a thoughtful and thought-provoking response. I shall reflect on what you say and offer some further thoughts later.

Glen - February 11, 2010

Mike, you seem to have vanished. Did you change your email? blog? catch you later…

10. Paul Ireland - October 15, 2009

Hello there Phil. I just stumbled on your blog. Interesting post

“Existence is a characteristic of contingent beings and things”
Where do you get that from?

I’m not particularly sure that applies to a “Christian” God as you seem to indicate, since the Bible starts out with “In the beginning God created…”. An actor, existing and taking action. Then the story talks about creation happening. So an actor outside of creation, not contingent on anything previously created. If that is the case, how does that follow given your line of reasoning?

Phil Groom - October 24, 2009

Hi Paul – seems kinda obvious to me: everything that exists depends on something else for its existence: we exist in relationship to the rest of the universe. I could be wrong, of course: that’s simply the conclusion I’ve come to.

As for God: the God of Genesis isn’t a Christian deity anyway, although Christians have tried to claim ‘him’; but that’s another story. As for God being “an actor, existing and taking action” — I guess it depends on how you read Genesis. I read it as myth and anthropomorphism, as part of humanity’s ongoing wrestling match with reality, an early attempt to make sense of our origins, develop a sense of purpose and offer a polemical thrust against other ancient near eastern mythologies…

Paul Ireland - January 23, 2010

Can I point out that you just reiterated your statement without answering my question? I asked where do you get that “Existence is a characteristic of contingent beings and things”

You simply said “seems kind of obvious to me”. Basically “because I said so”. Right?

But you also admit “I could be wrong”. So your argument is based on an unsupported proposition that you admit could be flawed. So… can you really declare with any reasonable certainty that God does not exist?

Phil Groom - January 25, 2010

No, Paul, it’s not a case of “because I said so”, simply as I said, seems kinda obvious to me. If you can you show me something that exists that doesn’t depend upon something else for its existence then I’ll happily reconsider: I’m not being dogmatic here, just thinking out loud.

As to God’s existence: seems to me the burden of proof lies with those who want to argue that God somehow exists, either as an entity within the universe or somewhere outside it. To my way of thinking, however, such a god is way too small. No doubt there are all sorts of minor deities crawling around in the cracks between the paving stones or dancing with the angels on a pinhead (go read Terry Pratchett’s Small Gods sometime: a work of genius) — I’m happy to acknowledge their existence; but the God who is, well s/he’s another story…

Paul Ireland - March 10, 2010

Thanks for the dialog Phil!

I have read Small Gods as well as most of the rest of the Discworld series. I also particularly enjoyed Good Omens. I have been a Fantasy/Sci-Fi junkie since I learned to read.

I actually would agree with you. Such a God that we can prove to exist is way too small. That’s exactly true. If there is an infinite, all-power, incomprehensible being that is outside of material existence, we could never “prove” his existence. Proving an existence of a being would bea small ‘god’ that we can control and can fathom.

11. Reb - February 6, 2010

I find it quite arrogant to believe that if you can’t prove it’s existence by measurement or your senses for example then it doesn’t exist. We are human and limited by ourselves, therefore asking science to prove the existence of something is perhaps flawed as science is a human invention and therefore could be argued limited by the human condition.

Phil Groom - February 6, 2010

I suppose you could say pretty well the same about anything, including the concept of existence itself: it’s a human construct. I’m not sure that way of thinking gets us very far, though.

Can something that can’t be quantified exist? Seems unlikely to me; might as well believe in fairies down the garden. But as I’ve said, just thinking out loud here.

How would you define existence, Reb?

Glen - February 11, 2010

Very intertesing replies. I am surprised no one brought up “I think, therefore I exsist.” I love a good debate between true atheist (your friend Mike Smith), and educated Christians. Neither is trying to persuade the other, just good dialog that sounds intelligent. I’ll have to check back regularly. Glen

12. Akosua - April 30, 2011

that blog is stupid of course God exists,i could say air cant be measured who has measured the universe who can measure life and deth of a person by predicting tommorow. can breath be contained in a box it can vanquish but cannot be contained . Platic deos not melt or is not destroyed but causes destruction like man made things . Maybe air is but a fantasy i cannot see it how do i know i measure it maybe the subtance is found by our brain adjusting to think air exists i dont know. You eat to be full and sleep because you ythink its just made you use your big fancy scietific words that were invented a few years ago but some human who was born to think he is all wise and knows he can discover a planet he was just born to. Even Darwin did not believe there was no God you think you’ve advance but youre the supidest on earth. Open your eyes and see jesus loves you and if you dont repent you and all wordly intelligeent will perish in fire till you believe.

13. hitch - May 12, 2011

supernatural is defined as something that cannot be explained through science or natural law, ie.the law of gravity for example. so with that said I believe in god and im not trying to make become a believer. just want your thought on a question.
a 65 yr old deaf mute man is prayed over by some missionaries. the man has been like this his entire life and has no concept of language (hearing it or pronouncing it). in the middle of praying for him, the man speaks clearly in his language (his people do not speak english)”I can hear you. I can talk! Ooo my God I can hear you and I can talk!”. The man is, from birth, a deaf mute. Yes this is a true story. it happened to 20 missionaries from my church to include the pastor while they were in Fiji building a church. I just wanted your feed back on the logical explination of this event because you are sure that god does not exist. I hope this does not come off as rude as this is not my intention.

14. I saw camels dancing on Satan’s grave « Phil's Boring Blog - March 8, 2012

[…] Because he exists; because you exist; and because God doesn’t. He hates that, because he wants to be all in all and he can’t be. Oh, there was a time when […]

15. Freya Morris (Sterling) - March 17, 2012

Great perspective! Love the river comparison – so true.


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