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Is the universe God?

Is there a reason to think that the universe isn’t amazing beyond all comprehension, the source of all good and evil, etc etc?

Posted: January 24th 2008

flagellant www

You ask, in effect, if God can be equated to The Universe.

Well, it’s possible to argue that God and The Universe are related under some extremely limited circumstances and conditions. However, making this association is not very conducive to understanding and clear meaning.

Modern, realistic theologians, such as John Selby Spong, claim a very limited relationship. However, they dismiss the old-fashioned concepts of ‘God’, accepting that the immense amount of contingent scientific knowledge displaces the superstitious/supernatural traditional view. Many Christians find this modern interpretation unacceptable.

Let’s look at some of the traditional ideas of God. If you mean the jealous, malevolent God of the Bible or the Koran, then there is no equivalence. If you mean the personal God who is all-knowing and all-seeing, whom one worships and to whom one prays, then this God cannot be considered remotely like The Universe.

And if you think of God as being involved in every detail of the life of The World as a causal agent, from managing the death of the tiniest amoeba to specifying the fiercest storm or the most devastating volcanic eruption then that, again, is nothing like The Universe.

The problem now comes because the traditional God, apart perhaps from the feeblest deist version, has nothing whatsoever in common with The Universe. Scientists make statements about the nature of The Universe – about its origins, its development, and its ultimate fate – but these statements bear no relation to the traditional theist understanding of nature.

Even the deist God, who may have created The Universe, is separate and distinct from it. At the very most, s/he is a bored, observing, non-participant in its development. When we read of scientists like Einstein and Hawking using the term ‘God’, it should be apparent that they are mischievously using a meaningless term, about how The Universe came about, deliberately challenging religious orthodoxy.

Theologians like Spong see some equivalence between ‘God’ and The Universe, regarding them both as the ‘Life Force’ but, as I suggested at the outset, this is not helpful, given the sinister, superstitious, and supernatural connotations of the word ‘God’.

Further, given the immense understanding humanity now has of The Universe, isn’t it more sensible to talk of The Universe without trying to introduce ‘God’? ‘God’ adds nothing to our understanding and, indeed, detracts from it.

Posted: February 8th 2008

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Eric_PK

This all comes down to what your definition of God is. I think inherent in all the definitions I’ve come across is sentience and action – in other words, God is a sentient being who chooses to do specific things.

Though I do think the universe is amazing in many ways, I dont’ see how you can correlate what we know about the universe with common definitions of the word “God”, so I think it’s a nonsensical question to ask. I don’t, for example, so how the universe can be the source of moral standards.

Posted: January 30th 2008

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SmartLX www

You’re describing pantheism, the belief that God is everything and therefore the universe. It’s an increasingly common belief.

If you believe the universe has a purpose (wants something, rather than being intended for something) and is capable of breaking its own laws to achieve its ends, then your pantheism is essentially a theist belief.

If you believe instead as Einstein and Spinoza did that the universe is beholden to its own laws and follows them always, then this pantheism is akin to atheism (or deism, if you believe in a separate Creator). The only difference is that you call the universe God.

Posted: January 28th 2008

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brian thomson www

You ask “is there a reason to think” that; well, the only reasons I have seen are reasons created by people for their own purposes:

  1. “Priests” or “Preachers” tell you that you can’t comprehend the universe, but they can. They tell you that they are intermediaries between you and the wider universe, and you must work through them, or through the “holy” scriptures they use to occupy and confuse you. It is in their interests to perpetuate their exalted status, whether individually, or as a group priesthood. If people could bypass them, they would have no jobs.
  2. It’s certainly true that the universe is extremely complex, and a complete understanding can (IMHO) be considered far beyond the comprehension of a single individual – not for any fundamental reason or principle, but for practical considerations, such as our limited brain capacity and lifespan. This has led to specialization among scientists, but they are aware of the dangers of over-specialization. (There is no basis to accusations of a “scientific priesthood”: it’s rare to find a scientist who doesn’t love to talk to people about their work, to the point of boring others!)
  3. This one could be taken the wrong way, but I’m trying to be constructive, and include myself here: people are lazy. Understanding science is time-consuming hard work, and unless you’re being paid for it, there is the temptation to say “it’s infinitely complex” and take the easy way out.

So, what does “beyond all comprehension” mean? Beyond individual human comprehension – but available to non-humans e.g. computers – or some notion of infinite complexity? Looked at logically, is “infinite complexity” even possible in theory? By “definition” (such as it is) it removes the possibility of anyone understanding it, so your question becomes an unnecessary circular argument.

In my opinion, it’s important to realize that you can understand science, or at least enough of it to remove the need for supernatural explanations of the universe. You don’t have to blindly accept what anyone else tells you about the universe, completely and without examination. There will be practical reasons why you can’t repeat observations and experiments in person… but you could, under the right circumstances.

Posted: January 26th 2008

See all questions answered by brian thomson

 

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