Wrestling with God

even jesus hates you

Religion & Superstition

Religion often comes up as a topic of conversation and sometimes makes for a nice argument. Usually in the monty python sketch sense rather than actually expanding anyones horizons but you never know. As discussed below I would actually quite like for their to be a God. However, no-one has yet provided a convincing argument for one so I'm left with the rather bleak prospect that we are all alone in the world.

At some point in our lives most of us start to ask the hard questions:

These are questions that, at present at least, science is not able to answer. Though considerable inroads have been made in particular on the first and last questions the final motivations are still a little mysterious. This is the perfect place for the God of the gaps* to slip in. Of course to a theist God was there all along and nevermind the gaps. I tend to get a headache and feel slightly depressed when I try to think about the hard parts of these questions. I'm unable to conceive of an answer that would make sense. This prospect is slightly painful for a curious mind that likes to know things.

Where did I come from?

This covers several origins really but primary I mean origin of your mind and existence.

What am I?

This is essentially the question of consciousness. From my work in AI (artificial intelligence) I believe I have a pretty good handle on how to make a machine that thinks like a person (i.e. can percieve and act in a similar manner). However, this is different from answering the question of what it means to be conscious. One thing I am very certain of in my mind is that the seat of consciousness is the brain. This is the generally held scientific consensus. The subject of consciousness is to be discussed scientifically elsewhere.

When you start talking religion and life after death, the concept of a soul is introduced. This supposedly lies in some spiritual realm separate from the physical realm we inhabit. I take a very materialistic view and do not perceive there to be any kind of spiritual realm. If such a realm exists and interacts with the physical realm then to me it would be become just another aspect of the physical realm which we do not yet understand (i.e. I take a phenomenogical view). However, so far I see no evidence for any natural phenomena that require the introduction of such a separate plane of existance. Nor do there seem to be any phenomena to which this would add any explanatory power. I'm interested in the idea of parapsychological phenomena and have an open mind to their existence but I have as yet no personal experience or evidence which would persuade me to believe in them.

If for a moment we turn the arguement around and assume there is such a thing as a soul, then to my mind it drastically alters our interpretation of brain functionality. The computational machinary of the brain no longer represents function directly. Instead the brain is merely a holder for the essence of mind which is then free to move on after death. Brain damage would then have to be interpreted as a failure of the connection between body and mind rather than direct "mind damage". However, we now know enough about disorders caused by brain damage that the interpretation as impairment to functionality rather than impairment to some brain/soul interface cannot be easily denied. This being proved their cannot be such as thing as soul. An alternative theory is that the soul somehow seperates off at the point of death. What happens in the case of degenerative brain diseases such as alzeihmers? Does part of the mind become spirit as the body degrades? I believe this to be a great area to debate on but for some reason my view that a theist must see the brain as a mind/body interface does not go down well with theists. One or other of us is missing some aspect of the others argument here. It seems to me that in general it is that theists don't want to attempt to consider concepts such as the soul in physical terms for reasons I cannot as yet fathom. It would be nice to develop an understanding of what the problem is.

What will happen when we die?

Death is a thoroughly depressing thing. Even when you're really depressed it generally strikes you as being a worse proposition that continuing to live your miserable existence for another day. Suicidal tendencies aside we worry what will become of us and of people we love or hate when the end comes. Existing at all being such a bizarre thing the prospect of ceasing to exist is equally bizarre in nature.

Again I should state I would very much like there to be such as thing as a soul as it implies life after death and lots of other potential nice things. However, desire and truth are far from being the same thing.

Whay is the world the way it is?

Basically speaking. A lot of shite happens. You cant help but wonder if a lot of that shite happens for any particular reason. If there is a god with some kind of master plan its not showing. One thing that does seem readily apparent is mankinds inhumanity to his fellow man. Still from longer perspective we can ask why is there any world at all. A can go all the way back to a big bang and perhaps a bit further (branes colliding in the multi-verse) without issue but the ultimate why gives me a headache. For the theist god knows - literally. But saying god knows doesn't help answer the question. I'm not sure any holy books mention Gods motives but I wouldn't be surprised to find that any that do so, do it in human terms such as waging war with an evil god or something.

The theist perspective

One thing I do understand about the theist perspective that a lot of atheists miss is that it tends to become central to their world view. Every little thing that happens in your life is potentially a consequence of god moving in a mysterious way. He may be trying to send you a message or not. This has got to skew the way they deal with the world to some extent. In the most extreme cases it could lead to or be interpreted as a kind of schizophrenia. However, its quite similar to your basic superticious behaviour.


I'm not in my mind a great believer in fate. However I sometimes find myself thinking or acting as if I am. In particular with social things. Was it fate I met this person or got this job rather than that one. I've left quite a few important decisions along those lines in the hands of the fate I supposedly don't believe in. Sometimes I think I'm suffering bad karma because of being hitler or someone equally bad in a previous life. But in the words of the great bard (Slartibartfast c/o Douglas Adams) "That's just ordinary paranoia everyone gets that".

Why it would be nice for there to be a god

I personally think it would be a very good thing if there was some kind of omnipotent (or even just a semi-omnipotent) being watching out for us all. Someone to limit the maximum damage that we can cause ourselves and each other and someone who could grant us eternal life or a second chance. Generally speaking it would be a good thing. Being a good thing and wishing it were true is not enough however. I wish I had wings and could fly, I also war and famine would stop and I also wish I win the lottery. The latter are possibilities but wishing for them to be true doesn't make them so alas.

Annoying things theists say

*God of the gaps

This is the slightly prejudicial way we atheist scientists tend to refer to God due to him be ascribed an ever smaller realm of responsibility as we learn about the world. (e.g. he doesn't do thunderbolts now we know a bit about the weather).