The God Equation

| August 27, 2010 | 6 Replies

In mathematics we know that no matter how perfectly you carry out the calculations, if your constants are wrong, your answer will be wrong. In science, the assumptions you make before beginning your experiment can affect the outcome of the experiment.

Keep that in mind as we go forward.

There has been some amazing scholarly work done with regard to the bible over the ages. And yet I feel that much of it rests upon several erroneous assumptions about the nature of God that don’t hold up to common sense scrutiny.

Believers have told me that creation “bears witness of the creator”. In other words, we can see the hand of God in nature. I agree! I think that the creative/destructive forces of the universe do reveal their nature through creation. With that in mind let’s look to nature to see the nature of “god”!

God vs Satan

In the bible we are told that there is a cosmic battle going on between the forces of good and evil, i.e., God vs Satan. However, the separation of good and evil doesn’t hold up in light of common sense observations of the universe. Bad and good are NEVER completely separate things. Nothing is ever all bad or all good.

Here is an example:

From Wiki: “The parasitoid wasp Glyptapanteles lays its eggs, about 80 at a time, in young geometrid caterpillars. The eggs hatch and the larvae feed on the caterpillar’s body fluids. When they are fully developed, they eat through the caterpillar’s skin, attach themselves to a nearby branch or leaf and wrap themselves up in a cocoon.”

For the wasp, this is good. For the caterpillar this is bad. Horrifically so. (Ever see the movie Alien??) But this is how this wasp is “designed” to reproduce! So what are we to deduce about a god who would design such a system? The answer is either that he is very cruel, or at the very least very cold and indifferent to the suffering of one creature for the benefit of another. There is no other answer possible.

The truth of nature is that it is as cold and indifferent as it is warm and nurturing.

Another example:

A wildfire on the prairie or in the forest may burn alive many creatures small and large. They die in searing pain. And yet the fire is necessary for new growth to arrive. There are even some seeds that need the heat of a fire to crack their coats! Within a short time after the fire the forest will be bustling with life again, even healthier than before.

The God/Satan split simply does not hold up if one is to examine the universe with an objective eye. There is no war between good and evil. That is a very primitive anthropomorphization of the normal ebb and flow of nature. Think of anything that you would call “bad” and see if you can’t find something good that will come out of it. If you can’t you’re not looking hard enough! Think of how a death in the family can often bring the family closer together, for example.

There can be no such thing as a “Satan” separate from a “God” because creation does not reflect that. Clearly the creative force and the destructive force are one in the same, work in tandem, and can not exist without the other.

So what are we to make of a book that supposes in its first few pages as its very foundation that a good entity somehow was betrayed by an evil entity and cast it out of a part of the universe that is all good into a part of the universe that is all bad where it dwells for all eternity and where our intangible essence will go if we don’t believe this story?

Seems kind of simplistic now, doesn’t it? The writers of the bible got it wrong. They misinterpreted what they were seeing in nature and put it in very human terms; Us vs Them; King vs King; tribe vs tribe; when it’s not really that way at all.

If the basic assumptions of the bible don’t hold up to an everyday common sense scrutiny how can all the centuries of scholarship layered upon that work have any validity? The bible’s basic assumptions clearly aren’t reflected in the everyday reality that we experience. Hence all that follows must, to some extent or another be in error, or at the very least, highly questionable.

I’m sorry if this offends some people but I make my points for a reason. Do I want to take away people’s faith and comfort? Is that what this is all about? Not even close. Do I want to live a sinful life without consequences? Hardly. My agnosticism often helps me to be MORE moral than a believer, but that’s another story!

I make these points to reinforce that this country was founded upon the notion that religion and government should remain separate. The bible may be correct in its scholarship, but it is wrong in its basic assumptions and therefore that book should never be used for anything other than private inspiration.

Do not base legislation upon it, deny people their basic rights based upon it, decide that a child’s genitals should be mutilated based upon it, instruct people that condoms are bad based upon it or tell me that you know what will happen to my essence after I die based upon it.

Because if you are basing those things on this particular book, you have solved your equation with the wrong constants.

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About the Author ()

Mike Pulcinella is a documentary filmmaker.

Comments (6)

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  1. It should also be noted that the good vs evil dichotomy is not a consistent message of the Bible. It hardly figures in the Old Testament — what's important there is to serve only Yahweh and not all those other gods.

    Satan as a concept seems to have developed mostly during the intertestamental period — perhaps as a result of Persian influence.

    Likewise, the concept of life after death is largely omitted from the OT, and somewhat nebulous (ha!) in the NT.

    My point is that religious ideas evolved over the course of the composition of the Bible, and have continued to evolve despite fundamentalist claims that they are being true to the Word.

  2. Devi says:

    Mike, you said this so much better that I have- I've just used anecdotes.

    For example, at my job they had some layoffs recently. Someone told me they would pray for me. Are they praying that some other person will lose their job since one of us has to go? Who does god listen to, the one that prays the hardest or the one that needs the job the most?

    Or rain- if I'm cutting/baling hay, I don't want rain, but my neighbor needs the rain for the grass to grow where his cows are pastured, or for the pond to fill back up with water so they can drink. Is it a question of who is doing the praying?

    War is a huge problem: there have been many wars fought by armies of the same basic religious tenets (putting aside for now the issue of "christian army vs. islamic" which is a huge issue where people claim one side is praying to the 'right' god, don't get me started on that!). So if both armies are christian, and they are both praying to win the war and the other guy to die….?

  3. Jim Razinha says:

    Sterling said: "My point is that religious ideas evolved over the course of the composition of the Bible, and have continued to evolve despite fundamentalist claims that they are being true to the Word."

    A curious corollary to that is the misconception held by so many of the adherents that the Bible was written in the order that is appears today. That evolution you refer to is made even more challenging to unravel when you take that into account. The flood narratives are a good example of the poor synthesis of different versions of the myth – transcribers mixed the parts from at least two stories, which resulted in the confusing meld; well, confusing to the critic – not so to the believer.

    Of course, reading any of the texts in English and claiming inerrancy is a whole other issue when it comes to "being true to the Word"!

  4. Tony Coyle says:

    Jim

    Regarding the flood: My son is studying ancient Mesopotamian civilizations in his AP World History class this semester. We had a great conversation about the devastating effect flooding had on the early delta proto-civilizations. Indeed most of the writings/stories we have of that era include 'devastating flood' as a major 'plot point'.

    My son's thesis (my paraphrase of our conversation) is that the growth of better irrigation techniques along with walled cities enabled the population to be more resistant to flood damage. This allowed the nascent civilization an opportunity to stabilize and grow, and the periodic 'devastating flood' became simply another cycle to be used as a source of human wealth (it greatly enhanced the nutrient quotient of the soil, for example). This gave the growing population a more stable food supply, and enabled trading for other goods

    We looked at the Noah story in light of this additional information, and he said "that's just folk history, right? Floods used to be really bad, and now they're not so bad, so GodDidIt! Riiiight!"

    He's fourteen. (and I'm very proud of him)

  5. grumpypilgrim says:

    Elaine Pagels wrote an excellent book about the origins of satan in which she discovered that the character Christians today call satan has gone through a whole series of iterations. Originally — in ancient Hebrew times — satan was a generic term for any angel sent by God to hinder human activity. This was neither good nor evil, merely God acting through an intermediary against human intentions. Over the centuries, the satan character gained both power and independence from God, conveniently paralleling changes in Judeo-Christian beliefs that made God more directly involved in human lives. Apparently, a "personal" God needs a scapegoat; one that operates through rigid laws, not so much.

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