Thou shalt have one God only; who
would be at the expense of two?
Arthur Hugh Clough
The ancient Greeks believed that there exists a deity, whom they called Atlas, who props up the Heavens and, by his constant labours, keeps the stars in their positions in the sky and other planets in their presumed orbits around the Earth. Similarly, before the advent of science, many people believed that God intervened regularly in their lives, whether to aid, succour, reward, or punish them for their good or bad behaviour. Hence, plagues, famines, accidents, natural disasters, and invasions by foreigners were interpreted as signs of God’s displeasure. It was believed that God favoured some while punishing others with a variety of trials, tribulations, and calamities. Not surprisingly, this led people to adopt a cringing, fawning, and subservient attitude towards God the Almighty, as well as towards those who were believed to be God’s hallowed emissaries or representatives on Earth.
Thanks to the discoveries of scientists, we now know that the ancient Greeks’ belief is wrong – that, marvellous as it seems, the stars and planets do not need to be supported in space because, in the case of the planets in our solar system, there are invisible forces that ensure they remain in orbit around the Sun, which provides the Earth’s many living inhabitants with the energy they require in order to remain alive and propagate their kind. And thus it is with all the other things that happen in the world or Universe and were formerly believed to depend on God’s volition, including birth and the preservation of Life on Earth: thanks to science, all of these things are now believed to have natural rather than supernatural origins and explanations.
There are many writers and intellectuals who are fond of repeating the statement made by Friedrich Nietzsche in 1882 that “God is dead.” There are two ways that this statement can be interpreted – as a belief about an objective truth about the Universe, or as an expression of the atheism and agnosticism that became more and more prevalent as a result of the spread of science and its medical and technological wonders, first in Western countries and later in other parts of the world, so that God was no longer relevant for these people, and therefore had no presence in their daily lives. But these scientifically devout individuals are, in my opinion, extremely premature in declaring God’s demise.
There are many religious people today who, like those who lived in a less scientifically devout age, believe that God is the Creator of the Universe and everything that exists in it. Moreover, as did the ancient Greeks, many of them believe that God constantly intervenes in the operations of the Universe so that it can continue to exist and remain in harmonious order. And yet, if you wanted to design something as complex as the Universe, together with living ecosystems populated by numerous different kinds of organisms, would you do so in a manner that required your constant attention and intervention in order to keep all of its complex components alive and functioning – as Atlas was believed by the ancient Greeks to hold up the Heavens by his constant efforts, or would you do so in a manner so that it continued on its own without your intervention?
It is, of course, science that has discovered the many regularities that are observable in the operations of the Universe and, more specifically, of Life here on Earth. But the fact that these regularities exist is no proof that God does not exist, as many scientifically credulous people have concluded, for the existence of these regularities is entirely consistent with God’s existence.
This is perhaps the greatest evidence of God’s greatness – that not only has God created both the Universe and Life on Earth, but God has created it in such a manner that it continues to function, remains alive and stable, is incredibly resilient, gives birth to new forms, and can adapt itself to changing physical conditions. This extraordinary conjuring trick on the part of God the Creator is so well done that it has led numerous credulous scientists and their legion of followers into believing that all of this happened by chance or accident, in accordance with the physical, chemical, and other natural laws that govern the operations of the Universe. So determined are these irreligious fools to give God no place or role in their scientific creation myth that they even have the brazen temerity to declare that the Universe itself began by chance.
Stephen Hawking was one of the scientifically devout individuals who believe that God cannot transgress the natural laws that It has fashioned. These scientists, who are puffed up with the arrogance of scientific knowledge and technological wizardry, behave like an art critic who declares that an artist who creates a new fashion in art is incapable of deviating from it, and henceforth must create art only in that manner. Or, to give another example, that a human ruler must always obey the laws that one has promulgated; however, history is replete with instances of rulers who transgressed their own laws. It is hard to imagine a more idiotic belief than this – that God, the Creator of the Universe, is limited by the physical laws that It has set forth for the Universe’s development.
To return to Nietzsche, the fact that he collapsed and became insane at the age of forty-forty, spending the last eleven years of his life under the care of his mother and sister, would have been interpreted by those who lived in an earlier, less scientific age as a clear instance of divine punishment for his blasphemous declaration that “God is dead.” Instead, the generally accepted scientific explanation, which is based primarily on circumstantial evidence, is that his insanity was caused by syphilis, which he presumably contracted when he was younger. The problem with this diagnosis, however, is that syphilis does not lead to a stable condition of insanity, as was observed in Nietzsche’s case, but to a continual degeneration that terminates in death. Although there has been much speculation regarding the cause of his madness, the fact is that there is no corroborated explanation for it. This leaves open the possibility that God was playing a joke at poor Friedrich’s expense, to show that, contrary to what he had written, God is indeed alive and well.
“God is dead,” said Nietzsche, who then
proclaimed this news to other men.
But then he went mad –
a plight truly sad –
save for God, who laughed and laughed again.