Friday, November 18, 2011

A "crisis" of faith

Note: This post has nothing to do with games, writing or mathematics.

When asked if I believe in God, my response if I provide one is usually something along the lines of: "Do you believe I have change in my pocket?"  Despite the confused looks I receive, I really do feel that this is the perfect response.  Of course the other person doesn't "believe" I have change in my pocket.  Nor do they "believe" I don't have change in my pocket.  They don't know either way and, more importantly, as long as they remain uncertain, the existence or non-existence of change in my pocket is unlikely to change their behavior in any way.

There may be a God.  In fact, one can relax the definition of "God" to the extent that there is almost certainly a God.  But, dispensing with the self-defeating task of trying to define the almighty, let us just assume for a moment that God does exist.  Let us throw in some additional qualifications as well.  God is aware, God had something to do with my creation, God has some sort of plan, and God is so far beyond me on the spectrum of being that, to me, his nature is incomprehensible.

Despite those rather impressive attributes, or perhaps because of them, I would claim that the question of God's existence is irrelevant to how I live my life.  Like most people I have a sense of "right" and "wrong".  It's neither constant nor infallible, but it's certainly there.  I have free will as well, and at every moment I can chose to do "right" or "wrong", but experience has taught me that doing "right" yields better long-term results than doing "wrong".

I take no issue with those who believe this sense of morality is God-given.  But, to return to my original analogy, the question of where my ideas of correctness come from is as irrelevant to me as the amount of change you have in your pocket.  Honestly, if a great being appeared to me, claiming to be God, and if that great being directed me to perform actions that went against my own code of ethics, then I would be forced to conclude that such a being was not God.  Of course such a being might modify me in some way to bring me in line, but then I would no longer be the person I am now and this entire essay would become moot.

In conclusion, not only is the existence question both unknowable and unimportant to me, it must always remain so.  If God plans to allow me to keep my free will and my ability to question all things, then God cannot reveal herself to me.  Doing so would either fail, or would change me into something else entirely. 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. This is pretty much my own point of view. While reading this I was remembered about celestial teapots.

  3. Yes, its definitely very much in the same vein as Russell's philosophy (which I was not previously aware of) and the celestial teapot analogy serves much the same purpose as my change-in-the-pocket analogy.

    I guess the only thing I would be adding, albeit clumsily, was that I believe that not even God could prove God's existence to me -- at least not without destroying who I am.

  4. When we read Brecht back in school, I came across one of his short stories and a line in there about the existence of God which has stuck with me ever since; I can only paraphrase by now, but anyway - the gist of it was:
    "if you believed in God, would it make you a better person? if not, the question of God's existence is pointless."

    I also very much liked the answer one member of a philosopher's circle here in the area gave in an interview:
    - Do I believe in God? no. but I miss him sometimes.