Can we become gods

Stefan Fischer

Gay marriage is one Defeat for humanity ". This is the title of an article published in May 2015 by Die Welt about the reaction of the Catholic Church to a referendum in Ireland. The vote was about legalizing marriage between same-sex partners. Many saw it as a moral advance. Apparently not the Vatican.

Church critics around the world seize the opportunity, lapse into their usual singsong and speak words like "crusty" or "forever yesterday" in microphones and cameras. All over the world, keyboards tremble under the angry fingers of the angry, who have always known: Pope Francis of the poor will no longer help, all help comes too late.

Troubled by all these attacks, the Friends of Catholicism are stubbornly resisting the storm. Are we not doing an invaluable service to society? Are our charities worthless? Our grief work and dying care? Or also ... and so on.

But let's not get lost in this debate. In short, the Catholic Church - yes, religion as a whole - has caused some pretty bad things in its history. And also plenty of good things. It should not be our aim here and now to weigh these achievements against each other. That would be too difficult, if not impossible. Others should take action. Instead, let's ask a more fundamental, philosophical question.

No panic. We don't need to turn books to answer this question. All you need is a pinch of reason, a touch of emotional distance to your own values, and a teaspoon of pleasure in penetrating spiritual fog.

What are the arguments in favor of believing it to be true that there is a God? It is important to distinguish this question from the question of whether belief in God makes human life better or more fulfilling or something else. It may well be that religious people are better able to overcome strokes of fate. That they are better able to keep their cheerfulness in the face of their own inevitable death. That they feel more comfortable and in better hands. In short: it can be that religiosity makes life more pleasant. But that's not what (us) is about. It's about whether God actually exists.

The question of whether there is God (let's stick with the Catholic image of God) is not a question of personal decision or lifestyle. Either God created the universe or not. Either he sent his Son to forgive us for our sins, or he did not. Either the soul is immortal or it is not. None of these are questions of personal choice. They are questions about what the universe is like regardless of our feelings and thoughts. So it can't to me be so, to you but different. Either water boils at sea level at 100 degrees Celsius, or it doesn't. If we contradict each other, at least one of us is wrong.

So let's look at two arguments for there being God. Both lurk on the edge of the consciousness of countless people and wait for concretization. We want to help you.

First argument, commonly known as that First mover argument: The world and the universe must have started somehow. Nothing can create itself. So the world and the universe must have been created. So there is a creator. That creator is God. So there is a god.

This argument is not convincing. It just shifts the original problem to another level. The starting point of the argument is the statement that nothing can create itself. Immediately a new problem arises: If nothing can create itself, then neither can God have created himself. Ergo the new problem, now one level higher: Who or what created God? If the answer is that God is an exception and can create himself, then it could just as well be said that the universe created itself. So the argument bites its own tail. And fails.

Let's get to the teleological argument for the existence of God (from Greektelos For aimintention): Just look how wonderfully well-planned nature is set up! How sensibly everything interlocks: photosynthesis, the human eye! Otherwise we only find such a meaningful arrangement in things that were created by a being with a certain intention. So here's the best explanation that nature is set up so purposefully: It has a Creator who purposely set things up as we find them. And that creator is God.

This argument was convincing well into the 19th century. In fact, there has been no better explanation for the apparently planned nature of nature to date. Today, however, we have a better explanation: Darwin's theory of evolution. It can explain why nature is set up this way and why everything interlocks so sensibly - without the assumption of an engineer behind things. The theory of evolution thus provides the same explanatory power, but requires fewer assumptions (for example:none omnipotent, benevolent engineer). In short: it is the better explanation. We don't need God to explain that nature is what it is. So this argument also fails.

Interim conclusion: God's existence cannot be proven argumentatively. There are other attempts, but let's leave them aside (at this point I lean a little out of the window and dare to say: they too fail). Instead, let us turn to the typical response of many believers to lines of thought of the above kind. Religion is not about proving, they say. It's about to believe, about, to trust.

Another consideration: Imagine you are an alien and land with the spaceship on earth. Humanity welcomes you and leads you into a room where representatives of all religions wait in turn and want to convince you of themselves. None of those present can prove that his / her God actually exists. But they don't want that either. All of them affirm with a kind face that it is a matter of believing and trusting. As a strange visitor to earth, you will quickly notice that all religious followers agree on this.

But now you have a problem. Believe who Trust who And since you are well trained in thinking as an alien, another problem immediately dawns on you. Trust always means someone Trust. So if that someone doesn't exist, then trust doesn't make sense. In other words, trust presupposes the existence of whoever is trusted. And why should you even make this requirement? Why should you assume that God exists and this one doesn't? The religious representatives do not provide any convincing arguments for the existence of their gods. Dead end.

It is also out of the question to simply choose the religion that best suits the alien values ​​that you already hold or that you find sympathetic to. It's about the existence of a god - and it certainly doesn't depend on what you find likeable or stupid.

You don't need an extraordinary knowledge of human nature to realize that religion is central to the lives of everyone present. Those gathered here cannot even imagine a life without their faith, as they themselves confirm when asked. He is everything to her, her elixir of life. And yet - unyielding as aliens are, you can't help insisting that the religious leaders please give a reason that speaks for their god actually existing. That it is more than a guess, an object of blind trust. What, you ask again, speaks for the truth of the existence of the gods?

At that moment it becomes a little, but noticeably, colder in the room. You have the impression that a little anger, or even anger, is flickering towards you. Certainly, you are admitted, there is no way of proving the existence of God. But neither can one refute its existence. As a result, a space of faith and trust opens up. And this space is filled with the love of God.

This answer briefly throws you off track. You think for a moment and then, somewhat surprised, ask whether the religious representatives also believe in the existence of unicorns, ghost ships or Santa Claus. Amazed, all those present say no. How could that be now? After all, their existence cannot be refuted. And according to the logic just mentioned, a space of faith and trust opens up. And this space could now be filled by belief in unicorns, ghost ships and Santa Claus. But this Space remains empty. How can that be?

The answer seems crystal clear: anyone who claims the existence of something - directly or indirectly, by saying that he trusts or believes in it - must give reasons why it exists. If, after a good search, no reasons can be found for it, it is reasonable to assume that it is Not exists. That's how we do it with unicorns, ghost ships and Santa Claus. On reflection, it is immediately obvious why we are doing this. The NotIt is difficult to prove the existence of something. We can only point out that we haven't found it yet. But it could still appear elsewhere in the vast expanses of the universe. This is also the case with unicorns. Perhaps there are unicorns on a distant planet beyond our star system. Still, we sensibly do not believe in unicorns. 

Your final alien impression: none of the religious representatives can provide a good reason for the truth of God's existence.

You leave the assembly hall a little disappointed. As the first alien atheist on earth.