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The Future of God

I was quite looking forward to the ‘Future of God’ debate which Rick mentioned in today’s news. The publicity has been ongoing for the past couple of weeks, and it promised to be a good event. Michael Shermer can be intensely annoying, but he does speak well, Sam Harris has some very intelligent things to say and debates in a very precise manner, and though I hear a lot about Deepak Chopra, I’ve never really seen or heard him in action (I am not familiar at all with Jean Houston). And the topic is a fascinating one.

But the show’s potential certainly wasn’t realised – in actual fact, it was quite a mess. Certainly, one of the most annoying aspects was the sloppy moderating which allowed Chopra to rudely interrupt Shermer and Harris continually, despite using up plenty of time himself when talking. But the real issue I think was that the question – ‘Does God have a future?’ – was ambiguous. Was it asking whether humans would need the concept of god to live happily in future? Or perhaps it was referring specifically to the Abrahamic God of Judaism/Christianity/Islam? Or did it mean to suggest that science and rational thought was possibly on the brink of disproving the idea of God itself, regardless of whether people need the concept to live happily.

Shermer and Harris certainly latched on to the Abrahamic God idea, while Chopra stuck to quantum New Age psycho-babble – which all led to a very disjointed ‘debate’ in which everyone was simply throwing forward their own ideas, playing to their section of the crowd, and not actually answering each other (or even the original question). A little humour certainly helped make it more bearable, and some good points made (mostly by Harris and Houston to my mind) – but in short, I’d probably like the time back again.

The closest that the debate came to answering the question, I think, came from Chopra and Houston, in recognizing that the concept of ‘God’ is undergoing a distinct change at the moment (a point which both Chopra and Houston made a little more eloquently in pre-debate articles). For example, Houston:

The complexity of the present world is shattering expectations in every arena, most especially, in the geography of the soul. Lost as we all are, we can understand why some retreat into fundamentalisms that provide archaic certainties, holding houses of containment before the onrush of new realities. Others wander in a spiritual void, overwhelmed by the loss of all pattern, looking to material accomplishments to replace the loss of essence. Still others flee into “replacement strategies”– psychotherapy, drugs, sex, growth seminars, travel. In each case, mind and body are at the end of their tether, swung out into vertigo over the abyss of Being. And yet the yearning for personal experience of the divine reality has never been greater.

To summarise my own feelings on the question(s): I feel that Abrahamic god has a limited future (though that might be measured in tens or hundreds of years). My opinion is that the majority of humans (though not all) require some sort of God concept in order to cope with both day-to-day hardships and also existential angst. And I think that science is unlikely to ever be able to disprove the concept of God (though I should be careful to note that in saying that, I am not saying that ‘God’ therefore exists).

That is: the concept of God has a future. The Abrahamic God conjured from literal Bible interpretation does not. Your thoughts?

  1. I agree with you entirely i
    I agree with you entirely i think.

    I am re-reading David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion as well as Dan Dennett’s Breaking the Spell. Both books are good reminders of the size and scale of the spiritual and religious experience. If anyone hasn’t read Hume’s work i really recommend it.

    ‘God’ is almost certainly too big a notion to have no future. After all, God is love or God is energy show how the concept can be crafted. ‘God’ is the organisation in life, or ‘God’ is the organisation in the universe are other good examples.

    As far as i can see the natural theology (again, see Hume) that was historically used as evidence for the theistic type Gods was undermined both philosophically and ultimately scientifically. Theism uses both natural theology and revelation and revelation is harder to talk about. People could still accept and expect Jesus in 10,000 years or half a million. This is faith though and faith can be completely separate to anything in the world, perhaps this is even when it is at its most powerful. I don’t really doubt that faith is immortal – a natural feature of our species, but i cannot guess at how it will be used in the future.

    I would suspect that ‘God’ and maybe even organised religion will be with us for a very long time. Given that it will be past all our lifetimes then maybe we could say forever (as far as we are concerned at least).

    Perhaps if it was more like the expressions of hope and faith at the grail more people would have less of a problem with it. I just can’t handle the out and out lies repeated under the banner of tradition and history though. I have never been much of a traditionalist (even forgiving the other sins).

  2. “The Devil’s Delusion”
    David Berlinski has written a book called “The Devil’s Delusion”. He is a secular Jew, and a scientist, arguing against the “new atheist” movement and its scientific pretensions. It’s a unique book and an excellent read for those of us who are tired of all the impotent, angry, debate going on around this topic.

  3. Abraham’s God or His Image Managers?
    Hi Greg
    Abraham’s innovation in the God Business was to follow a single God without images and he worshipped via direct non-priestly sacrifices – there was no middle hierarchy, no school of professional interpreters and no quasi-Roman style Patron/Client social dynamics. The religions that sprang from his genius moment mistook the Patriarchal society that Abraham sprang from as Divine Mandate and proceeded to channel the “God Essence” into that form, even though the Spirit has spoken, time and time again, through unexpected mouths – shepherds, madmen, questionable women, obscure preachers rumoured to be bastards, the destitute and disposable under-class, and so forth. The Spirit is no respecter of persons and impartially shines on all alike.

    I think if Abraham’s genius has a future, then it’ll need to crack the mold it has been confined in, the idol crafted by the hands of men. Every age has recreated the idol of God, in the image of the dominant ideas of the day, and the Spirit has refused to be so controlled.

  4. Future of God
    A beleif and need to believe in God will always be present, even though there is and will be an ever more voiciferous attempt by secular atheist leftist presumed intellectuals to destroy the concept. Part of their need to destroy God derives from an inferiority complex that requires a perception of intellectual superiority by their denunciation of the God concept as fantasy, myth, and psychosis. The other part is the clear abuses by all organized religions throughout history, the evidential record of archeology and geology that contradicts timelines in the Bible, the conflicting and competing religions of the world, etc…
    Personally I’ve always found organized religion flawed and the primary flaw being that every organized religion requires God being explained by man (not gender specific) and God’s will being dissemenitated by man. The point is humans are flawed – always have been always will be, and presuming a God entity does exist any message passing through the filter of man will be adulterated and polluted. So ultimately the belief in God comes down to a choice and it is a personal choice for each individual and truly if God does exist – God will certainly NOT be married to one religion damning believers in all the rest.
    Personally I CHOOSE to believe in God – a universal God force that was the initial cause and set in motion all that is, leaving it to run its course. This belief does not require allegiance to any one church – only to God, grace, patience, and forgiveness – truly universal concepts and ones I admit I am extremely short on in every category.

    1. flavours of atheism
      That is a valid point – many atheists deny God because they hate him. So the ultimate insult is to deny his existence.

      Of course then there are those who just don’t see any evidence of God, and who face the universe alone.

      And then there are those believers who believe just because they are afraid of an empty universe, without any purpose.

  5. Transcendentally Notionally Rational
    I <3 stuff like this -- ideas are tasty.

    I think it all boils down to:

    1) There are Truths that exist independently of me.

    2) There is no one point of view that is without fault or that accounts for all aspects of reality.

    3) The concept of G_d depends on where you come at it from (especially the essence preceeding existence and vice versa thang), but I think that taking G_d literally is a relatively recent phenomenon. I tink that, fundamentally, G_d represents certain states and values that are held to be true, regardless of the attempts of our rationality to burn it away. To live life fully and intentionally.

    Or something like that :3

    Aboot the Abrahamic G_d--I'm rather partial to the Judaic school that says that the Bible was teaching people the dangers of believing in G_d/Empire and was showing them how not to give up responsibility for their own lives and actions. So, I predict a rediscovery of that.

  6. My take
    My take is that I agree with Stephen Colbert: there will always be a future for God, as long as people keep getting laid —what do atheists yell when they get jiggy with it: “Oh… Nothingness!”? methinks not 😛

    1. I’ve found myself using
      I’ve found myself using ‘Thank Goodness’ instead of (the cultural term) ‘Thank God’ when something good happens. Especially if it involves the goodness of other people, such as surgery, or food arriving at the table.

      For some reason i still find myself trying not to blaspheme. I even apologise to the sky sometimes after i say something like ‘Jesus Christ’ after hitting my thumb with a hammer, for example.

      For a bit of tongue in cheek philosophy: If we are pre-destined, or if a God always knew i was going to be here right now and doing what i am doing then well – I was always going to be here. Compare this to sciences view, evolution never even mandated mammals, never mind primates or humans, and especially never mind you and me. Under this view we are a trillion trillion times more lucky to be here. For me this dramatically chances the nature of appreciating my existence.

      What do i shout when i get jiggy with it? You don’t want to know 🙂 But it definitely isnt ‘Oh… Nothingness!’ 😛

  7. The Secret Life of Abraham
    I agree with the preceding post. Abrahamic (“Book of Genesis”) religion has a huge future. Abraham was the esoteric master of his day. He was politically suppressed but his story was nevertheless told, albeit in a highly coded form. (To wit, the real Abraham was not a monotheist, at least not publically.)

    I call him, and myself by emulation, an ex-essentialist. In other words, I used to think of myself as important, but now know better. In the Abrahamic philosophy/religion one recognizes the need for authority and even an ultimate authority, i.e., “G-d”, while at the same time being deeply cynical and distrustful of those that covet authority. Abrahamic philosophy is not entirely passive or pacifistic. It encourages vigorous fighting for ideals rather than pride of place.

  8. Where is the God of Abraham?
    Picture this:

    Moses strides into Pharaohs court. The court is hushed. Pharaoh, greets Moses with a hug(they know each other since Moses was a prized pupil in the Egytptian schools of esoterica). Standing firmly like Gandalf facing the Balrog at the bridge of Khazad-dum, Moses says to the Pharaoh, “Let my people go.”

    A tumult ensues. Laughing and jeering the crowd closes in to hear what the Pharaoh has to say.

    Raising his hand to silence the crowd, and with one eyebrow raised in sincere inquisition, the Pharaoh asks, “Moses, by what authority do you make such demands of me, god on earth, the Pharaoh?”

    Moses answers patiently, “I have seen a vision Pharaoh. God has spoken to me and commands that you let my people go.”

    More inquisitive than ever now, Pharaoh asks the question hanging on everyones lips, “What ‘God’ do you speak of Moses? Who is this God that makes such demands on Pharaoh?”

    With a twinkle in his eye, gripping his staff firmly, Moses answers, “I am. Now let my people go, or you’ll regret it. This I swear to you.”

    The Abrahamic God is not dead, but to find this God, you don’t need a Tanakh, New Testament, or Qur’an…you just need a mirror(a copy of Aleister Crowley’s Illustrated Goetia helps too).


    ps, the devil’s there too…so be careful.

  9. The God concept
    It has frequently been argued that the concept of God(s) has been used throughout history to oppress; it has also been used to free people from oppression. Again it is often stated that the concept of God has been a major factor in both the worst and the best examples of human behaviour.

    Some of the ‘best’ people I have known have been devout believers – equally true of some of the worst.

    The concept of God will remain alive and well – it will continue to influence as it has historically for good and bad.

    I am not a ‘skeptic’ (in the negative sense it is often used), I don’t adhere to any specific religious or secular belief structure. There are many ‘fringe areas that I remain fascinated by and unsure about. The concept of God, on the other hand… Like most things I do not rule it out but I’m with Kant on this one: existence? Just makes no sense to me.

    1. Whenever someone gets to the
      Whenever someone gets to the breaking point in the heat of sex and makes their Oh-face, (whether they scream “Oh, Nothing-ness” or not) the endorphans/proteins/chemicals released at the climax takes us to blissful state that will ensure the survival of our species. Science has given us the why and how, but has this information taken away the need to experience or meaning of this act..? This is how I see the evolution of god progressing..

      For a while now, Religion has been the “leading authority” for all things god. It has told us who this being is, what it expects of us, and it’s favorite food on Sundays. Religion can be seen as the condom to human spirituality (sure, it gets the job done and people feel safe whenever it’s on, but it’s nothing compared to the intensity of raw [pun intended] passion with someone you love.) Yet, humanity (I hope) is starting to notice the shelf-life of religion and the wonders of spiritual freedom (or “raw-riding” for the sake of keeping with the metaphor.) This is why I believe that there is a future for god, just not in the sense of how we know it today..

      Unfortunately, religion has corrupted many into believing that it is synonomous with god, and because of this has left a bitter taste of Jesus-Juice on our tongues. This massive out pouring of false authority in turn has caused many to shun any aspect of spirituality (or god).

      Yet, no matter how many times your doctor tells you the dangers of not wearing a condom, it’s still hard to describe the feeling. In other words, science can categorize every aspect of reality, or the multi-verse, but there is nothing to “disprove” realms beyond our sense’s comprehension. We will always be in awe of the taste of something delicious, the rays of sun peeking through the window on a beautiful morning, or the mind-mush of an intense orgasm.

      Therefore, there will always be a spot for spirituality, and for god by extension. Organized religion is/has become dredfully out-dated, and reason has thankfully been punching holes in its theories over the past couple of centuries. God will evolve as we do..

      I will continue to rely on science and spirituality to guide me through the experience of life.

      1. Nice extension (no pun intended) 😉
        Nice extension of the metaphor. And I agree; there’s a reason why the favorite expression during such moments of intense emotional discharge is “Oh God!” —probably one fo the reasons some people describe sexual climax as “the little death”.

        Despite our rationalizations, there seems to be an almost physiological need to address something bigger than ourselves in our lives. The names we give to that are ultimately irrelevant.

        I think God is not supposed to be understood. It is supposed to be experienced.

        Let’s stop wearing condoms (organized religion) so we can go Commando, baby! 🙂

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