I’ve been considering the undetectability of god(s) for a while and after commenting on a couple of blog posts on the subject recently I thought I’d get around to finishing a draft that’s been sitting in the queue for far too long. So I took some time yesterday to have a good, hard look at what Christians and Muslims had to say on why their god in particular couldn’t be detected, didn’t show its self or was otherwise absent from general human interaction.
The god of Abraham, Yahweh, the one that Christians, Muslims and Jews worship is a theistic, personal god that believers claim interact with them and does so frequently. If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard the phrase ‘personal relationship with Jesus’… I’d probably still be writing this post (but I’d be rich. Wealthy even!). Anyway, from Wikipedia’s God page:
Theism generally holds that God exists realistically, objectively, and independently of human thought; that God created and sustains everything; that God is omnipotent and eternal; personal and interacting with the universe through for example religious experience and the prayers of humans.
So a personal god then, by definition, intervenes in the real world where humans exist and he might do so through miracles, by answering prayers and by communicating with people. I’ve been to Christian ‘revival’ meetings (Rhema specifically) where ‘the holy spirit’ was claimed to have ‘touched’ people, to the point where they fell over and lay on the floor twitching (there is a rather amusing post in that for another time). And there is the plethora of ‘testimonies‘ for various miracles and healing that a god is alleged to have caused.
I think it’s safe to say that intervening in the real world, where humans exist, is a property of the widely accepted Christian, Muslim and Jewish god.
There is, however, no scientific proof that this god, or any other god for that matter, exists which is why I spent the time researching why religious people think that we can’t detect their god and I found some… rather surprising answers from Christians and Muslims in particular. Here’s a list of reasons, provided by the self identified faithful, as to why their god doesn’t show himself to people or can’t be detected:
- It’s a test, or, your time on earth is a test or tribulation
- He shows himself all the time you just don’t realise you’re seeing him (as in nature, apparent order)
- He once did, people didn’t believe, people wouldn’t believe now so he doesn’t bother
- Only evil people ask for a sign or proof, so don’t ask, he won’t give it to you anyway
- He does manifests himself by answering prayers
- He doesn’t show himself because mere mortals couldn’t grasp his greatness
- He has no peers and opposites and us mere mortals can only understand things in context of peers and opposites
- God is closer than your jugular vein and if you stop refusing to feel god, you can feel god
- God isn’t man-like, he’s a force in the universe (this is deism but the answer was by a Christian…)
- Faith would be meaningless if he showed himself (a favourite among the faithful it seems)
- Free will – he doesn’t care if you believe in him or not
- He hides himself to expose people’s hearts (to trick them into showing their true nature…)
- If he had to be around he would immediately judge people for their sin, he can’t stand sin, and that would be bad for people.
- He lives on a different ‘brane’ to ours (see String Theory)
- His ‘matter’ doesn’t interact with photons and since we mostly use electromagnetic waves to detect things, we can’t, detect him
Safe to say that the time spent on the subject provided answers that were clear as mud (I do wonder why Christians can’t agree with each other, they do all read the same manual after all…). For the sake of argument we’ll accept that this personal god might exist and is, for whatever reason, outside our frame of reference and is not detectable by us or any of our scientific instruments.
While a personal god may not be directly detectable by us, by definition the effects that this god has on our world are such that we are able to perceive them. If we were unable to perceive these effects we couldn’t be aware of them. The things that people call miracles happen in the real world (statue’s crying blood for example) and communication that couldn’t be perceived would be pretty pointless and so must occur in the real world where humans exist.
Science can and does measure events in the real world. That is exactly what science is:
The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.
Science is capable of addressing, inspecting, evaluating and studying effects in the natural world, which is the same place where miracles and divine or supernatural communication and physical healing occur; anything perceivable by humans is measurable and so subject to scientific study.
This means that science is perfectly equipped and may be the only method equipped to study any of the effects that a personal god has on the world, that humans are able to perceive. If the effect cannot be measured it cannot be perceived by humans, so humans would be unable to know of the effect, or, there was no effect at all.
If a god is undetectable through its effects in the real world, it is indistinguishable from a non-existent god which has the same property of causing no measurable effects in the real world where humans exist.
If a God is undetectable, it is impotent and indistinguishable from a non-existent god. That is why to those who evaluate all religions and gods with the same set of rules without favouritism or preconceptions, Yahweh, Zeus, Apollo, Vishnu and every other god are the same; they don’t exist.
Science has not ever found any effects in the real world where human beings exist that had to be attributed to a supernatural power and religion has failed miserably to provide proof that any deity exists. Most of them make the illogical claim, as can be seen in the list above, that their god doesn’t want us to be able to detect him… but he wants a relationship with us and does things in the real world. That is, after all, why they pray, not so?
Finding god? There is no god to be found.