Friday, August 15, 2014

Answering the question whether gods exist or not

People who profess to be atheists are very confidently convinced that gods don’t exist. Atheism is an ideology or a notion that declares there is no god: “A-theos” (Greek) means “no god”. A-theos plus “ism” becomes atheism with its Greek equivalent being A-theismos. This is the most basic definition of atheism as an ideology.

Recently they often ask me whether gods exist or not. They expect that I wish to join in their camp as atheists. Unfortunately, I find it that I (my mind and my inner-feeling) cannot become an atheist. I don’t want to imprison myself in any religious or secular ideologies. I wish to forever remain as a white dove freely flying in the sky, being not incarcerated or imprisoned in any cages. Once a freethinker, forever a freethinker. 
 



I nonetheless still need spirituality, because until now our neurological systems in our brains still require spiritual input and yield spiritual output. Our need for spirituality is part of the biological evolution of the human brain. It could be that millions or billions of years from now, the long natural biological evolution of our brains will remove spirituality altogether from the neural systems of the human brain. When this era comes, perhaps atheism will become the biggest worldview in the world. But for the time being, in the 21st century, the need of spirituality is still part of the neural systems of the human brain. I still need to have spirituality and to spread it into the world, farther and farther. This is what is natural for humans up to the present. What Rinzai Gigen has said makes me delighted: “When hungry, I eat my food. When sleepy, I shut my eyes. Fools laugh at me; the wise understand.”   

If anybody asks me whether gods exist or not, I will answer as follows. By theistic religions, gods are believed to dwell in the supernatural world, not in the empirical natural world. This belief or this idea is known as, put simply, theism or supernaturalism.There are many great ideas in this world, e.g., communism, capitalism, Marxism, liberalism, existentialism, secularism, naturalism, rationalism, empiricism, modernism, and of course dynamism, animism, theism, pantheism, non-theism, atheism, agnosticism, etc. 

Let’s focus now on theism or supernaturalism vis-à-vis atheism or naturalism. We should ask some questions: Is supernaturalism true, in the sense that the supernatural world does exist, thus gods as part of the supernatural world exist too? Because atheism opposes theism, atheism then should also provide evidence that confirms that its opposition to theism is true. Atheism cannot, without any basis, offer only the counter-claim to theism. So we should pose the same question to atheism as the debunking of theism: Is atheism true, in the sense that gods don’t exist in the supernatural world? If atheism maintains that there are no gods, does it mean that the supernatural world doesn’t exist either?

Well, when we want to ascertain strongly whether something is a fact or isn’t a fact, whether something exists or not, science is the most suitable method to test it. If we wish to argue scientifically, as we should, not only theism, but also atheism, should prove the beliefs each holds.The burden of proof falls on both theism as the thesis and atheism as the antithesis. If theism cannot present empirical evidence of the existence of gods, theism then becomes a belief, a religion. This applies too to atheism: if atheism cannot give empirical evidence of the non-existence of gods, the necessary evidence for debunking theism, atheism then becomes a belief or a religion too, precisely a religion that doesn't acknowledge the supernatural gods.

Unfortunately, science can analyze, describe, explain and confirm phenomena which exist only in the empirical natural world. Science, so far, cannot enter the supernatural world. If the supernatural world exists, science cannot come into this world to substantiate whether gods exist or not. In relation to the belief maintained by atheism that gods, and thus the supernatural world, don’t exist, science cannot substantiate either whether the supernatural world doesn’t exist.

We all know that our mind sometimes fails to recognize a reality due to our wrong perceptions or our lack of sufficient knowledge. So it could happen that we erroneously perceive something which actually exists to be something which doesn't exist, and the other way round. This means that the supernatural world which we empirically perceive as non-existent can possibly exist and we can confirm its existence if our mind has much more power and capacity to perceive more broadly and deeper and our sciences have developed and advanced far beyond their present state.  

The recent advancement in Quantum physics leads us to the scientific knowledge we never have previously. Due to the contribution of, e.g., Max Planck and David Bohm, we presently know that particles in the Quantum world have both proto-consciousness or free will (as the wave aspect of a particle) and matter (as the matter aspect of a particle). This makes us realize more and more that matter and non-matter intermingle in the subatomic world. After pondering on this knowledge for a long time, I see the probability that perhaps one day in the future science will have the evidence that the natural and the supernatural worlds actually intersect. The transcendent and the immanent probably partly overlap. Perhaps our science will finally discover that the supernatural or the transcendent is the non-matter dimension of the universe as a whole. Our universe will still exist billions of years from now. Our science will make progress limitless. Countless generations of scientists in the future will open the "gates of heavens" that perhaps are still closed now, to attain new exciting scientific knowledge. Open mind is the only correct response to this exhilarating future.

In short, we cannot be absolutely sure that the supernatural world doesn't exist. The important thing is this: to be able to verify or to falsify the existence of gods in the supernatural world, science first has to enter this world to check―alas this is what our current science cannot do, as yet. In conclusion, if science is asked to substantiate the existence or the non-existence of gods, science presently cannot answer altogether. Science cannot prove or disprove the existence of gods.  

Consequently, the strongest position concerning the existence of gods is to say that we currently cannot know absolutely whether gods exist or not. This position is known as agnostic position. The famous cosmologist and astronomer, the late Carl Sagan, refutes both atheism and theism, and chooses to become agnostic. Sagan very clearly presents his reasons why he opts for the agnostic position. In his book Broca’s Brain, he writes this:
“Those who raise questions about the God hypothesis and the soul hypothesis are by no means all atheists. An atheist is someone who is certain that God does not exist, someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of God. I know of no such compelling evidence. Because God can be relegated to remote times and places and to ultimate causes, we would have to know a great deal more about the universe than we do now to be sure that no such God exists. To be certain of the existence of God and to be certain of the nonexistence of God seem to me to be the confident extremes in a subject so riddled with doubt and uncertainty as to inspire very little confidence indeed. A wide range of intermediate positions seems admissible, and considering the enormous emotional energies with which the subject is invested, a questioning, courageous and open mind seems to be the essential tool for narrowing the range of our collective ignorance on the subject of the existence of God.”/1/
Consequently, if we hold the agnostic position, we actually cannot be extremely fanatic in adhering to any religions on the one hand; and on the other hand, we cannot scorn and underestimate religious people and view them as silly if they believe in their gods. But there is another story we should listen to. 

We know very well that religions employ many metaphors to describe various things so that religious people can understand religious things. A metaphor is a linguistic medium humans use to express in daily human languages things that are inexpressible or inexplicable so that most of the people can grasp and understand these things. Jesus of Nazareth as well as Gautama Buddha and other holy figures of the past use many metaphors when they communicate their convictions regarding the human life and other things that are beyond human and worldly daily life.

In the world of science, scientists often find things that they haven’t yet understood correctly and precisely or that cannot be expressed clearly and soundly as yet via scientific methods. In this situation, they use metaphors, e.g., the metaphors of “dark matter” and “dark energy” in astrophysics. Similarly, “the big bang” itself is a metaphor in modern cosmology. To describe how the world or the universe works, Descartes used the metaphor of a “machine”. Descartes said, “I portray the Earth together with the whole visible universe as though they were a machine.” The machine metaphor is used too in classical physics for the same purpose. Moreover, the “balloon” metaphor whose surface is expanding when being filled with air is presently used to describe the universe that is expanding in a more and more accelerated way. The militant atheist aka an evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, employs the metaphor “selfish gene” when explaining the relationship of the “survival of the fittest” with the human genes.     

Well, metaphor as a literary genre is used too by the writers of any holy books when they wish to picture gods as vivid and creative as possible. So, in order to describe richly and creatively the inexpressible or inexplicable supernatural world, gods become metaphors in their hands. There are plenty of metaphors of gods in various ancient holy scriptures. Of course, there are good and bad metaphors about gods that have been composed by ancient humans in their holy books. In the present, wise and intelligent religious people surely will take and use only good metaphors about gods, and put aside the bad ones.

So, if gods are creative and rich metaphors, can you prove or disprove the metaphors? If you can, show me the methods.

Metaphors take many artistic and cultural forms and shapes too: paintings, poems, traditional poetry, dancing, novels, myths, statues, buildings, songs, music, movies, folklore, fictional stories, and the like. Well, if a poem is a metaphor, can you verify or falsify a poem? Moreover, can you prove or disprove empirically the beauty of a painting, a piece of music, a myth, a dance? If you can, give me the methods. Well, I repeat, if god is a metaphor, show me the ways to falsify or to verify the god-metaphor.

Well, any metaphors can only be enjoyed: their beauty, their depth, their impression, their imagination, their power to move the human heart and to change the human mind, their power to attract, their moral and emotional impact on the human heart and mind, and their socio-political impact on societies. They cannot be proved or disproved via telescopes or microscopes or via mathematical calculation or via the Large Hadron Collider. In the world of religions, metaphors inhabit the world of values (moral, cognitive, affective, artistic and aesthetic), cannot be proved or disproved empirically. They can only be vivified in various different cognitive and affective tastes by different individual humans. On the basis of some considerations, we can solely agree or disagree with the values that religious metaphors offer to the world.


This image above is the image of a god in Hinduism. This is a great and heart-moving artistic metaphor. Try to know the name of this god. Can you prove or disprove empirically this impressive metaphor? I enjoy it very much, and feel more and more serene the deeper I ponder on the image. It cannot be debated. It can only be enjoyed and felt. It is very certain that atheists cannot feel what I am now feeling, since their lives are barren and dried to such an extent that even god-metaphors are hated and cursed by them.

The message from me to atheists is therefore that they should not be trapped and imprisoned forever in the ontological debates about whether gods exist or not. Instead, it is much better for them to feel happy and peaceful too if a religious person is happy, serene, kind, tough, strong, optimistic, merciful, friendly, due to the metaphors of gods that he or she holds. Why should they attack such a pious religious people? Why should he or she be treated as atheists’ enemy? Why do atheists not love him or her?    

Most beautifully if atheists could involve themselves in the activities to enlighten and sharpen the mind of religious people worldwide, rather than scorning them continually from moment to moment. Patiently and politely educate and make them intelligent, so that finally they can understand that, e.g., their holy books contain so many theological metaphors. Sharpen their mind and perception to enable them to see that in their holy books there are good metaphors usable and beneficial for their lives and the world and bad metaphors unusable and disadvantageous for their lives and the world. Help them sort out the metaphors. The more we have smart and wise religious believers, the better our world will be. We should remember, there are four billion religious adult people in the world presently. If atheists wish to change the world but they disregard these four billion sons and daughters of man, they are clearly unwise and not strategic.

If you find much violence have been done by religious people, peel and analyze in a dignified, decent, modest and intelligent way the god-metaphors that have stimulated them to conduct violence. Show them that there are many alternative god-metaphors in their own holy books that can motivate them to do many things good to their fellow beings rather than spreading violence in societies. You should focus on the social functions of religions, and stop forever debating ontologically whether gods exist or not. Such a debate is not beneficial at all, only creates social tension, hard polemics and hatred.     

I pray for my atheist friends so that they are not imprisoned any longer in their own ideological prisons. While praying, I construct in my mind the feeling of love for great and gorgeous ideas for all the humans in this world, e.g., ideas about the global sisterhood of all of us and peace in our entire planet, about harmony among fellow humans, harmony between humans and nature and all the other organisms. Irrespective of the problem whether gods exist or not, every prayer has a real impact on the men who pray and on the men prayed for. Prayer and meditation are the media to spread positive energy and spirit into our societies. I regularly do pray and meditate happily. It is absolutely unnecessary to consider people who pray and meditate as silly and deluded and to mock and scorn them. Replace mockery and scorn with blessing. May all the living in this planet be blessed, healthy, serene and happy.



Notes

/1/ Carl Sagan, Broca’s Brain: Reflection of the Romance of Science (New York: Random House, 1974, 1979), p. 365.