Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Why I Believe (Pt.1): Belief in God

Lately, I've been trying to deal with a question that has really been floating around in my head for quite sometime now, but just recently have felt more compelled to think upon. The question being "Why do I think I'm right about Christianity in the first place?". (Of course, I use the term "Christianity" loosely here, as I do not adhere to all the fundamental beliefs commonly held by Christians. Rather, I'm referring to the core ideas of Christianity that I still find to be true...such as the belief in God, divine inspiration of scripture, and obviously the teachings, atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ.) Which I suppose is the inevitable result of questioning/reexamining other long held beliefs, which I've been doing for almost two years now anyway.

But I'll be blunt, this is a scary question and one that I've greatly neglected; not only in writing about but in thinking about. Its one thing to question and reexamine a brick in the wall of your faith yet it's a whole nother thing to question the whole wall upon which your perceptions about life are built upon. But as uncomfortable as it may be, it's an extremely important question to ask. Because if I do not deeply understand why I believe all that I do, then I cannot expect myself to commit my life to said beliefs, let alone help anyone else to consider the same. So with that, I would like to take you on a little journey through a short series of blogs where I will investigate my core beliefs and why I believe them. And what better place to start, than at my belief in God.

The existence of humankind
Macro-evolution tells us that man evolved through several upon several mutations over a period of billions of years...from a tiny single celled organism to the complex multi-celled organism we are today. And while we do not possess superior abilities/mutations in comparison to all other animals, none-the-less we are very unique; particularly in our advanced intelligence and ingenuity that has caused us to dominate this planet.

This, from an atheistic standpoint, is said to have happened merely by chance. It just so happened that a universe came to be, with not only the right conditions for life to form, but also the right conditions to sling us high above the rest of the Earth's organisms; all because of one big multi-billion year long string of luck. And while I cant doubt the possibility, it all just seems much too unlikely and much too coincidental. Atheists such as Richard Dawkings must be conscious of this unlikely-hood as well, for them to suppose that there are an infinite number of universes and, what-do-you-know, this universe so happens to be the one that can sustain life and has caused humans to excel. But as interesting as this proposition is, I think the existence of just our one universe (without a creator in the formula) is puzzling enough on its own, let alone trillions of universes without one. Even Stephen Hawking admits in relation to our universe "it would be very difficult to explain why [it] would have begun in just this way except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us".

The beauty of life
Another thing that points me towards God is simply the very beauty that surrounds us and is in us. The amount of it in nature is astounding; whether it be scenery, majestic animals, the stars in the sky, or ourselves. Beyond that, the things we do and create bring in a whole new level of beauty into what already exists. We create art and music, think of theoretical and abstract ideas, construct breath-taking architecture, high-tech machines and have modeled the laws, agriculture and monetary systems that enhance our everyday lives. None of which any other organism (to my knowledge) does. And while nothing is perfect per say, and there are also many "ugly" things in our world (though I'd say this typically results from beautiful things being abused) its quite hard for me to see how this could've come together simply at random, with no supernatural intelligence(or God) involved. Even the simplest things like a child grow and learn over the years or seeing a beautiful girl smile, I find to be a clue that the splendor of existence had an intelligent source. Otherwise, as Tim Keller says "if we are [merely] the product of accidental natural forces, then what we call 'beauty' is nothing but a neurological hardwired response to particular data". And personally, I cannot accept that as an adequate answer for why such beauty exists at all.

the existence of morality
I'm pretty sure that just about every person I've ever met believes some things are right, while believing other things are wrong. Where does this sense of right and wrong come from? Certainly society and personal upbringing has something to do with it, but isn't it interesting that most people hold to the same general sense of morality and seem to have all throughout known history? Most societies in most times have taught that things like stealing, murder, cheating and lying to be wrong. And most societies in most times have taught that things like courage, justice, kindness, honesty, mercy, forgiveness and respect to be right (of course there are exceptions to this, but I'm saying in general). So it would appear to be that there is an inate sense of morality that supercedes that which is defined personally and culturally.

Some suggest that morality is the result of individuals surviving in greater numbers when they displayed the above "right" characteristics, as opposed to those who displayed above "wrong" characteristics. Thus, the favorable genes of the more unselfish individuals got passed down, causing most of us to feel these universal ideas of right and wrong. In other words, its only natural that our instinct tries to compel us to do the right things over the wrong things, because the right things help us survive. But do they always help us survive?

Stealing is considered wrong, yet if I'm a starving hobo the best course of action for survival may indeed be me stealing some guys hot dog, or robbing a convenience store. The right thing to do (which would be to not steal at all) wouldn't aid me in my survival in this instance. Helping people stranded on the road with car problems is considered courteous and right, yet doing so may cause me to be late to work and lose my job; and certainly the risk of losing my job or putting it in jeopardy wouldn't aid my survival in any way either.
So the question still remains; where does this universal sense of right and wrong come from? Why do we feel inclined to adhere to it, even when it determents our survival? Well, my answer is that perhaps there is a God, who put it there in order to teach us what is good, and help lay a path for living life that goes deeper than even any religious text or life philosophy. Not only that, but it seems to imply there is some real purpose to our existence beyond just living and dying (purpose being something I talked about in a previous blog).

The unfulfillable void
Perhaps the evidence I find most compelling for the existence of God, is that each human seems to have a particular void in them that appears to leak whatever they put into it. And the hunger that void creates, I contend, drives us to do all that we do in life. We try to fill it with money, success, relationships, possessions, fame and even video games...but all of it fails at keeping this void satisfied. This is perhaps why many musicians who've dominated the charts and seem to have all that you could ever want, still sing about emptiness and fall into life-shattering things like drug addictions. If there is nothing beyond the physical and said void is purely an evolutionary mechanism to help us survive, such situations really make no sense. After all, most of those musicians have all the food, sex, money and fun they could possibly ask for, let alone why should they continue to find themselves so unsatisfied and broken? From an evolutionarily perspective, they are surviving very well and probably reproducing, so how are we to explain this phenomena of emptiness?

I've heard some say that it is merely a fluke or just "evolutionary baggage" we acquired over time, as I believe Carl Sagan said. And while I suppose thats possible I just don't find that answer to be satisfactory. I think that the void is unfulfillable by any worldly thing for a much more significant reason. That reason being that it was purposely put there to show us we need something other-worldly to complete us; and it is my strong feeling that this other-worldly thing is a creator God who wants to have relationship with us.