Whether your name is Meredith or not, be forewarned: this post contains deeply heretical ideas, along with some gross stuff about my love life.
DH has known about my spiritual struggle since we were in high school. This was, in part, because we were both socially inept. I asked him to senior prom (not because I was particularly interested in him, mind you, but because I knew he'd be available), and on the way, in the limosine, I started rambling on about God.
I was in the midst of a massive crisis of faith. All my life, I'd been deeply religious, which is to say that I did my utmost to behave in accordance with halakha as I understood it and to believe the religious dogma that I was taught. This had become increasingly difficult, however, and lately, even the most basic tenets of religion had begun to seem irrational.
Everyone else seemed to think that I was a model Jew (notwithstanding my strange decision to go to prom), and I didn't know how my date would respond to this sudden admission of agnosticism. To my surprise, it didn't seem to affect him at all. He responded matter-of-factly that of course there was no way to prove or disprove the existence of a Supreme Being. Then, with a grin, he concluded:
"God is a postulate."
Strangely enough, that was the moment when I realized that this incredibly nerdy boy, who couldn't assemble an English sentence without including a world like "postulate," was someone I'd actually like to befriend.
Several years later, when we became romantically involved (in spite of a distance of approximately 400 miles), I began what became a lengthy e-mail exchange debating the God Postulate.
God is only a useful concept. . . if He interacts with the universe in some way. Can't one assert, then, according to a law that seems to hold true within the universe, that a system including a superfluous entity is less likely to accurately describe the way things work?
If you get the same results from one line of math that you would get from 7 pages of algebra, chances are, you want to use the one line, and all that it implies about the physics, as the basis of your theory. On the other hand, if there are some phenomena that can only be explained by the theory that would require 7 pages of algebra to do, you know that while the one line works in a limiting case, it can't be the entire truth.
Quantum theory is valuable because there are cases that Newtonian physics can't explain. Find me an aspect of the universe that can't be explained except through theism.
Dearest Pathetically Devoted One,
I'm glad that you finally responded to my e-mail. I was starting to worry that I might have actually destroyed your faith, which would suck, because then we'd have to switch positions.
And so on.
One of the things that most attracted me to DH was his willingness to confront these issues. I also liked the fact that they didn't seem to interfere with his religious commitment. Still, I have to admit, I was also kind of hoping that he'd eventually formulate an argument that would make religion seem reasonable again. Perhaps that was too much to hope for from anyone.
I've found myself thinking about these issues a good deal lately, mainly as a result of the proliferation of blogs by Orthodox and formerly Orthodox sceptics. Of course, I've dragged DH back into the conversation. The outcome of our last debate (if you can call me whining while my husband tries to sleep a "debate") is encapsulated in this post on DH's blog. In response, some obviously intelligent and thoughtful people contributed these (forgive me) entirely pathetic arguments in favor of theism:
1. "Cognitive closure:" The "wiring" of the human brain prevents us from grasping God's function in the universe.* Possible? Certainly. It is also possible that we are "wired" to think that the world around us is real, when it is actually a "matrix" designed by giant robots who are farming us for energy. In fact, a movie based on that premise was wildly popular. Still, I don't see people restructuring their lives on the basis of The Matrix. That's because, not only is there no reason to think that it's true, but it undermines everything we're able to deduce based on our senses and our capacity for logical reasoning.
If this doesn't trouble you, think about your daily life. Pretty much everything you do is based on the assumption that your senses and capacity for basic reasoning will not fail you. Everything. . . except religion.
2. God could "shift some quantums one way, and balance it out by shifting others the other way."** Also possible. But realize that this is the logical eqivalent of the argument that God fabricated the fossil record in order to fool us. Tell me again why I should believe in a God who's done everything possible to ensure that I can't detect his existence?
Sorry to be so shrill, but I know that there are many intelligent religious people in the world. Can't anyone do better than this?
* From respondingtojblogs
**From Godol Hador