At first glance, the title might lead you to believe that I want to talk about finding God in times of trouble or acute need, but that is for another time. Instead, I want to ask the question: “How do we know there is a God, and where should we look for evidence and information to show that he/she/it even exists?”
We could start this discussion in a number of ways, so let’s start with the simplest and work our way around the issues.
The simplest answer starts with a walk out my back door. I have a mildly successful garden out there. I grow mostly vegetables, with a couple of fruits and a few flowers to attract bees and other, beneficial insects. I don’t have a lot of space, and the environment is pretty harsh as gardening goes.
But when I walk out into my garden oasis, I feel at home. And this is where I contend that God is most real to me. This “feeling" isn't really the evidence we are seeking, although any one person’s experience is very real to them.
Some religions actually hint at, or spell out, the relationship between this feeling we get when we are experiencing nature and the force behind what we feel. The Christian Bible claims in the first chapter of Romans that, “…the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead…”
Of course, that Bible passage goes on to claim that we humans traded our worship of this “God” (specifically Jehovah- the Jewish version of God) for one made in our own likeness. I have treated this subject in greater detail elsewhere. We won’t take the time to unravel the fallacy at this time.
When we look at the world around us, we can see an order and purpose that belies mere chance and coincidence. While I would stop short of accepting a literal six-day, creation model, I can’t help but wonder why some refuse to see any connection between the amazing designs in nature and a supreme being. It is quite evident to my mind that all the order, the laws of this awesome universe, are the result of a guided progression of great purpose and will.
The Tao is full of naturalistic language that pairs the awesome power of nature, the incredible energy that we can feel all around us, with an intelligent being OF SOME KIND behind it all.
Even the Buddha chose the natural life as the closest semblance of existence to that of our creator and his/her/its plan. It is specifically this acknowledgement of our place in the natural world that gives us our purpose in life. Without design and purpose, there appears to be no sense in life.
The Bible tells us that we are, “…fearfully and wonderfully made.” However, it, like most religious works, then takes us on a fantasy journey where we are viewed as an anomaly within God’s creative work.
It is the greatest affront to God that he is accused of cursing all of creation due to the misdeeds of the one creature that is the pinnacle of his very, creative acts!
This is where our search for God (evidence) comes to a grinding halt. If any work of man could depict God in an accurate way, we might first expect that it would be unique in its approach to the subject. Since we cannot “see” a direct link between the words conjured by men (of any religion or culture) with the “mind” of a God, we must exercise great caution in accepting any description of him/her/it at face value.
It is all too convenient for religion to claim exclusivity in its knowledge of God or a special dispensation for supernaturalism. Mythology is still mythology even though you might claim divine truth or origin.
And perhaps this is the greatest deception that can be foisted on believers; one must believe the claim for no other reason than that it is claimed. Faith makes for poor evidence!
I was forced to admit, after 40 years of religious indoctrination, that belief does not make a thing true. It became obvious that the leap from what we can observe to that which can only be felt (or accepted blindly) is one that cannot be made. It is not only unreasonable, but patently deceptive.
Part of me wonders why I could not “see” this much sooner in life. And then it struck me that I WANTED to believe that God was more than the creator and sustainer of life as we can observe it. I needed to feel that there was something more… someone who was there to listen and help when we could not deal with reality. God was a crutch, fashioned by generations of philosophers who created his image out of thin air.
The God of the world’s religions was a man (and not a very kind one) with the power to affect the world, and the lives of each of us at his own whim. Never mind that we can not tell who wrote about this being nor verify that what they said of him had any basis in reality. “Don’t confuse me with the facts…”
I work in my garden and see harmony and productivity, not a curse. Despite the pests that threaten its very existence, it really takes little effort to work in conjunction with nature and the laws that God placed there for our benefit. I plant a hard kernel in the soil and the exact plant I hoped to see rises in the place I made for it.
As I said, I live where the environment is quite a challenge, yet am still able to coax what I desire from the resources God has made available to me and the rest of his creatures. I may balk at the birds eating my Sunflowers and the bugs that reek havoc on my Squashes, but I know that even these are part of a bigger picture that I must coordinate to achieve positive results.
But the divine is not confined to the natural world “out there”, it is evident in my home and in every relationship in which I am involved from day to day. There is a symbiotic quality to life that starts with our very DNA and extends outward to every other organism around us.
I am no expert in the field of Quantum Physics, but I know enough to understand that each molecule in the universe is in concert, not competition, with all others. I believe this to be the essence of the design of our creator. It is what holds all things together, much like the Bible claims of its God.
I don’t really believe in mystical forces, but there is much we have not yet discovered by the scientific method, and the laws of the universe are much more complex than science may ever discover.
Leaving the details to greater scientific minds than my own, science only scratches the surface of the power that operates our universe. But it is precisely this power that animates the millions of creatures that make up our world. It gives us life and breath, though to personify it is risky at best. Yet men have done just that- personify God for what can only be described as selfish gain.
Institutionalizing our ideas of a God actually make us into gods. How arrogant to presume to quantify the God of creation!
And that is the beauty of Deism. In the tradition of the great minds of the enlightenment, we trust only that which we can see in Nature. There is no mystery in Deism, only an appreciation for the God who can be seen.
Deism (and I think God himself) not only avoids, but rejects any claims about God, beyond the observable fact that he exists. Certainly, Deists are free to accept or reject miracles (however that might be defined) or even the possibility of an afterlife. But I love the simplicity that allows my mind to be the judge of the ideas of others and about God.
In Deism, we need not catalog a list of doctrines that define who we are. Not only is there no need, there is no precedent to manufacture such a list! The world is full of charlatans from whom the most amazing depictions originate. And there is not a credible reason in the world to accept any of them. That there are millions of adherents to the various revelation-based religions is testament to the innate desire of humans to find connection with the divine.
There is no book, no organization, and no clergy that can claim any greater knowledge or connection than any one of us already has. Thank God we need none of those to find all we need to know of God and his power. Deism acknowledges that we need but look within to take hold of the greatest power available for life. It is a shame that such humility and wisdom is rare and hidden in God’s own creation.