Saturday, May 28, 2005

Possibility of Believing in God

I say that one cannot truthfully claim to believe in God. Why? Because by the nature of what God must be is an inscrutable, unfathomable, incomprehensible "thing" which has no human-known equivalent and different in order and kind from anything known in the material universe.

As such one cannot understand at all what they mean when they say "God." It's a meaningless (or its meaning is incomprehensible, which amounts to the same thing) term and holds as much significance as saying that one believes in "Splang." What the hell is Splang?

How can one believe in something they cannot comprehend? That sounds pretty impossible to me.

If one claims that God _is_ comprehensible in some way then their conception of God must be inaccurate or naive in some way and one could say that the individual believes in something which is not God and must be committing idolatry.

So one who says they believe in God must either be lying (possibly unintentionally) or an idolater.

4 comments:

Chana said...

I would question- what does the idea of "belief" mean, firstly? How can one "believe" in something? If I "believe" the floor is yellow, while it is brown, that is simply a wrong opinion. No one can claim that what one believes in makes something exist, or makes something true.

On the other hand, no one can claim the ability to absolutely know that God exists/ who He is.

What I will say is that I have been struck by God and His existence in so many strange places that it would be exceedingly difficult now, for me to disbelieve.

For example, the idea of dark energy and dark matter, to me, is absolutely wonderous. How can scientists, with all their beautiful, fascinating technological advancement, not know what 90% of the universe or more is made up of? My science teacher, who claims himself to be a skeptic, said the words, "Out of nothing, something comes," and did not even realize he had just postulated 'yeish me-ayin' or something from nothing, the Creation. For me, that was fascinating.

Or the existence of the planets, which have all died in some catastrophic flood/ volcano, etc- which to me, seems to lend credence to the ideas of a flood that could overtake the entire Earth, and destruction such as that referred to with Sedom and Gemorrah.

Or the fact that when I switched schools, they were holding an art gallery on "Tikkun Olam," of all things, and that it was in Hebrew- Hebrew!

Or movies like 'The Matrix' or 'What the Bleep do we Know' or even the Leonardo DiCaprio version of 'The Man in the Iron Mask,' which takes its love-story plot from the story of David and Bat-Sheba. Or in 'The Black Cauldron' in the last book, 'The High King' which incorporates the Gideon the Shofet jugs/torches/shofars element. Or the book 'Ceremony' whic talks about Indian/Native American culture, and how customs such as covering the blood of animals have been kept, even as they were referred to/ described in the Torah.

To see the myriads of ways in which man can explain the Torah- the numerous commentaries and questions asked- is a profound and wonderful experience. I have never read a book that has had as many diverse opinions, even amongst the other classics; there has never been so many different ways to explain a single text. It is a joy to know we shall never find an end to the discovery.

But I question. I have a questioning understanding, always a desire to learn more, to understand. To try to probe more and farther, to move beyond. I agree with you- to claim absolute belief or knowledge is an impossibility. But to know, somehow, simply from being privy to the impossible, from being touched by the depths of wonder and awe, to at least attempt to know...this I can do, and shall.

Religion is not a panacea, it does not answer all problems and questions. R' Soloveitchik himself wrote that people do a disservice by claiming that religion answers all questions, all problems, and smoothes them over. No, it only makes the problems deeper, greater, more disturbing, more confusing, fascinating, intellectually stimulating...brilliant.

So "belief" as in a blind lunge for something...this, too, I would not follow...but an attempt to understand is not wrong at all, it is, in fact, part of a tragic nobility- to understand that which is beyond our comprehension.

A Christian minister once explained his view of God to me, and I thought it very profound. God is like the number system. There is nowhere to begin- you could start at 0, at -500, wherever, and nowhere to end. It is endless, infinite. So too God.

And when I learned about the Triple Point in chemistry, I saw how God could exist in the past, present, and future at once, even as something can be a liquid, a solid, and a gas for a moment in time.

To me, a wonderful and yet knowable beauty.

Anonymous said...

Orthoprax if you say that when we say G-d it's like saying a meaningless word as you say like saying that one believes in "Splang" then to say you don't believe in G-d is saying you don't believe in Splang.

Further science shows that we have to believe in many things we can't comprehend. No one can picture space and time united in one four dimensional entity and yet that is precisely what is demanded of by modern science if not more likewise believing that a particle is also a wave and a wave a particle. Further saying something is a meaningless question is not the same as saying it has no meaning exactly. For example if everything were to became bigger by one inch have we really grown an inch since our measuring sticks will have stretched by that same amount. The question is not meaningless the answer maybe that it is meaningless but the question is not. Further everything to us is like splang. Do you know what space and time are? If you do you are more brilliant than anyone in history, or time that is.
Yisrael Asper
yisraelasper@hotmail.com

Orthoprax said...

Chana,

To believe in something is to believe that such a thing is true or real. That's not the same thing as "absolute knowledge" which is probably impossible. But beliefs can also be based on rational grounds or not. Do you have evidence? The more evidence you have, the more rational a belief becomes.

Of course, to believe something is true, you have to have an image of what you're talking about. Otherwise, what are you even talking about?

Your long post about how you revel in the mysterious and coincidences and meaningless episodes does not instill my confidence in your faith, though. You'd make an excellent mystic but a poor physicist.

Orthoprax said...

Yisrael,

"Further science shows that we have to believe in many things we can't comprehend."

We have to? Why would that be?

"No one can picture space and time united in one four dimensional entity and yet that is precisely what is demanded of by modern science if not more likewise believing that a particle is also a wave and a wave a particle."

What we believe is a mathematical/theoretical model which describes the world. True, no one can _picture_ it, but luckily out mental images are not the limits to what we can understand mathematically. God, on the other hand, is unfathomable no matter the human constuct put to the task.

"Further saying something is a meaningless question is not the same as saying it has no meaning exactly."

Forget questions, I was talking about nouns. You're making things overcomplicated.

"Further everything to us is like splang. Do you know what space and time are?"

Fair enough, but we don't need to understand what they are on a whole scale. We experience them everyday. Can the same be said about God?