Good God, evil world
Within this website I explore whether there is a spiritual realm, a supernatural realm, containing God, mind, souls, consciousness with its contents (ideas, emotions, love, reason, etc) — this, from a purely philosophical and unreligious point of view.
In this article, I first assume there is a spiritual realm so as to explore the implications; then I present my conclusions elsewhere.
Why would a good God create a world having evil? Christianity tries to explain by introducing a super-powerful spiritual agent (Satan) capable of strongly interacting with the physical universe and who by a free will choice became evil and now wishes to inflict pain and suffering on created creatures. God creates the creatures and Satan tortures them. In this view, there is a "space" outside of God, presumably created by God, in which free will agents can do whatever they want. But these Christians don't realize that, for their view to be consistent, Satan would have to create the universe.
I saw a bird walking around, and it saw me. I pointed to it and said, "You are evidence of my views about the nature of reality", and it flew away.
If I were the creator of this universe, of our universe, I would not have designed and created birds. Too pointless of an existence, always searching for food; and they are in great danger from predators and disease.
. . . . .
Maybe the creator of our universe himself/herself is evolving, learning from the consequences of previous design choices; driving towards a goal, but unsure how to get there except by random trial and error.
In the beginning, he/she had to set up the mathematical laws of nature and choose the fundamental constants of nature. Perhaps it took many trials to get a universe that could host galaxies, planets having geology, and allow for biochemical lifeforms. But the goal is conscious truly spiritual creatures.
We think we are the pinnacle of creation, but perhaps we are not. There are better things to come: conscious creatures who gain mastery over their dark nature and the limitations of constant competition and limited resources and the need to replenish the body with energy and nutrients.
So this creator of our universe is learning how to get to this goal and will keep trying until he/she gets it right.
. . . . .
But still, this means: the God who is all good and beautiful, the CREATOR of the creator of our universe, would have allowed for all this suffering, in choosing to use random evolution as the tool to create and evolve our universe.
You can't escape from it: God created or allowed for suffering.
The other day I was walking in the forest with my dog who was feverishly digging and poking her nose in a hole. After a while I wandered over (just in time) and saw a vole unearthed from its hole, laying on its back with feet in the air, terrified, expecting imminent death.
I shooed away my dog and after a second or so, the vole flipped to its belly and scurried into the underbrush, relieved it was alive, and hoping the day's ordeal was over.
Perhaps it's like this with God, the reason there is suffering in the world he/she created. God isn't paying attention all the time to every detail, just letting it unfold, but occasionally happens to notice when something needs his/her intervention.
But notice that this kind of God who through neglect and inattention allows for evil is not preeminent. Can such a being truly be called God? Is such a God capable of adequately creating and managing this universe?
As God interacts with us, we are in physical time, but God is in a different kind of time above our time.
Usually Christians think God resides in some kind of timeless existence in which he sees all events in our time and that he influenced it all before it appeared in all its past, present, and future events. They think God creates and controls events, so God, in his mind, rehearses the entire functioning of the universe before it occurs; and then it happens, but God sees it all from his vantage point of that single eternal instant within which he resides. An eternal now of knowing everything. Weird.
The spiritual realm has its own time, which correlates somewhat with physical time.
Implies that the distinctive characteristic of time is that it unfolds; events proceed in a sequential manner. Some events are before others and cause subsequent events.
Therefore God's interaction proceeds in like manner. But likely, God's time is above even spiritual time.
. . . . .
(But I don't think we can know anything about the structure and function of the spiritual realm, so I call all of this the "spiritual realm" with no attempt to define the structure and function of it. The spiritual realm is merely that which is not the physical realm. It may contain other "physical realms" of which we are not aware — alternate physical universes, if you will.)
Slow slithery daily commute.
A gigantic slug lives in the bushes about 20 feet from my cabin in the forest. Every day he/she slithers across the gravel walkway to the outside faucet where he/she finds food. Then, in the afternoon, he/she returns back to his/her home in the bushes. One day I uncovered some tiny baby slugs in the bushes, I assume these were the children needing feeding by my friend, the slug.
When I see him/her (my friend, the slug), I wish him/her well. And I feel sorry that he/she has such a long commute, probably takes an hour or more one way, and with great peril; someone could crush him/her by foot or with a car tire, or a dog could chew on him/her.
I have this regular mental interaction with my friend, the giant slug, but he/she doesn't even know I exist, incapable of detecting my presence unless I were to pick him/her up or poke at him/her. And I don't know what will become of him/her in the next future moment; and so, as a "god" to the giant slug, I am not all-powerful and all-knowing, but very finite.
Perhaps so with God. He/she sees us, but we don't see him/her. But notice, in this analogy, God lives in time, not in a timeless eternity looking down upon past, present, and future simultaneously.
. . . . .
New update: My friend, the slug stayed under the cabin feeding overnight and got very fat. They he/she commuted home and stayed home for several days.
I was sitting down eating oatmeal with my incredibly cute dog next to me and I noticed his/her various facial mannerisms, each one making me think he/she was cute, or sad, or interested in my food, or whatever each mannerism suggested to my mind. Like when dogs pant, they look happy. Or when they put their ears back, they seem like they don't want done whatever they think you are about to do.
(And I should mention: squirrels are cute too.)
I realized that I was judging and sorting my cute dog's mannerisms into my human categories, as if he/she were a human instead of a cute dog. My cute dog's actual conscious experience was probably nothing like what I was thinking of.
So I wondered what it's like for God as he/she looks down upon us created creatures. Does God have his/her own categories he/she places our mannerism into like we do for dogs? Does God think my cute dog is cute like I do? Or does God, rather, know the essential essence of what my cute dog is thinking about from moment to moment like a micromanager?
Of course, this whole quaint way of thinking about God breaks down in considering the immense suffering of conscious creatures. Instead of this creator God being a loving Father, he/she becomes a moral monster for creating things this way, or for allowing things to happen this way.
The universe is God's body (but God is more than this). The subjective experience of consciousness is God's spirit (but not the contents of consciousness, the ideas and feelings and etc.) (And God is more than this.)
God is not actively doing the activities of the physical realm, nor is he/she actively thinking what we are consciously thinking.
The physical universe is the substrate within which our bodies exist and function.
Pure raw consciousness composed of the spirit of God is the substrate within which our ideas are embedded.
If God is merely the substrate of the physical realm (the clay) and the spiritual realm (the spirit, the electronic components), then what does he/she do?
Maybe God is the intelligent designer, but I don't think so because this guy designed and created a world having pain and suffering.
Maybe God is we conscious creatures, but I don't think so because we do bad and ugly things, and we think bad and ugly thoughts.
You can pray to God but he/she doesn't answer your prayers, in other words, he/she doesn't perform miracles on your behalf.
Is God a presence within our conscious experience, and we feel like he/she is there, present with us? But isn't that specific sensation and feeling just our active imagination, based on religious teaching and indoctrination? Certainly, skeptics say this. And atheists don't feel this. If you start believing in God, do you start having feelings of communing with him/her? And if you then stop believing in God, do you then stop having these feelings?
What does God do? It must be something of supreme and vital importance, other than merely being the substrate upon which our existence is founded.
There's a chair in the forest I sit in having a panoramic view of forests and mountains and some ocean water of bays. Yesterday, there was fog down there (but not where I'm sitting). Today there is no fog.
Some religious types would have to say that these variations from moment to moment, day to day; these are guided by God. God made it foggy down there yesterday but not today.
To do this would require micromanagement in the extreme. For, if you investigate the fog, you discover it formed because: the conditions at the atomic level were suitable. God would have to control every single atom and their interactions in the entire universe. I doubt it's possible to mathematically calculate ahead of time how to achieve a particular result. And why would God want to do all these mathematical calculations and all this work anyway?
Probably most of these religious people would agree that fog just sort of happens on its own without God's intervention, UNLESS GOD USED IT FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, for example, if he wanted to kill someone in judgment in an automobile accident because they were being bad and would never repent.
But even if God only occasionally micromanages, the same objection I mention applies. And how can he micromanage sometimes and not others? It seems he has to micromanage all the time to guide events of even the far future based on his predetermined and all-knowing plan.
I think a better view is that everything happens on its own based on the physical laws. There are no miracles.
God only interacts with us in the spiritual realm: (1) our soul, (2) our conscious awareness and its contents (ideas, feelings, emotions, reason, and etc), and (3) our unconscious. (But how does he/she interact with non-living aspects of the universe?)
If you pray to God or have a relationship with God, it's all happening in the spiritual realm. God doesn't do miracles involving the physical realm (parting the sea, water into wine, miraculous healings, etc) just because you ask. But he/she might help you think more clearly about your situation so you make wise decisions, or ask someone for help, or etc.
If you know ahead of time that God doesn't do miracles, you might not bother to pray for one. Instead, you might pray for wisdom or mental clarity or whatever.
God didn't create the universe. Rather, he/she operates by intervening from the spiritual realm into our mental and conscious awareness, just as whatever it is that "told" Beethoven what notes to write down next. We have the capacity to connect via our creativity with God's goodness and beauty.
Creativity seems to be something coming to us from outside of us.
(I'm not proposing that God composed the symphonies of Beethoven. I'm merely using this as an analogy.)
Considering the initial conditions of the universe with its arbitrary fundamental constants and specific mathematical natural laws. It all came from somewhere. Why not call this God?
This concept of God is really just Pantheism. Also, in calling this God, you are allowing for a God who created conscious creatures who suffer. But a God who does this is not good and beautiful. No one wants to insist that the universe is supremely good and beautiful in all that occurs within it; but not so for God. The whole point of having God is that he/she is good and beautiful.
Perhaps these objecting to calling it God are reacting against the religious concepts of God but, it seems to me, the philosophical consideration of God is neutral. You can define God to be whatever you want.
Claiming there are an infinity of universes is no less weird than claiming God created the universe.
I was pulling my sweats on over my shoes, and one leg of my sweats got caught under my other shoe. I was trying to pull it free, but couldn't. I couldn't lift my foot up because of the weird angle and the muscles don't work that way. It's like when my dogs try to scratch or lick behind their head; they struggle, but the laws of physics prevent them.
I wondered if that is the way it is for God. He/she tries to affect certain things in this universe, but he/she is ineffective. As if you have a small rubber ball attached to the end of a long string, and you try to dictate the precise movement of the ball. There are certain movements you can master, but many are impossible. The same as with sports. A pole jumper is limited by the physics of the bending pole, and their running speed from their muscles, and the ability of the body to bend and contort to just barely glide over the bar.
Once the universe is created, the only tool God can use to affect changes is to choose where electrons (for example) appear upon wave function collapse. But how is it possible to do anything using that method? It's like determining how to generate a hurricane by choosing exactly where and when a butterfly in the Himalayas should flap his/her wings. (But how can you convince a butterfly to fly to that exact location and flap at that exact time without also triggering a sequence of events that maybe neutralizes the hurricane-creation flapping?) This is what chaos theory highlights, that you can't control turbulence.
So perhaps God influences the universe through free-will conscious creatures by injecting ideas and concepts into the minds and souls of them? Then they use their powers over physicality to do things. Naturally, God is very limited in his ability using this procedure; he/she couldn't create the universe and biological organisms this way, for example.
The Christian view of God is that he possesses various philosophical properties described by Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas such as: God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient; God is the first cause of the universe; God is outside of time and looks down upon all events in this universe simultaneously. This view of God is idea-based, concept-based. God is a set of abstract concepts as known through philosophical mental reflection.
In my view, God is living and operates as a living creature would. Time is part of God's nature and so he operates within time.
There are aspects of our conscious existence that seem to be God, for example, goodness and beauty, which "pokes through" from wherever God is into our conscious awareness.
The problem with this, of course, is there are also bad things which also "poke through", things we wouldn't want to consider as God.
Also, there are so many things that "poke through", all the myriad of details of our moment by moment consciousness existence — the color red, a certain feeling of pain, etc. Do these all "poke through" from God into our conscious awareness? If so, God is very busy indeed, a real micromanager to the extreme.
Maybe the universe has a unique experiential feeling for each of these things that poke through (what's it like to be a bat, what's it like to see red, what is it like to feel a specific kind of pain). But this implies they each existed before becoming manifest. Weird.