Wednesday, 10 November 2010

God = Stepstool

If there is no God, then God is incalculably the greatest single creation of the human imagination.  No other creation of the imagination has been so fertile of ideas, so great an inspiration to philosophy, to literature, to painting, sculpture, architecture, and drama.
Read this quote in the preface to "Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology" by Louis P. Pojman and, as usual, I was all like, "Nuh-uh."

I don't think you can classify the concept of a god as a particularly great creation, above all or even most others. When I think of "great creations" I think of it in terms of the creation aspect of it, not it's content.  How unique it is.  How difficult it would be to recreate this invention.  Ok, "god" is unique, granted.  But I also think it's rather obvious.  "God" is merely a proxy causal agent in the absence of something better.

I'm not a philosophy or religion historian, but I imagine the evolution of the concept of gods came about in this way:

  1. Early man's not sure what causes the rain, the sun, the seasons, the wind, etc. lacking the technology, the complexity of thought and the leisure time to devote to determining the causes.
  2. Understanding events as having causes is beneficial to dealing with them on some psychological way, and potentially in a practical, reproductive-related way.
  3. The ready made cause for anything relatively complex is ourselves, humanity.  Although no specific person is seen to be acting as the cause of these important environmental events, nonetheless, seeing them as anthropomorphic in some way fulfills the need for a cause.  These are the first gods:  animistic, pantheistic, very human-like in strengths and weaknesses.
  4. As knowledge grows, technology advances, and more of the environment is understood, the "gods" are needed for fewer simple things like weather.  However, complex concepts and possibilities increase, still requiring some sort of basic "support".  The gods move to higher and higher levels of responsibility and complexity.
  5. Modern day theism (mono or not) is left with a very high functioning, complex, abstract concept of god, with some remnants of past ideas but often explaining things that, without the concept of god, would never have existed and therefore needed explaining in the first place.
God, as fertile and inspiring as he/she/they is/are, is the rather expected end result of a long progressive struggle to keep the comfortable blanket "explainer" in the picture.

God is as great an invention as the step stool is.  We needed something like a raised piece of ground to reach something higher.  Helpful, perhaps.  Practical, maybe.  Without something better, sure, why not?  Incredible, magical creation of the human mind?  Meh.  Pretty hum-drum actually.

No comments: