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Why believe in God when you don't believe in the other Gods men have worshipped?
 
THE QUESTION
 
We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further. Richard Dawkins.
 
There are countless things you do not passively believe in. There are many things you actively do not believe in such as that politicians care about you.
 
Is believing in a spiritual God with supernatural powers as bad or silly as believing in any pagan God or witch or unicorn or whatever with supernatural or godlike powers? Or is it worse? We are talking about the idea that dropping belief in God is similar to dropping belief in magical unicorns or fairies or whatever. If it is just a magical belief like them, then those who discard faith in God are in the same camp as those who dismiss magical beings such as unicorns, goblins, ghosts etc except they just go one further. They just drop God. Believers in God are atheists except with one God and the secularists agree with them except that they go a step further and abandon God. Big deal. If you throw away your sweets and have one left then you might as well throw it away as well.
 
ALISTER MCGRATH V RICHARD DAWKIN'S UNICORN
 
Page 85 of Alister McGrath's book, Mere Theology (SPCK, London, 2010) states that the following argument of Richard Dawkins is wrong. "I do not believe in God. It is an unnecessary belief such as belief in a magical invisible unicorn. The believers in God do not believe in all tales about supernatural entities. I am just going a bit further than them and abandoning God."
 
So McGrath says it is a mistake to think that God is an alleged object in the universe such as the invisible unicorn. McGrath then implies that God is necessary for accounting for how all things exist and the unicorn is not. He means the unicorn does not explain how things exist or where they came from and God does. He assumes that if there is a unicorn then God made it and that is the explanation but God cannot be explained for he is not a creature like the unicorn. Thus he thinks that God is a more sensible idea than the unicorn and so in a different league.
 
This overlooks the fact that it is not always irrational or foolish to favour a view that might not seem to be the most sensible. If God is a smarter idea than the unicorn it could still be wrong. If you admit you do not know how all things came to be the unicorn is as good as God.
 
There are different degrees of rationality. Being a bit irrational does not make you irrational. If you can be called rational and believe in God then you can be called rational if you believe in the unicorn instead. You could be a more rational person as you believe in the unicorn than you would be if you believed in God.
 
God would be more magical than the unicorn for he is seen as more powerful and maker of all. So God would be a worse idea than a magical unicorn! It is mad to argue that a unicorn is a necessarily ridiculous idea and to say that a God who can make a unicorn is not!
 
The claim that God is immune to Dawkins criticism for he is not an object in the universe but its spiritual source is actually a red herring. For God to be the source means he has the miraculous power to make the universe from nothing. So the point is not if God is an object in the universe or not but his supernatural powers. God by definition is a spiritual and magical power. Dawkins correctly reasons that if you reject a unicorn with magical powers, just go a step further and reject a God with magical powers. If you reject one magical being why not another?
 
THEORY
 
McGrath says the mistake of Dawkins is that God is thought to be an alleged object in the universe such as the invisible unicorn. McGrath says God is not an object in the universe but its source. Think about this. It actually exalts God as in theory. It is saying God as theory matters in itself. Are they wondering how the universe can exist unless there is a God to make it? That is arguing from effect to cause. But why can't God be theorised to exist even if we pretend there is no creation? He should be if he is that important. It turns God into an explanation for the universe instead of God being an explanation for God. We cannot understand how anything can be an explanation for itself. It ends up just being words. Thus any theory will do. It is just as understandable to say a dog explains itself as it is to say a ghost did or a God did.
 
The fact of the matter is, that though pagans did see their gods as objects in the universe their faith was as much theory as faith in God is. The problem is not about the source but about the theory. And what if pagans argued that though the idea of gods being the source of all has problems those problems do not disprove it for its a mystery?
 
THE CREATION "EXPLANATION"
 
Is believing in a spiritual God with CREATOR powers as bad or silly as believing in a spiritual unicorn or witch or whatever with CREATOR powers? Or is it worse?
 
McGrath thinks that the reason it makes more sense to believe in God than the unicorn is that God explains why the universe exists and the unicorn does not. That is what his source and object talk is all about. He sees God as a source and anything that is not God as an object that exists because of the source.
 
But God is not really an explanation. We do not know how somebody can make something without using anything. At best for the Christians, we do not know if it is possible. But many of us realise that we do know it is impossible.
 
The fact that we are here instead of being non-existent does not help. It is like saying that because a rock is on the shore that somebody put it there. We do not know if God creates or makes all things from or out of himself.
 
We do not know if the idea of spirit - a being with no parts - like God makes sense. We may as well pick a unicorn as an explanation for creation as God!
 
UNICORN AS CREATOR?
 
A unicorn creator of all is more comprehensible to us than God. It would be a better option. God can never be greater to us than how our minds conceive God and the mystery of God. In other words, anything we think God is, is only going to be a guess. We tend to see the unicorn as a magical fictional thing and God as real for that is the way we have been conditioned. We think there is no comparison between God and a supernatural unicorn. But the problem is not that the unicorn is magical but that his existence cannot be proven or disproven. Thus it is in the same category as God. It is not question of myth but a question of knowing one way or the other. So God and the unicorn are in the same boat.
 
God is too much of a mystery and too unknowable. The unicorn making all things is a better explanation. We have a better idea of what we are talking about then.
 
IS THE UNICORN OR GOD THE BEST EXPLANATION?
 
If magic exists, we should not assume that it is more powerful than what it is or assume there is more powerful magic than we need to. God with his infinite power would have infinite magic power so belief in the the unicorn who has limited magic would make more sense. 
 
If there is no evidence, logical or otherwise, for God or the unicorn or against them, we can draw some morals from this.
 
Moral 1 is that our being unable to prove their non-existence does not make it reasonable to assume or believe that they exist.
 
Moral 2 is that our being unable to prove their non-existence does not make it unreasonable to assume or believe that they don't exist.
 
Moral 3 is that we cannot prove the non-existence of either but it does not mean that it is equally likely that they exist or do not exist
 
Moral 4 their non-existence cannot be proven with absolute certainty but the chance of their existing is very small
 
Moral 5 we must assume their non-existence until suitable evidence for their existence comes along. This assumption is reasonable and needs no defence.
 
Christians and some philosophers say the morals are correct as regarding the unicorn but that God is a different case.
 
They argue that the unicorn is bizarre unlike God and serves no use in trying to work out if life matters. Those arguments are easily refuted.
 
BUT THE UNICORN IS BIZARRE!
 
Is the magical unicorn creator suggestion too weird for consideration?
 
The unicorn has magical powers so it could be the creator. And Christianity says God has the power to give a creature his power to create. He could give a unicorn the power to create.
 
What if we say the unicorn is God? Robin Le Poidevin says that we are still saying there is a God and are just engaging in a bizarre take on God and are not repudiating God in the sense of an all-powerful source of all things and the father of love. He would say that we are saying there is a God and the dragon is God incarnate just like how some people say that about Jesus.
 
But if God exists, is there really such a thing as a bizarre take on him? If it bizarre to you, that does not mean it really is bizarre. Who is to say what is a bizarre take on God and what isn't? A unicorn is a bizarre thing to suppose but at the end of the day its only a magical horse with a horn growing from its head. Who is to say that the idea of a God with no parts and who is spirit is better or worse? If God being source of all is all that matters, then what you think God is does not really matter. Maybe he is a spiritual computer or frog.
 
If God has magical power then what do you need God for? Why not just say there is magical power? Imagine there is a superhero called Electro-Man. He uses electricity to help people. Believers in him say he exists because they see how electricity works and sometimes blasts criminals into the next world. They should say electricity exists and stop there. There is no need to say or think there is a man operating the electricity. Electricity is only a proof for electricity and not for Electro-Man.
 
If you think your king is an alien in disguise you are repudiating the king. In the same way, to think God is a unicorn is to repudiate God and make another God - a unicorn one.
 
Le Poidevin needs to think about what is meant by God. God is act - he is activity. This power, this activity, is not part of the universe but the source of all. It has no parts. It is spirit. Saying God is act is a way of understanding what is meant by saying God is spirit.
 
If God is act, then what kind of act?
 
If he can be a spirit person and sort of like man, why can't he be a spirit unicorn and sort of like a unicorn?
 
God being act raises the question which act out of billions is he? Take your pick.
 
THE EFFECT ARGUMENT
 
They believers try again to show that the God idea is not even near the unicorn idea in value. They say that unlike the unicorn, God does or just might answer the following questions.
 
What caused the universe to come into existence from nothing?
 
Whether there was a universe that came into existence or always existed, what is the explanation for its existence?
 
Does life have an ultimate purpose?
 
Why are we policed by a moral conscience as if a God or reasonably moral being put it in us?
 
To sum up, they are arguing that "if the unicorn exists, it is no big deal. The questions cannot apply or be relevant. But if God exists, these questions apply and are relevant. Thus God is a big deal." The questions are about the effect God and faith in him can have on us.
 
But the fact remains that divine magic is presented as the answer to all the questions. The point is the magic so a unicorn doing magic and a God doing infinitely more magic is another red herring - it dwells on the quantity of magic when it should dwell on the magic itself.
 
Also, the entity that caused the existence of the universe need not be the same being as who put a moral conscience in us. And the alleged morality of our conscience is controversial. The notion that God defines morality is absurd no sane or truthful Christian accepts it any more.
 
The argument only makes a case for the undesirability of belief in the unicorn as creator. But loads of undesirable things are true! The unicorn could still be God though we do not want him to be. 
 
Some say that God has meaning - you sense you must have and need a relationship with God. They go on to say that if God does not exist then life is not really worth it. God supposedly gives life a value that any other supernatural concept say unicorn or Flying Spaghetti Monster cannot give it. They say God is to be the one supernatural being that should be taken seriously because it will affect how we act. It will give us somebody to love and serve.
 
In fact, believing your beloved granny is somehow a goddess would be more sensible. It is more human.
 
The effect argument should be the main or sufficient one for accepting God but it is a crock. And it does not affect the lives of believers enough to take it seriously.
 
ONE GOD LESS ARGUMENT GOES TOO FAR?
 
If you say, "All the Gods ever believed in by man, I don't believe in them. But I believed in one and now I have ceased. Why would I believe in one anyway when I reject the rest? I may as well reject them all and that is what I have done."
 
Some say that the error in that is that it assumes that all gods are equally likely to be true. Or unlikely if you prefer. But if God is different, that does not mean much if he has created pagan Gods such as Zeus and Jupiter. If you want to dismiss the notion of gods who are really sort of superhuman beings with miracle working powers then God is not going to help. At least if Zeus was your god he would be reasonably human and it is easier to believe in a God like yourself.
 
They say it is illogical and anti-science to start treating all explanations as equally likely or unlikely. They say it depends on what the evidence indicates. They are right but it does not follow that the evidence helps show there is a God or that God is the best of possible magical beliefs.
 
Believers say God is different from other gods for the other gods are really just creatures but he is not a creature and never was made. He just always existed and made all things. That view is too simple - it is more complicated. And there is no reason to think those claims about God make sense.
 
THE BIBLE NEVER MENTIONS AN UNCREATED GOD
 
The Bible says God is the source of everything and had no maker outside himself. The Bible says that God made all things. It says nothing to exclude the notion that God himself is an object though he is source of other objects.  It never confirms or denies that God made himself. That would be absurd but the Bible is not a book of philosophy so we can expect errors and absurdities of a philosophical nature to appear in the Bible. The Bible says that God made what is visible out of what is invisible. It never actually says, "God made all things out of nothing." Mc Grath then needs to assert that Dawkins reasoning applies then to the biblical God and not the God of philosophy who is spirit and the source of being. There is no reason to believe that the Bible God and the God of philosophy are the same. The Church only pretends they are and reads philosophy about God into the Bible when it is actually not there.
 
DAWKINS AND TESTABILITY
 
Dawkins stated that to say God is a spirit or to say the unicorn is a spirit puts them beyond refutation. You say they are outside the physical universe which means nothing can prove they exist or prove they do not exist. You have no reason to believe one or believe the other. That is the point not what role they have, not that God is the source of all and the unicorn is not. There is no reason to believe in either so if you reject the magical unicorn it makes sense to reject God as well. If the magical unicorn is mad believing in God does not solve the problem for it says he can make magical unicorns and who is to say he has not done so? Belief in a magical unicorn is mad but belief in something that can make two or more or many of them is worse.
 
THE ESSENTIAL POINTS
 
Essential Points:
 
# If God is a spiritual person then he can be a spiritual anything even a unicorn or a dog or a computer.
 
# You cannot prove God scientifically as he is said to be non-material or undetectable. The problem is that this stops investigation and once you stop investigating you can end up believing in anything.
 
# Some say God as maker of all things is a more sensible thing to believe in than the unicorn which is not creator or source of all. But these are red herrings. The point is that God is a supernatural magical being which is why he is able to be the source of all. It is the magic that is the point not who or what wields the magical power.
 
# Some say that God as the source of morality is a more sensible thing to believe in than the unicorn which is just a magical animal. But if we get enough morality to get by and we base it on a kind hearted unicorn that is better than basing it on nothing. That is assuming that morality has to come from some authority outside us. It is better to base it on the imperfect unicorn than a perfect God. If we will never be the best all the time, what do we need God for? We need realistic role models.
 
# We think we experience something like spirit when we visualise something for nothing can detect the image we see or measure it or weigh it. But being unable to scientifically check it and examine it does not mean it cannot be scientifically checked or examined if we had the right machine. God is spirit and so is the unicorn but the problem we are looking now is not them but the very concept of spirit. There is no evidence at all that spirit is possible or exists and we have no reason to presume that it is possible. Spirit is a mere human concept. To honour spirits is really just to honour the minds that invent them. And as for God giving a purpose to your life, atheists sometimes find meaning in being a loving god to others. As there is no God we have to do the loving he can't do. Also, to link God and a sense of meaning in life is always over-simplistic. The reality is that working out what good is and what ethics we should have is damn hard work as the controversy is super-complicated and confusing. It takes years. And yet religion says you need to understand good in order to make some progress in knowing God for he is good. Those who say that God gives meaning are really showing that guessing that God exists is giving them meaning. It is not God that is doing it.
 
# A God who loves the sinner and hates the sin, sin means crime against God, would be an impossibility for the same reason that punish the crime not the criminal would be impossible. Therefore there is no all-good God. Your innate qualities show in your behaviour. You can't be a sinner because you sin but you must sin because you are at least partly a sinner. Whoever says that they condemn your behaviour, and not your innate qualities are being pure hypocrites. Thus God is even more absurd than the unicorn.
 
# Religion stresses God because it stresses faith in him. But that means that faith sort of becomes your God. God and faith in God are not the same thing. But they are to the believer. If you have no faith in all gods but one then drop the faith in it. God would thank you for it for he is not faith!
 
# Agnosticism presumes that God might exist but alleges that you have no reason to presume that he does or he doesn't. Presuming God might exist is wrong. Atheism is the default position not agnosticism and certainly not theism.
 
# If God hiding can be justified, then we are saying we are believing in God though he hides and because he hides. Then why not substitute tooth fairy or fairy godmother for God? Why can't they be the hiding gods?
 
AN OBJECTION
 
One objection to the one less God argument is that the gods of other religions exist in a sense. What they are is evil spirits mistaken for gods and who pretend to be Gods. The point is that you might as well believe in God for you believe in some other gods anyway. This argument is irrelevant for they can be as godlike as they want to be but they are not God. But it does show that if you think you are talking to God, then what if it is to something pretending to be God? And those who use the argument are putting their God on the same level as any rubbish god.
 
PRAYER
 
People in the past invented gods and prayed to them and swore those prayers were answered. Sometimes they got no answer but then when they asked for something very important and got it they did not care any more about the unanswered prayers.
 
The one god less argument can be worded as follows. "A god is necessarily a prayer answerer and prayers that are not answered are in fact answered but not in ways we notice or expect. The god responding to prayer is what the god is all about. It is more important to connect with God through prayer than through arguments such as that there would be nothing without God. God is about a relationship. But the trouble is that you can pray to anything and think your prayers work. You will think that prayers to God or Krishna or Satan or to your pet rabbit or your sex toy work. Many pray to different versions of Gods and idols and not others. The person who does not pray to any is only excluding all the alleged gods whereas most other people exclude all but one." Worded this way, the argument is unassailable.
 
 
FINALLY
 
It is proven. Belief in Zeus or an invisible magical unicorn is as bad as belief in God if not better. Suppose creation really needs a creator. Then what matters is not what creates but that something creates. So a creator could be a witch or an invisible unicorn or anything.