Why I am an Atheist
I do not believe in God. I do not believe in any God. The universe and my sense of place within it are without the touch of a greater being. I have honestly searched my heart to find the hand of God, but I have not found any greater meaning or purpose, nor do I require it. Below are my thoughts on why I must be an atheist.
All available evidence, gathered through experiment and observation, points to the fact that the universe was created from a singularity expanding in the Big Bang. The evidence is overwhelming and includes the expansion of the universe seen through red-shift analysis, the cosmic background radiation, and the measurement of the abundance of primordial elements all of which were observed or measured by different teams using different equipment.
There are 2 possibilities for the creation of the universe starting at the point of the singularity, one natural and one supernatural. I shall explore both.
There are already theories that postulate natural processes that could have created the singularity, such as the creation of virtual particles or that this is only one part of a larger multiverse. Any of these are adequate to explain the universe without invoking a supernatural genesis. In some theories such as the multiverse, there are an infinite number of possible universes; the vast majority are lifeless, as they do not meet the criteria to support life. In another theory, the universe is cyclic and has existed for an infinite time, expanding and collapsing forever. Both are theories that postulate an infinite number of universes either in time or in space, at least one of which would eventually have the correct ingredients and natural laws for the creation of intelligent life. In infinity, even the most unlikely events must occur. In this universe I am an atheist because God did not create the universe.
The Hand of God
If I postulate that the universe was created not by natural processes, but was invoked through a supernatural force (I will identify this as God), there are two possible outcomes. Either God created the singularity of the universe and was thereafter incapable of observing His creation, or God created the singularity of the universe and with omniscience can view all that was created.
In the former case, beyond the creation of the spark that developed into our universe at moment of the Big Bang, God does not again observe His creation. All of the formation and evolution of the universe follows natural laws woven into the spark of creation during the Big Bang. The universe is chaotic and random. Because of this, it cannot be guaranteed that life will ever evolve to the point of intelligence, even if the correct ingredients and laws exist. There are many ways that life can be snuffed out before it matures to become sentient. It is possible that no intelligent life will ever evolve that could look upon the magnificence of creation and or worship the Creator. Therefore, at the point of creation, God cannot have any expectation that He will ever be acknowledged or worshipped for His creation. God would not expect worship, and it is possible that, because of the barrier between God the creator and His creation, He might not even know if His presence is ever acknowledged. The actual creation of intelligent life, should any evolve, do not owe their specific creation to a creator but to the laws of nature such as evolution. In this universe I am an atheist because the natural world is equivalent to a naturally created universe and God is not expecting my worship. God is forever beyond the time and space barrier of the Big Bang.
Seeing What God Sees
In the latter case, God has omniscience after the spark of creation. There are then two possible logical paths. Either God has omniscience but does not desire worship, or God has omniscience and does desire to be worshipped from any intelligent beings in the universe.
In the former universe, God does not want, need, require or desire worship. He created the universe, but only views the creation like a fish bowl. This is very similar to the previous discussion where God created a universe, but cannot have a guarantee that there will ever evolve intelligent beings who are capable of worship. There is no logical difference between this universe, and one in which is created entirely by natural processes. In this universe, I am an atheist because I am not expected to worship. The universe is indistinguishable from a naturally created universe.
If God does desire worship from any beings in His creation, there are two possibilities. Either God desires worship and has omniscience but is not omnipotent (i.e. does not have the ability to manipulate creation after the spark of the Big Bang), or that God desires worship and is both omniscient and omnipotent.
In the case of a God without omnipotency, He cannot have a reasonable expectation that intelligent life will develop, or that they will develop worship independent of any evidence of the existence of God. It is possible that He could create a universe through the Big Bang that, due to the randomness of the universe and the laws that govern it, no life evolves to the point where it is intelligent and develops a sense of God. God does not manipulate creation to guide the creation of intelligent beings, or to guide them to a belief in Him. In this universe, I am an atheist because it is a universe that is not guided by God, and even though He may wish worship, there cannot be a reasonable expectation of that ever occurring. It is logically and experimentally equivalent to a naturally created and evolving universe.
The final case to consider is one where God created the universe, desires worship from beings in the universe, and specifically manipulates the universe to create beings (“in his image” to use a Christian phrase) who will worship Him. This is the God portrayed in the Abrahamic religions. After all, the holy books tell of God manipulating mankind through visions of God, hearing the word of God, setting bushes on fire, turning people into salt, flooding the Earth, and so forth. This is a universe where God responds to prayer and helps or protects the faithful. His actions lead to the beginnings of man and of belief.
There is another case that will also fit here as well – a God who did not create the universe, but was created along with (or after) the Big Bang, and who has actively altered the local environment to specifically create human beings. This God is also omnipotent from our point of view, and He would have in some way created mankind, but did not create the universe or the laws of nature. He uses the existing laws, and has some power to alter those laws. Some theories actually postulate something like this, where God is just another being who has control over the local environment that appears to humans to be sufficiently advanced as to appear ominpotent (this is Clarks’ Third Law).
However, this has some serious consequences that need to be explored. If God specifically manipulates creation (for example, for the genesis of humanity, or through miracles), this would be through the bending of the laws of physics. The only method of changing the physical realm is through physical means. Meaning, that in some parts of the universe or at some moments in time, the laws of physics would be different from our predicted experimental results or would differ from the observations already made. These deviations would be observable and measurable, if the equipment was in the right place at the right time. If the laws can be broken at the will of God, it would mean that our natural laws are not laws but rather the whims of God. Therefore any of our observations or theories cannot be trusted. The universe would forever be beyond our ability to completely explain; we should just stop trying – a very depressing thought. This is not an ideal form of worship – giving up.
In my opinion, a God who desires to be worshipped would create a universe so magnificent as to be describable only as the perfect creation of a God. Otherwise, it risks being called a flawed universe.
In my opinion, a God who desired to be worshipped would want any beings in creation to have the ability to appreciate the beauty, complexity of the creation through the discovery of natural laws. Any manipulation of creation risks leaving a mark that would be detected as a flaw in the discovered natural laws – hardly the ideal outcome from the point of view of God. I hardly believe that a God who wanted to be worshipped (thus miracles, visions, etc) would find it satisfying that His worshippers have given up on discovering the beauty of the creation because of His desire to locally change those laws at His whims.
The other consequence of this line of thought concerns free will. If anything in the universe can be manipulated, presumably that could include the chemicals in our nervous system and brains. This might be considered as the mechanism for visions of God for example. If our brains can be manipulated, then anything anyone does cannot be proven to be free will. It could possibly be at the whim of God to alter the thoughts of anyone. If we were to meet on the street, neither of us could prove that the other had free will. If God exists, and manipulates the physical realm, I cannot even positively state that I have free will.
Either He changes the world (and possibly the thoughts of man) to match his desires, or He desires the outcomes of not acting in the physical realm. By action and inaction, God’s will shapes the physical realm. Anything that He does not change is because of His desire for the outcomes of not acting.
In this universe I am an atheist, either because God wills that I be so, or because He allows me to be so through inaction.
Logically, I believe I have explored all the possibilities and in each case, I end up in a universe that does not require me to believe in God.
Copyright 2009 Richard Muise
Published April 11, 2009. Updated April 12, 2009.