The Invisible Monster
How to be a consistent atheist
David Lee Beowülf
“It may be reasonably claimed that no Holy Scripture can be fairly presented by one who disbelieves its inspiration and its message… “
–Mohammed [sic] Marmaduke Pickthall, in the Foreword of his English translation of the Holy Quran.
“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.”
“God damn it!”
–Anonymous atheist, after stubbing toe on curb
In the Beginning…
A really long time ago someone, maybe Abraham, said, “Let there be God,” and then must’ve realized, “boy, that ought to open the Mother of All Worm Cans.” Indeed it did, because a lot of Christians used their can of worms to bash anyone in their path. Now, here in the U.S. it seems much in vogue to pour out one’s wrath on the Christians for forcing their can of worms on the world. Even though Abraham is responsible for all the Arabs, one doesn’t see much Islam-bashing, probably because the would-be bashers realize the very real Assassins’ threat. The most vicious of Christian-bashers walk the world’s streets in indifference whereas the highly-intellectual and mostly harmless Salmon Rushdie hides in fear for his life. (Bashing of Jews has caused lots of trouble throughout history, but it continues.) I’ve not met many Hindu-bashers, but I have a feeling the Thugs take everything seriously, lessening the attractiveness of casual criticism. The “eastern” quasi-philosophies/religions don’t seem to get bashed much, probably because their followers stress “peace.” And to round it out, let’s lump all the Satanists, earth-worshippers, neo-pagans, New Agers and stone age faith-followers into one and remind ourselves that the only people knocking these respective religions are “bible-belt” Christians, completing the circle.
That Old Time Religion
Ahh, for the good old days, when Druids performed sacred rituals in their hallowed groves. But do you really know what they did? After all, the Celts didn’t write much down. Thanks to science we have a much better idea of what these wise old ones did in those groves and swamps: human sacrifice. Yep, and lots of it. Throughout Europe, there is clear evidence (preserved bodies) of large-scale human and property sacrifice. Yet none of it was enough to prevent the destruction of their civilization by men with a new religion. Even the mighty Vikings, in much later years, with all their human sacrifices, couldn’t protect Odin and Thor from Jesus.
All the witch doctory of tribal Africa couldn’t do a damn thing about Christianity and Islam putting the entire continent under the whip. And speaking of witches, if there’s really something to all this “pagan” bullshit that seems so popular with the kids these days, how come they couldn’t cast some befuddling spell on the witch hunters of the 1600s and save themselves? At the very least, couldn’t they have escaped on their broomsticks?
I remember a young man in college, a nice guy, but a bit confused, who maintained that he was, in fact, a practicing witch. And, according to his pals, a pretty good one. On a whim, I asked if he had been able to work up some spells for getting good grades on tests. Yes, in fact, he had. Why, he’d cast one the previous semester but hadn’t tweaked it properly and he failed the test. (It ended up working three weeks later during a lab exercise.) Darn! “Goddess” forbid you could have studied the material beforehand…
To be fair, I ought to pick on the Christians and Jews, too. Which is pretty easy, after all, the book upon which their religion is based says that the earth was formed in six days. Never mind that science has clearly shown this figure to be off by roughly 4,299,994,000.1 years. (1) Let’s pick on the Hindus, too. OK, they think it’s perfectly normal to believe that some blue-skinned, many-armed, 11-foot tall woman orders people to kill for her.
Take a Good, Long Look at Yourself
Technology has progressed such that we have built machines that put men on the moon and that allow us to communicate in nanoseconds with others half-way around the world. Modern medicine is at a point where humans live an awfully long time in relative comfort. Modern science has lifted up the “stones” of mystery and given us answers. (2) Technology, medicine and science (3), as the world progresses, will only build better machines, cure more diseases and uncover more stones. Yet for all superstitions science has crushed, the world still has “God.”
Let’s inject some sanity into things, here, shall we? Can your “bibles,” your talismans, your crystals, your candles, your magnets, your spell books, your prayer clothes, and all the other paraphernalia actually do anything other than fool you into a false sense of security? Does that fact that astrologers, psychics, geomancers, wizards, witches, shamen, priests, etc. have all been exposed by science and people like James Randi as 100% fake mean anything to you? Have you ever met someone who claimed to be reincarnated and not doubted their sanity? For that matter, could they prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they’d been reincarnated? Are you sure they weren’t on drugs?
Can you expect any sane person to believe that someone killed on a cross 2,000 years ago is going to come back, kill everyone he doesn’t like and take you to “heaven” with him? Do you really think that arranging candles and singing some gibberish is going to actually have power over your enemies? Can you believe that there are people now, in the 1990s, who believe in this crap? There is no way any of that shit could hold up to science.
People, think: there is a multi-billion dollar industry built on tricking people into thinking there’s some sort of prosperity achievable through the supernatural. I suggest you save your money, go to the library and check out books on geology, chemistry, biology, physics, medicine and astronomy. When you’re done, go read up on history and economics. What’s that? You’d rather take a chance with some TV psychic or a charlatan selling crystals, candles or spirit guide communication techniques? Or maybe you’d rather “give your problems to God”? It’s your decision, but you’re going to look pretty foolish wasting time waiting around for Mother Goose to work some imaginary supernatural machinery.
If you got this far, congratulations. I expect that some offended little neo-pagan with a computer quit reading a few paragraphs ago and started hammering-off a nasty e-mail to me about how wrong I am. How do they find the time, with all the meetings in magic circles and all? Maybe they have time machines, what with their knowing more than all the Noble prize winning physicists combined. Oh, well, I can’t argue that is more fun to ignore Einstein and follow Wells…
I Swear to God I’m an Atheist!
If you ever want to get into a depressing discussion, invite a few atheists over for lunch and talk about God. They will dismiss all religion, from the forests of the Amazon to the most intellectual of Roman Catholic philosophies as nothing more than fairy tales. What, after all, is the difference between someone believing that the way the nighttime sky looks decides the “fate” of his “soul” and someone who believes that a combination of fasting for an entire month once a year and praying five times a day, every day, will guarantee his “soul” a place in “Paradise”? Atheists have no use at all for silly people who cling to any sort of non-material mumbo-jumbo. There is not one shred of physical evidence that such a thing as a “soul” exists. Science has shown that people are nothing more than a combination of chemical reactions. (4) What is here, what we can touch, what we know is real is all there is and all there will be. (5) No one has proved the existence of an afterlife, ghosts, souls, etc.
The Invisible Monster
I heard a great argument for God’s existence the other day on the Sub-Genius Radio Hour. (6) The Reverend Ivan Stang preached, “there’s an Invisible Monster out there that these people, called `Christians’, say will send you to a place called `hell’ if you don’t worship this Invisible Monster.”
“And folks,” continues Rev. Stang, “because millions of people believe in this Invisible Monster, He exists!“
Some very important people believed in the Invisible Monster. (7) Thomas Jefferson, for one, believed very much in the Invisible Monster of the Old and New Testaments, but he drew the line at silly things like Jesus’ walking on water. Jefferson and many others who spent a great deal of their time thinking about purpose in life, liked to think that although God created the universe and its laws (i.e., “nature”), He then removed Himself from any ongoing interaction with the material world, leaving our destiny to ourselves. (8) Gee, thanks, God! If this is the case, then whoever collects the most toys, wins. Now I don’t think Jefferson would use his deism to justify white people as clearly deserving ownership of the planet, but others certainly did. (9) On the other hand, skeptical Scottish philosopher David Hume wondered how we could know the world wasn’t the poor first attempt of an infant deity (a blind, idiot god perhaps?) who afterwards abandoned it, ashamed of his lame performance. (10)
How’s Your Mathematics?
While everyone needs the mathematical capacity to do useful things like make change and pay bills, mathematics is also the foundation of all philosophy. Infinity, a property generally assigned to the Invisible Monster, is a serious mathematical “quantity” of paramount importance; without it the calculus of the Greeks and Newton would not be possible. Things like the computer you’re using to surf the web, your car’s speedometer, your radio all depend on the mathematics of the infinite. But can the infinite really be “understood”? Uber-important German philosopher Immanuel Kant (11) thought that, while we have the potential to be pretty smart, reason is too limited to know anything beyond human experience. If that’s the case, then maybe there is something more to the universe than we can possibly know; human beings simply can’t comprehend more, and more might be “out there.” (12)
Proof from “Old Nick”
Nicholas of Cusa, (13) a lesser-known 15th-century Italian-German theologian, in his wrestling with reconciling Christianity and Islam, was perhaps the first of the Renaissance philosophers to intuitively master the mathematics of the infinite that George Reimann would discover 400 years later. Old Nick’s elegant mathematical proof of the Invisible Monster’s (i.e., the infinite I AM of the Bible -without question the coolest name for a god) existence states, in part:
“…[a] finite intellect, therefore, cannot by means of comparison reach the absolute truth of things. …[T]he relationship of our intellect to the truth is like that of a polygon to a circle; the resemblance to the circle grows with the multiplication of the angles of the polygon; but apart from its being reduced to identity with the circle, no multiplication, even if it were infinite, of its angles will make the polygon equal the circle. [My emphasis.]
“…[a]ll we know of the truth is that the absolute truth, such as it is, is beyond our reach. The truth, which can be neither more nor less than it is, is the most absolute necessity, while, in contrast with it, our intellect is possibility. Therefore the [essence] of things, which is ontological truth, is unattainable in its entirety; and though it has been the objective of all philosophers, by none has it been found as it really is. The more profoundly we learn this lesson of ignorance, the closer we draw to truth itself.
“There can be nothing greater in existence than the simple, absolute maximum; and since it is greater than our powers of comprehension -for it is infinite truth-our knowledge of it can never mean that we comprehend it. [Note the similarity to Kant’s thoughts on reason.] It is above all we can conceive, for its nature excludes degrees of “more” and “less.”
“[There can be only one], because unity is eternal, and equality eternal, the connection is likewise eternal. But it is impossible for several eternals to exist; if several were to exist, then, because unity precedes all plurality, there would exist something which would be prior by nature to eternity, which is absurd. Besides if there were several eternal beings, one would possess something which another lacked and so none of them would be perfect; in other words, there would exist an eternal which was not eternal at all, since it is imperfect. This absurdity manifests the impossibility of several eternals. We are left with the conclusion that unity, equality and connection, which are equally eternal, are one.” [QED]
The Bottomless Bottom Line
Therefore, shall we all study math and know God? Well, yeah, I suppose but… (14)
Consider your existence on this planet. The earth is spinning on its axis, travelling through the Milky Way and there you are. One day (15) a trap door is going to open underneath you. What you fall into will be the absolute truth no matter what you’re convinced of. Have a nice day.
(1) Whether you like it or not, those religions’ “books of truth” explicitly state that the world was created in six days. If you are going to claim either Christianity or Judaism as your religion, you have to stick to what the religion is based upon. If you don’t, you aren’t a Christian nor a Jew. For example, someone who claims to be a “christian person” but doesn’t agree that bestiality is a “sin” is not a christian person. Look, either you believe what the religion says and you’re of that religion or you don’t and you aren’t.
(2) Stephen J. Hawking, in A Brief History of Time, explains that through study of the universe (comprising everything) we discover that there are physical reasons why things are the way they are; i.e., the universe had a beginning because it had to have a beginning. The important thing to understand is that the physical sciences are probing the universe and discovering answers, absolutes, if you will, to why things are the way they are.
(3) “Technology, Medicine and Science” make a pretty good Trinity for the rational person, don’t they?
(4) The mighty hand of science reminds us that each one of us is just an individual Homo sapiens, a product of a “force” in nature dubbed “evolution.” As such we really are nothing more than an association of chemical reactions; our thoughts and dreams are no more than pulses of organic electricity running through our neurons. Emotions are physical phenomena; do we not see the physical effectiveness of drugs? If we are to be truly rational, we can’t allow for anything to operate outside the physical world; how, then, can we rationally put “faith” in any legal or “moral” authority? That is, what right does anyone have to make and enforce laws? I wonder about things like marriage and obeying the law in general. Marriage is deeply rooted in religious service, which, as I have shown, is irrational. Depending upon which side of the spectrum you’re on, punishing criminals may or may not be rational; in fact, defining what is “criminal” may not be possible without reverting to some sort of “moral” code first described in a religious context, so perhaps the very concept of legality is irrational. Nature, of which we are part and subject to, recognizes one and only one law: the strongest survive. Weaklings in nature are quickly disposed of as food and the leaders of the pack assert their dominance over the others through forced sodomy. Don’t believe me? Watch a TV documentary on wolves or hyenas.
(5) It’s a trick of sophomore philosophy students to counter someone’s argument by stating “… that’s your system; there are other systems out there where, perhaps, 2 + 2 does not equal 4, etc.” By the time you’re a senior you should realize that the only alternative system that counters the reality of physical experience is to deny the reality of actual occasions.
(6) According the Church of the Sub-Genius, July 3, 1998 is when the world is supposed to end.
(7) “Invisible Monster” is a great name for God because the word “God” apparently has too much mythical connotation attached to it. Rational Unitarians embrace such handy metaphors when they point out that all roads lead wherever they’re supposed to lead.
(8) I forgot where I found this sentence, it’s not mine.
(9) This is the moral justification for “cultural imperialism.”
(10) Mark Twain would go one step further and accuse God of being a cruel prankster. After all, if God can prevent evil, why doesn’t He? Why’d He create nasty things like disease, hate, etc. An answer, albeit to more than just that question, comes from, of all people, Niccolo Machiavelli: “God is not willing to do everything, and thus take away our free will and that share of glory which belongs to us.”
(11) If you’re familiar with Monty Python’s “Australian Philosophy Professors skit” you will recognize many philosophers I mention.
(12) This may seem to tear apart the argument against the irrationality of God or anything else, god or titan, being out there. What needs to be remembered, though, is that the gods of the Greeks and Romans, and the assorted heathens, were just as subservient to nature and “fate” as were men. Examples: Jupiter frequently had affairs with mortals; Odin gave up an eye for knowledge; frequently gods and goddesses lose parts of their bodies for various reasons, e.g., Tyr, Ganesh, etc. I would ask, what good is a god that can’t regenerate, say, something as simple as an eye? Jesus, on the other hand after being beat up, nailed to a cross, pierced with a spear and verbally abused, managed to not only rise up from the dead, but put all his parts back together like new.
(13) de Santillana, G. 1956. The Age of Adventure. Mentor Books, New York. To me, Nicholas of Cusa’s geometric proof of God’s existence is of tremendous importance as it provides an insight to answering some questions even Carl Sagan (who is now dead) couldn’t answer. All the discoveries of astrophysics, etc. always have a “what came before that” question attached to them. I recently come across a physics student’s web page which included an attempt to explain why such questions were of no use (“they’re stupid questions…”), but I wasn’t convinced: simply stating that the machinery of the universe either always was or that there was nothing before the universe began isn’t good enough. Why was there nothing before the universe began? Where did this something come from?
(14) I suppose it’s irrational to fear death. After all, if death is nothingness, then I have nothing to fear. Life is a lot scarier.
(15) A mental experiment I play with assumes that chaos doesn’t exist (“chaos” is just the scientist’s way of explaining things for which a calculus hasn’t yet been discovered). Therefore, I may assume that all one’s movements from before birth through death, inclusive, can be precisely calculated. This would require a complete and absolute mathematical description of each and every particle comprising your body. That is, your every single possible physical property and reaction could be precisely cataloged. With such knowledge your exact time and place of death would be known. Every breath you take would be numbered…