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God is a Bother!

David Cowles

Jul 15, 2024

“The reason most people don’t believe in God is that they haven’t fully considered the alternative.”

I must reject the ‘God Hypothesis’. Fortunately, I live in a culture that is only too willing to help me do just that. I can take comfort in the fact that ‘nobody believes in God anymore’ anyway. 

Plus, the very idea that there is a God makes no sense. Where is he? Why doesn’t he step out of the shadows and show himself? And if he really is benevolent and omnipotent, how is it that the world is such a disaster? (I sound a lot like impatient Job, don’t I?)

To protect ourselves against the concept of God, we have constructed an atheistic mythology that would have made the Greeks and the Vikings jealous. First, we accept the fact that we are mortal. You are not, then you are, then you aren’t again. What’s the matter with that? It’s true of everything, isn’t it?

Yes, it does seem so…for everything outside me, everything in my ‘external world’, that is. This does not necessarily mean that it’s true of ‘me’, of my internal world. We define entities in our external world in terms of what they are. Sartre called it ‘etre en soi’, being in itself.  A rose is a rose. It’s not a caterpillar. It’s not undifferentiated ground. It’s a figure; it’s a rose. ‘No rose → Rose → No rose’ is the cycle of life!

And you? Well, you have no experience of ‘No you’…and you never will. What were things like for you before you were born? What do you think they’ll be like after you die? Hamlet notwithstanding, we have no a priori reason to imagine that the ‘afterlife’ will be any different from the ‘forelife’. For us, internally, there’s just ‘life’. We intuit a beginning and an end but we can have no experience of either.

Your internal world is just you. For you, life just is. What you experience changes constantly, but you do not change at all…ever. You experience everything; but you, yourself, are not like anything you experience. You are the still point at the center of a circle. Relative to entities in the external world, you are nothing. Put differently, you exist in the eternal world ‘for others’ but not ‘for yourself’.

Everything in your external world is what it is and is not what it is not. You, on the other hand, are not what you are and are what you are not. So what? Look, I had a life, on the whole, a good life. Why should I be afraid of death? Everything comes to be, everything perishes, I’m no different. Anyway, we’ll always have Paris. 

We sometimes wonder how the Greeks could have believed that a lecherous and incestuous extended family of gods, camped out on a mountain top, controlled the world’s affairs. Why wonder? We subscribe to a mythology that is every bit as fantastic – no, more so!

The Greeks at least believed in ‘what is’. We are, gods are, things happen! Once our shadow (shade) has crossed the Styx, mythology, the 'maker of heaven and earth’ and ‘all things bright and beautiful’ - clearly, God, if he existed, could not be ignored. And that’s a spot of bother for us 21st century sophisticates.

I am used to being the captain of my own ship. I fought with my parents for 18+ years just to secure my ‘right to self-determination’. I’m not about to surrender that to some invisible ‘spirit-in-the-sky’. 

We’re just getting revved up. We believe in ‘what is not’. Our mythology begins at the riverbank (Dante). 

So it all comes back to Paris. What else? It always does. Either we never had Paris, or we once had Paris, or we’ll always have Paris. Well, we certainly had Paris! How do I know? I remember it. But also, it has shaped all the subsequent events in my life, and it will continue to do so as long as there are ‘events’ in my life to shape.

But what happens to Paris when I die? Well, of course, you couldn’t know this, but the city will levitate 250 feet into the air and begin to rotate…or it won’t. 

One thing for sure though, I won’t have Paris anymore because there will be no me to have anything, no me to remember anything, no me to be shaped by anything. When I am nothing, my experiences will necessarily be nothing too. Unless you think that my experiences somehow survive me…which would make you a budding theist. No offense!

But since I no longer have Paris, I must conclude that I never had Paris. To assume without evidence that a phenomenon known as Paris somehow occupies space within The No Paris Continuum would violate Occam’s Razor. I have absolutely no warrant whatsoever to affirm the prior existence of something that has no current trace or consequence. I might as well believe, like some modern physicists, that the Universe hatched from ‘a goose egg’.

To assert otherwise would be to posit the survival of some sort of ‘experiential self’ after the moment of physical death. If you go down that rabbit hole, I’ll have you reciting the Nicaean Creed before dinner.

The reason most people do not believe in God is that they haven’t fully considered the alternative. Death cannot be understood as ‘turning out the lights’. The lights are ‘off’ only if there’s someone who remembers their being ‘on’. ‘Off/on’ implies that there is a light; if there’s no ‘off/on’ then there’s no light…and there is no Paris and there never was.

In my view, such nihilism is a necessary corollary of a secular, atheistic world view. But in that case, non-existence is the best possible outcome. Actually, it’s the only possible outcome; right?

Yes and no. As regards the external world – yes; as regards my internal world – uncertain. Prince Hamlet: “Ay, there’s the rub. For in that sleep of death what dreams may come…must give us pause.” We know the world, but we do not know that ‘undiscovered county’ beyond it.

The world, as we think we know it, may or may not exist; God, as we think we know him, may or may not exist. But I am. I exist, and ‘I am’ is what is. (Descartes) 

According to Exodus 3:14, ‘I am’ is God (YHWH). That means I must be an image, a likeness or a reflection of God. But if there is no God, what then does it mean to be ‘I am’? According to this model, any sort of consciousness or self-awareness, however ubiquitous in the biosphere, could only be an accidental by-product of something more fundamental.

If you’re not terrified right now, then you don’t understand what you’ve just read. Let’s get caught up.  You exist. God and the world may or may not exist, but you exist. If there is no Providence, no God, the quality of that existence is entirely undeterminable. Concoct your worst terror; there’s no reason to believe that will not be your fate, eternally. 

Either there are eternal values and a benevolent God who embodies them and leaves his impress on the Universe…or there aren’t. If there aren’t, then Being is amoral, there are no objective values, and anything physically possible may happen, no matter how horrific. 

Surveying the world, there is every reason to believe that without God, things would be unremittingly horrific. Anything may happen and over time what may happen must happen. You have no protection, no avenue of appeal, no one to whom to plead your case. You are Job…without the Whirlwind.

Kay sera, sera! – and there’s nothing you or anyone else can do about it. What’s that you plead, “I am a good person. Surely this will not happen to me.” Yes, it will! You are not a ‘good person’, not because you’ve done anything wrong, but because in this Universe there is literally no such thing as Good…or bad; there just is! Good, bad; God, no God. It’s all the same. It all just is.

Belief in God is not a choice; it’s a compulsion, a survival mechanism – a compulsion, of course, that can be overcome, but to do so is to accept an absolutely unbearable level of doubt and dread. Without God, no ‘good’ outcome is possible (because there’s no such thing as Good). In a universe where Good is at home, it is easy to recognize and perhaps contain Evil. But without Good… 

Theology is the study of what could be in a Universe that supports Value (Good). If the Universe does not support Value, there is no God and theology is without content. There is only what happens; and that is pretty scary!


David Cowles is the founder and editor-in-chief of Aletheia Today Magazine. He lives with his family in Massachusetts where he studies and writes about philosophy, science, theology, and scripture. He can be reached at and devotion.


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