purity
Atheism’s just
simpler, isn’t it? No spirits, no souls, no angels, no miracles, no God: just Dawkins’ “blind physical forces” operating the same way on everything, always and everywhere. God is a redundancy, a violation of Occam’s Razor, a hypothesis of which we (like Laplace) have no need. Right?

Modern science has regularized our view of the world. The old dividing lines – the four humors; the sublunary and superlunary spheres; man, angel, and beast – have been erased. Everything is one, capable of being modeled by universalized mathematical laws; many physicists consider a Theory of Everything to be within reach.

Why bring God into the equation?

The late H.L. Mencken (an agnostic, ironically) said, “For every problem there is a solution that is simple, elegant, and wrong.” And I wonder if atheism’s elegant simplicity is really an elegant oversimplification – if its scientific (and often extremely reasonable) impulse to reduce and generalize reality to the result of a few fundamental laws glosses over how complicated reality actually is.

Did space-time begin with the Big Bang? If so, how? Why are the laws of Nature what they are? Why were the initial conditions of our universe what they were? Can physical reality explain its own existence? What about morality? Does it exist? If it exists, can it be “reduced” in the same way that all other phenomena have been reduced? (Wouldn’t the world be simpler if it just didn’t really exist?) What about minds? Are brains and minds the same thing? If they are, why can I see your “brain” but not your “mind”? If they are not, how can minds be explained solely by physical phenomena? Do we truly believe that every facet of the human experience – every oddity, every relationship, every composition – can be explained solely by the fact that humans evolved from lower apes? Does nothing transcend our mammalian minds?

I do not mean to say that only theists have offered substantive answers to these questions. But the impression I often get is that many non-religious people have not even considered these questions, as though the march of Science were inexorable and plenary. Such a belief, of course, is not elegantly simply but simplistic; it ignores a number of philosophical questions that truly cannot be reduced to answers drawn from the scientific method.

The truth is that the world is not so simple. If there is room in our understanding of reality for emergent minds and multiverses, there is room for angels and demons. And if there was ever a time during which the universe behaved according to different rules than those it follows now – can the universe possibly have followed the same “laws” during the Big Bang that it follows today? – then there may yet be a need for the God hypothesis.

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