Is Belief in God Like Belief in Santa, Leprechauns, or Fairies? A Reflection
Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one on Brian Nicholson’s Blog which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.
Can you imagine if I had left it at that? A one-word post on WordPress. Brother, I’d get comments “for dayz.” I’d also probably get some pretty strong retorts.
When it comes to topics related to the origins of the universe, many have come to conclude that there is Someone behind it all. In this post, I will compare belief in God to Santa Claus, fairies, and leprechauns, hoping to illuminate that the existence of a Creator is something far more worthy of conversation than these characters. The goal isn’t to prove that God exists. For that, see my equation below:
The objective is to critically compare these characters of fantasy and folklore, and see if they bare any resemblance to the existence of a deity. So, let’s get this party started! Jeeves, turn on my mix-tape…
“If you believe in God without evidence, then I can assert that leprechauns and Santa exist without evidence.”–Various YouTube Commenters Since Pre-Extinction of the Dodo Bird
The problem here, of course, are we having good reason to think those things don’t exist, and not comparably having good reasons to think God does not. It’s not simply that we don’t have evidence for Santa, but we have positive reasons to think Santa does not exist. We know there’s no workshop at the North Pole, there aren’t Santa sightings around the holiday season, and the milk and cookies are obviously eaten by the parents… I mean, come on, do your kids really expect that Santa ALSO went gluten-free around the same time you did?
But, we can’t prove that things don’t exist, right? There are definitely examples where we can prove negative statements. For example, we know Leonardo DaVinci is no longer alive. We know George Bush isn’t the President anymore. We can certainly prove these negative claims. Even if we couldn’t prove that God does not exist, which I don’t believe is the case; this certainly doesn’t mean that He does. It just means making a claim about His non-existence is also making a knowledge claim, that of which requires justification. So at the very least, one should be agnostic.
Another problem with drawing these false analogies is that God, if He exists, is beyond the natural, or is supernatural. That’s why we can’t observe Him in nature or put Him in a test tube. But moral values and mathematics are also not observable in nature, in yet we see their effects all the same. Things like leprechauns, if they existed, would be a part of the natural world, and would certainly be making their appearance known if they wanted to. So, just because God cannot be tested scientifically does not mean it’s worthless to talk about His existence. To stubbornly assert science as the only route to truth is self-refuting, because:
Can the statement, “you should only believe what can be scientifically proven,” itself be scientifically proven?
Here we see that there are other methods of discerning truth that are valid, as science is. For example, we all accept moral truths as real, but we can’t prove that those exist by scientific means. Mathematical truths and logic are valid ways of discerning truth, but these are beyond the realm of scientific inquiry as well.
On the contrary, leprechauns, Santa, and fairies are all purportedly within our spatial-temporal realm, frolicking with Chips Ahoy!, delivering presents, stealing your credit card, and forever trying to increase the value of ye olde pot of gold with Rosland Capital. Someone might say, “what if we simply define Santa or Paul Bunyun as existing outside the universe?” Well, at that point we really cease to be talking about Santa or Mr. Bunyun at all. If we make Santa an immaterial, all-powerful mind existing outside our universe, it really becomes just another name for God. This is much like the debate Dr. William Lane Craig had with Dr. Lewis Wolpert, where Wolpert said, “I think a computer did it!” (talking about creating the universe). But a computer is a device comprised of matter, and needs time to operate, so if we just rob it of all the attributes that make it a computer and just define it a space-less and timeless computer, we are really just re-naming God.
In the case of a Creator, we aren’t peering into telescopes looking for some bearded man resembling the renaissance images of God The Father. We are looking for the effects of God… things like, say, the existence of a finite universe, the remarkable fine-tuning of the universe for things like stars, chemistry, and us. We may also consider the potential reliability of miracle claims, such as the resurrection of Jesus- something that has raised many an eyebrow for a long time. Even the skeptic scholar Paula Fredriksen admits, “they must’ve seen something,” talking about Jesus’ disciples.
For more on the fine-tuning argument, please click here https://briannicholsonblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/28/first-blog-post/
By contrast we do not see the effects of these mystical creatures. So we can reasonably say they don’t exist.
What’s probably the bigger issue is that God is not detectable like other things in our world are, and this is where I feel the larger disagreement stems from. Let’s take a look at the objection Carl Sagan presented in his book, “A Demon-Haunted World,” where Sagan compares God to an invisible, undetectable dragon in someone’s garage.
“Now, what’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there’s no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists?”
I’m not sure who was going around saying God could decisively be found in a garage, but this point seems to be missing what I mentioned earlier. We aren’t looking for God within space and time, but signs of something from beyond the universe, signs that there may have been an Agent involved in bringing the cosmos to life. In Sagan’s case, the person should really be asking why there is a reality for a garage to exist in in the first place. That’s where at least the possibility of God comes into play. Things like the Big Bang, the fine-tuning, the logically incoherent idea of an infinite series of past events, and the surprising fact that there is something rather than nothing, are just a few reasons that we shouldn’t dismiss God’s existence a priori. This doesn’t mean He does exist, but certainly this topic that has engaged philosophers and scientists for millennia is worth discussing.
In future posts I will talk more about problems with an infinite regress and Leibniz’ Contingency Argument. But for now, I hope we can see that the existence of God certainly deserves a place at the podium.
You can find the above blog post here.