Tag Archives: God

Credo Quia Absurdum Est

“Credo quia absurdum est” is a Latin phrase which means “I believe because it is absurd”. Not “in spite of the fact that it is absurd”. Because. It is a paraphrase of a statement from Tertullian’s work De Carne Christi (“The Flesh of Christ”), “… it is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd”. Tertullian lived around 155 – 240 AD. This paraphrase has been espoused by Christians as a measure of the strength of one’s unquestioning belief.

Not to be outdone, Orthodox Jews also have their unquestioning beliefs: God created our world and everything in it including us in one week, five thousand seven hundred and seventy six years ago, and everything written in the five books of Moses (the Old Testament) is literally true. We are not to look for the logic or the reason for what is written, but to accept it all because God commanded us to do so, even if He tells us to sacrifice our son or daughter.

While thinking about Immanuel Kant – The Categorical Imperative, I came up with a proof that either God exists but we do not, or we exist but God does not. It goes like this:

  1. The laws of physics apply everywhere in the Universe, consistently throughout it. We may not understand all the laws but they are universally applicable.
  2. Everything in the Universe must obey the laws of physics. We obey the laws of physics.
  3. God doesn’t have to obey the laws of physics. Even if we defined a special case in the laws of physics that applied to God in a consistent manner, God would not have to obey it. God’s existence represents a lawlessness with respect to physics.
  4. Since the Universe cannot be both lawful and lawless with respect to physics, either we exist in this universe but God doesn’t or God exists in this universe but we don’t.

Now I don’t have anything against Muslims. I know of quite a few Muslims who are at least as good and wise as any Christian, Jew, atheist, or other person on this planet. No condescension intended here. That said, I’m certainly glad I’m not a Muslim. The sentence for apostasy, the rejection of one’s belief in God or conversion to another brand of belief, if one is a Muslim, is death in any country ruled by Sharia (Islamic law). See The Punishment for Apostasy from Islam if you have the stomach for it.

The Saudi poet, Ashraf Fayadh, is currently waiting for his death sentence to be carried out because someone accused him of blasphemy and apostasy, which Ashraf denies. See Outrage over Saudi death sentence for poet on blasphemy charges.

There but for the grace of God go I.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

 

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Three Universes

The way I see it, there are three kinds of universe:
• The universe in which God created everything in it, from the smallest particle to the largest cluster of galaxies, and controls everything that happens in it, whether it’s our lives here and now or the movements of some distant cousin of a cockroach on some distant planet in some distant galaxy. I’m not talking about a vast team of gods divvying up the universe so that each god is only responsible for a small piece of it, but a single God responsible for a humongous number of pieces of it, twenty-four by seven, without ever missing a beat.
• The universe in which God set off the Big Bang fourteen billion years ago, which set into motion space and time itself, and all things we know and don’t know, which are still unfolding and unfolding in ways that nobody could possibly anticipate, things lovely and cruel beyond comprehension, including the apparent miracles of life, consciousness, intelligence, love, literature, poetry, science, philosophy, and an infinite bouquet of miracles that haven’t been born yet.
• The universe in which the Big Bang just occurred for some reason that currently escapes us but, if we work hard enough at it, we just might figure out the reason and, if not us, then someone or something else, or maybe not at all. And it occurred fourteen billion years ago, which set into motion space and time itself, and all things we know and don’t know, which are still unfolding and unfolding in ways that nobody could possibly anticipate, things lovely and cruel beyond comprehension, including the apparent miracles of life, consciousness, intelligence, love, literature, poetry, science, philosophy, and an infinite bouquet of miracles that haven’t been born yet.
Now, although I’d much prefer to live in a universe in which God exists, using the God-given intellectual equipment I was born with, I have never seen or heard any compelling evidence that He exists.
So it is quite obvious I don’t believe in the first universe above. Not only do I not have any evidence that it exists, it doesn’t seem possible to me that such a universe could exist. It would fall apart too quickly. It could not possibly be held together.
Now we come to the second and third universes. The second universe is just like the third universe, except for inserting God into the causal chain as the First Cause. Okay, so who made God? First causes are problematic that way. Also, God is not a sufficient cause. In other words, if you removed God from the second universe, you would have the third universe, which appears to be perfectly viable for the time being.
As for the third universe, I know that religious Creationists scoff at the idea that life could have developed in a primordial soup of organic particles in a pool of water shocked into existence by a random bolt of lightning, and from that soup sprang professors spouting Shakespeare. It seems far less likely than breaking open a sack full of coins, throwing them all into the air, and having them all land on their edges. First off, life from primordial soup doesn’t sound any more far-fetched to me than the first universe. Just for the sake of argument, however, let’s explore the sack-of-coins-landing-on-their-edges example. Consider the number of successes, in which the coins all land on their edges, the number of failures, in which they don’t, and the amount of time. Given an infinite period of time, not only will all the coins land on their edges at least once, they will do so an infinite number of times. Okay, let’s not talk about an infinite period of time. The probability is just a function of the number of coins being tossed, the likelihood of each tossed coin landing on its edge, and the number of times the coins are tossed. Back to our primordial soup: there were probably billions and billions of lightning bolts striking pools of organic molecules during the first billion years of earth’s existence. This sounds much less far-fetched than the first universe to me.
Do I see the unfolding miracles of the third universe with less wonder and appreciation than someone else who believes in the first universe? I think not. The more I know, the more I know there is that I don’t know. There is more humility in a scientist who confronts and wrestles his ignorance every day than in a person who believes all is known and he knows it all.

Mike Stone
Raanana Israel

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6 Million Memories

“6 Million Memories” was the headline on today’s paper. Today was Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel. It started last night at 8 p.m. and ended tonight same time, as do most Jewish religious occurrences. The newspapers are filled with pictures and stories of the survivors and those who honor them. The radio stations and television channels trade their 24-hour news cycles and programming to story after story after story, each one sadder and more heart-rending than the one that preceded it. How can one listen to more than three or four or five stories? Yet how can you change the station or channel or turn it off?

6 million memories: they can’t be the memories of the dead. Their memories are dead with them. Besides, each of the dead had many more memories than just the last one before he or she died. There were also the memories of the infinite cruelty of the guards, the soldiers, the police, the officials, the neighbors, and those who turned a cold shoulder. That would be 6 billion memories at least. No, 6 million memories are the memories of the survivors, living people who remember their murdered parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, and children, people who knew someone who shared a crust of bread or a blanket or a smile, someone who knew a name or a number. These memories are also dying because the numbers of survivors is dwindling, but also because the people who didn’t know someone are running out of interest or compassion.

Some professor was being interviewed on the radio last night while I was driving home from work. He spoke Hebrew in a high shaky voice in a heavy European accent, slowly, haltingly. I don’t remember his name. He told of a rabbi who had said there were non-Jewish people who envied us our holocaust. They wanted to take it from us. The rabbi said, “You know what? They are right … I’d much rather be killed than be a killer.” Maybe that explains why so many Jews walked inexplicably like lambs into the gas chambers without putting up a fight.

Another thing the professor said about the impact of the holocaust on Jewish belief in God: there were those who believed in God before the holocaust but stopped believing in Him after it, there were those who did not believe in God before the holocaust and started believing in Him after it, and there were those who believed before and after the holocaust. I don’t believe God had anything at all to do with the holocaust. He couldn’t have prevented the death of a single infant from the hands of evil. There is no weaker force in nature or physics than the Will of God.

At 10 a.m. the sirens sounded for two minutes around the country. Everybody stopped what he or she was doing, stopped talking, and stood up, heads bowed, arms by their sides. The siren goes through you, resonates in you, until you become this wailing, this music.

I know I would not have survived one day of the holocaust, or maybe I would have.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Waiting for Godot

Jerusalem is buried under big sticking wet crystal flakes of white snow. We marvel at it. Over 1500 Israelis jumped into their cars with their families from all over the country and drove up to the capital to see the snow, throw snowballs at each other, and build a snowman. You get the picture. Now they’re stuck on the roads since late yesterday evening trying to leave the capital for their warm homes, their tires spinning without traction on the snow-covered roads because no private car in Israel has snow tires or chains on their tires. Most of the stuck motorists and their cold and hungry families have been collected and taken to the Building of the Nations, where they were given food and tea, blankets and mattresses. The snow is predicted to continue until tomorrow evening, 48 hours all told.

The parts of Israel nearer to sea level are drenched in a deluge of rain. People tend to complain about the lack of rainfall in our neck of the woods. Then when the rain comes in one long thick and persistent slanting attack on whatever we were planning to do, we complain about that too. It’s no wonder our rains are accompanied by lightning and thunder. You’d be angry and frustrated with us too, if you were God.

God is the human face we put on nature to make its acts more explicable and less threatening. God is our friend and parent. He chose us from all other people and species. He will protect us. He would never allow bad things to happen to us and, when they do happen, as they will from time to time, we say God moves in mysterious ways with the voice of wisdom, which sounds almost like a fact. The fact is that nature is chaotic to those who haven’t learned its rules yet.

And so we dance nature’s little chacha, three steps forward, two steps back, or we stand against the wall waiting for Godot to choose us for a partner.

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