Source: God’s Debris, by Scott Adams
Do you believe in God?” the old man asked, as if we had known each other forever but had somehow neglected to discuss that one topic. I assumed he wanted reassurance that his departure from this life would be the beginning of something better. I gave a kind answer.
“There has to be a God,” I said. “Otherwise, none of us would be here.” It wasn’t much of a reason, but I figured he didn’t need more.
“Do you believe God is omnipotent and that people have free will?” he asked.
“That’s standard stuff for God. So, yeah.”
“If God is omnipotent, wouldn’t he know the future?”
“If God knows what the future holds, then all our choices are already made, aren’t they? Free will must be an illusion.”
He was clever, but I wasn’t going to fall for that trap.
“God lets us determine the future ourselves, using our free will,” I explained.
“Then you believe God doesn’t know the future?”
“I guess not,” I admitted. “But he must prefer not knowing.”
“So you agree that it would be impossible for God to know the future and grant humans free will?”
“I hadn’t thought about it before, but I guess that’s right. He must want us to find our own way, so he intentionally tries not to see the future.”
“For whose benefit does God withhold his power to determine the future?” he asked.
“Well, it must be for his own benefit, and ours, too,” I reasoned. “He wouldn’t have to settle for less.”
The old man pressed on. “Couldn’t God give humans the illusion of free will? We’d be just as happy as if we had actual free will, and God would retain his ability to see the future. Isn’t that a better solution for God than the one you suggested?”
“Why would God want to mislead us?”
“If God exists, his motives are certainly unfathomable. No one knows why he grants free will, or why he cares about human souls, or why pain and suffering are necessary parts of life.”
“The one thing I know about God’s motives is that he must love us, right?” I wasn’t convinced of this myself, given all the problems in the world, but I was curious about how he would respond.
“Love? Do you mean love in the way you understand it as a human?”
“Well, not exactly, but basically the same thing. I mean, love is love.”
“A brain surgeon would tell you that a specific part of the brain controls the ability to love. If it’s damaged, people are incapable of love, incapable of caring about others.”
“So, isn’t it arrogant to think that the love generated by our little brains is the same thing that an omnipotent being experiences? If you were omnipotent, why would you limit yourself to something that could be reproduced by a littleclump of neurons?”
I shifted my opinion to better defend it. “We must feel something similar to God’s type of love, but not the same way God feels it.”
“What does it mean to feel something similar to the way God feels? Is that like saying a pebble is similar to the sun because both are round?” he responded.
“Maybe God designed our brains to feel love the same way he feels it. He could do that if he wanted to.”
“So you believe God wants things. And he loves things, similar to the way humans do. Do you also believe God experiences anger and forgiveness?”
“That’s part of the package,” I said, committing further to my side of the debate.
“So God has a personality, according to you, and it is similar to what humans experience?”
“I guess so.”
“What sort of arrogance assumes God is like people?” he asked.
“Okay, I can accept the idea that God doesn’t have a personality exactly like people. Maybe we just assume God has a personality because it’s easier to talk about it that way. But the important point is that something had to create reality. It’s too well-designed to be an accident.”
“Are you saying you believe in God because there are no other explanations?” he asked.
“That’s a big part of it.”
“If a stage magician makes a tiger disappear and you don’t know how the trick could be done without real magic, does that make it real magic?”
“That’s different. The magician knows how it’s done and other magicians know how it’s done. Even the magician’s assistant knows how it’s done. As long as someone knows how it’s done, I can feel confident that it isn’t real magic. I don’t personally need to know how it’s done,” I said.
“If someone very wise knew how the world was designed without God’s hand, could that person convince you that God wasn’t involved?”
“In theory, yes. But a person with that much knowledge doesn’t exist.”
“To be fair, you can only be sure that you don’t know whether that person exists or not.”