Is there a concept of a rational God that we can believe in? One of the greatest obstacles to a belief in a divine being in this scientific age is the apparent conflict of belief with reason. It seems like a lot of people compartmentalize their lives into the rational part that believes in the dictates of science, and the religious part that believes in magical beings. They switch their consciousness effortlessly between these “compartments” depending on the circumstances, perhaps only vaguely aware of the inherent conflicts betweens them.
Before you can really begin to investigate this problem you have to first figure out what you actually mean when you say “God.” As George H. Smith writes:
Knowing what one is talking about is of inestimable value in any dialogue, so the theist, before he sets out to explain why we should believe in god, must first explain what he means by the word “god”.
Atheism: The Case Against God, George H. Smith, p. 29
Unfortunately the many attributes associated with the Christian God are hopelessly imprecise, contradictory, and in the end mostly unintelligible. For example most Christian theologians attempt to defend these three aspects of God:
God can do anything. (Omnipotence)
God knows everything. (Omniscience)
God is all-good. (Omnibenevolent)
Some classic questions often considered in beginning classes on philosophy are:
Can an all-powerful God create a stone so heavy that he cannot lift it?
If God knows everything then he knows what he will do, but if he is all-powerful can’t he change his mind and do something he didn’t know beforehand that he would do?
If God is all-good and all-powerful then how does he allow evil and pain to exist in the world?
Are you beginning to see the problem? Saying anything is “all” whatever inherently leads to contradiction. Then there is the problem of evil, quoting Smith again:
If God does not know there is evil, he is not omniscient. If God knows there is evil but cannot prevent it, he is not omnipotent. If God knows there is evil and can prevent it but desires not to, he is not omnibenevolent. If, as the Christian claims, God is all-knowing and all-powerful, we must conclude that God is not all-good. The existence of evil in the universe excludes this possibility.
–Atheism: The Case Against God, George H. Smith, p. 81
All of these questions point to the fact that when we say something is “all” whatever, for example, “all powerful” we are not talking about anything we have any real knowledge of, experience of , or non-contradictory concept of. This leads to the first tenet of a rational concept of God.
Whatever God is, he (or she, or it) is not “all-anything,” at least as far as it is possible for us to know.
In the past I think that when people started to really think about what it meant to be a monotheist, that is, what it meant to believe that only One God ruled the universe, they had a basic need that such a God not be fallible, not susceptible to the faults they had previously seen in the various lesser gods they had worshipped.
Before when people believed that various less powerful gods and spirits where the moving forces behind nature it was ok if God A was not everything. If you prayed to God A and he didn’t give you what you wanted then you could always pray to God B. When Abraham of the Old Testament first came up with the idea of One God then the compulsion to make that One God the essence of perfection in every thing was probably irresistible.
Today in the modern world where physicists are probing the nature of reality in the field of quantum mechanics and where astronomers are probing the extent of the universe with giant telescopes perhaps it is time to look again at the concept of God and try to see if there is a concept of a Rational God that can make some sense, and also look to see if there is some real evidence you can point to that gives you reason to believe that indeed a greater and higher intelligence does indeed exist, and is perhaps the ultimate genesis of our existence.
That is the question we hope to explore. What would be a Rational God?
Is it possible that God is very powerful, but not powerful without limit? Is it possible that God knows a lot, a lot more than we do, but doesn’t know everything? Is it possible that God is very, very good, but not perfectly good? Is perfection an illusion?
Can you believe in a God that is not yet perfect but is working on that project, a rational God that can make sense?