Oxford Union Society 2012: Dr Michael Shermer – God Does Not Exist

God

In a world that is facing a major pandemic, is there a bigger, more credible reason why many of us cannot see or hear or experience God? Image source: Pinterest

Being locked up in the house due to the lock down since 18th March 2020 except for that few occasions when I venture out to buy the essential groceries, on my free time when I am not working or tied up with house chores, I found myself on the watching university debates, technical speeches, watching 1950s & 1960s movies, attending virtual concerts (like this gem), learning CSS & tweaking my blog site (noticed the changes?), cracking my mind for the next blog posts and rediscovering my love for chess (now that my daughter is picking up the game, she is looking for stronger opponents).

Speaking about debates, occasionally I venture to Oxford Union’s Youtube Channel to watch the superb debates between distinguished speakers who are experts in their respective fields. One that caught my attention was this debate between one side that argues “God Does Exist” and another that argues “God Does Not Exist”.

Between the two sides, I find that the arguments put forward by Dr Michael Shermer makes a lot of sense. He argues that there are two pieces of evidence that proves that humans made up God and religion and not the other way around. He also argued that the creation of an agency (an omnipotent being) within a religion is a powerful force of social control.

Dr Michael Shermer is the founder of the Skeptics Society which is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization whose mission is to engage leading experts in investigating the paranormal, fringe science, pseudoscience, and extraordinary claims of all kinds, promote critical thinking, and serve as an educational tool for those seeking a sound scientific viewpoint.

Related: Outbreak 2020: Dumb Religious Quotes on the Causes of Coronavirus

Considering how threat of heavy fines and months in prison, strict quarantine in specialised hospital, treatment by specialists with modern medication & treatment able to control the spread of the coronavirus more effectively than praying in mosques, churches and temples, it does makes one to wonder where all the religious men who do healing have gone missing. Worse, religion made the pandemic even worse around the world by creating new out of control virus clusters.

Getting back to Dr Michael Shermer’s argument, one reason why I am lean to understand and accept his reasoning is that over the years, I have slowly changed to be a partial atheist. I say partial is because I no longer believe religious people or anyone who talking about the right things to do in the eyes of God. Most of these people have their own hands dirty with untold immoral acts – they have blood on their hands and yet they tell others “thou shall not kill”.

Related: Upholding Dharma

morality

I do however believe in morality – doing right things not because some book or religion norms tell you or because someone up there is watching you & will punish you if you do something wrong but instead deep inside you, you believe that it is the right thing to do.

However humans will remain frail, weak and imperfect – they will have selective morality standards. So understandable that a long time ago, when mankind started to settle down in one place and ancient cities started to grow, the administrators of these cities needed a method to ensure everyone follow certain norms and rules. The idea of a powerful deity in the sky watching the every action and speech would have been a better tool to get this conformity.

Related: A Lesson on Morality

There is no God premise is also shared by the late Stephen Hawking:-

“There is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate,” celebrated physicist and a known atheist Stephen Hawking writes in his final book, which also covers important existential questions such as creation of the universe, alien intelligence, space colonisation and artificial intelligence.

“For centuries, it was believed that disabled people like me were living under a curse that was inflicted by God. Well, I suppose it’s possible that I’ve upset someone up there, but I prefer to think that everything can be explained another way, by the laws of nature,” he wrote in the chapter titled “Is There a God?”

He says he uses the word ‘God’ in an impersonal sense, like Albert Einstein did, for the laws of nature, so knowing the mind of God is knowing the laws of nature.

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Stephen Hawking is one of the many famous atheists out there. Another is Sir Richard Branson who said in an interview that he believes in evolution and the importance of humanitarian efforts but not in the existence of God.

Philosopher Daniel Dennett is referred to as one of the “Four Horsemen of New Atheism,” along with Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris.

In his book “Breaking the Spell,” Dennett said, “You don’t get to advertise all the good that your religion does without first scrupulously subtracting all the harm it does and considering seriously the question of whether some other religion, or no religion at all, does better.”

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Think about it – the worse destruction happened to mankind is not due to lack of religion but rather the lack of right morality – either in form of lust for more power, pursue of more wealth, racial based enforcements and the fight to uphold wrong set of morality (like slavery).

Medieval and Renaissance wars were also typically about control and wealth as city-states vied for power, often with the support, but rarely instigation, of the Church.

And the Mongol Asian rampage, which is thought to have killed nearly 30 million people, had no religious component whatsoever.

Most modern wars, including the Napoleonic Campaign, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the American Civil War, World War I, the Russia Revolution, World War II, and the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, were not religious in nature or cause.

While religious groups have been specifically targeted (most notably in World War II), to claim that religion was the cause is to blame the victim and to misunderstand the perpetrators’ motives, which were nationalistic and ethnic, not religious.

Similarly, the vast numbers of genocides (those killed in ethic cleanses, purges, etc. that are not connected to a declared war) are not based on religion. It’s estimated that over 160 million civilians were killed in genocides in the 20th century alone, with nearly 100 million killed by the Communist states of USSR and China.

While some claim that Communism itself is a “state religion” — because it has an absolute dictator whose word is law and a “holy book” of unchallenged rules — such a claim simply equates “religion” with the human desire for power, conformance, and control, making any distinctions with other human institutions meaningless.

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I no longer believe religious people or anyone who talking about the right things to do in the eyes of God but I do believe that all of us are governed by some Supreme force – it may not be God in the form as most of us know but it could be a force of the nature. Call it the “Force” if necessary but I do believe we are not far from the concept that ruled the Star Wars universe.

Related: Star Wars 1977: The Force is Strong with This One

In the Star Wars universe, the Force is explained as:-

The Force was a mysterious energy field that bound the galaxy together. Mystics and scholars had long debated the origins of the Force, such as where and when civilizations first became aware of its power, resulting in many answers and none that were considered definitive. Different species had their own names for the Force as well as their own metaphors for how they perceived it and techniques for learning its powers.

The Force existed in two forms: the Living Force and the Cosmic Force. The Living Force represented the energies of all lifeforms, and those energies were fed into the Cosmic Force which was responsible for binding the galaxy together and communicating the will of the Force through the midi-chlorians.

Though only certain individuals were Force-sensitive, the Force resided within all living things and could be extracted. Because of this, Force-sensitives could feel a “disturbance in the Force” whenever there was a great loss of life.

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In our own universe, the Force could be inter-related to elements like the concept of a soul, paranormal activities, alien sightings and works of the nature. We could feel them even though someone had long departed. The law of nature here is more evident and credible. Without human activities due to nationwide lock downs around the world for instance, the Earth is recovering – the pollution is down, rivers are clearer & cleaner and the ozone layer is repairing.

Yes, there are things in the world that remains to be explained – it is possible we have yet to reach the level of knowledge and understanding to explain these things. Anyway, the argument that God does not exist does make some dents considering how things have been happening lately.

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