This was posted by "Orthoprax" in a very interesting and honest self-assessment of his belief system. The writer is a ‘skeptical’ Orthodox Jew, who writes on topics related both to the practice of orthodoxy and its philosophical implications. (And, since it is a departure from Orthoprax’s usual skeptical outlook, Godol Hador dedicated a post to quoting and discussing his ideas.)
For all of my own agnosticism, I have a lot of empathy for this argument. This is a sort of composite of what I consider to be the two most compelling intuitive arguments for belief in a spiritual universe (or God, or creator, etc.).
1. The ‘First Fact’ problem: It seems that no matter how big the bang was, something must have pre-dated it. Time is, or at least appears to be, an infinite continuum, and either matter or energy had to exist for the bang to take place.
2. The ‘System Complexity’ problem: Evolution, as currently understood, seems to fall short in explaining how biological systems of such mind-boggling complexity such as DNA and the Optic Nerve could have developed, even with billions of years in which to evolve.
There are scientific theories which deal with these issues. For example, String Theory and General Relativity can produce a perpetual universe in which Time (as we experience it) is a variable which has relevance only to certain conditions.
Still, these are just theories, not answers, and I can well understand the choice which Orthoprax makes that believing in an intelligent creator is just more compelling. One cannot prove or disprove the existence of God, but don't these questions offer obvious hints?
So why don’t I choose to believe? How can I be so committed to agnosticism? And is it worth giving up faith in order to choose…nothing…uncertainty? What is the point of that?
Let me try to explain two postulates:
1. Where Science Ends, Mythology Begins:
Thousands of years ago, Man could not explain the rising and setting of the sun, the stars, nor the change of seasons. Perhaps some people had outlandish theories about planets and planetary motion, but these theories were far less compelling than the complex mythology which emerged and took hold. As the ability of science to explain the natural universe has expanded, the line of where mythology is used to fill in the gaps of understanding has receded (though not without a fight).
We find ourselves in the same position today, though we speak of more sophisticated issues. Currently, the frontier of scientifically proven understanding stands at the great questions of the origins and nature of the cosmos, and the mechanisms of the development of intelligent life. But we must still make the same decision as Mankind did at the dawn of history; do we assume that what we do not understand can not be explained rationally and create myths, or do we assume that our lack of understanding does not compel a supernatural answer.
It is very difficult to accept a world in which such obvious questions remain unanswered. We have the same primordial drive to understand our universe as our ancestors did. That desire - to understand our world - is what motivated ancient man to create pagan mythology, and it is the same urge which compels us to postulate a creator.
This does not negate, and certainly does not disprove, the theory of God, but to me it frames the problem differently. The unexplained phenomena which seems so compelling to us today are no more compelling than the onset of a rainstorm was to early man.
This leads to the second principle:
2. The Un-provability of God is, in Itself, Determinative:
If we can not prove or disprove God, what does that tell us about our life purpose? I understand the argument that, for the universe to offer freedom of choice, God can fundamentally not be provable. However, I do not agree with the corollary; that therefore belief in God is a righteous choice of faith.
To me, the opposite is true, if there is a God, He does not want us to suspend rational thought, He does not want us to use emotional arguments as proof of His existence(1), He does not want us to make a ‘best guess’ at His being, and He certainly does not want us to adopt belief as an expedient to avoid punishment or achieve reward.
Wouldn’t God want us to seek morality based upon what He actually gave us, not a myth of revelation, but a capacity to learn, to feel and to reason? Wouldn’t He want us to choose a life purpose which was meaningful and satisfying whether or not our existence ended with death or not – whether He exists or not?
And, certainly, if our religious beliefs hindered us by teaching us to subvert our reason, to doubt our own rational process, and to accept beliefs which were prejudiced and immoral, would it not be our higher calling to question these beliefs?
(1) Those emotions being our drive to understand our universe, to lend purpose to our lives, to avoid death, etc..