You are in a building. The building contains a bomb which you must find. You do not know the size of the bomb, the make-up of the bomb, nor any markings on the bomb. It could be in any shape, and anywhere within the building. It could be a painting on the wall, the wallboard itself, or behind the wall.
You have a limited amount of time to find it. You are free to get advice from any bomb expert you choose, but there is no guarantee the bomb expert is correct. In fact, most bomb experts will tell you false information. You don’t know which ones are accurate and which ones are not.
Eventually you must make a choice as to what is the bomb. But you will not know whether that choice is correct until after the time of the bomb’s explosion.
Seems pretty incomprehensible, doesn’t it? Yet that is exactly what theists request of us. They claim there is a God in the building—that much is certain. But as to its size and shape and color, we are left totally in the dark.
How many times in our conversations with theists, have we come across the phrase, “God is mysterious. Incomprehensible. More than any finite mind could ever conceive or describe.”
Elsewhere, another blogger posed a question that I found intriguing: “If I cannot see God and if I cannot understand him, how will I know if I have found him?”
I have talked before about the concept of God and love. And when we compare what God does to what humans do—well, it doesn’t seem very loving. But when I point that out, I am met with shock—“Who are you to question God? Were you there when he made the foundations of the earth? His love is so much different, so beyond our comprehension (he died for you!) that it is nothing like it in the natural world.”
O.K. got it. Check. Can’t recognize God by love.
Or, when the question of love is brought up, I am informed that I am forgetting that God is just. But what does his justice look like? “Just” means in accordance with a law. What law does God have to follow? And, when he is merciful, he is deliberately not following the law. In other words, God is not bound by any justice or mercy at all. Since I cannot even see God, talking about some law beyond God (which he does or does not have to follow) that I see even less becomes meaningless.
O.K. got it. Check. Can’t recognize God by justice or mercy.
And I am informed that God defines absolute morality. But then I view actions in the Tanakh that go against the moral intuition he allegedly gave me. Things like asking a person to perform human sacrifice to prove their loyalty. Genocides. Hardening hearts. When I ask about those things, that don’t seem very moral to me, I am told I must accept God as moral, and while it doesn’t appear moral, God had to have a moral reason for it.
O.K. got it. Check. Can’t recognize God by morality.
I have no way to verify if God is speaking the truth. If God is bound by truth, and I ask, “Can you lie?” he must answer “No.” But if he is NOT bound by truth, and I ask, “Can you lie?” he can still answer “No”! Same question. Same answer. Two completely different Gods. No way to verify whether God is telling the truth.
O.K. got it. Check. Can’t recognize God by truth.
If I am talking to a young earth creationist, I am informed that God could make the stars appear to be billions of light years away, and make the earth appear to be billions of years old, by creating it looking old. But it really is young. And I am told by old earth creationists, that God didn’t mean “day” when he inspired the author of Genesis 1, but rather God meant “a long, long time” and that God created light before he created the sun. Which is completely contrary to science. But God did that because he did not want it to be too easy for us to believe in creationism.
O.K. got it. Check. Can’t recognize God by science.
I am told by Christians that Mormon scriptures are not from God and the Qur’an is not from God, and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures is not from God. That certain books, although esteemed as canonical at one time, like 1 Clement, Epistle of Barnabas and Shepherd of Hermas, are not inspired either. And now, we have questions as to whether the ending of Mark, or the Story of the Adulterous woman is inspired. In fact, the Christians can’t seem to agree on a method by which we can determine a certain string of words is inspired or not.
All of which doesn’t matter, because even without holy writings, I will still be held responsible.
O.K. got it. Check. Can’t recognize God by writings.
The Muslims have miracle stories of their own. So do Hindus. And Catholics have a weekly sighting of Mary, in cooked items or bridge underpasses. Mormons and Seven-Day Adventists have moving stories of personal testimony by which they tell of life-transformations because of their God. But those are the wrong Gods. The humans have it wrong, I am told.
O.K. got it. Check. Can’t recognize God by testimonies.
At which point, I wonder, as my blogger friend said: If I can’t recognize a God—how would I know it if I see it?
The problem with “God is mysterious” is that the impetus is on us to play this blind man’s bluff game with a ticking bomb, and the theist is puzzled why we have difficulty perceiving God. For the reasons they just explained—he is not like anything we know.
If your claim of reality is incomprehensible—why be surprised if I don’t comprehend it? I’m just following instructions.
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)