Sunday, August 21, 2011

The God of the Gaps

Listen: It's those who have faith and who live by faith that are prone to bigotry, to intolerance, to building walls where there should be none. Faith, at its core, is certainty about something that is unproven or unprovable. Evidence negates the need for faith. Those who reject the certainty of faith and who live by the humility of doubt are open to possibilities. If something taken as fact is proven wrong, then the skeptic looks for further evidence to get at the truth. The faithful, when faced with evidence that challenges their faith, will not change their position in light of new facts, but will instead rely on apologetics, on rationalization, on interpretation.

Listen: Modern humans are sophisticated enough to wonder if there is something greater out there and conceited enough to hope that consciousness survives beyond physical death. That is because we have imagination. We make up stories all the time so we can make sense of the things that happen to us, so we can find meaning in random moments of joy and tragedy. We're hardwired to look for patterns even when there is none. Faces on water-stained walls, for instance. Clouds shaped like animals, for another. But is it really just humans? Great apes in the wild show evidence of remembering their dead and honoring them. Chimpanzees have started creating tools. A chimpanzee trained to communicate via American Sign Language entered a period of depression when she discovered that she isn't human. Another showed sympathy and compassion to a caretaker who admitted that she'd suffered a miscarriage. If the great apes survive in the coming eons, they will continue evolving their own culture and beliefs.

Listen: Gods are the product of an infant human race. Once we needed gods because there were so many things we didn't understand. But as we understand more and more of our universe, we need our gods less and less. The mysterious white fire that cuts across the sky isn't a supernatural phenomenon. It's electricity, and we've harnessed it. There is no more need to comfort each other with tales of Zeus, who will not throw thunderbolts at us if we please him through worship and sacrifice. Gods are needed for the gaps in our knowledge, and these gaps are narrowing.


  1. I see you still got some of that old fire. Now why don't you go look for something worth burning, no?

  2. But burning things to destroy them doesn't actually accomplish anything worthwhile. Burn instead torches so we may shine light on the darkness of superstition and irrationality.