Simulations and God’s Existence: Questions and Answers on Kimel’s Defense of God (An Interlude)

QUESTION: What is unique about your line of reasoning in the context of historical discourse on the subject of God? What is actually new here?

This theory places existing arguments about the likelihood and nature of future simulations into a specifically theological context by phrasing the question of belief in God in terms of the probability that the universe as we experience it is designed. The explanation of the likelihood of civilizations simulating their ancestors in order to upload their consciousnesses into a future data-bank might explain why we seem to live in what often proves to be an unjust universe; we are more likely to be in a simulation that spawned a simulation of itself (or at least in a simulation of some kind) than in a random and authorless universe. This is one of the first explicit endorsements of virtual reality as a meaningful actualization of the concept of heaven, including even the possibility for “resurrection” into the data bank at some point in the future. But even if someone doubts that he/she is in a simulation, the historical trajectory leading up to simulations can itself be meaningfully deified as a providential force.

Typical arguments about simulism and intelligent design make the error that the mere fact that our universe contains more simulations than originating civilizations is reason to think we ourselves are in a simulation. In fact, even if this were true, it tells us nothing about what the sum total of reality might look like outside of our experience of the universe–just because it is possible and common to dream in our world does not mean that the world itself is probably a dream. Moreover, the premise that there are more simulations than civilizations does not mean there are more simulations than “random” conscious experiences of reality. In fact, for every simulating civilization in this universe, there must be many more seemingly random experiences of reality in the form of individuated lives born into it just like ours, to say nothing of the “consciousness” of animals and lower forms of life.

As far as I know, my original and unique arguments are those about the implications of ancestor simulations simulating themselves, the Boltzmann Brain analogy, and the connection of simulations with the idea of being trapped within a specific consciousness in itself requiring a sufficient reason beyond the mere existence of that consciousness in a universe in which everything else seems to happen for a reason (simulation provides the reason–the analogy would be Mario thinking to himself, “even if there are many Marios in the universe, why do I in particular exist and act in this way?,” the answer being that he is being simulated and played). The idea that certain interpretations of quantum mechanics suggest that the universe is a simulation in which only that which is consciously measured need be “resolved” also came to me spontaneously, but has likely been elaborated upon elsewhere.

QUESTION: In the first part of the argument, you define pure atheism as certainty that God does not exist and then reject the position as untenable. What about “atheists” who maintain that while God’s existence cannot be known for certain, they still believe that the preponderance of evidence goes against God? Are you falsely suggesting that because atheism and theism are both equally unprovable, it is most rational to be a pure agnostic?

I define pure atheism as certainty that God does not exist, and pure theism as certainty that God does exist. Since the issue cannot be known for certain one way or another, I dismiss both stances as an appropriate starting point for a debate and insist on beginning with some sort of an agnostic position. Someone who admits that he/she doesn’t know about God’s existence for certain is really a type of agnostic (even one who leans strongly in favor of God’s non-existence on the basis of the available evidence.) However, ultimately speaking, this debate over the definition of atheism doesn’t matter to the crux of the argument. The elegance of this defense of God is its insistence that there seems to be more evidence for a rational designer to our experience of reality than any alternative. At the same time, the very historical trajectory leading to simulation is similar enough to a doctrine of paradise and life after death to cause even those who doubt that they are in a simulation in the first place to be optimistic.

QUESTION: Why do you believe it is more likely than not that the universe as we experience it is designed? Isn’t this impossible to prove?

If a simulation ever simulated itself, a seemingly infinite loop would be created, and it is more probable that you are a member of this loop rather than merely the product of a single sperm and egg in an authorless universe. While data about alien civilizations is lacking, perhaps due to the fact that they are busy developing simulations rather than engaging in space travel, if one believes that human civilization is not unique and that simulations are indeed able to be developed, a whole battery of theological implications must follow. (According to the third point, there is reason to believe that the universe brims with very many civilizations committed to simulations as an extension of their rationalism, since simulations solve so many problems inherent to being social and rational animals, to say nothing of preserving the natural environment and conserving resources.) At the same time, even if we are not in a self-simulating ancestor simulation, the idea of being simulated seems a more reasonable explanation of the existence of my individuated consciousness than random chance–is Mario likelier to exist on one of millions of cartridges, or to be the single unique instance of his type? And does he leap over the pit randomly, or because he is “played”?

QUESTION: Is this really an argument for God?

Insofar as this is an argument for the existence of an intelligent designer being more likely than any alternative, then yes it is. Moreover, the fourth prong of the argument insists that an evolutionary process culminating in simulations can itself be meaningfully deified from a human perspective, insofar as simulations provide scope for solving many of the problems of the human experience.

QUESTION: Are simulations really inherently just? What about dystopian versions of simulations?

In the long term, it is possible not only to be distracted and entertained by simulations, but to learn from them and to enjoy great adventures unencumbered by the constraints and dangers of three dimensional reality. If the simulations are cooperative and sophisticated in nature, over time they will prove to be increasingly nuanced, fun, and interesting. Still, future civilizations must be vigilant when they construct simulations so that active learning continues to be fostered and world culture does not descend into a hedonistic turning away from reality. But insofar as future generations will probably be more intelligent on average than contemporary humans thanks to genetic engineering and the use of AI, it is likely that cooperative and interesting simulations will be preferred over the monotony of nothing but inane yet pleasurable simulations in the long run. Simulations enable great minds to explore the universe and probe the nature of reality at leisure rather than turning away from it. They allow limitless population growth and infinite wealth with no strain on natural resources. The horrors of the possibility of the creation of dystopian simulations are outweighed on a global scale, I believe, by the blessings of simulations in general. At any rate, since we inhabit a universe in which simulating technology is possible and in which technological evolution improves quality of life and fosters equality in the long term, we do not seem to be in a purely dystopian simulation.

QUESTION: Why don’t you argue that God is omnipotent?

Omnipotence seems to be a logically contradictory notion—insofar as an omnipotent God should be able to set limits to His own powers (for example, creating a rock He can’t lift), there seems to be a case of infinite regress. Moreover, could God make triangles and squares the same shape, or defy other mathematical principles? Or could He know the future but simultaneously be able to change it?  These sorts of paradoxes are avoided in this specific defense of God, which defines the deity as an intelligent designer working in the shadow of a providential force which can itself be worshiped.

***

10/16/2011

Next entry 10/30/2011 (Sorry for the delay.)


Kimel’s Defense of God Rephrased: The Red Horseman’s Concession

When I finished speaking, the fire surrounding me seemed to diminish and then disappeared entirely. The Red Horseman sighed. He closed his eyes with all his might and wrinkles appeared at their sides. Then he opened them and sighed again.

Red Horseman

I don’t want to cross examine you, sir. You’ve convinced me of everything that you’ve said. Congratulations on your rare achievement.

White Horseman

What sort of game are you getting at?

Red Horseman

I’m not playing games with you, and I won’t attack you merely for the sake of dialectic. Your “Proof of the existence of God” stands on four points, and upon honest examination, your overall argument that it’s more rational to believe in a Higher Power than to be any sort of atheist is both valid and sound.

White Horseman

You really aren’t going to debate with me?

Red Horseman

I’m really not. As I said, you’ve persuaded me. Consider everything that you’ve said point by point.

***

PREFACE: It is more rational to be an agnostic than to be categorically sure of a higher power’s existence or non-existence.

 

  • We can’t know for certain whether or not a higher power exists—to be a pure atheist (to believe with 100% certainty that it does not exist) or to be a pure theist (to believe with 100% certainty that it definitely exists) requires a leap of faith beyond what the available evidence can teach us. So, a rational person should approach the question of “God’s” existence from some sort of an agnostic starting point. If you believe the preponderance of evidence leans against a higher power’s existence, then you can safely lean in favor of doubting God and you can even call yourself an atheist of some kind (though not a pure one as Kimel defines the term). But the next points will show that there is actually a greater preponderance of evidence that a higher power really does exist than the depressing alternative.

 

POINT 1: You are more likely to exist for a reason than for no reason.

 

  • Even from our imperfect human starting point, we know that (1) we were all born after a period of complete oblivion, meaning that life after non-existence is definitely possible (2) most causes have effects, which act as causes in turn. Is it more likely that you exist for no reason or for some rational reason? Since everything else in the universe seems to happen for rational, explainable reasons, it is more likely that your existence follows this rule rather than breaks it. The next point will propose a rational reason for your existence.

 

POINT 2: A virtual simulation because you were born before “the singularity” provides a more probable reason for your existence than no reason.

 

  • If virtual reality is possible, future humans will be able to enjoy virtual paradises in which they essentially live forever as disembodied geniuses. The only way to incorporate the voices of their dead ancestors into the virtual database would be to simulate them perfectly, once. This is reminiscent of the doctrine of life after death, but provides a rational/scientific way it might actually happen. Is it possible that we’re really in a simulation? Not only is it possible, it is actually more likely than our not being in a simulation. We know: (1) we all exist, as if by magic, after a period of complete oblivion before we were born (2) life is possible without a wakeful 3-d reality (trees) (3) consciousness is possible without a wakeful 3-d reality (dreams) (4) rationalism is possible without a wakeful 3-d reality (computers). All this suggests that virtual reality is possible, likely, and, ultimately, just, insofar as the infinite utility of an immortal virtual paradise justifies the pain of being in a simulation in the first place. This argument puts an interesting spin on the so-called Boltzmann Brain Paradox; my consciousness is more likely to be the experience of a “brain floating in space” (a brain hooked up to a virtual reality smaller and less complex than the sum total of reality) than a brain caught up in an infinitely complex, random, enormous, and singular original reality. Moreover, if at least one civilization ever produced a simulation which simulated itself, a seemingly infinite number of individuals would be created–it is more likely you are a member of that teeming collection than an individual in an authorless universe.

 

POINT 3: The existence of simulations helps to solve for the so-called “Problem of Evil.”  Since a dedication to simulations is such a rational commitment, over the course of the entire history of the universe, it is likely that very many civilizations indeed turn toward the design of simulations.

 

  • Even if you don’t believe you are simulated, you should be enthusiastic about the development of simulating technology because it solves many horrific problems. Genetic engineering can solve the inherent injustices of the genetic wheel of fortune and render everyone a literal genius. It promises, too, the end of the slaughter of animals for food on the world stage, if artificial victuals can be created, and deeper in the future still, if virtual consciousnesses require no food at all, to say nothing of the solving of environmental problems in general such as pollution of the atmosphere, etc. Virtual reality can provide individuals not only with hedonistic pleasures, but with exciting artificial worlds in which ingenious voices can learn and interact for far greater periods of time than a contemporary human life span. In a virtual world, economic inequality becomes a thing of the past, as does fear of death. Even if you are a complete materialist, the promise of virtual reality is noble enough that the necessary steps to get there should be embraced as unmistakable strides forward in a great and noble enterprise. While there might still be unhappiness in virtual realities, such a future would still be unequivocally better than Earth as it is from a human perspective.  Since a dedication to simulations is such a rational commitment, over the course of the entire history of the universe, it is likely that many civilizations indeed turn toward the design of simulations, increasing the probability we are in one in the first place.

 

POINT 4: The historical trajectory that leads to simulation is close enough to God (life after death, a wiser higher power) to be meaningfully worshipped in its own right.

 

  • Virtual reality is ultimately a beneficial and just state of affairs, and the universe is constructed against all odds in such a way that this paradise can be achieved by even the likes of human beings. Insofar as it is more likely than not that we already exist in a simulation, and it is also definite that virtual paradise is preferable to the present, it stands to reason that (1) a higher power exists, in the form of designers of virtual reality and/or a force in the universe which is at least benevolent from a human perspective because it has the potential to result in virtual paradise  (2) even in the unlikely state of affairs we are not in a virtual reality, we should take steps to get there.

The Red Horseman saluted me and bowed with a flourish. At that moment, I lost every intention of throwing my stone at him.

10/2/2011

Next entry 10/16/2011


Kimel’s Defense of God: Four Reflections

Consider this fourfold train of thought.

1. Consciousness after oblivion is surely possible because every human being’s existence proves that this is so. Probabilistically, your singular and individuated experience of consciousness is more likely to exist for a reason than to be the result of infinitely random chance.

Is life possible devoid of consciousness, so that something can be alive but not even realize it? The existence of plants proves that this is so. Is rationalism possible devoid of sense perception, so that something can make accurate calculations but possess no conscious will of its own? The existence of automatons and computers proves that this is so. Is experience possible devoid of three dimensional consciousness? The existence of dreams proves that this is so. Is consciousness possible after total oblivion? Our own existences as human beings prove that this is so. After all, we were all effectively dead before we were born.

Thus, to begin with, our vantage point on the universe gives us good reason to be hopeful that chaos alone does not govern it. Again, we know that plants can be very much alive in our three dimensional world with no awareness of this fact—and so we, too, can potentially exist within a world of meaning that is all around us and yet beyond us. The existence of computers teaches us that the possibility of virtual reality exists—artfully constructed alternate worlds governed by the imaginations of their designers. But even beyond computers, every symbolic narrative is a sort of simulation, and every deliberate representation of nature a kind of virtual reality.

Is it possible that we could experience a vivid three dimensional reality that is in fact, to some degree, an illusion or a simulation? The answer must be yes. All that we know about our consciousnesses is that we came to exist after formerly not existing for a very long time, over which entropy increased. And so, if we have anything to go by, it’s that life after death in the face of rising chaos is certainly possible, insofar as it happened to all of us. Still, your existence here in this time and place seems infinitely unlikely. At the same time, even if someone with your general biographical details and attributes should exist, this does not explain why your consciousness should be the one experiencing their life. But can it be that everything else in the universe with the sole exception of your being trapped in your individuated body has some cause? It seems improbable.

For now, we’ve established that consciousness after total non-existence is possible, and that plant-life, the existence of computers, and the fact that we dream prove that a being can exist in one realm but be completely unaware of its greater context and purpose in another. In a world of great randomness, the central Cartesian insight cannot be denied by your imagination—cogitas, ergo es.  It would seem more rational to assume that you exist for a reason, which would give rise to your existence, than that you exist for no reason, which is almost infinitely more unlikely. If chance alone governed the universe, the odds would be too highly stacked against life in general, let alone the evolution of your individual consciousness—I’ve read that even forming a protein would be (2) (10^-32) unlikely.

2. You are more likely to exist within a simulation than to inhabit a designer-less universe; a future simulation is a more likely cause for your experience of consciousness than sheer chance.

We know that it is possible (and likely common in the greater context of the universe at large) to create machines which simulate conscious experiences of reality. But could the universe itself be a simulation? How can we even begin to think about this question?

Cogitas ergo es. Yet you seem far likelier to have been born a bacterium on a distant planet than a rational consciousness reading this narrative. Your existence is against the odds. But what might increase the chances of being born as you are in a universe such as this,which must contain many simulations of itself once rational consciousness evolves? Now, some say that there must exist a far greater number of simulated realities than non-simulated alternatives within our universe, insofar as every civilization would produce several simulations for every one reality. Yet the logic is unsteady. Even if our universe contains many simulations, there is no real reason to think that there exist more simulated conscious experiences of reality than conscious experiences by agents randomly born into it. Moreover, even if the universe itself contains many simulations, this in itself does not necessarily mean that it itself is a simulation.

Nevertheless, I think that the preponderance of evidence still favors simulism. It could be the case that we are all born in a random and infinitely complex universe governed by no designer. But be that as it may, given that a simulation of a universe engineered by conscious design would by definition to be less complex than an entire “real” universe, it seems more likely to me that we exist in a localized simulation within the sum total of reality than that our consciousnesses are random accidents in a needlessly complex random web of causes in a single unique universe which contains the sum total of reality (shades of Boltzmann). In a simulated universe, all that would need to be programmed is that which is sensed by consciousness; that which is unobserved could remain in an ambiguous probabilistic soup of less complexity. The model of being in a simulated reality designed so that only that which is observed must exist in a state that can be measured seems simpler than the alternative. Certain interpretations of quantum mechanics are compatible with such a view. Indeed, the very mathematical order and regularity of the universe, permeated throughout by order and progress and invariable laws, seems fully compatible with conscious design.

Yet for reasons even independent of these, I think you are likelier to exist in a simulation created by intelligent design than to exist alone and unique in the universe because of sheer chance. Consider Mario. He might imagine that he is completely unique in the universe and randomly came into being by a process of pixels spontaneously assembling (that is, he imagines that he is the one and only Mario on the one and only television set on the one and only game device in the entire universe, and all these devices came into being by random chance), or he might guess that he is one of a large number of similar beings conveyed on a large number of things called game cartridges that are deliberately designed. The latter is likelier than the former. Consider this scenario. If in the future, an archeologist discovers a single book from the lost civilization of 2015—and no other books survived—on what would you place a bet? That the book would be a popular one like The Bible or Harry Potter, or that the book would be someone’s single copy of a lost doctoral thesis? The former is likelier. For analogous reasons, Mario is right to begin to be suspicious that he is a unique thing. He is right to guess that he is likelier to be only a version of himself than the one and only version. And if he came into being by some process that worked over time, it is likely that the process would operate more than once and not only in his unique case. And the same is true of you—if you won the chance to be yourself, you are likelier to be one of many such winners than the one and only winner, because in any game of chance, the existence of more winners means more chances to win.

Remember, your possession of your conscious will in the form of an individuated consciousness is a separate fact from your mere existence. David Kimel might exist somewhere in time and space because a sperm and egg came together, but this fact is distinct from my actually being the one experiencing his consciousness as a singular rational entity. It would seem rational to assume that you exist as who you are for a reason, which would give rise to and raise the probability of your existence, than that you exist as who you are for no reason, which is almost infinitely more unlikely. If chaos alone governed the universe, the odds would be highly stacked against life in general, let alone the evolution of your individual consciousness—I’ve read that even forming a protein would be (2) (10^-32) unlikely. We need to begin imagining some kind of a process that could give rise to the experience of individuated conscious wills.

Now, think about Mario again. Even if he realizes he is more likely to be one of many Marios than the only version of himself, this would still not explain why he acts as he does–for example, why he leaps over a pit rather than into it. Of course, the answer why he jumps over the pit is that he is simulated to do it; someone is playing him. Simulism, or the ridiculous idea that Mario is basically a video game, doesn’t just explain why something called a “Mario” exists and that there are likely very many versions of him, but also shows why Mario is this particular Mario; why, for example, he grabs the coins that he does. The same is true of you. It could be the case that we are all born in a random and infinitely complex universe governed by no designer. But even if a sperm and egg came together to make you, this does not explain why you are experiencing your consciousness and not somebody else’s, or infinite other ones. Only simulism gives the answer. The only implausible alternative is that everything else in the world is something caused, except your possession of your own conscious will. The only answer to why you are yourself is either “this is the only thing in the universe that has no reason” or “I’m probably one of many versions of my consciousness, and I am being simulated to act in one way and not another, in the same way that Mario decides whether to grab a coin or not.”

The question arises, even if we realize that our possession of our individuated consciousness is a fact that is distinct from the facticity of my being (that is, the fact that David Kimel exists somewhere in the universe is a distinct fact from “my” (the author’s) actually being the individuated consciousness writing this document), and even if we concede that it is likelier than not the case that this fact exists for a specific regulated reason which increased the odds of my coming into existence as a member of a non-unique class rather than the unique result of random chance,(for the same reason that Mario should suspect he is a non-unique thing and that a random book from the world of 2015 is likelier to be The Bible than a random thesis), why should we suspect an intelligently designed entity is behind it all and not just some natural process we don’t understand (karma, etc.)

Now, imagine this possibility. What if in the whole history of the vast original universe, at least one original civilization existed that was so advanced, it started to deliberately construct simulations, even of its own past. Why would it do it? Perhaps to cure boredom. Perhaps to figure out all the secrets of the past. And perhaps even to download the conscious minds of all the poor suckers who lived in history before simulations allowed people live out their dreams. Regardless of the reason, imagine it happened even once in the whole history of the universe. What would happen when the simulation of history reached the point when the simulation itself was created ? The answer is, it would create a simulation of itself. Then, there would be infinite simulated realities. Now, what is likelier? That you are a single random combination of atoms that came together by chance and that you experience your specific life equally randomly, or that you are one of an infinite number of versions of yourself created when a single very unlikely simulation in an original universe simulated itself? The upshot of this is, that it is likelier we exist in a universe designed by a rational will than that we are alone in random space, and that life after death might really be possible. The original simulating civilization began an infinite regress; it itself came into existence by chance, or a regulated process beyond our knowledge that favors order over disorder and the rise of consciousness. But even if this kind of process operated at least once in the face of rising entropy in the universe, it’s likelier than not our own consciousness is in fact simulated; even the original simulating civilization would be right to guess the odds are against its being the originator.

What this implies about my “free will” is a separate discussion–for just as the eternal reflections of two mirrors facing each other fades away to nothing over time, each degraded version of the simulation might be a bit different from the previous one.

3. The existence of virtual reality can provide human beings with meaningful heaven on Earth.

If we can simulate intricate virtual realities in which individuals learn and interact as if in three dimensions, we can surely maximize happiness and minimize pain in the long run. Moreover, empowered by genetic engineering, we can, over time, produce a healthier and more able species less subject to the random brutality of the wheel of fortune. So, even if you don’t believe in God, technology promises you all the potential of heaven and even a kind of immortality if you believe in the power of computers to simulate reality.

We were not born against all odds into a world of chaos—we were born now, on the cusp of a great technological innovation that will come to change the very nature of human history. Unlike our ancient ancestors, we can declare confidently that the universe is not only scientifically tailored to allow for the possibility of conscious experience and the emergence of rationalism through evolution, but also that technological innovation equips consciousness in short order with the ability to effectively alter its own programming in accordance with its wildest dreams and concepts of the Good.

It could be that all this is random, but it seems more likely that we exist within a universe governed by a providential force that goes against the increase of entropy. This providential force, over millennia of evolution and centuries of technological development, can guarantee a kind of immortality in virtual paradises. Indeed, were society at large more rational than it is now, contemporary science should be frantically focusing on two goals—technology to allow bodies to be preserved awaiting the development of virtual reality, and the development of that virtual reality itself. On a universal stage, very many civilizations likely focus on just such goals, perhaps even more than on space-travel technology, providing a potential solution to the so-called Fermi Paradox.

4. Science itself can be meaningfully deified insofar as human experience can culminate in virtual heaven.

Ultimately, we do not simply inhabit a universe of random cruelty. In order for consciousness to evolve on planets in this reality we call the universe, generation, destruction, and change were necessary prerequisites, though these processes can result in heartache for individual human agents. But in short time geologically speaking, Nature equips consciousness with the means of its own salvation. Is the sole law of the universe that entropy increases? As humans, we know this is not the case. Atoms developed from their building blocks, stars formed, planets came into being, and life evolved, with complexity and the capacity for imaginative experience increasing rather than decreasing over the history of the universe. Insofar as this is true—since we were born after meaningful death, since virtual reality is possible and likely, since we are equipped to develop it, and since we know that we inhabit a universe in which all of this is possible despite the chaotic laws of thermodynamics, from the perspective of human consciousness, it is more likely that God exists in the form of a benevolent higher power than that we inhabit a truly random and aimless universe that exists for no other reason than a painful chain of endless cause and effect. What we call God can be synonymous with an advanced future civilization, the laws of science, or some greater force we can scarcely imagine. However we define it, though, it is surely a more noble entity than “nothing.”

So much for my defense of God, and so much for atheism—I now stand open to your cross examination.

9/11/2011

Next Entry 10/1/2011 (Sorry for the delay…)


An Introduction to Kimel’s Defense of God: The Irrationality of Pure Atheism and Theism

“I can hear it now,” laughed the Red Horseman. “You’re about to feed me the old lie about God’s very perfection necessitating the fact that He exists. After all, part of being a perfect entity is perfect existence, so if we define God as the greatest of all beings imaginable, anything that does not exist cannot be God, because we could always imagine something greater (a God that actually did exist).”

“That’s not what I’m going to say at all. My line of argumentation is actually along altogether different lines.”

“Then stop dawdling and get to it.”

With a glance toward the Lamb, I took a deep breath and began.

“I will, of course, never be able to definitively prove the existence of God to you or to anyone else. But I can at least provide good reasons to think that though atheism and theism in their purest forms are both irrational, nevertheless if we consider the evidence for or against God, the evidence for Him is in fact greater than the evidence against Him.

We need to remember from the outset that atheism in its purest form—sureness that God does not exist—is just as improvable as theism in its purest form—certainty that God definitely exists.  For this reason, as I’ve said before, it’s most rational to approach the question from the point of view of some sort of an agnostic: someone who admits that he is in fact unsure about the existence of God.

Now, as I define the term, the purest sort of agnostic would believe the evidence for God is equal either way, and not lean in one direction or another. Some agnostics, though, are more persuaded of God’s non-existence than his existence, and this is because, admitting that they can never know the fact of the matter for certain, they still think that the preponderance of evidence goes against God; at the same time, others might lean in the direction of God’s existence, thinking that the preponderance of evidence is actually in God’s favor. (Thus, many people who call themselves atheists are in fact types of agnostics, though leaning strongly in favor of non-existence.)

Either choice seems more rational to me than the madness of claiming dogmatic sureness on the issue one way or another.

So, to be clear, what I am about to specifically advocate is a type of agnosticism that leans strongly in favor of God’s existence. From this starting point, I’ll show you why it seems to me that the preponderance of evidence is in fact in God’s favor.  Keep in mind, however, that I am not necessarily talking about God as He is specifically defined by any single religion—nor am I claiming that God is omnipotent (for how could He create a rock He couldn’t lift, or make a square identical to a circle?). I am, however, talking about a benevolent and wise higher power, and the possibility of paradise on earth.

Now, consider these four reasons carefully why, from an agnostic starting point, a rational man should lean toward being a theist rather than the opposite state of affairs…

9/2/2011

Next Entry 9/11/2011


A Duel of Wits in Ephesus

I was led a long distance until we reached Ephesus, a settlement of many gates and towers. At its center was a great palace, the court of the Red King. We entered his throne room and my captors, having prostrated themselves, began to explain our presence there. He nodded apprehensively as they spoke. For my part, I stared at the man in mute awe. I recognized his face immediately from our former encounter, but still unaware that I was asleep, the similarity was more confusing than enlightening. He was no longer dressed as a horseman, but was crowned with laurel and decked in robes of scarlet.

At last, he addressed me.

“Why have you appealed to meet with me?” he thundered. “I’m a busy man.”

“I must strike the Red Horseman. Then the Black must strike the Pale. Then the Pale must strike the Black. Then I must strike the Pale.”

“Indeed?” he scoffed. “And just who do you think you are?”

In the crowd, I caught sight of the Lamb from the corner of my eye, and took comfort in his presence.

“I am the White Horseman,” I intoned.

The crowd burst into laughter.

“That’s impossible,” snapped the Red King. “He disappeared long ago, before the war of the Seven Cities established my ancestor as monarch of this place. Since that time, a great famine has blighted this land season by season, and to avert catastrophe, we periodically hold a Tournament of Fire. Is that why you’re here? Well, you couldn’t compete, even if you wanted to. Only three nobles from each of the seven cities can join in the game, with me and my two brothers serving as judges. The participants have all been chosen.”

“If you won’t let me compete,” I said, “then I’ll have to take your place as Judge once I execute you.”

“Are you seriously challenging me to a duel?” he growled. “I’ll destroy you.”

“You can try.”

A ring of fire suddenly blazed forth, with me and the Red King materializing at its center. At my side, I found my old slingshot, and one stone in my grip.

“If you really are the White Horseman,” hissed the Red Horseman, “then tell me—what did my ancestor challenge you to do in the original Game of Stones?”

“To defend the concept of God,” I said confidently, “and this is how I began:

‘God is love,’ taught Christ, but ‘God is dead,’ wrote Nietzsche. If so, Nietzsche is now in good company.”

“How did you know that?” cried the Red Horseman.

“A little lamb told me,” I said. “Now hear my defense of God, and give way.”

8/28/2011

Next Entry 9/4/2011


“You Have Appealed to the Red King…” (“And to the Red King You Will Go…”)

I did my best for many nights to control the content of my dreams, but to no avail. Whenever I found myself vaguely cognizant of my surroundings, I would either fly around at random and ignore the shadows surrounding me, or I’d repeat the same phrase again and again to everyone who encountered me:

I must strike the Red Horseman. Then the Black must strike the Pale. Then the Pale must strike the Black. Then I must strike the Pale.

And so it went, for many nights. For their part, the other shadows seemed uninterested in me. They were all discussing something called a Tournament of Fire to be hosted by three kings, not coincidentally called Red, Black, and Pale. But in my dazed state, the similarity of the names meant nothing to me.

Finally, there came a certain morning on which I needed to wake up for a meeting at 8:00. In my anxiety, I roused myself a bit too early, at 5:30, and returned at once to a deep sleep. This proved to be the occasion for the resumption of my nightly agency.

Alone in a meadow, I was preparing to take off into the sky when a hooded figure approached me.

I said: I must strike the Red Horseman. Then the Black must strike the Pale. Then the Pale must strike the Black. Then I must strike the Pale.

I then noticed that the face of the stranger, though hidden in shadows, was clearly not that of a man at all, but a lamb. Suddenly, my memories came pouring back to me, and I said:

“Do you remember that there was a contest once, to the death, in which four horsemen threw stones at each other and at a woman accused of adultery?”

“There is an ancient legend to that effect,” said the Lamb. “But the game of stones was never carried out to its conclusion. They say a clarion voice burst from the sky, unmistakable to everyone present, and scattered the assembly.”

“What did the voice say?”

“That’s been forgotten. It’s nothing but a legend now.”

I tilted my head to the side, confused. Then I intoned again: I must strike the Red Horseman. Then the Black must strike the Pale. Then the Pale must strike the Black. Then I must strike the Pale.

“Who do you think you are, the legendary White Horseman?” laughed the Lamb. “You’re obviously a stranger here.”

I must strike the Red Horseman. Then the Black must strike the Pale. Then the Pale must strike the Black. Then I must strike the Pale.

A crowd began to assemble.

“What’s he talking about?” barked an indistinct form. “Who is this man, and where is he from? Is he here to compete in the Tournament of Fire?”

“Doesn’t he know,” whined another shadow, “that only Nobility can compete?”

“He’s some fool, asleep,” whispered a third form. “Wake him up and be done with it.”

“No, leave me alone!” I cried. “I know my rights. Take me without delay to the one you call the Red King!”

The shadows conferred. Then a figure dressed as a guardsman said,

“You have appealed to the Red King, and to the Red King you will go…” and I was immediately thrown in irons.

8/14/2011

Next entry 8/28/2011


A Journey Through Seven Circles (On Chaos and Providence)

In my dream, I was transported to what seemed to be a chamber of fire, where all that was or is or will be formed a seething mass of sheer potentiality.

A voice intoned,

This is the sum total of Reality.

“But not for long,” I said, and at that moment, sensed a sudden expansion of Time and Space. Being came to grips with Nothingness and Existence conquered Oblivion—just barely.

In this universe, there is a Law—that chaos reigns. 

“And yet there also seems to exist a force for greater Order…”

***

Now, I was transported to a world of particles combining and recombining, a whole universe of generation, destruction, and change.

Again, a voice intoned,

This is the sum total of Reality.

“But not for long,” I said, and at that moment, sensed light bursting forth for the first time and illuminating the nothingness enveloping us, though no eyes existed in this universe to interpret the shine.

The Law is unchanging—chaos reigns.

 “And yet there also seems to exist a force for greater Order…”

***

Now I was transported to a world of great spheres of light blazing in the firmament before vanishing altogether or exploding in holy fire. Some of these suns were orbited by humbler spheres of solid and liquid and gas.

This is the sum total of Reality.

“But not for long,” I said, and at that moment, sensed a being that sensed me in turn, and then many millions of them, dancing and evolving with such rapidity that it boggled the mind.

The Law is unchanging—chaos reigns.

 “And yet there also seems to exist a force for greater Order…”

***

Now I was transported to a world of monsters—savage beasts feasting on each other’s flesh by land and sea, a kingdom of dragons but no chivalry.

This is the sum total of Reality.

“But not for long,” I said, and at that moment, sensed the monsters shrieking in agony before giving way to human beings.

The Law is unchanging—chaos reigns.

“And yet there also seems to exist a force for greater Order…”

***

Now, I was transported to a world of emperors and slaves shadowed by great colonnades wrought by the hands of the un-free.

This is the sum total of Reality.

“But not for long,” I said, and at that moment, sensed humankind developing a conscience, and Technology beginning to ward off Death.

The Law is unchanging—chaos reigns.

“And yet there also seems to exist a force for greater Order…”

***

Now, I was transported to my own city, a world of electricity and silicon and steel.

This is the sum total of Reality.

I sighed.

The Law is unchanging—chaos reigns.

“And yet there has always existed a force for greater Order…”

***

Then, at last, I was delivered to a final city—a world of robots and simulations governed by unadulterated imagination.

Now, this is the sum total of Reality. And in this seventh circle of Imagination and Reality united as One, I ask you, has the Law ever changed?

“It was and is and always will be unchanging,” I said. “There exists a force for chaos, and a force of a different kind too.”

In my hands, another seal on the scroll burst open without warning.

Then, I woke up.

August 7, 2011

Next Entry August 14, 2011