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WHICH GODS DO NOT EXIST?

No Gods Created the Universe

SYNOPSIS:

1)         Are science and religion necessarily at odds?
2)     Does the advance of modern science
3)     cause the retreat of religion?
4)     Is it possible to be a person of spirit
5)     and still believe in the wholly-natural origin of the universe?
6)     Does giving up pre-scientific world-views
7)     necessarily mean giving up all forms of spirituality?

OUTLINE:

I.   WHY IT IS NO LONGER POSSIBLE
            —NOW AND IN THE FUTURE
            TO BELIEVE IN ANY CREATOR-GODS.

II.   WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS OF
            LOSING FAITH IN A CREATOR-GOD?

III.   THE WORLD AS DESCRIBED BY FOLK TALES.

IV.   THE UNIVERSE AS DESCRIBED BY MODERN SCIENCE.

V.   RELIGIONS FUNDAMENTALLY BASED
            IN PRE-SCIENTIFIC WORLD-VIEWS ARE DOOMED.




WHICH GODS DO NOT EXIST?

No Gods Created the Universe

by James Leonard Park

1)        In all of the monotheistic cultures of the world,
2)     it is often asked whether God exists or does not exist.
3)     The assumption behind this simple question
4)     is that a "yes" or "no" answer can be achieved.

5)        But reality is not that simple.
6)     Human beings have created hundreds
7)     or thousands of conceptions of gods.
8)     Perhaps some of these gods do exist and others do not.
9)     Putting this another way, it might be that
10)    some religious beliefs about supernatural entities are correct,
11)    whereas others are mistaken.

12)       The case in point herewhether there are any creator gods
13)    can be separated from all questions
14)    about the effects of gods in one's personal life.
15)    If science leads us to give up belief in a Creator,
16)    this does not mean that we must automatically reject
17)    everything else we ever believed about spiritual matters.

18)        In other words, our spirituality need not be based
19)    on metaphysical beliefs about the origin of the universe.
20)    If we embrace the scientific method for understanding the world,
21)    how does this affect our forms of spirituality?

22)        Many of the formal religious creeds of the world's religions
23)    begin with the affirmation of belief in a Creator-God
24)   
sometimes several Creator-Gods.
25)   But beliefs about the origin of the universe
26)   can be separated from other beliefs involving God or gods:
27)   Did gods write or inspire holy books?
28)   Can gods change the course of natural or human events?
29)   Do gods care about how we behave?
30)   Do we live again after we die?
31)   Is god-talk a way of expressing our inward dynamics?

32)        If you became convinced that there are no Creator-Gods,
33)    how would this affect your present spirituality?
34)    After some re-thinking, would it be possible
35)    for you to continue to affirm what you know
36)    from your own personal inward experience
37)    without reference to the origin of universe?




I.  WHY IT IS NO LONGER POSSIBLE

            —NOW AND IN THE FUTURE
            TO BELIEVE IN ANY CREATOR-GODS.

1)         Every year modern physical science
2)     explains more and more about the universe
3)    
how it works and how it has changed from earlier forms.
4)     Most scientists now believe the universe began with a big bang.

5)         Natural science works by the scientific method.
6)     It is not a body of absolute truths, which never change.
7)     The method of proposing hypotheses
8)     and then testing their truth against competing conjectures
9)     will continue until the end of human history.

10)        As I write this at the beginning of the Third Millennium,
11)    natural science has been operating for only a few hundred years.
12)    But in this relatively brief time,
13)    we human beings have discovered much
14)    about the structure and functions of the universe.

15)        In the next 1,000 years, new discoveries will be made,
16)    which we can only begin to imagine at this point in the search.
17)    Natural science will create better hypotheses
18)    and find solid ways to test each conjecture,
19)    thereby always improving our theories of the natural world.

20)        Judging from the laws of nature that we have already discovered,
21)    it seems likely that natural science
22)    will continue in the same directions indefinitely.

23)        The picture of the world that has emerged from science
24)    has no need of any hypothesis
25)    of a supernatural origin of the universe.
26)    In other words, there is little or no reason to believe
27)    that this universe we all know and live within
28)    was created by some forces beyond the universe itself.




II.  WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS OF

          LOSING FAITH IN A CREATOR-GOD?

1)         Most people who lose their belief in a Creator-God
2)     give up all religious beliefs.
3)     If we discover one important thing we believed about God is not true,
4)     then we reject everything else that came along with that belief.

5)         In short, if the universe was not created by a Creator-God,
6)     then there is no God at all.

7)         But even if the universe had a completely natural origin,
8)     this does not mean that the life of the human spirit is impossible.
9)     We can be persons of spirit, even if the universe was never created.
10)    We can live deeply, even if the universe has always been here.

11)        However, perhaps faith in God as creator might be a metaphor
12)   
a statement that tells us more about the person of faith
13)    than about the origin of the universe.  
14)    Then such faith would be more like faith in God as father,
15)    which almost no religions take literally.  
16)    If you affirm faith in God as father,
17)    what does that mean for your inner life?
18)    Does it express a sense of dependence and creatureliness? 




III.  THE WORLD AS DESCRIBED BY FOLK TALES.

1)         Long before the beginning of modern science as we know it,
2)     human beings were speculating about how the world came to be.
3)     Of course, all human beings up until the advent of modern science
4)     believed in the world as they saw and experienced it.
5)     The earth seemed to be basically flat.
6)     As far as the eye could see, calm bodies of water were utterly flat.
7)     And above the earth and water,
8)     they saw the sun and moon and millions of stars.

9)         Any child of any period of human history
10)    would observe such a world.
11)    Likewise, children of all cultures can imagine stories
12)    about how things came to be as they are.
13)    Usually there were already stories available,
14)    which explained everything in the ordinary, observed world.

15)        We should note in passing,
16)    that such pre-scientific speculation
17)   
about how things came to be as we observe them
18)    does not necessarily have any religious content or meaning.
19)    It is just an accident of human history
20)    that some of the folk tales told about the beginnings of everything
21)    were integrated into systems of religious belief.
22)    A religious system could exist without any doctrine of creation.

23)        In pre-scientific cultures there was no separation
24)    of various kinds of information.
25)    All truth was held by the elders of the tribe
26)    and was passed on to children as they asked questions
27)    about the world in which they found themselves
28)    and about how they ought to live their lives.

29)        Thus, religions still alive on the Earth
30)    often have some beliefs that originated as pre-scientific speculation
31)    rather than religious revelation or spiritual experience.

32)        Research into the diverse folk tales of the human race
33)    has uncovered more than 100 different creation-stories.
34)    Since these stories arose in different places on the Earth,
35)    they are not compatible with one another.
36)    Some stories tell of animals mating to create the world.
37)    Others have supernatural gods at war, which resulted in our world.
38)    Sometimes gods and goddesses mated to give birth to the world.
39)    Whatever story the human imagination can conceive
40)    has probably appeared in some creation-story somewhere.
41)    Is the world a thought in the mind of god?
42)    How much of the world is illusory?
43)    Why is there something rather than just nothing

44)        The study of creation-folklore might be a first step
45)    for people raised in a religion with a definite creation-story
46)    to begin to question their own particular form of belief.
47)    When they see their own creation-stories alongside others
48)   
some of which are even more dramatic and interesting
49)    this should raise questions about their own belief systems.




IV.  THE UNIVERSE AS DESCRIBED BY MODERN SCIENCE.

1)         However, a different picture of the world began to emerge
2)     with the dawn of scientific investigation of the universe
3)     a few hundred years ago.
4)     The universe as described by modern science
5)     differs radically from the child-like versions of the world,
6)     which were based on everyday observation,
7)     unaided by any scientific instruments.

8)         It should be no surprise that science describes
9)      a different world than folklore.
10)    Unaided human sight sees one kind of world.
11)    But telescopes see a very different world.
12)    Instead of a flat earth with stars above,
13)    science sees billions of galaxies,
14)    of which our own Milky Way galaxy is only one.
15)    And our sun is just one of hundreds of millions of stars in our galaxy.

16)        How many galaxies are there?
17)    About 100 billion.
18)    To make this number comprehensible,
19)    consider that there are now about 7 billion people on the Earth.
20)    If we were to divide up the whole universe among ourselves,
21)    each person would own 15 galaxies!
22)    When there are 10 billion people on the Earth,
23)    each of them would own only 10 galaxies.
24)    And (as said before), each galaxy has hundreds of millions of stars.

26)        The universe as described by modern science
27)    is not a stable, settled world, as we experience the Earth.
28)    Rather, stars are coming into being and burning out regularly.
29)    Our own star
the sunis also in evolution.
30)    Eventually it will die by swelling to a size
31)    larger than the orbit of the Earth,
32)    which will end all possibility of life on this planet.

33)        But these facts about the universe
34)    do not rule out some forms of spirituality.
36)    If you accept the scientific description of the universe,
37)    how does this affect your form of spirituality?
38)    And if you were to study science more deeply,
39)    how might this change your religious beliefs?




V.  RELIGIONS FUNDAMENTALLY BASED
            IN PRE-SCIENTIFIC WORLD-VIEWS ARE DOOMED.

1)         Whenever a pre-scientific world-view is affirmed as an article of faith,
2)     that religion is not likely to survive the spread of scientific knowledge.
3)     Most modern religions have managed to adapt to science.
4)     The three-story universe depicted in the Bible
5)    
heaven above, flat earth in the middle, and water under the earth
6)     has not been held by Judaism or Christianity
7)     as essential to those systems of belief.

8)         The clue for surviving as a religion
9)      in the universe as described by science
10)    is to realize that the pre-scientific speculations
11)    about the origins of the world
12)    seldom were central to any of the world's religions.

13)        If a pre-scientific world-view is essential to your faith,
14)    what will happen when you finally have to admit
15)    that the world is much more accurately described
16)    by modern science than by pre-scientific folklore?
17)    If you used to believe
18)    that some pre-scientific world-view was essential to your faith,
19)    what do you think will happen to your faith
20)    when and if you embrace the scientific world-view?



draft cyber-sermon begun 3-4-2001; revised 4-8-2001; 4-16-2001; 4-17-2001; 4-29-2001;
5-26-2001; 6-16-2001; 12-9-2001; 2-24-2002 (line numbers added); 10-21-2002; 12-16-2002;
3-7-2003; 6-14-2003;1-3-2004; 3-18-2005; 11-2-2006; 10-2-2007;
1-18-2008; 3-3-27-2008; 11-23-2009; 6-28-2010; 10-13-2010; 10-20-2010;
3-24-2011; 3-26-2011; 8-8-2012; 5-28-2013; 1-31-2014; 4-17-2015;
1-5-2018;

AUTHOR:

1)         James Park began his college career in the natural sciences,
2)     earning minors in physics and mathematics
3)     before switching to philosophy and humanities,
4)     and then going on to Union Theological Seminary in New York City,
5)     where he earned a Master of Divinity degree.

6)         He strongly believes in the scientific method
7)     and the scientific world-view.
8)     Nevertheless, he has written five books on spirituality:

1. Spirituality without Gods:
     Developing Our Capacities of Spirit
The secular sermon above has become Chapter 1 of this book.

2. Our Existential Predicament:
    Loneliness, Depression, Anxiety, & Death
This book contains two chapters also published as separate books:
        Chapter 6 Existential Anxiety: Angst .
        Chapter 9 An Existential Understanding of Death:
           A Phenomenology of Ontological Anxiety .

3. In Quest of Fulfillment:
    Money, Achievement, Marriage, Children, Pleasure, & Religion .

4. Inward Suffering:
    The Dark Night of the Soul .

5. An Existential Interpretation of Paul's Letter to the Romans

    More information about these
and other books by James Park will be found here:
https://s3.amazonaws.com/aws-website-jamesleonardpark---freelibrary-3puxk/JP-CW.html


ABOUT THE NUMBERS ON THE LEFT MARGIN

    These line-numbers are intended to facilitate translation:
Each line of the text has a number.
The numbering begins again with each new section.
(Section titles themselves have their own numbering or lettering system.)
In most normal reading, these numbers can be ignored.
They are separated from the beginning of the line
by five spaces for single-digit numbers
and by four spaces for double-digit numbers.

    If this text is translated into other languages,
the same line-numbering system can be preserved in each translation.
This would enables readers who know more than one language
to compare the same text in different languages line-by-line.
This numbering system might even assist persons attempting to learn another language.


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WHICH GODS DO NOT EXIST?


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