From Nothing to Something

(originally published in: http://www.sunstar.com.ph/davao/opinion/2013/04/04/uyboco-nothing-something-276011)

Photo by Smithsonian Institution
Photo by Smithsonian Institution

I received an email from a reader named Tony which goes:

I am an admirer and follower of your articles which are thought-provoking.  May I request your opinion to the statement “nothing comes from nothing” as this leads me to believe there is a God. Thank you for your free thinking.

Thanks for the kind words, Tony. To address your query, the statement you gave is actually one of the classical arguments for the existence of God. In Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas gave the Quinque viæ, the five ways, or five proofs of God. “Nothing comes from nothing” is actually the same as Aquinas’ second argument – the argument from causality.

In simple terms, this argument states that we observe in our world the phenomenon of cause and effect. Everything that exists has a cause, and that cause also has a cause, which also has a cause, and so on. If we keep going back, we will eventually bump into a First Cause that is itself uncaused – and that Uncaused Cause is what we call “God.”

Mike Licona, a well-known Christian apologist, uses this argument against atheism: “The Big-Bang actually creates a tremendous problem for the atheist. If nothing at all existed prior to the Big-Bang, then what exploded? Moreover, the atheistic view, that the universe is all there is, requires that the universe, for no reason, just came into existence out of nothing. But again, this seems absurd.”

Now this is a reasonable argument, but I would like to point out a few things worth thinking about:

  1. The argument itself may point to a creator, however, it tells us nothing about the characteristics or attributes of that being.  So now you have a “God” but how does that affect your life? What does this “God” want you to do? Is it even concerned about you? Is it good or bad? Is it omnipresent, omniscient, or omnipotent? Does it have emotions? And so on and so forth. All these questions cannot be answered by this argument alone. So if a particular religion uses this argument, they still have to make the connection between that creator being and the particular “God” they believe in. In other words, why should I believe that this being is Jehovah, and not Allah or Krishna or Jesus or Zeus?
  2. To claim that it “seems absurd” for a universe to pop into existence from nothing might not be as absurd as you think. On what basis is it absurd? Perhaps in the limited experience of humanity, that is true. But what if there were conditions beyond the current human experience and intelligence, in which something could come from nothing? One never knows. There are a few, natural phenomena which seems absurd at first but are genuinely verifiable, observable and accepted in the scientific community. The wave-particle duality of light, for example, which I cannot discuss here in detail because of space limitations. The short version is: there was an argument whether light was a wave (as in radio waves) or was it composed of particles. It could not logically be both. However, experiments have shown conclusively that it is indeed both, contrary to common sense and logic. Hence, one’s logic must give way to reality.
  3. What if that Uncaused Cause were the universe itself? For all we know, the universe could be one big sentient being and we function in it like our cells function in our body. Our cells live, grow, fight their battles and die without any conscious intervention from us. We could very much be in the same situation. So a deity might exist but it is oblivious to our day-to-day activities and in that sense does not require our worship or even our belief.

Perhaps, the deeper, underlying question here is “What meaning is there in life if there is no god and no afterlife?”

It is a valid question but not one which causes me sleepless nights. My life is meaningful because of the lives I touch and the lives that touch me – my friends and family. The way I see it, I get one shot at this life and I want to make the most out of it as I possibly can.

In the words of Seth Andrews, “Life is a precious, brief, fragile, amazing thing. And instead of being so fixated on living after death, I want to truly live before it. And be thankful, that against incredible odds, I was able to witness this particular part of the universe, with my own eyes, firsthand.”

Offending God

Is there really anything we can do to offend God?

Photo by JvL
Photo by JvL

Once, there was a devout man who saw a filthy, unkempt beggar just outside his house. He had pity on this beggar and invited him inside for a meal.

Before the meal, the man bowed his head to say a prayer of thanks. He had hardly gotten a few words out when the beggar suddenly started cursing God. He told the man, “If you want to feed me, just feed me, but I don’t want to hear you talking about God. God can go to hell for all I care.”

The host was visibly surprised and furious, “Don’t you know that if not for the love of God, I would not have invited you into my home? How dare you insult my God! Get out of my house at once.” And he shooed the beggar away.

God came to the devout man in a dream later that night and said, “That beggar has been cursing my name and spreading vicious lies about me for 18 years. Yet, all through this time, I have put up with him, fed him, kept him alive, and loved him. Could you not put up with him for a single meal?”

When we burn with righteous anger at other people seemingly offending God, is it really God who is offended? Or us?

Seeing God

Photo by Julianne Villaflor
The master passed by a preacher who said, “We should not be concerned with the world but with God.”

The master remarked to his disciple, “Wouldn’t it be better to see God in the world?”

“What do you mean?” said the disciple.

“The preacher creates a dividing line between ‘the world’ and God — implying that there are ‘godly’ concerns and ‘worldly’ concerns. But that line is an illusion and is the cause of much strife. Witness the wife who complains that her husband spends too much time at church, or the family that is neglected in the name of God.

That is why I say it is better to see God in the world. See God in your neighbor. See God in your wife and family. See God in your work, in your every action and in every person you meet. That way, everything you do will be a godly concern,” concluded the master.

Is there a God?

Photo by Dan Paluska
“Is there a God?” asked the seeker.

“Yes, definitely,” said the theologian.

“Of course not,” said the atheist.

The master smiled, then pointed to the theologian. “You are wrong,” he said.

The theologian raised an eyebrow while the atheist grinned like a schoolboy with a pocket full of candy.

The master then turned to the atheist, “Oh, but you are wrong too,” he said.

Now all three were confused. “But how can they both be wrong?” said the seeker. “What is the answer then?”

“There is no answer,” said the master.

“But why?” said the seeker.

“Because there is no question,” said the master.

Related Posts with Thumbnails