In Response to Sabine Hossenfelder on God

Sabine Hossenfelder, a fairly popular science communicator, says on Twitter, “I understand that some people believe in God, but I don’t understand how they manage to do that.”

Here’s my response, though pretty much all of it can be found in other words spread out in other essays in this blog.

To start with, it’d probably better for you to say why you think it’s irrational or otherwise wrong to believe in God so that I can refute it. I guess I’m saying that open-mindedness is or should be the default.

I think it’s okay to believe in God because I don’t rely on physicalist first principles in my ontology. I think doing so is tragically narrow-minded and limiting.

Nor do I think it’s necessary or wise to limit what you believe in to what you can imagine a possible mechanism for. The universe is mysterious, you don’t have to understand how something works to know it exists (we don’t even understand how magnetism, or anything else for that matter, works on the most fundamental level; see – Feynman on how magnets work), and it’s scientistic to assume that everything that exists is necessarily mechanistic in nature.

I also don’t think it’s necessary to dismiss any idea that’s unfalsifiable. There is meaning and metaphysical truth to saying “God exists” or “God doesn’t exist,” and there are observable consequences to that truth state. Scientific ideas may need to be falsifiable, but science isn’t the only legitimate means of knowing anything. It relies on hard empirical evidence, and there are more indirect, if indefinite, ways of inferring truths or probable truths. Only believing things that are provable/proven is too easy (their analysis being straightforward and relatively deterministic, almost algorithmic in nature) and fear based. (The desire for social status is a fundamental drive of humans, so academics would fear believing in anything that they can’t defend on academic bases because they’d be looked down upon. And there are other reasons we may fear the possibility of being wrong.) Making educated guesses based on personal experience, others’ experiences, heuristics, intuition, abstract/intangible perception, and whatever other bases puts more of our inherent mental faculties to work.

Another thing that tends to turn people off of the idea of God is Abrahamic religion. Their God is clearly depraved and anthropomorphic, as well as being self-contradictory (being all-loving yet vengeful, judgmental, warmongering, genocidal, etc.), to say nothing of the patent ridiculousness of the religion as a whole that’s tied with that God. The spiritualist God is much more sensible and beautiful, but it’s not what people think of when they think of “God” because of the stronghold religion has on society.

So, those are the reasons I think it’s not necessarily bad to believe in God. Now for the reasons I do believe in God.

I spent many years as an agnostic, until I came across Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch. Neale was at a very low point in his life, and out of frustration he wrote a “letter to God” asking questions like, “Why wasn’t my life working?”, “What would it take to get it to work?”, “Why could I not find happiness in relationships?”, “Was the experience of adequate money going to elude me forever?”, and “What had I done to deserve a life of such continuing struggle?”. He had prepared to toss the pen aside, when somehow his hand remained poised over the paper, then the pen began to move on its own. He decided to go with it, having no idea what he was about to write, and he wrote, “Do you really want an answer to all these questions, or are you just venting?”. That was the beginning of his conversation with God. God’s input eventually evolved into more of a “voiceless voice” in his mind. (God says He/She communicates with people all the time, especially via the imagination, and He/She only uses words when all else fails, because words are the most dynamic and hence the most easily misunderstood form of communication.)

Why was I so sold on this book/on the idea that it really was God he was talking to? Well, I’m really good at seeing all of the subtle flaws and shortcomings of people, maybe particularly in their writings, on a few levels: on the conceptual level, on the level of their actual motivations and intentions, on the level of grammar and whether they choose the best possible word for the job, etc.; and in the parts in the books where God speaks, it’s all absolutely flawless (in contrast to the parts where Neale speaks, which are more human). I’ve literally never encountered any text or speech so flawless in my life.

And I know that, obviously, someone who’s purporting to channel God is going try to sound as perfect as possible, but this is a matter of subtle things, unconscious motivation, cognitive perfection, and talent and grace at using language that you can’t do just by wanting to. It’s just like how an intelligent person can play dumb, but a dumb person can’t play intelligent, at least not to a discerning audience.

Furthermore, I perceived the “energy” behind the text–as in the messages it contains and the style in which it’s written, or maybe even something actually spiritual that’s inextricably connected to the text–as being absolutely, 100% pure. It was so pure and neutral that it was almost unworldly. (I guess it’s problematic to say that it’s totally neutral, because arguably if it were then he wouldn’t have had a reason to say anything, but it was neutral of biases or all but the most sublime desires/energies or whatever.)

Another thing that has made me think God likely exists is personal psychic experiences. I’m not talking about “religious experiences” or talking to God, but just witnessing my thoughts being shared with others, sometimes overtly enough to be beyond any reasonable doubt. The specific manner of some of this sharing, the way our minds are apparently connected, seems to indicate a level of unity or non-separation between beings, at least between beings that are close to each other in some way. So, I reasoned, if our beings are “locally” connected to each other, there are probably more and more universal/higher and higher levels of this unity, up to and including the ultimate level, a unification of all beings, which could reasonably be called “God.”

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