“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.”
I want to preface this writeup by saying that I am a devout Christian. I believe God exists, and so on and so forth. I am not attacking the concept of a God nor am I shaming anyone for believing or not believing in Him, Her, Them, or It. The older I get, the more fond I am of the clockmaker ideology (I'm sure there's a proper title for it but I haven't gone through seminary. So forgive my mediocracy.) Basically, I believe that God set the processes that govern our universe in motion (made the clock), and prefers to sit back and let the proverbial clock tick. Therefore, I don't exist for a reason; I exist because of the biological processes that govern our world function in the way that they do. My parents happened not to be abstinent, asexual, or use contraceptive, and as a result I just happen to exist. Anyone who believes that they exist for a reason is naive and has far too much ego. You exist because your parents had sex. Nobody is "more important" to God's plan because God didn't create you with a purpose. God created the processes that govern this world, and those processes arbitrate your existence. But I digress. I'm not saying that I don't believe that God has the capacity to influence people, perform miracles, etc. I just believe he prefers to watch the clock tick.
I suppose that makes me an agnostic theist. Irony.
(Also, I can't find the quote that I wanted to use for this writeup... which makes me really unhappy. The Terry Pratchett quote will have to suffice.)
The concept of God is ubiquitous
Every culture seems to have come up with the concept of god, gods, or some sort of higher (or lower) form of consciousness or intelligence by which the universe is governed (that is, the sapience of the universe). I'm speaking in terms of broader cultures, I'm sure you could narrow down the scope until you found plenty of extant subcultures that neglect to touch up on the existence of God. But that's not my point.
Have you seen pictures of the sky with zero light pollution, in which the entire milky way is visible to the naked eye? If you take a moment to think about it, Homo Sapiens has existed under this sky for 300,000 years. Any sapient entity that sees the sheer size, beauty, the glory of the universe, has to be crushed under the weight of the universe. (Notice that I said sapient entity. This is because it is a topic of contention whether other subspecies in the human genus had burial customs, language, etcetera. But that's beside the point.) These people existed at a time when philosophy and logic were not developed. Until recent times relative to the length of the span of human existence, there were no "agnostics" or "atheists" or even terms for such things or the concept of such types of people existing. Any sapient entity born under their circumstances has to fathom up some god or another. Which is what happened; they fathomed up gods and passed their gods on through the generations in an attempt to explain the universe.
The same principle applies to other examples. We've all been awed by lightning and thunderstorms. Some people really connect with and appreciate the beauty of the mountains, or nature in general. It seems to be a byproduct of human nature for cultures (at least, primitive cultures) to fathom up gods in the presence of sense of awe.
Couldn't it just be argued that we were created by a deity to need that deity innately?
I believed this a few years ago, and I argued this at one point, but the older I get the weaker this argument seems. Yes, it is possible — anything's possible. I suppose whatever hot take on God you subscribe to could have created the human entity to have a desire to interface with Them. However, what logic could you come up with that backs that position? I find it much more plausible (and easier to argue, more "logical") that God simply set evolution in motion, and our desire to fathom up gods is a byproduct of the fact that our species happens to have a bigger frontal lobe than other apes. Instead of throwing our own shit, we come up with gods to explain away the universe.
Maybe They influenced evolution to create an entity that can fathom Them. There's no real way to know, but any intelligent person knows that the argument that's easier to back and has more reasoning behind it is the argument that they had ought to back.
Separating inspiration from mythology
I'm probably going to write a dedicated w/u about this in the coming weeks, but here's a snippet of what's to come.
As a Christian, I believe that much of the Bible is inspired by God to some degree, and I'm inclined to agree with the statement "all scripture is God-breathed". However, I also believe that much of the Bible is flagrantly a product of its culture, and is blatant mythology to some degree. If the writers of the scripture were channelling divine inspiration, it was being sieved through the human element, as well as their culture, the cultures around them, etc. Not to mention that the present-day form of the Bible are manuscripts of manuscripts of manuscripts of manuscripts (and so forth). Not a single original text remains.
The posterboy example of this principle is creation mythology. Is it possible that God created the world in seven days? Yes, I suppose it's possible. Is it possible that God made a person out of dirt and breathed on it? Yes, I suppose it's possible. However, it strikes me that there is more logic behind the argument that the creation mythology is the product of the culture that it was written in (or at the very least, that is a position that is easier to argue and easier to back.) When has logic ever led to anything but the truth? Conversely, when has clinging to tradition in substitution of logic ever led to the truth? That being said, I am guilty of believing in some elements of mythology, which I will touch up on in the next point.
If you're wondering, the hypothetically inspired element of the creation mythology would be that God created the world, while the hypothetically uninspired element would be that it was created in seven days. The universe is objectively billions of years old. We objectively did evolve from lesser forms of life. The universe is expanding, there is hard evidence in the fossil record. Clinging to tradition in substitution of truth is bad.
So why is there so much evil in the world?
I am a work in progress, and I believe two conflicting things. Maybe in the next decade one ideology will prevail over the other, or maybe I will continue to believe conflicting things. I certainly hope the right one prevails.
The first (and easier to back) argument is that, as a byproduct of free will, people are shitty; and the suffering in the world is the product of humans being shitty irrespective of God's will. Every human has their own 'will', every 'will' conflicts with every other 'will' to some degree, and we exist in a world in which just enough people are deficient in empathy for the world to be a shitty place. A lot of people seem to be deficient of empathy, and enough people are willing to shit on other people in order to have a higher quality of life. Consider the fact that most of our commodities take advantage of inethical labor hours (practically slave labor) from China, and the fact that we're raping the earth at an non-replenishable rate because nobody wants to have a marginally lower quality of life.
The second is the argument is what I was raised to believe and still believe to some extent, which is the fact that it is universally canon in Christian ideology (except maybe mormons) that Satan and his demons are present on the earth, and while they can't possess people, they can give them temptations to do bad things, and influence them to some degree. In absolutely no canon of Christianity is it believed that Satan and demons are present in hell; Revelation (which is, again, universally canon) states that they'll be put in hell only at the end of the world, and that they're present on the earth until then. (Therefore, under the institution of this hypothetical argument) the shitty things in the world are an enaction of Satan's will, and not an enaction of God's will.
Anyway, this has been quite a ramble. I want to assert that I'm not saying any of these things are the objective truth (except for where I do), this is just my subjective hot-take on things. I have the inkling suspicion I'll accumulate downvotes from this, but it's nice to put my thoughts into writing.