Saturday, October 08, 2011

Three Anecdotes Addressing the Existence of God

First Anecdote
I can only ever remember once praying for God to show me a sign of his existence, one night when I was lying in bed unable to sleep. That night I went on and on being unable to sleep, long after the time I would usually be asleep. Then I heard a small sound from the cat. I got out of bed and found that the cat had gotten hold of a gecko. I rescued the gecko from the cat, and then I could sleep.

Commentary on the First Anecdote
An action of God within the universe ought to be explicable also in terms of a chain of causes within the universe. Futile acts of interspecies altruism can be explained as an accidental side-effect of the development of intraspecies altruism that has survival value: is it foolish of me to see them also as signs of a merciful God working in the universe?

Second Anecdote
At that moment I was the closest I have ever been to committing a terrorist act. As I strode briskly from the station to the building where I worked, I was full of righteous indignation, and was thinking – still very idly, still not seriously at all – of the best mechanism for distributing a certain white powder to certain temples of Moloch in the City of Dreadful Night. In the middle of a pedestrian crossing the lace of one of my boots caught on a hook on my other boot, and fastened my feet momentarily together. My momentum carried me forward so that I teetered crazily for a moment and then fell flat on the pavement. I had my keys in my hand, ready to unlock the door of my office, and as I fell forward I lost hold of them. Sharing my forward momentum, they skittered ahead across the pavement and disappeared into a storm drain.

Commentary on the Second Anecdote
Is it foolish of me to see this as a sign signifying “don't do that”?

Third Anecdote
Every day I skim the news for some word of the long-running conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the fate of the refugees displaced the better part of a generation ago. There is never anything. Instead, almost every day I read of another conflict, involving similar numbers of people, about which the nations of the world complain continually. I observe one small nation against which the whole world is united, whose crimes are smaller than most nations and yet are the only crimes which the world condemns. I see that this is the only nation that you would find with the same name and in much the same location as you would 2800 years ago. I see also that this is a nation of people that were condemned for thousands of years for not having a nation, for being parasites on other nations. I see that this people have made an enormously disproportionate contribution to science and art and to the entire structure of modern Western civilisation. And I observe that the religion of this people is uniquely free of selfish meme material: it neither promises its adherents extravagant rewards in an afterlife, nor claims to be a universal religion that all men must follow.

Commentary on the Third Anecdote
One would think that the Jews would be the one people the 'international community' would be willing to cut a little slack, if they had any historical consciousness. The Chesterbelloc wrote at length about how the survival of the Catholic Church was a miraculous thing, how the institution was again and again on the point of becoming a lifeless shell but was then reanimated: but the survival of the Jews seems to me to be orders of magnitude more impressive. If there is anything miraculous in swimming against the tide of history, in maintaining through many trials an uncorrupted ideology that points to a just and merciful God, then it is the Jews who are miraculous.

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