Perhaps we shouldn’t be asking, “How?”

Anyone who regularly reads this blog knows that I ask a lot of questions about the nature of God and religion. As a skeptic, I have a lot of doubts about the existence of God and the human perception of God. Most of the discussion or debate I have on this blog centers around creationism and its relationship to science. But it occurred to me today that when we speak of creationism and evolution, we’re really skirting around a bigger philosophical question. Creationism and evolution are questions addressing how everything came to exist, which is an important question to ask. But there’s an even bigger question hanging over that logistical one: why was everything created?

I’d never really considered this before, because as an atheist and a scientist I believe that there is no why. If there is no God, and the universe is a system of logical and quantifiable laws, then why becomes a non-issue. But, if there is a creator, then surely we were created for a reason. This idea gets lost in the debate, and it’s something I would like to pose here in all earnestness. I am genuinely interested in hearing from religious people their thoughts on why God created man, the earth, and the universe. We can talk about how the earth and life were created until we’re blue in the face (and we often do), but if you’re going to argue that there is a supreme being who created the universe and everything in it, I would like a motivation to go along with that.

So I ask you, people of the internet, what are your answers? Why did God create the universe? Why did God create man? And, without being facetious, it would be wonderful if answers did not include lines such as, “He works in mysterious ways,” or “It’s impossible to comprehend God.”

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64 thoughts on “Perhaps we shouldn’t be asking, “How?”

  1. First of all we have have similar universal understanding of what is right and wrong (and of course some things belong in the grey). Humans universally agree that murder is bad and loving others is good, but why? If good and evil does not govern the universe, why are we inherently born with morals and values that guide us through life and challenge our thoughts through silent convictions? Okay, so I am asking a lot of whys because I am just as curious as you are. Let me break this down, people say God doesn’t exist because the world is shitty and bad things happen. This isn’t an unfair statement, however, we often forget people are really good at hurting other people. You may ask why are some people born into extreme poverty, it’s not their fault. Yes, it isn’t their fault, but as Americans, do we not support celebrities who make millions-enough to feed a whole nation? If people didn’t buy into it, what could we do with all that money they would have received to help others? So is it God who did this or people? We as humans have so many tools to solve the problem, yet we would rather buy things for ourselves and blame God (or a lack of God) when we see tragedy. Why? If people are concerned with poverty, why don’t they (with capable hands) not do something even if it’s little? I believe God created us because God loves us. If we were created without freedom to choose between right and wrong, then we are essentially loving conditionally because we were conditioned to. That isn’t a great reflection on a God’s love. We are quite self centered as human beings because we think that somehow we are the only people that exist. This is just one world, who knows what the other worlds are like.

    1. I would agree with you in regards to doing whatever we can to help our fellow man. My question is whether or not you need faith in God to do that.

      As for why there’s a universal sense of what is “right” or “wrong” I’ve thought that the motivation is self-interest rather than altruism. I don’t murder you because I do not want to be murdered myself. Laws about stealing, rape, and murder are self-serving: if it were OK to freely murder whoever you want or steal whatever you want, I would constantly be in danger of losing my life or my stuff. Are humans really born inherently knowing that, say, murder is wrong? Did you emerge from the womb knowing that, or did your parents and society teach it to you?

  2. You make a good point, however, restraining from killing is not motivated by self protection alone. The heart would become devastated by this as a result. When you think about it, there are certain people who grow up thinking nothing like the people who raised them. Some people naturally have an innate sense of empathy. I do not think people have to be taught lying is wrong to experience the guilt that comes with it. The reason we feel guilt is because we are motivated by love (which you call self protection). The power of love could not be so strong unless there was something more than the physical. So is love nothing more than protecting one’s loneliness? I must admit, you challenged me with a difficult question, and I know my answer wasn’t the best because I need more time to wrestle with it. My question to you is do you not believe anything supernatural has ever happened? Do you believe ghosts, spirits and miracles are all fabrication of our minds?

      1. No worries.

        You make a valid point about guilt. But as food for thought, some biologists and neurologists think that empathy evolved as a mechanism of self-protection. Just a theory, of course, but something that’s interesting to think about.

        I guess the best answer I could give you regarding the supernatural or the spiritual is that no, I don’t believe that such things exist, but I DO believe that people are experiencing something. I have no idea if that makes any sense. I guess a good example of this would be that I do not believe that ghosts exist, but I DO believe that people who claim to have seen ghosts or energies or whatever are experiencing something, that they aren’t crazy or just making it up.

        I’ve read a lot of interesting work done regarding logical explanations for supernatural things. There’s been a lot of work done with the concept of “infrasound” which is sound that our ears pick up, but is too low for our brains to process. A lot of scientists think that this explains that feeling people get that there’s “someone in the room” or that they’re being watched. There’s also been a lot of interesting research around the neurological basis for religious or spiritual experiences. Scientists have determined that the sense of “self” that we all have is rooted in the left hemisphere of the brain, and that the right side equivalent is a sense of “other.” In fact, some experiments have used magnets to stimulate certain areas of the brain to produce feelings that are extremely similar to those felt by people who believe they are in the presence of God or spirits, etc. It’s interesting to note that these feelings were elicited even if the subject did not believe in such experiences.

        So in short, no, I don’t believe that there are any supernatural events or phenomena. I believe that there’s a logical explanation for everything, even if it isn’t immediately apparent.

  3. God created man as a participant in His will.

    All things are subject to physical laws which places them in a finite existence.

    Human beings though finite are endowed by their Creator with the capacity to take part in God’s inner life.

    That is we may choose to understand and follow God’s will.

  4. Your reply was certainly interesting and informative. It’s rational to be skeptical of people who sense ghosts or have a heightened experience of self. Those things could easily be us psyching ourselves out. On the flip side, we can say we are affected by all of these physical factors, but that doesn’t explain why we as human beings are so incredibly complex to begin with. There are some things science cannot explain, situations like near death experiences, and miracles. Granted I have never seen an actual miracle that defies nature, but it takes more faith to deny others have. Although I am no longer a church going Christian, I remember a pastor’s wife telling her story of how she witness a blind person who received sight after she prayed over him/her (cannot remember gender of person). I know this is hearsay, but it’s really hard for me to believe that she was so crazy as to lie about something so serious. But more importantly, near death experiences are quite out of this world. People have such similar experiences and some of them didn’t even believe in God in the first place. I know this doesn’t relate much to what you wrote because I do not have the scientific mind you have, I speak from a philosophical/theological point of view, so I do apologize if this is not a smooth continuation to your reply.

    1. No apologies necessary. I would never insinuate the blind woman was lying. But without knowing all of the circumstances surrounding the woman and her blindness, I can’t really speak either way. Perhaps there was a perfectly rational reason why her sight was regained. Perhaps it was a coincidence. Perhaps it was supernatural. I don’t really have enough evidence to make any sort of an evaluation. But you do bring up an interesting point.

      I have my questions about prayer. People pray all the time for things that never happen. I’m sure that there are plenty of people who DO die despite the fact that they have family and friends who prayed for them. So what am I to make of that? That God didn’t care for this particular person? That the family didn’t pray hard enough? In situations like the one I’ve just described, a lot of people would say that “it was God’s will” that the person died. In which case, I have to ask what’s the point in praying? If the power of prayer is a real thing, then it would mean that God has no master plan. If any Tom, Dick, or Harry, can just pray for something to happen, then God becomes a lot less potent, doesn’t He?

      1. You’re right in thinking there could have been a logical explanation. I wasn’t even there, but I do remember feeling a little startled. The problem with me is I believe in people’s goodness more than I should. As to answer your question, I think you hit the nail on the head with prayer. If God indeed has a master plan, why would God answer every single prayer? If God does answer prayers, I don’t think people would attribute it to God anyway. If God works in little ways, it goes unnoticed by the human eye. People would still find a natural explanation around it, so it’s hard to say what prayers God answers or doesn’t answer. My assumption* is God answer the prayers that go with God’s plan. Humans think death is the end, so if God doesn’t save, God is allowing someone to die. But if death isn’t the end, then God is not wrong for not answering prayers. We are attached to the physical world, but God sees the whole picture. As I am writing this, I feel myself becoming more and more vague because the question of prayer seriously perplexes me, just like everything relating to God. This universe is so fragile, yet just viable enough. If the conditions were different, we couldn’t survive. To have this kind of a balance in comparison to the universe we know of that do not have the same conditions to sustain life the way we do, to me, says there is a God.

      2. I am also perplexed by these things, and I appreciate you bringing your unique perspective to the conversation.

        Perhaps there is an infinite number of universes, in which case the immense improbability of the conditions being just right for life (at least life as we conceive of it) isn’t really that remarkable at all. If there are an infinite amount of universes, and all possibilities exist, then there were bound to be universes where the conditions were just right?

  5. I appreciate your perspective as well, it’s incredibly refreshing to talk about God without feeling harsh judgement. How do you suppose there was even something for an infinite universe to start? I guess if you say infinite, there is no beginning, but it’s hard to fathom something appearing with no consciousness to create it.

    1. I’ve often thought about that, too. But isn’t that what people assume about God, that He has always existed? Because if God hasn’t always existed, then that means something or someone else created God, and so on ad infinitum. If people can believe that God is infinite and has always existed, why is it such a stretch to assume the same of the universe?

      I try my best to make this a no judgment zone. I want conversations to be productive. Plus, at the end of the day, I really have no right to pass judgment on anyone else.

      1. I guess what I call “God” is what you call the “Universe.” This is the hardest question you have asked thus far and I am completely stumped as to how God was created. Either way, there had to have been a consciousness, whatever it may be.

      2. The thing about believing in God is some things just don’t make sense, just like believing in Science, some things still don’t make sense. Either way, there is a level of faith that cover the grey areas for both sides.

  6. Well, I will grant you that there is uncertainty in science. However, what you call faith I would respectfully submit is actually probability. In other words, what is reasonable to assume and what is unreasonable to assume? Sure, some things are assumed, but they have a high degree of probability based on observable evidence and mathematics. To use an example from another post: I flip a penny twice and come up with two heads. I then assert that the next flip will result in a tails. Does that really require faith? There’s a degree of uncertainty–it’s impossible for me to know the outcome ahead of time. However, probability would say that it’s not at all unreasonable for me to make this assumption. The odds of flipping a third heads would be 12.5%, while the odds of flipping a tails remains 50%, therefore it’s more reasonable for me to assume the next flip will be a tails.

    I personally then link this back to the God/science assertion that both require a degree of faith. Science makes assumptions, but they are not blind assumptions. Rather, they are predicated upon a probability and observable evidence. I do not think that the same could be said of God, which requires a blind faith in the absence of tangible evidence or an ability to test.

    1. I see your point. Fundamentally, aren’t the conditions of the universe based on extremely low probability to begin with? To the point of being almost mathematically impossible? So fundamentally you have to blindly believe that the lowest probability of the universe existing on it’s own is possible just like I blindly believe God created in improbable world. Does this make sense?

      1. It does, unless of course there are infinite universes ;). Or if this universe is just one in a never-ending cycle of big bang/big crunches.

        I certainly won’t pretend to have any of the answers. And there are probably physicist and mathematicians who could answer that question far better than I could. I think it’s fun and interesting to speculate on all the possibilities.

      2. Well i don’t deny there are infinite universes. One universe existing the way it does now is surprising enough to me, but if more exist, we would still be speculating forever and ever!

  7. I want to correct my grammar, but I cannot edit anything. Hope you don’t mind reading around my confusing sentence structures and occasional bad grammar. English is certainly not my first language. 🙂

  8. hullo. firstly i’d like to say the discussion (between ryan59479 and trangworks) thus far has been extremely intellectually stimulating and i thank you for that.
    i’m a muslim so what i’m about to offer is my attempt at conveying the message that islam teaches; merely an attempt because i am imperfect and still trying to be a good muslim.

    there’s a short, medium and long answer.

    short answer: God created us to worship Him. He does not need it, whether or not we worship Him has no effect on Him, instead we are the ones who stand to lose out, so to speak.

    medium-length answer: we can continue to ask ‘why did He create us to serve Him if He doesn’t need us?’
    in the Qur’aan it is written that the angels themselves asked God why He was about to create man, when man would be ungrateful and spread mischief in the land. God told the angels that He Knows what they do not.
    and then we can ask, ‘wait a minute, why are there angels? surely He doesn’t need them, so why are they there in the first place?’
    unfortunately there is only so far we can question before we hit the point where we have to just accept it. as a muslim my understanding is that God’s Knowledge is infinite, and what we are capable of knowing is but a speck of a sum we cannot even begin to quantify. would it make sense for us to be labelled ‘creation’ if we were to have the understanding and knowledge of the same level as a ‘creator’?

    that is the limit of our nature; there is only so much we can comprehend. i like to use this analogy of an ant walking across a computer keyboard. it might be able to perceive the letters as it walks past. maybe the ant might guess these arrangements of different-colours on a largely-uniformly coloured surface means something, but can the ant figure out that that is the ‘Alt’ button, which when pressed with the ‘Ctrl’ and ‘Del’ button, invokes the task manager on a computer running Windows? statistically speaking i’m sure there is a non-zero numerical probability, but it is so small that i should deem it negligible. point being, there is only so much the little ant can understand.

    bring in a whole colony of ants and maybe they can understand more, but well i guess that’s the limit of that specific analogy. the point still stands in my opinion.

    long answer: before we can even start quoting a holy book and telling people that ‘this is the word of God’, we need to ascertain for ourselves that it IS in fact the word of God. fortunately there is a logical process we can go through for us to analyze a text. if it passes all the tests, i personally believe it is extremely hard to find any other explanation other than that it IS in fact the word of God. so here are the 10 criteria for a holy book (as taught by my teacher, Ustaz Zhulkeflee Haji Ismail):

    1) there is a clear and obvious claim in the book itself, saying it is the word of God (this is rather obvious). it doesn’t matter if everyone says it is but the book itself keeps mum about it.

    2) it is unique and inimitable in its style (e.g. language, writing, recitation etc.)

    3) it contains absolute principles: principles that were applicable since the time the book was revealed, still applicable, and will always be applicable. for example, treat others with respect, or obey your parents, or do not spread mischief in the land. these are things that have no two ways about them.

    4) it contains no discrepancies or inaccuracies. i am aware that sometimes people pluck out specific or parts of verses from whatever book, and then dissect or casually compare it with yet another incomplete specimen and jump to the conclusion that they contradict one another. i have seen such examples from the Qur’aan as well as other books. oftentimes the misunderstanding can be cleared up by reading the verses before or after the ones in question, and suddenly everything makes sense. quoting out of context is also a common tactic some people use in an attempt to discredit a source; however i am well aware that the people reading this are intellectuals and therefore free from such…brashness? carelessness? i can’t find the word haha

    5) it contributes to the wellbeing of people of all levels (regardless of race, class, size, you name it_

    6) some prophecies proven to be true (e.g. something is said in the book and later on that thing really happens. for example in the 111th chapter, it is said that hell would be the dwelling place for this man Abu Lahab, for his outright rejection of the truth and refusal to submit to God’s Will. When the prophecy was revealed, that man could have easily proclaimed submission, said it in public for all to hear, thus easily proving wrong the prophecy. But he didn’t, and it is not a cover-up either, for many historical sources speak about that man, and all were consistent in their account)

    7) scientific research validates data in the book. yes, science and religion are really not on opposite ends. God commands us in the Qur’aan to study the world, travel, and seek knowledge, for it is through that process that we can see His Greatness and get closer to Him. (example: chapter 23, verse 12-15)

    8) it must remain preserved and not tampered with. an example is how the Qur’aan is recited in exactly the same way in every part of the world, and has been that way since the Prophet (peace be upon him) recited it. Test it yourself, ask any muslim to recite the Fatihah, record it, and go around collecting samples, then compare. they will all recite the same thing, with no rearrangements nor additional or redacted words or verses. ok i just realized there’s youtube too haha

    9) it must speak of God and His Divine Plan. another obvious one.

    10) it is universal in appeal and application. this means it has, is and will always be relevant.

    so if we find a book that satisfies the ten criteria, we have no other plausible conclusion other than that it is the word of God

    more information can be found at http://criteriaforaholybook-quran.blogspot.sg/ , should anyone be interested. should you want to look things up in the Qur’aan, there is http://quranexplorer.com/quran/

    1. Wow, thank you so much for such a well thought out reply. I really appreciate someone bringing a Muslim perspective to conversations such as these. I feel that most the time the Christian perspective dominates these conversations, so it’s refreshing and interesting to get the point of view of another religion.

      I understand your point about having to just take or accept certain things beyond a point, and I will definitely admit that we do this in science. I guess my only follow up to that would be that, I personally feel at least, science makes assumptions that are the most probable. I guess I can’t really speak to the probability or improbability of a creator, since it’s not really possible to quantify or test that.

      Your criteria for analyzing a holy book is certainly interesting. I can’t really argue with a lot of the points, but I would point out that in the Christian bible, at least, there are a lot of things that don’t really carry over into modern times and that Christians don’t practice anymore. Like slavery. I don’t think that an intelligent atheist or humanist or whatever picks such things out of the bible without context; rather, they pick them out specifically to highlight that a lot of religious texts were only relevant when they were written. Times change, societies change, our understanding of things change, and our values change. I’m not sure I follow the wisdom of following any book that was written a millennium ago. And to be fair, I don’t think that this strictly applies to religious texts. This applies to any text. The same could be said of the US constitution. It’s not even 300 years old and already I’d say it’s outdated. How could the founders have known about assault weapons when they wrote the second amendment? I feel like that kind of disconnect carries over into any text as it progresses through time.

      I’d also say that while yes, religion has often been a driving force for good throughout the ages, a lot of people would argue that it’s given us some pretty dark times: the inquisition, the crusades, ethnic cleansing, civil war–all over the interpretation of the words in a book.

      I will definitely take a look at those links you posted below, because I will freely admit that my knowledge of religion only goes as far as Christianity, and I should understand different perspectives. Thank you very much for the value that you added to this conversation! 🙂

      1. oh also on the point of war as a result of religion. sometimes some of the bad things happened for political reasons but under the disguise or excuse of religion. other times the initiators are an exception, rather than the norm, of followers of whatever faith. certainly it would be unfair to put the blame on religion, as that group chose to misinterpret or deviate. i think of it in this way: road traffic accidents take many lives and cause much grief. these accidents involve automobiles. however to say automobiles are the cause of such incidents is not accurate, as it is the people who chose to drive in a reckless manner who are to blame (but sometimes even the most law-abiding drivers get into accidents, not a perfect world haha).

        likewise religion has been sent as a guide but if people choose to twist the words to serve themselves then well it’s their fault.

        which is also why we need to ask ourselves if what we are following or want to follow IS in fact guidance from Above. if it is, then we’re safe, cos God is All-Knowing, and therefore what He Commands ain’t gonna be flawed etc. but if what we are going to base our faith on has been manipulated and edited by the hands of man… then we got trouble.

        when it comes to principles that carry over to modern times, the Qur’aan is just that. i agree with you that some of the things that might appear in the Bible are not applicable today but then that brings us back to the question: is it in fact a holy book?

        i can speak instead of the Qur’aan. an example of something that used to be unacceptable but is seemingly everywhere and event encouraged in some societies, is adultery. Islam is clear in its stand to the extend that God didn’t just say ‘don’t commit adultery’, instead He said in the Qur’aan (17:32) And do not come near to adultery, it is a shameful deed and an evil, and opening the road to other evils.

        many people might argue that sexual relationships before marriage can be a healthy thing, a normal thing etc. but if we look past all these things, we see a host of potential or existing problems: children out of wedlock, and sometimes the father runs away, STDs, unexpected pregnancies, tension in a marriage because of a spouse’s past (some wives are not cool with bumping into a woman her husband had slept with in the past and vice versa) and so on. the society has to deal with all these things and come up with fixes and what have you, when Islaam gives the simple answer:
        stay away from anything that might lead to adultery.
        pornography? out. boy-girl relationships? out. teenagers being allowed to mingle freely and unsupervised? out.

        the guideline is there, but whether people choose to follow or not is up to them, and what they gain or lose is in the end theirs and theirs only.

        another example of absolute principles is alcohol being forbidden to muslims. sure, a small quantity of wine a day has been shown in some studies to be beneficial to the brain, but then we gotta weigh all the good against all the bad. and then we find that alcoholic beverages cause a Lot of problems. drunk-driving, violence, being piss drunk and not wanting to work, poor decisions, getting taken advantage of, there are a lot of things. there wouldn’t be an alcoholics anonymous if drinking was an okay thing. there wouldn’t be an age restriction if drinking was really all that fine. yes we can argue that adults should be responsible for their drinking and whatnot but Really now… have adults proven capable of that? a number don’t even read their history books, and go out and make the same mistakes that will hurt millions of lives (i.e some politicians hahaha). truth be told, many adults don’t really make good decisions when it comes to a lotta things (read something about this somewhere, can’t remember).

        and so if they were to follow the guidance sent from Above then they’d be safe. but again, there is no compulsion in religion (1:256), and people are free to choose how they act. perhaps today alcoholic drinks are seen as okay, but with time, more and more people will see that they only bring about a lotta problems, and maybe even more scientific findings will surface, encouraging people to stay away from dem drinks.

        i’d be glad to give more examples but i think it would make more sense if you had any specific things that you think were applicable once but not anymore, then we could discuss that.

    2. As I re-read your reply, it occurs to me that your answer to the question I put forth to the blogging community kind of took a metaphysical form. Please understand that I’m not saying this as a criticism, but the idea that “god knows what we know not” is just another form of the “He works in mysterious ways” or “It’s impossible to understand God,” arguments.

      Regardless of what God knows and what we know, I would say that if he created us he must have done so for a specific reason. Whether or not that reason is revealed to us in scripture or God is just saving the big reveal for a later date is inconsequential to the fact that, if He exists, and if He created us, He did so for an express purpose.

      To your short answer: if he created us to serve, but is not dependent upon our servitude, then why even bother creating us at all? I also think that “creation to worship” speaks to a general anthropomorphizing of God. One can say God created us to worship or God created us to love him, but both of these statements speak to the same idea: that God is vain. God, an omniscient, ever-powerful being beyond time and space has human insecurities? The omnipotent God is emotionally clingy, so he created things to love and worship him? If this truly is the case, an atheist would argue that this does not speak to any sort of omnipotence.

      I very much appreciate the fact that you brought the explanation given in holy text to this discussion. However, I would press you personally to answer beyond what the book says. What do YOU personally think the reason God created man is? Surely you must interpret those words from the Qur’an in your own way, or have your own unique thoughts about why your creator created you and the rest of us. I would like to hear about THAT, please.

      1. I am going to admit, I do not know a lot about the Quran, but your post was enlightening and I appreciate you sharing this Shard! I wish I could say more concerning the Quran, but I do need to do more extensive research. I want to take this time to speak on the behalf of Christianity and the Bible even though I don’t consider myself “Christian.” I think mainstream Christians have caused major confusion concerning the Bible because they insist it is the “Perfect word of God.” The 66 books (plus or minus some depending on sector of society and how strict their beliefs are) in the Bible were written by many authors over the course of thousands of years. Every single text written in ancient times is considered outdated, but NOT irrelevant. This is probably the biggest misconception about the Bible, which comes down to its validly. We tend to reference Plato and Homer with no problem, but when the word “Bible” is mentioned, people cringe. The Bible is not one book, it’s a cannon. Not only is this, but the surviving manuscripts concerning the New Testament is overwhelming in comparison to any other books in ancient history (and by a landslide). It is true that the Bible has discrepancies, but we really need to look at whether the discrepancies actually matter. The authors were flawed human beings; they tried their best in a day and age where there was no printing technology or spectacles to aid the scribe in the process of writing down their experiences. Sure, they made spelling errors, skipped a line or two in copying and even added on their own theology, but each little error, no matter how insignificant is counted as 2000 variants. So when scholars say the Bible contains thousands of variants in error, the public misinterprets this as thousands of errors period. It is very surprising that most of the errors are absolutely insignificant, but some are extremely significant and perplexing. I cannot speak on the behalf of the Quran because it is a revelation given to one man (Muhammad), so the style of writing will obviously be much more unified in style and theology. When people say “Jesus never existed,” it completely baffles me.

        There are over 30,000 manuscripts that survive today concerning the New Testament alone, granted some are fragments, but still comparable. Over 5000 in Greek, 10,000 in Latin and 8,000-10,000 in other languages combined. Scholars agree that the gospel of Mark was written no later than A.D. 60, so we are talking a gap of roughly 30 years. Even if there are those who think the manuscripts are as late at 100 years, my claims of Jesus manuscripts appearing earlier than any other figure still stands. The earliest manuscript written about Alexandria the Great came from Arrian and Plutarch, and was written roughly 400 years after his death. The mainstream public tends to think these are reliable and accurate sources that speak of Alexandria’s life. There are less than 10 decent books (5 to be exact) concerning Alexandria the Great, but compare this to 30,000. Add 30,000 onto the vast amounts of manuscripts Constantine had burned due to heretical messages. How could Jesus be that insignificant of a figure that this would all come about? Let’s look at Buddhism, the first good manuscript concerning the life of Buddha came after the Christian era surprisingly. When you look at all the important figures in history, the manuscripts of Jesus is so overwhelming that there is more about Jesus than all these historical figured combined.

        I would also like to point out that many people say the Bible was used as a form of power and control but Christianity didn’t even become official until 300 plus years after the death of Jesus. Before this Christians were fed to lions as a form of entertainment. Tacitus and Josephus, two great historians and scholars of that time, wrote about how awful Christians were treated because the government at the time opposed the views of Jesus. There was absolutely nothing to gain from spreading this message early on. I know I am writing way too much, so I will put a cap on this for now.

      2. To be perfectly fair, the Romans would feed anyone to lions for entertainment.

        I wouldn’t argue Christ is an insignificant figure for precisely the same reasons you pointed out. But does the mere fact that something has longevity really speak to its validity? If the human race died out tomorrow and 1000 years later aliens landed on the planet and discovered a “Harry Potter” book, what would they say about that? “Gee, look at how many copies were printed! Look at how many languages it was translated into! Look at all of the scholarly articles and tangential works derived from it! Truly, this Harry potter was a real, magical person or else people wouldn’t have written so extensively on him!”

        Now, I’m not trying to argue that Jesus was invented for entertainment purposes, obviously. I’m just trying to make the point that longevity does not inherently ensure validity.

      3. haha yeah, i acknowledge that as well, it does somehow bring us back to that which you didn’t wanna hear in the first place :p

        of course, i’ll tell you what i think.
        initially i did ask those questions: why create us if He doesn’t need us? i knew for a fact that the ‘need’ was one way; it made no difference to Him whether or not we loved Him, rather by us loving Him we were safe and guaranteed goodness.

        and why create angels when He can just do as he please? why allow the devil to wreak havoc when he can simply destroy him? why even create him in the first place?

        and then i realized i could go on, and on and on.

        that’s when i came to my first realization that there is no use in probing so deep into anything, for it can lead to many dangerous paths.

        secondly, i learnt that ‘Islaam’ means ‘submission to the Will of God’. and that’s when i had to stop and ponder… what it meant to me was that i had to put aside my ego and my questions and my vast intellect (yeah right) and acknowledge that whoa, some things were just Beyond me.

        and then when it comes to prayer, part of it is to prostrate. that literally means putting your face to the ground. i mean how LOW can a person bring himself?

        that’s when it started making sense to me; i would not submit myself to anyone but God, and five times a day i was putting myself in a position that said ‘i am nothing, everything i have is from You, you are the Greatest and i acknowledge that’

        that linked to ‘faith’, or what we call ‘imaan’. and the word ‘imaan’ can be linked to the arabic root word ‘amn’ which means peace, security etc.

        and i only truly felt peace and security when i surrendered the unknown to God. yeah i know it sounds kinda wishy washy and not answering anything, but it was and is still clear to me that we, as man, can achieve so much and have done so and will continue doing so, but dayumn that’s no reason to get big headed cos we wouldn’t achieve anything without His Permission.

        and like it is said in the Qur’aan, even the angels, whose existence is purely to serve (they have no desires and are therefore 100% obedient, they don’t have a choice except to do what God decrees) when they asked God why He wanted to create man, got the reply ‘I know that which you do not’ and they acknowledged that.

        for me the answer ‘created to serve’ is as complete as it gets. life is a test for the hereafter, where we will be fairly compensated for Every single thing we did when alive.

        what are the things people live for? money? what can money buy? when will we ever get enough money? and when we die, does the money make us any better off? does life just end like that? so hitler just…died? he did allll that he did and then kaput and that’s it? that’s unfair

        how about status… well eventually we’d be forgotten. and what good is there in being well-known when you’re dead.

        there are a ton of other things that people live for but they’re temporary. life on this earth is beautiful and there is no denying it, but it is also a test. i used to wake up really late in the afternoon cos when the alarm rang, i’d ask… what now? those were days i had no school nor appointments, no outstanding tasks, just…nothing. empty calendar. and i didn’t know what to wake up for.

        but it makes sense now. i was created to serve and so i always have something to do. every free hour or day can be spent in the remembrance of God, in reading the Qur’aan, in offering extra prayers, in studying the meaning of the Qur’aan, learning about my religion, praising God… there are a ton of things to do.

        and i am totally aware that there are scientific explanations behind the good feeling that can come from worship, but it doesn’t bother me because i know what i feel. i know that when i study my religion it makes sense and there are no gaps and although there are some things that might not make 100% sense to my logical mind, i’m content knowing that i have the answer that i need, and that what i want isn’t always right or good for me.

        i feel complete, i really do, and i wouldn’t trade this for anything in the world. i know people feel this from other things too, but i’ve thought about it, and those other things are limited in their scope. there comes a point where those things cannot serve to set other things right, nor give the answers that are needed.

        at the end of the day being a good person is a challenge, and being a good muslim a challenge too, and one of the challenges is to bring peace to a heart that questions and desires endlessly.

        gosh i think i rambled there but in my defence i was in ‘honest mode’ hahaha.

        also about your point on an emotionally clingy God, i’d like to point out that nahh He doesn’t need us. if i could word it in a simpler-to understand way, it’d be ‘Come on, follow me and you’ll be safe. don’t wanna follow? okay, your loss. okay who would like to follow me?’

        yet again trying to understand the ‘why’ behind God’s creation of everything would mean that we are on His level of understanding. that does not make sense because if he were the most awesome and we were on His level of understanding… then we are equal to Him? hence the analogy of the ant walking across the keyboard. we’re given an answer and it is our challenge to accept it and acknowledge that Yes there is a greater scheme of things but i’m just not at that level to understand.

        hope my answer was constructive/beneficial 🙂

      4. “that’s when i came to my first realization that there is no use in probing so deep into anything, for it can lead to many dangerous paths.”

        Why is it dangerous to question things? Why give human beings free will and then expect them not to question things? I know this isn’t the point that you’re getting at, but I think that a lot of secular people would point to that and as evidence of religion being anti-science, anti-progress, and anti-reason.

        Now, because of our conversation, I know that you don’t mean it like that, nor am I accusing you of such reasoning. But I’m still left think that the idea that there are things we’ll just never be able to comprehend is inherently dissatisfying. Human beings are naturally curious, inquisitive, philosophical, and intellectual creatures. I’d like to think that there isn’t anything a person couldn’t do or understand given time.

        And as a follow up; will we understand God when we die and cross over to the afterlife? If not, then what’s even the point? But if we do, then what changes? How is the mere process of death somehow representative of a gain in knowledge or understanding?

      5. hulloooo. okay to answer your first point:
        i said “probing so deep”. what i meant to say (poorly phrased) was that we SHOULD question and find out more, but for some things, there is a limit to how far we can question. this relates to my second response:

        you said there is nothing we can’t do or understand given time. then i think it’s appropriate for us to consider, is ALL the knowledge in this world finite? is there a limit to what can be known? it seems you are implying so, and that one day we’d know Everything.

        is that possible? what would happen then? what will there be left to question? would science become obsolete? it’s kinda broad and honestly i can’t imagine what would happen at that stage.

        but if knowledge isn’t a finite thing, then wouldn’t it mean that we will never know Everything? and if that is the case, then isn’t it fair to say that at some point, we might question something and realize we don’t have the ability to go further.

        i don’t know about what other religions teach, but Islaam in fact commands us to travel, to seek knowledge and NOT to follow something which we have no knowledge of.

        i was reflecting on knowledge and research, and i found myself asking: what is the motivation behind research and finding out stuff?

        some of the stronger motives i identified were:
        1) improving the condition of life
        2) do things faster/better/more efficiently
        3) understand the world more which will in turn help us progress in other fields of research, which will then lead to 1 or 2

        then i asked, are we better off today than we were ten years ago? in some ways yes, in some ways no. are our lives today better than some time ago? that is subjective; some people are happy living frugally whilst others need more in life. in TOTAL, can we say things have gotten BETTER? i found that hard to answer; for all the advances we have made, we have also brought about an equal, if not greater, number of problems. an example: mobile phones allow us to reach someone faster and from anywhere, yet they have caused us to be more easily distracted and lose productive time.

        so WHY do we push on? why do scientists look forward to Jan 14 when the LHC runs again? why do they wanna find Higgs’ Boson? so what if they prove or disprove some theories? what happens? will science ever reach a point where scientists sit back and say ‘okay, we have found everything there is to find.’

        i don’t think so. i think this is a neverending journey. generation after generation will keep pursuing and searching and discovering, but to what end? definitely not for the next generation, no, i don’t think we can say that, because the next generation will still have work to do (assuming the search for knowledge never ends).

        but what i realized is that in Islam, nothing is pointless. everything has a goal. science? yes. pursuit of knowlege? yes.

        in Islam, EVERYTHING has a goal, which is to bring oneself closer to his Creator. by studying the world, we help make positive changes that make other peoples’ lives better. that is service to mankind, it is a good deed, and has a reward. at the same time the more we learn the more we see and realize how great God is. when we look and reflect at the beauty and simplicity or complexity or chaos or whatever it is in nature, a muslim links it back to God.

        even if a muslim exercises, part of it is to take care of this body that God has given him. that is a sign of gratitude.

        in short, Everything has a purpose in Islaam in that it can be used to bring a person closer to God (not the bad deeds though haha). personally i find that beautiful. science IS part of the way for a muslim to reflect, understand and acknowledge God’s Greatness.

        i honestly don’t know if there is another motivation as all-encompassing or complete as that. perhaps you can enlighten me on that? why is it YOU seek knowledge?

        and to answer your final question, yes, things will be made known to us when the world ends (we believe in an end of the world, judgement day and eternal afterlife). for those in paradise, peace and happiness is theirs forever, anything and everything that they want.

        curiosity can definitely be a good thing, but perhaps we can look at it also as a small sort of ‘unrest’. can a person be 100% at peace if he is curious about something? and if he is curious and does not get his answer, can he be at peace? what i’m suggesting (this is now my point of view) is that if a person should enter paradise, such questions will not bother him, because maybe this itch to know is something of this life here on earth.

        and why is it that things will be made known to us after death? our understanding is that life here is a test, and like tests we sit for at school, we won’t find the answer key sitting nicely on our table in the examination hall.

        also, life in this world is bounded by the physical being, but when we die, the body is no more and the spirit enters another realm. that is a realm we cannot see now with our naked eyes, which is a blessing because there are some things we cannot bear to see, such is the limit of our strength and ability to comprehend and accept, and so God covers it for us now.

        likewise if a person spent his life in mischief or as a disbeliever, then these things he will see when he dies will be a terror to him. on the other hand, those who followed guidance will be at peace and have nothing to fear.

        hope i’ve answered your questions. it might be a good idea to read through my reply again cos i think it gets wordy at some parts, making it easy for the point to get lost :p i’ll work on writing more clearly and succinctly heh

      6. No worries, I think I get the points that you’re trying to make from your writing. I’ll try and answer the questions you put forward in order.

        With regard to whether or not I believe knowledge is finite or infinite, I have no idea. If knowledge is finite, I don’t know how we would be able to determine at what point we could say we’ve reached ‘the end.’ But I’ll put a caveat on that by saying that just because we can explain everything in the universe doesn’t mean that we’ve necessarily seen or experienced everything that the universe has to offer.

        But in a broader sense, I wasn’t really trying to speak to whether knowledge is infinite or not; I was attempting to speak to man’s ability to comprehend information. I was trying to argue that there wasn’t anything we couldn’t know, NOT that it was possible for us to know everything. Even if knowledge is infinite, that doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t be able to comprehend all of it.

        But even if someday science came up with a grand unified theory and could explain everything in the universe, there are still other, more introspective things to explore. Philosophy, art, things that are subjective in their nature and interpretation. And even if science came up with a grand unified theory that could explain everything, that to me would just usher in a new era of innovation, of creating and exploring based on a new, deeper understanding.

        Are we better off now than we were before? That’s a really tough question to answer, because as you pointed out it’s a highly subjective question. Do people generally live longer? I suppose so…but often that means experiencing a declining quality of life in old age. I think technology has done a lot of wonderful things, but as human beings we’ve frequently abused that technology and subsequently produced horrible outcomes. So to me, it’s a wash.

        As to why I seek knowledge, that’s a somewhat complicated question. I personally don’t believe that things have purpose or meaning outside of the purposes and meanings we human beings subjectively give them. I think atheists and other secular people seek knowledge for a variety of reasons. To improve their own lives or the lives of others. To solve problems that hold us back in one way or another. And just because we’re naturally curious. We want to know where we came from and where we’re going. I don’t think that there necessarily has to be a spiritual component to wanting to know those answers.

        And finally, I’ve always been a little off put by the “life is a test” paradigm. Mostly because the test seems completely arbitrary, rewarding and penalizing the wrong things. I don’t know how it goes in Islam, but it sounds like you’re saying that as a disbeliever, I would be condemned to eternal damnation, no matter what I did. And I know that a lot of Christians feel the same way. If I don’t accept Jesus into my heart, I’m damned to an eternity in Hell, regardless of how I lived my life. And therein lies the problem. I think I would be hard pressed to say that I lead a life worth eternal damnation.

        The “life as a test” idea seems to run counter to the idea of actions speaking louder than words. As far as Christianity is concerned, if a convicted serial killer repented and accepted Jesus on his deathbed, he would be saved; yet I, simply for not accepting Jesus, would be damned to Hell. Doesn’t that seem a little screwed up?

        I would say that I lead a relatively simple life. I’m not greedy. I do unto others as I would have done to me. I’ve chosen to enter a profession that allows me to help and heal people. I volunteer my time and money whenever I can. I work to make the world around me a better place. I abhor violence and value loyalty. But because I don’t believe in an invisible man beyond time and space my soul is doomed? That system seems completely and totally backward.

        In my opinion, the idea of sin and salvation is really just a way from the church to control people, and the idea of an afterlife is just a way to maintain that control. And when I say “control people” I don’t mean in any sort of an evil way. Religion is just like any other political body: it’s given authority and exercises control.

      7. yeah i totally get what you mean about the system and how it seems but i won’t attempt to answer on behalf of christianity.

        ok this is the best way i can explain my understanding of my religion: since i mentioned disbelievers, then i will point out that a disbeliever will NOT be punished for the good that he did, because we will be judged fairly based on Everything we do.

        as for whether or not he will spend his time in heaven or hell, is something that no person can profess to know or predict. yes we are told that hell is for the disbelievers but no one has the right nor ability to single out any person and say ‘hell is your place’. that is the call and judgement of the Owner and Creator of heaven and hell (i.e. God).

        i think i should also explain Islaam’s definition of what a believer is: the first is simply that there is one God (monotheism) and that Muhammad is the last messenger.

        whether or not a person says it, no one will ever know what is in someone else’s heart, what they truly believe but might hold secret, and so again, no one can point and someone and say where he’s going.

        in short, no one can tell whose soul is doomed or not, but what we can do is try our best to work towards good.

        on a related note, if that serial killer were a muslim, and there were enough witnesses who are of good character, and a whole lot of other strict conditions are met, and if the country follows the shariah, then that man would be put to death. firstly as a punishment for his crime, secondly in the interest of everyone’s safety, thirdly as a deterrent.

        what if the families of the victims were muslim? then they are allowed to seek compensation but it is better for them if they forgive. if they forgive and the killer sincerely repents, then all is good for him.

        if the killer says a repentance out of fear or compulsion… well then that’s not for us to judge.

        ah okay i get what you were trying to say about knowledge now. idk but it kinda seems that you answered your question. if you were speaking of our Ability of comprehending information, then the answer to the question ‘why are we created?’ is ‘to serve and worship’. so whether or not a person comprehends and accepts that will therefore be the difference between thinking there is an answer or none.

        my personal opinion is that when a person accepts that as the answer, he is putting aside some of his ego and acknowledges that yeah we’re great but we’re not above everything. i guess it’s humility? to acknowledge that as man we have limits and that we don’t think of ourselves as limitless.

        on the point of salvation and sin: what i understand of the christian faith (someone pls correct me if i got this wrong!) is than man is born into sin, i think they call it the original sin, and that Jesus died for man’s sins, thus offering them salvation. so if a person denies Jesus (or something like that) then they fall back into their pit of sin.

        Islaam teaches this: man is born pure and innocent. assuming this person is born into a family of atheists, what next? the simple answer is that every person is obligated to seek knowledge, meaning and guidance in life (not an unreasonable demand). Prophet Muhammad was sent as a messenger, a relayer of glad tidings, a warner and a mercy to mankind (not just muslims). today, the message he relayed is easily and freely available through many different means. it is therefore unlikely that a person would not have come across the message of Islaam. if he does, then he should find out more as a means and a guide to live this life well. ignorance is not an excuse for not following the proper path. if he chooses not to accept, then no one shall wrong him for there is no compulsion in religion.

        and if a person truly lives in an isolated part of the world, then he will not be wronged for not knowing because he really was cut off. but consider, since time immemorial man has always had the sense that there is a higher force. initially every little thing was credited to that force but as man’s understanding evolved and increased, that belief remained.

        what i am suggesting is that man has an innate sense or awareness that there is a great and mysterious power at work. yet Islaam teaches us to acknowledge that but STILL investigate, learn and discover.

        and if there is no afterlife, and no accountability for our actions, then… hitler just died? after all the things he did, he just died and poof, that’s it? doesn’t sound like a fair system to me.

        and as a side note, all the qualities you have listed are in fact what Islaam teaches us to do. the religion is perfect but man isn’t, so although some muslims may not follow the religion strictly, it is in fact a perfect guide, if only we would follow.

        to my limited knowledge it seems you are somewhat familiar with the christian faith. however i urge you to find out a little more about Islaam. personally it was in my teenage years, when i really started to think and study in depth, that i found a deep meaning and completeness in every aspect (physically, mentally, socially, spiritually etc.) if you like it, the doors are open and all are welcome, but if you don’t accept it, that is still okay.

        so if you would like to, here are some websites for your perusal:
        http://www.whatisislam.org.uk/
        http://www.darul-arqam.org.sg/what-is-islam/

        i am by no means ending the discussion here though, and it has been an extremely interesting and eye-opening one for me 🙂

      8. Someday I’d like to take a comparative religion class somewhere. I definitely would like to be more familiar with the basics of a lot of religions, just so I have some sort of a foundation on Islam, or Hinduism, etc. during these discussions. I, too, have immensely enjoyed these conversations! Thank you so much for participating 🙂

  9. oh and a minor point on questioning and the leap of faith we have to take eventually. i guess we do this all the time, even in science. when we take measurements, how sure are we that the ruler we are using is accurate enough? maybe that’s minor, but we can continue probing. how can we use an equation if we have not yet been able to experiment and observe its validity for ourselves? perhaps it sounds ridiculous, but i guess if all the great scientists had spent their time verifying and checking to make sure everything was accurate etc., they wouldn’t have made the big discoveries they did. there would be no progress.

    i guess what we could say is that in short sometimes we should just accept and move on without questioning too much or too deep (questioning is not bad, in fact it is a good and important thing)

    1. I do agree with you Shard, that God created us so we can worship God. If the creator is…lets use the term “Perfect,” then the act of worshiping “Him” (not that I think God is male, female or human) can only be right. I really like your example of the ant walking across a keyboard because that is like us trying to figure out God. I cannot quite figure it out and my mind always wants to think about it. What I would like to ask you is how did Muhammad write the revelations he found down? Was it just him or were there other people involved? Not that I am making claims that Jesus is the son of God, why don’t Muslims think so and is Muhammad essentially a God himself or a messenger?

      1. Is God really perfect if He has human emotions, like jealousy, or a need to be loved? Doesn’t creating something to worship you speak to an insecurity, and if so, how could a perfect being have any insecurities?

        I am also curious about why people think it’s impossible to comprehend God. Is it because that’s what clerics and religious texts tell us? Why should anything be beyond our comprehensions?

      2. I put perfect in quotations just as a totality of who God is. The problem with attributing things as “right” and “wrong” is we tend to say “jealousy” is wrong and “humility” is right. Well I don’t know if right and wrong should exist at all. The problem with the Bible is people describe their experiences in a humanistic way even when they don’t mean to. They have no other way of describing their experiences except in a way that makes sense to them. So if God was jealous, then is it really bad? If something is incapable of being bad (for the sake of being relative-I am unsure of how else to compare things) then it’s jealousy could render as righteousness, can it not?

      3. I didn’t mean to make any definitive statement about “right” or “wrong” when it comes to an emotion. My question is why would an omnipotent being have any insecurities at all? If you can literally do anything, ANYTHING, and know anything, that would seem to preclude the existence of jealousy or insecurity. It doesn’t have anything to do with right or wrong; I would think that they wouldn’t even exist for an omnipotent being.

      4. hi Trang! wokay i’ll try my best to answer your question.
        the Qur’aan is a message whose form is recitation, which can be linked to the arabic word ‘Iqra’, which is the command to read (and also the first revelation to prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who was actually illiterate. i won’t elaborate here though) as well as ‘Qiraa-ah’, which means ‘reading’ (gerund).

        therefore when the prophet received revelations, he would recite them and people would listen and memorize. there were a few scribes, or people who wrote down what was recited, but that was not a big thing. in the past it really was a lot of memorization. it might be hard to believe but there are a ton of people who have memorized the Qur’aan, every chapter, word for word, flawlessly. in fact many ‘ordinary’ Muslims memorize a few chapters (ranging from a few pages to some in the tens, and some others more still), as we recite chapters of the Qur’aan in prayer.

        it was only after the prophet’s death, during the caliphate, that a real effort was made to write down the Qur’aan in the way that was taught by the prophet.

        this is because in defending against an attack, many muslims who had memorized the Qur’aan, died.

        the second reason is that after some time, non-arabic speaking people in other countries had somehow begun losing the proper pronunciation in recitation. in arabic that could mean reading a different thing (for example ‘mataa’ means ‘when’ whilst ‘maa-taa’ means ‘he died’. by simply lengthening the first ‘a’ sound, we get a new meaning).

        therefore standardized copies were written and sent with a reciter to teach people of other countries to recite the correct way. and that’s how you get the Qur’aan in its physical form today. yes it’s a book but the message is preserved in recitation.

        secondly, muslims believe Jesus (peace be upon him) was a messenger of God. there are several verses in the bible (although the topic of the validity of the Bible is pertinent here, i don’t suppose we have the time to go that far) which point to that.

        firstly in Matthew (7:21) Jesus says “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

        this tells us that those who thought of Jesus as God and therefore submitted to him, were not guaranteed paradise because their order was to submit to God, and Jesus was not God.

        this is what the Qur’aan has to say (amongst many verses):
        “ They do blaspheme who say: ‘Allah is (Jesus) Christ the son of Mary.’
        But said Christ: ‘O children of Israel! worship Allah, my Lord, and your Lord.’
        Whoever joins other gods with Allah―Allah will forbid him the Garden and the Fire will be his abode. There will for the wrong-doers be no one to help. “
        (Qur’an: Maa-idah: 5: 72)

        and so Jesus, like Muhammad, was a messenger, like many sent before them. Muhammad is the last messenger, and that is half of the declaration of faith a person takes if he is/wants to be a Muslim.

        i hope i’ve answered your questions and i’d be glad to elaborate on anything should i have left stuff out 🙂

  10. Reply to Ryan: I don’t know why I can’t hit reply again. Funny thing you mentioned the Harry Potter because I have absolutely thought the same thing. When you read Harry Potter though, it has a different style. It’s not necessarily making claims, it’s telling a story. When I read the Bible, however, it has specific claims. Take the Apostle Paul for instance, he was a high ranking Pharisee who hated Christians. He went to Damascus and said he saw Jesus, Okay this could sound like a story, but in his letters he urges people to believe him and what he saw even though his fellow Pharisees punished him for his betrayal. Harry Potter on the other hand, doesn’t have personal messages for it’s reader. There are certainly many ancient texts that were written purely for entertainment, but the New Testament isn’t like them. Even though I am well aware that Paul only certainly wrote seven of the thirteen books/letters attributed to him, the letters all say the same message.

    1. So perhaps Harry potter was a bad literary example, but a lot literature is written in the first person, or urges the reader to “believe” the story. Which doesn’t make any of it true, of course, so why don’t we ever extend that logic to the bible?

      If a man goes and blows up an orphanage and tells the police that God spoke to him and commanded him to do it, most Christians would call him crazy. Yet they have no problem believing that God spoke to Abraham and commanded him to kill his son? Where is the logic there? We seem to just give the bible a complete pass on a lot things on the sole virtue that it’s the bible.

      1. The Old Testament makes very scary and audacious claims, and I believe a lot of the OT is purely theological versus literal. I guess in a sense you are right that it has some story elements to it. I am unsure how I feel about the Old Testament.

    2. All I am trying to say is perhaps people throw the whole Bible in the back burner before giving it a valid chance. I don’t agree with everything that is written, I know there are interpolations and theological difficulties, but why Jesus was so important to these people and how urgently they seem to want to tell this “story” or “experiences” (depending on your personal beliefs) startles me. I’m also really not trying to divert the conversation from the Islam to Christianity in a dogmatic way at all. I am certain there are flaws,

  11. Your question is why would an omnipotent being have any insecurities at all? So if a being a omnipotent, then why would this being create people so this being could be worshiped? I hope this is your question, I don’t want to twist your words. Well, this being doesn’t have to. God doesn’t need to be worship. Perhaps we are created to experience the love that consumes God. Lets say God indeed exists and is defined as the most loving being that could exist. Isn’t it special that we are made just to experience this when we could simply not be made at all? So the act of worshiping is simply an add on to our livelihood.

      1. When we take it upon ourselves to worship, we are recognizing and thanking a being we believe we came from. Now, whether it is a commandment or not, it’s debatable. This is the phase of my life where I am asking this exact question. Do I need to live in connection to God or am I free to live however I want. I am afraid of answering your question directly without sounding like I am contradicting myself. When you say worship, I assume you are speaking of recognizing God for what God has done in some way.

  12. Ryan, these are some great questions. I read therealshard’s comments (from a muslim perspective), and I’ll answer from a Christian perspective, which has many similarities.

    The Bible explains why God created man, the earth and the universe. The Westminster Shorter Catechism also has explanations for this. The simple answer is that man was created to glorify God and enjoy him forever. God, being all powerful and all sufficient, didn’t need man to fulfill him or keep him company. Yet he wanted to create man and the universe so that we could we could share in his glory and honor. Here are a few verses that explain why man and the universe were created.

    Romans 8:28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

    Hebrews 2:6-8: What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him? You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor and put everything under their feet. In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them.

    Romans 8:16-17: The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

    2 Thessalonians 2:14: “He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Matthew 25 is a parable about the faithful servant, and here Jesus speaks of his reward: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

    2 Corinthians 1:5: For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”

    God took joy in creating mankind and the universe. In Genesis he repeatedly proclaimed his creation to be good, and then when he created man he proclaimed his creation to be “very good”. Genesis 1 and 2 also explain that God created the earth to be man’s home, and the sun, moon and entire universe to give light on the earth and to mark the days and years.

    So to answer your question, everything was created by God so that we could share in his glory, his happiness, comfort, grace, and share in the righteousness of Christ and his blessings, and be heirs to his kingdom.

    1. Interesting. And thank you for providing specific passages! I was actually waiting for you to chime in because I knew you’d have some valuable input 😉

      Not that I ask this as a loaded question, but where does free will enter this explanation?

      1. Yeah, I was hoping to chime in sooner 

        Free will is a difficult concept to grasp because it seems to conflict with God’s sovereignty, and no one wants to think that we’re not in control of our own destiny. God is sovereign, which means that he’s in control of everything… time, life, death, kingdoms, etc. He’s orchestrating all of history, which will ultimately culminate in his Kingdom in Heaven for his people. Scripture tells us that not even a sparrow will fall to the ground apart from the will of God. We believe the prophecies in Scripture were spoken long ago, and then fulfilled, which means that God was directing everything, including human actions.

        Not only that, but God also holds us accountable for our actions. Romans 1:20 tells us that people are without excuse. In Revelation 3:20 Jesus tells us that he stands at the door and knocks, and if anyone here’s his voice and opens the door for him, then he’ll come and enter into a personal relationship with that person. So clearly man plays some kind of role in his destiny.

        So how do we reconcile God’s sovereignty with man being held accountable for his actions? I don’t think there’s a clear-cut answer, but I do think both are completely true. God orchestrates everything for the good of those who love him, yet we’re able to express our free will… or maybe what we perceive as our free will. There are some who believe we don’t have any free will at all, and some who think that God simply knows everything we’ll ever think and do and then acts upon that free will, but I think there’s more to it than that.

        One thing about God’s sovereignty is that we can take comfort that he’s in control and will work things out for our good (Romans 8:28). It also means that we can completely submit to him, which is another concept that’s hard for many to understand. God wants us to rely upon him and his strength (Isaiah 41:10, Philippians 4:13), and not our own strength. When we’re weak, he is strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). When we trust in ourselves we’ll ultimately fail (Jeremiah 17:5), but when we trust in him we’ll always succeed (Proverbs 3:5-6). But the fact that we can rely and trust in ourselves is evidence that we do have free will, even if God is directing it and using it for our good. I think all this demonstrates a type of paradox that we encounter when we seek God.

        This may not completely answer your question, but I’d summarize by suggesting that we do have free will, but it is bound by God’s sovereignty.

        As for why faith is essential in sharing in God’s love and glory, it’s needed because it’s an act of submission. God wants us to be totally reliant and dependent upon him because he has our best interest at heart. It’s kind of like a small child jumping into his father’s arms, trusting that he’ll be caught. A father wants his child to trust that he has his best interest in mind and that he’ll protect and care for him. In the same way, God rewards our faith and has promised us all things, including eternal life, and an inheritance in his kingdom. Just believing that God exists isn’t enough. The Bible tells us that even demons believe that God exists, but they rejected him. Therefore we need something stronger than belief. We must have faith. Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

      2. Interesting. I’ll have to ruminate over that a little bit. I mean, your explanation makes sense. I totally understand what you’re getting at. Your simile gets to the point that I think I had in mind when I originally posed the question: a child has a direct, tangible relationship with his father.

        If God does exist, why not have exactly that kind of paternalistic relationship with us? Why not have a physical, tangible relationship with man? I don’t really see how that would take away from a person’s love or trust him in; after all, the fact that you can physically hug your father doesn’t take way from your love of him. In fact, for some people, a physical act like hugging is the ultimate expression of love and trust; but you can’t ever have that kind of relationship or expression with God.

      3. I think Scripture shows that God did have this kind of paternalistic relationship with us at the beginning of creation.

        Genesis 2:7: Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

        This shows that God took great care in forming man with his own hands, and then breathed into him the breath of life.

        Genesis 2:8: Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.

        Genesis 2:15-17: The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

        These verses show that God had direct contact with man and spoke to him face to face.

        Genesis 3:8-9: Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

        Here we see that God was used to walking intimately with Adam and Eve, interacting with them like an earthly father would. The problem is that their sin separated them from God, and our sin separates us from God. Since God is righteous, we cannot be in his presence without being consumed.

        In Exodus 33:12-21 we see that God would not allow Moses to see his face, but he allowed him to see him as he passed by. And as a result Moses’ face glowed for some time, and he had to cover his face.

        Our sin separates us from God, but in heaven we will be redeemed, and our full relationship and sonship will be restored. Then we’ll have that intimacy that has been missing since the fall of man.

      4. I guess my question is why wait until we die? Is it even possible to live a life without sin? If it isn’t, then that seems to be the ultimate set up or trap or injustice or whatever you want to call it. Unless this isn’t a punitive sort of thing, the separation you speak of.

      5. Why wait until we die before our relationship with God is fully restored? Because it’s only through death that our sinful nature can be put to death. And then we’ll have the righteousness of Christ; we’ll be able to see God face to face and enjoy him forever.

        In a way we do have full access to God right now, and we can come before him spiritually in prayer, but the physical intimacy won’t be realized until we’ve been restored.
        The necessity for us to die in order to be restored is why Scripture says, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21). Paul recognized that if he were to be put to death for his faith in Christ it would mean that he would have eternal life and be restored to that relationship with God that has been missing since Adam brought sin and death into the world.

        Jesus says in John 11:25-26: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”
        It’s impossible for anyone born into sin to live a life without sin. Scripture tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). It was Adam and Eve who brought sin, death and condemnation into the world, and it is only by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ- the last Adam- that we have the gift of life (Romans 5:12-17). It’s by the grace and mercy of God that he loved us so much that he sent his one and only son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross and pay the penalty for sin (John 3:16). We deserved the penalty of death for our sins (Romans 6:23), but despite our sin God still loves us like a father (Luke 15:11-32), and he became a man (John 1:14) and took upon himself the penalty of death and justified us (Romans 4:18-25) and redeemed us (Luke 1:67-69, Galations 3:13-14). And that’s why Jesus had to be born of a virgin. He was not born into sin, and therefore he was a perfect and worthy sacrifice (Hebrews 10:14, Colossians 1:21-23, 1 Peter 1:18-20, Revelation 5:12).

        So it’s not a trap or an injustice that we’re not able to live a life without sin. The real injustice was Jesus Christ having to pay the price for our sin when he did nothing wrong. Who really wants to be put to death for a crime he didn’t commit? Jesus was willing to do that because he loved us (Romans 5:8). And that’s why we’re justified by faith (Romans 5:1, Romans 5:9-11). It was the righteous and obedient act of Jesus that wiped out the disobedience, sin and condemnation brought on by Adam (Romans 5:18-21). For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 1 Corinthians 15:42-49).

        If you have time, read through the passages above because they should explain why all this had to happen, and how it’s ultimately for our good (Romans 8:28).

  13. Some great discussions here Ryan. As you know I am an atheist as well, so arguments from scripture don’t have much meaning to me, because ultimately scriptures are written by man, and since God does not have a tangible, measureable interaction in our world, it is unclear how much of any scripture is the truly the product of man or the divine. But all that is beside the point and doesn’t answer your question!

    The question really is, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Science can’t really answer that question, and religions tend to disagree on the answer. To even answer a question about why God would create the universe, we’d have to have some definition of what God actually is. No such definition can be agreed upon by various cultures today or throughout history so I would argue that in the end Religion is just as clueless as Science is to answering this question. The idea that there is a personal God is utterly ridiculous to me, because this is built upon human conceit. Evolution is not convergent, it did not try to produce intelligent life. Of habitable planets in the universe there is no guarantee of intelligent life with similar consciousness and capacity to think. There is only the probability that this will exist. So if there is a God, and even a personal God, it is not a God just for us, but for all existence. It loves it all. From the quantum level to the entire universe as a whole. Ultimately that is a much more exciting God to me then one who intervenes to make sure Joe got that job he prayed for after losing his old one. Even though he really was the best candidate who applied.

    The way I like to think about it is by looking at the converse, meaning let’s look at nothingness or non-existence. In the end, it’s not really a choice is it? Why is there something rather than nothing? Well nothing…is well…nothing. There is no way to measure it, there is nothing in it. People say what is the universe expanding into. The answer is nothing. What is outside the universe has no meaning, because it doesn’t exist. There is nothing to ponder in non-existence. There are no physical laws that work, there are no physical laws that don’t work. There is no randomness, no chaos, no order…it’s nothing, it doesn’t exist. Now on the other had there is something. There is existence. If we are going to have an option of existence, well than it can’t really not work. Of course our perception that it works is only because we accept what we discover about it as normal, but I am sure all of us could sort of come up with a different universe (many of us truly live in different realities lol), that was a little more efficient, or a little more happy, at last according to our desires. So if one persons belief became reality for everyone, then all of a sudden we have this measurable universe that is different than what we have now, and as we discovered things about it, it would seem quite real, sensible, and logical. Of course what we find is that there is this universe that often seems quite contrary to our beliefs, and operates regardless of our awareness of it, and has been in operation for quite some time before humans every descended from the trees. So even if we as humans are perceiving the reality of the universe as objectively as we could, the good news is that there is a reality that is independent of us. Thus God is highly unlikely to be a personal one. When I did believe in God, I sort of chose my own definition, and in some ways I still hold on to the possibility that it could be true because I think it’s a happy thought. That if there is a God, then God just made a design. A set of laws that we are still yet uncovering, a set of laws that God new would lead to the probability of marvelous wonders, including the probability of intelligent life. Sort of like a great computer programmer in the sky. Typed in “Run” and just let the program go. Starting from a big bang, and is just watching to see what happens. No appreciation or worship necessary. 🙂 And all God hopes is that we appreciate existence, that we appreciate that we do have something better than nothing. Appreciate that we have the ability to understand our universe and grow. Appreciate that we do best when we work together rather than work apart.

    1. What a perfect end cap to this conversation. As usual, your insight here was to the point and valuable. Summing it up as “why is there something rather than nothing?” is the perfect way of phrasing it. And I believe that all of your points here are valid (and not just because we’re both atheists :P).

      I, too, would be much more willing to consider or accept a God who just “typed in ‘run’ and let the program go” as you so eloquently put it. There’s a beneficence there that I think is a lot stronger than the personal god, and precisely for the egocentric reasons you laid out. I’ve often wondered what people of various religions would have to say if we ever made contact with other intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.

      1. Just a few thoughts on Swarn Gill’s comments. Swarn mentioned that ultimately scripture is written by man, but I disagree. Not that man didn’t physically write it, but it was ultimately authored by God through the Holy Spirit. Scripture tells us that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16). As a Christian this means that Scripture wasn’t an invention by man, but that God is speaking to and through his people, who were prophets and apostles.

        I do agree that God’s interaction isn’t measurable, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use our minds and intelligence to know him and have a personal relationship with him. God wants us to know and love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30), and that means he wants us to use our mind and not leave it at the door when we come to him.

        And while it may seem that there’s no universal agreement among religions as to why there’s something rather than nothing, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an answer. If God does exist, and if he did reveal himself in Scripture, then he’s answered this question already. It’s just a matter of recognizing him and putting our faith in him. God is not built upon human conceit. God existed before he formed the universe or created man, so, from that perspective, it’s impossible for man to create God.

        I’m not sure what is meant that God is not a God just for us, but for all existence. Genesis 1 tells us that after creating the heavens and the earth God called his creation “good”, and after creating man he said it was “very good”, so in that sense God does love his creation. And not only that, but God does care about Joe and his job, regardless of his qualifications.

        If God exists, then he also makes the rules, not us. We can’t decide what kind of god we choose to believe in and define him in our own image. Doing that is detrimental if the real God does exist because it leads us away from the one true God rather than leading us towards him. Why believe in a make-believe god when you can have a personal relationship with the one true God? Perhaps a make-believe god will make you happy temporarily, but it’s not something that will last and bring real meaning, joy and purpose.

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