It is commonly believed that God is both timeless and eternal, and that he exists somewhere outside of both time and space. He is said to have created mankind for a purpose. This is a discussion on the atheist's view of these concepts. There are some common arguments that Christians make in defending these beliefs to atheists, or in attacking the beliefs of atheists.
This article addresses some of those arguments, and explains why they completely fail to convince an atheist.
When an atheist discusses the origins of the universe with a Christian, not surprisingly the Christian always holds the viewpoint that the universe must have been created (because everything requires a creator), and that God must have been this creator.
The atheist inevitably responds, "Well then, who created God?"
Not to be deterred by this bit of uncomfortable but obvious logic, the Christian dutifully replies along these lines: "God does not require a creator. He is the uncaused cause. He is eternal. He exists outside of time and space."
Ah. Interesting. To an atheist, this is the equivalent of sticking an index finger in each of your ears and yelling, "LA LA LA LA LA…" That is because this answer is absolutely meaningless.
Granted, it sounds interesting… poetic even. But it doesn't mean anything. Let's explore why this is the case.
We humans are mortal creatures that are constrained to both time and space. Everything we know, and everything we do is bound by the laws of time and space.
One cannot say something like "God exists outside of time and space" and have it carry any real meaning, because there is simply no frame of reference for that in our universe!
We might try to imagine what it would be like, but at that point it lies strictly in the realm of the imagination. Just because we can imagine something does not mean that it has any basis in fact or reality. I can imagine purple flying elephants, but that doesn't mean they exist.
Most Christians believe that God has some sort of divine plan. He created everything with this plan in mind.
If the universe was indeed created, it would seem reasonable to assume that it was created by an intelligence superior to our own. And there's the problem.
Our understanding of intelligence and freewill require a being that is constrained by time. The whole concept of logic implies thoughts flowing from one moment to the next in succession.
Even in Genesis, God did everything in a logical order: He created the earth, then the stars, then the animals, etc. So it would seem that the mind of God is trapped in time, isn't it? If not, creation would have just been an instantaneous thing. Not to mention the 15 billion years or so that passed until he got around to creating humans. What was he doing with all of that time?
An intelligent being in any meaningful sense is a being that has free will, and is able to reason and make decisions based on that reasoning. How can a being make a decision if its thoughts don't follow in temporal succession? A being whose mind is unable to separate and process data in a logical order (sequenced in time) is not a being that has free will, he's a deterministic automaton — a robot.
Christians are in love with the concept of eternity.
"God is eternal. He will give us eternal life. If we anger him, we will suffer eternal damnation."
Unfortunately, for all intents and purposes, eternity is a thoroughly meaningless concept to a human. By definition, it is impossible for finite creatures such as ourselves to imagine eternity. It is interesting as a hypothetical concept, but holds no meaning in reality.
Think of it another way. Imagine that you could live for eternity; that you would never die. You would eventually reach a point where you had done everything you could ever do, held every thought you could ever think of, had every conversation you could ever have with every person that you would ever want to talk to. And then you could do it all again, a billion times! And after doing it for the billionth time… you would still have an eternity left to go.
Eventually you would become so bored that you'd be wishing for your existence to come to an end.
Fortunately, we are all mortal, and we will all die soon enough. Granted, it would be kind of fun to live for a really long time and see where the human race eventually goes… but eternity? I would think that after the first few million years you'd get bored. The next 800 quadrillion would be really painful. And the next…
Many Christians seem to think that God's reason for creating us is that he wanted some sort of companionship, or that he was lonely, or something along those lines.
Atheists don't understand this concept. In fact, given what we know for sure about man, and given the manner in which Christians define God, this concept simply makes no sense to us. Let's explore the reasons why.
First of all, to any being that is intelligent enough to create the universe and everything within it, we humans would seem utterly stupid and insignificant. The universe is so vast, and so old, and so complex, its creator would look upon humans the same way that humans look upon a single-celled organism. We wouldn't even make an interesting pet for such a being.
Single-celled organisms can be created, live, and die in the span of a few seconds. To us, they are nothing. The lifespan of a human is quicker than the blink of an eye in the grand scale of the lifetime of the universe. To the creator of the universe, humans would be nothing.
Being lonely or wanting companionship suggests a number of things that contradict the nature of God as described by the Christian faith.
God is described as being perfect. But being lonely is an imperfect state. It is an acknowledgement that you are lacking in some way. So if God desired companionship, he is, by definition, imperfect.
God is described as being timeless. But being lonely is a concept that only makes sense to a mind that is constrained by time. To be lonely requires some idea of time flowing from one point to the next, during which time you lack companionship. If you have no concept of time, you can have no concept of loneliness.
Similarly, a timeless being has no concept of desire. To desire something means that you don't have it one moment, and you desire to have it in an upcoming moment. Without time, these concepts are meaningless.
God is described as being all-powerful. So surely it was within his power to create for himself an intellectual equal; someone that would actually interest him. Why create humans? Why go through all this trouble? Christians will often reply with things like, "He needed to test us," or, "He needed for us to learn" something.
Needing to test us suggests a being that is not all-knowing. If he knows how we will behave, then testing is pointless. The test can be only for our benefit. Which takes us to the second point, which was that he wanted to teach us something for our benefit. But this indicates a creator that is not all-powerful. It should be easily within his power to impart perfect knowledge of any sort upon us. If he was unable to simply give us this knowledge and needed us to learn it through other means, he is not all-powerful. There would be no benefit to the current method, except that it would take more time. But God is timeless… so, another contradiction.
Then again, why would God even want a companion? God is all knowing. When you know everything, how can another creature offer you anything of interest? They cannot offer you any new ideas, or new conversations. Have you ever held an interesting conversation with your dog or cat? No, they can't even comprehend what you are saying to them. That's how we would be with God.
Maybe God IS just looking for a pet. Will that be fulfilling to you, to get to heaven and find out you were just living in God's version of a puppy mill? I think most Christians want more and are expecting more.
So assume that we get to heaven, and God suddenly bestows upon each of us an intellect equal to his. That still doesn't get him anywhere… unless he can create us with the potential to be GREATER than him. Then we could offer him something which he doesn't already have, and cannot produce on his own. And I haven't heard anyone suggest that we will someday be greater than God. Aside from which, the idea that something could be greater than God, or that God is lacking any information, would again contradict the idea that God is perfect and all-knowing.
In short, atheists believe that God (or at least the Judeo-Christian concept of God) does not exist simply because it is logically contradictory.
None of this proves that there is not a creator or a higher power of some sort in the universe. It does however prove, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that the concept that Christians have of their particular god is very flawed, and cannot possibly exist.
Personally, I've never understood why Christians feel the need to put such a burden on their God. Why does he have to be perfect? Why does he have to be all-powerful? Why does he have to be all-knowing? Would it be so bad if he had some limitations? Is it not simply enough that he is a lot smarter and a lot more powerful than you? Honestly it would make a lot more sense… and more importantly, it would be possible. The being that Christians describe cannot possibly exist.
Given all of the above information, atheists find it highly unlikely that humans were created. Even if we assume that the universe was created by some unknown force, there is no reason to assume that that force in any way resembles a creator-God similar to the one Christians believe in. It could be any one of millions of things, most of which are probably far beyond our ability to comprehend.
When we look at the age and size of the universe, most atheists conclude that the existence of life on our planet is probably just a really astonishing coincidence. Let's look at the facts: the universe has been around for at least 15 billion years. The earth has been around for about 4.5 billion years. And humans? A hundred thousand years or so. That's nothing. Even if we survive as a species for the next million years, which is itself an unimaginable amount of time, we will still only have existed for about 0.005% of the total life of the universe. Not just less than one percent, but five-thousandths of one percent.
Do you still think we are the most important thing in the universe? If so, that seems like an awfully pompous and self-important viewpoint to hold, and one that seems to be contradicted by all available evidence.
What would you think if we woke up one day to find that there was an ancient race of aliens from another planet. It turns out that there is a creator to the universe… but he created them, not us. We were just a little science experiment of that race. We were akin to the robots with artificial intelligence that humans are currently in the process of inventing.
How would that change your worldview?
Because as far-fetched as it sounds, that scenario is just as likely (or perhaps even more so) than the one put forth by Christianity.
And there are thousands of other scenarios one could imagine for the origins of life that would make just as much (or as little) sense as Christianity.