Many years ago, I picked up a copy of an astronomy magazine at a dental office. The cover story was about the big bang. It wondered why people didn’t accept that big bang in large numbers, even though it was one of the most confirmed scientific theories ever. I know why people don’t “accept” the theory: it doesn’t answer the question that it purports to answer. Scientists like to claim that the reason the universe exists is that the universe exploded into existence out of nothing. That’s interesting as far as it goes. But what people want to know is why there existed that nothingness from which the universe could explode.
Existence itself is paradoxical, as I’ve written about before. I not only think we don’t understand the nature of existence, I think we can’t understand it. And thus, the big bang theory tells us as much as the God theory. All it does is push back the ultimate question of existence one level. So I find myself in the uncomfortable position of thinking that the theists and the atheists are trivializing the most important question of all.
Yesterday, NBC News published, Stephen Hawking Lays Out Case for Big Bang without God. It described a talk given by Hawking at the California Institute of Technology. Hawking is a funny guy and the talk seems to have been filled with jokes like, “What was God doing before the divine creation? Was he preparing hell for people who asked such questions?” And I quite agree with what he’s getting at. But I still think that he is just as limited in his understand of ontology.
The problem with people like Hawking is how arrogant they are about having found answers to very natural human questions, when they’ve done no such thing. And so I categorize him with the preachers I heard when I was kid who told me that God was begotten, not made. Both answers are about as helpful as being urged not to think about such things and to avoid masturbation because it will cause you to grow hair on your palms.
To me, it is all about humility. Existence is a paradox. I think that’s cool. But I think it is sad that so many theists and atheists think they have answers when they’re unaware of the questions.
I go back and forth on the question of whether I am an atheist. I certainly am by the thinking of most theists: I don’t believe in a deity that I must worship or that would even have something akin to consciousness that could care about what I do or think. But I do think there is something greater than the existence that we know. So I think it is fair to say that practically I am an atheist but theoretically I am a mystic, but not a theist.