Neil Wills: Surfer's

January 2002
The fool says in his heart...
Other surfings

WHO'D BE GOD, EH? If it isn't enough having all manner of abominations carried out in your name and being libelled by the certainties of every tinpot theologian on the planet (and, who knows, a score of other planets besides), even your most fundamental attributes are up for debate. Your existence, for example. In cyberspace, where no one can hear you scream but everyone has a good old screech anyway, it's open season on the beingness or otherwise of God, and the amateur a/theists have him in their sites.

It's an unjust world but, coming over all Solomon-like, I examined the cases put forward by three decent, law-abiding apologists for God and the same number of heathen, godless scuts. It wasn't long before I wished I'd come over a bit more Samson-like and armed myself with an ass's jaw or two. It's a battlefield out there. Delve into one site and you'd think that only an imbecile with the brain the size of a pituitary gland would believe in the existence of God. Read another, and there's no greater fool than an atheist.

Unfortunately, both sides also suffer from what I can only describe as "Come on, you know you agree with me really" syndrome. This means they are quite happy to assert "If A, then C", handily presupposing that you will assume the argument circumvents B because "it's just so obvious" – when in fact it's often far from obvious and the bypass just happens to get the arguer out of an awkward spot.

Take Frederick Bendz's "proof that there is no god", for example. He dexterously applies Occam's Razor to anything that might undermine his argument. As the shavings on each brandish of the blade consist of God, this is obviously a very handy implement to have in one's debating armoury, and I shall be purchasing a pack of five myself with all haste. Appeals to logic are dashed on the rocks of such statements as A being that is not worth worshipping is no god.'

However, the daring of his generalisations is a thing to be wondered at. "When many religious people are confronted with criticism of their religion they convert to atheism or agnosticism." And I don't suppose that ever happens the other way.

SITES THAT PROPOSE the existence of God are by no means all Christian. helpfully interprets evidence from all religions and none and contends that "God is self-energetic Awareness". A little further down the screen, this morphs into "self-energetic Mass-Awareness" – presumably the sort of God who knows a Catholic communion when he sees it.

The biblical story of the pearl of great price is a code for Nirvana, which is a twist you're unlikely to have come across in your home group. Full marks, though, for pointing out that "God is not a person and we should not try to understand God in human terms." Precisely the trap that both theologians and atheologians blunder into given half the chance.

Chad Docterman's speciality is refuting the existence of "the Christian God", whom he then rather confusingly refers to throughout as "Yahweh". One must concede that he has a point with: "A perfectly compassionate being who creates beings which he knows are doomed to suffer is impossible."

He then picks on a few Christian doctrines and trashes them in the nonchalant manner you'll soon become accustomed to if you spend more than 20 minutes in the e-God/no God realm. He concludes: "You may choose to serve an impossible God. I will choose reality" – without telling us what that reality is, the tease. Perhaps he believes God is the air at the top of sealed milkbottles, like my Uncle Frank did.

Well, you'll be relieved to read that next month I'll be bringing you some incontrovertible proof when God's own website, i', goes live. Until then, Nameless Void be with you.

This column first appeared in Third Way magazine. Third Way 2001

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