• Phil Tanny
    In the article The God Debate: A Children's Merry-Go-Round, it was proposed that an alternative to the God debate could be to try to understand the human need that gave rise to that debate, and look for ways to meet that need. To the degree we were to succeed in meeting that need the God question would not be answered, but it could to some degree perhaps be resolved.

    The logic of such a process is that there is no evidence that the God question can be credibly answered, given that all theories for and against the existence of God arise from reference to authorities (reason and holy books) whose qualifications for this particular investigation have not been proven.

    If one sees the endlessly repetitive bankruptcy of the God debate, but still wishes to continue an investigation of some kind, this article proposes a path one might take.

    Where Did The God Idea Come From?

    It seems helpful to reflect that animals, and then primitive humans, had an intimate primal relationship with nature which is beyond the reach of most, or perhaps all, modern humans.

    As one example, the religions of the native peoples of North America seem to be heavily invested in reverence for the natural world.


    In another example, my wife is an avid wildlife rehabber, so I live in a wildlife hospital of sorts. The hundreds of orphaned baby animals she has raised always prefer to be released in to the wild when they're ready, even though they aren't old enough for sex yet, and their accommodations in our house exceed the standards of a five star hotel. When they are strong enough they always choose sleeping out in the rain and running from predators over the pampering protected care my wife provides them. We might ask why these creatures universally choose an option which would seem so counterproductive to their survival.

    The Emergence Of Thought

    In the case of human beings, what undermined and diluted our own primal relationship with reality was the emergence of thought.

    As thought became increasingly dominant in the human experience our focus of attention progressively shifted from the natural world to the realm of abstractions between our ears. What had once been a relationship with nature became ever more a relationship with our thoughts about nature. We traded the real for the symbolic.


    A simple experiment can make the compelling appeal of thought obvious. Find a beautiful quiet spot, make yourself comfortable, and count your breaths. Most of us won't make it to a count of ten before some train of thought or another distracts us and causes us to lose our place in the count.

    It's hard to have an intimate primal relationship with anything that we can't really keep our attention on.

    The Divisive Nature Of Thought

    Once we humans began to increasingly direct our attention at the thoughts in our heads, we became ever more subject to the properties of that medium.

    Let us observe that thought operates by dividing a single unified reality in to conceptual parts. The noun is the easiest example of this. Our identity as "me" is one of those conceptual objects, a dominant one in the modern human experience.

    So while we had once experienced ourselves as one with nature, as thought emerged we were not only distracted from reality, but looking through the lens of thought created the experience of being divided from nature. Nature became one thing, and "me" became another.

    Evidence for the divisive nature of thought can be seen in the way that every philosophy, ideology and religion etc that has ever been invented inevitably subdivides in to competing internal factions. The universality of this subdivision process reveals to us that the source of this division lies deeper than in the content of particular philosophies, but instead in the inherently divisive nature of what we're all made of psychologically, thought.

    Religion To The Rescue?

    As the emergence of thought broke the unity we had once experienced with reality, religions began to emerge in an attempt to restore the lost union. Phrases like "get back to God" can be seen as expressions of this agenda.

    The God concept arose as a method of personalizing reality so as to make it easier for thought distracted humanity to reestablish an emotional connection with nature. We were told that God loves us, and we should love God in return. Various stories were written with the goal of engaging us in this experience of love, of connection, or reestablishing the lost bond with nature which had once come so naturally.

    The primary problem for the well intentioned efforts of religion has been that they typically attempt to heal the divide with reality using the very same medium that caused the divide. Thought.


    Religious thoughts began to proliferate in the form of teachings, doctrines, rules, and interpretations. And then of course we all began arguing about these teachings, a process which further distracted us from the natural world.

    Exploring Beyond The God Debate

    One way to engage the God debate is to continue the competing answers game for many more centuries and in the end wind up where we already are, nowhere.

    Another way to engage the God debate is to investigate the human need which caused us to start the debate in the first place, and attempt to meet that need.

    Let's talk about that next. As we continue our conversation on the next page will become a bit less abstract, and a bit more practical and personal. After all, the primal bond with reality which we are hoping to recreate is indeed a quite personal business.
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