God as a mental construct
I am going to suggest that God is a conception, a mental construct.
Start here with energy and matter. Before the Big Bang and the start of our universe, there was nothing but energy (dark energy?). No matter existed. (Unless, of course, if there were prior universes or we live in a multiverse situation).
My Mental Construct is that “GOD” means that which is All. The sum total of everything. By Definition, everything. But no other properties or characteristics except ‘that which is all’.
Therefore, the Big Bang came from whatever GOD is. GOD created the Universe. I stress that we have not in any way described what GOD is. Just a word representing the concept of ALL. I am DEFINITELY NOT suggesting any type of entity outside this Infinity. No entity with blueprints and plans.
So … some kind of quantum spark or disturbance happens (reason unknown) and that because of this quantum ripple, energy BECOMES matter (which did not exist prior to the Big Bang). This Energy becoming matter was the start of the Big Bang, and start of the universe that we know of today.
Energy can be converted to matter (E=mc2)and that matter contains stored energy (which can be released). The definition of energy, free energy, or dark energy is not clear, but we know that at high energy levels subatomic particles jump in and out of existence (CERN and other studies of high energy).
Now it happens that some subatomic particles combine to form stable new products like quarks joining to become protons. Protons are exceedingly stable and once they are formed, they do not spontaneously decompose back to states of free energy. They persist through time.
And it happens that other combinations (protons and electrons) are also stable (persist through time). Think of Hydrogen (1 proton and 1 electron) or Helium (2 protons and 2 electrons). This all happens according the laws of physics, which might be called GOD’s laws. (Or are these just descriptive laws of what is going on?)
So, we get an unexplained quantum ripple, matter starts to form, and a huge outlay of energy causes the Big Bang and the laws of physics takes over. The Universe starts (13.8 billion years ago). And it starts to expand. Matter collects, stars and galaxies form, our sun comes together (about 10 billion years ago), all according to the laws of physics and chemistry (bonds between atoms, molecules, chemical compounds).
Now remember, GOD is a my concept for ‘that which is all’, which includes our physical universe and whatever else there is.
Our Earth Comes About
About 4.5 billion years ago our Earth comes together as part of the solar system. About 3.8 to 4 billion years ago, life gets started on earth.
There is still a mystery as to how this actually happened, but there is enough research and ideas about the origin of life to think it was very likely, highly likely, that a chemical, molecular collection of pieces came together with some kind of energy flow to establish an entity that had a process (metabolism) that persisted through time.
A metabolic process (a biological entity) came from a physical-chemical process wherein the preceding components were “not alive” but had the proper elements (macro organic molecules) and proper energy (heat) to cause the new biological entity to persist through time, that is be alive.
After life got started, there was a huge amount of time (2–3 billion years) wherein only single celled creatures (Prokaryotes: archaea and bacteria) existed. Then, there was another burst when an archaea consumed a bacteria and Eukaryotes came into being. This subsuming of one creature by another may have happened multiple times, but clearly, at some point this new biological entity took hold (multi-cellular creatures) and more serious evolutionary life in the oceans started. From a time reference, this was around 700 million years ago.
Notice at this point we are 13 billion years after GOD “created” the Universe. And notice GOD is not an entity sitting around waiting for something to happen.
From 700 million years ago to about 10 million years ago we have full scale biological evolution. Life in the seas, changes, more creatures of all sorts, life on land, plants, dinosaurs and eventually primates (from which our species descended).
I jump here to primates and skip all the evolution leading up to that. This is discussed widely elsewhere: Our species started with an structure based on evolution and biological processes to keep us alive. Primates (and other mammals) had skeletons, nervous systems, senses, and brains. Hominoids added language and this lead to culture, religion and civilization.
It happened something like this:
· Bipedalism: Our ancestors came out of the trees and started walking more upright which freed the hands (tools, creativity) and elongated the neck (better vocal cords)
· Control of fire: Cooking and better food and more protein rich diet leading to larger brains and sheltering leading to hominoids developing society.
In a time line of human origins we are between 2 and 6 million years ago. At about 2 million years ago there the dominant species Homo erectus was around, along other hominoid species.
It was sheltering and commonality that allowed Homo sapiens to excel. It happened because they made better use of sound to communicate (pass information) and eventually to work together and to collaborate. But it was the use of sounds that allowed language, and hence, concepts, and hence questions, and hence questions about who we are and where we came from.
At some time, 13.8 billion years after creation, humans were talking/thinking enough to ask ‘where we came from’ and ‘what is going on’ and ‘why’.
The answer was gods or spirits or things unseen. This led to a different mental construct, a different conception of God as a Supreme Being who exists as an entity outside our physical universe. This God does things.
Let me stress this again: the use of sound (better repertoire of sounds produced and received) led to labeling objects (sounds representing something) and labeling actions (like eat, love) and eventually to the ability to conceptualize objects. After a while (thousands of years) the objects labelled became not just physical objects but also non-physical objects (concepts) or ideas. (See my Sounds and Civilization)
It was the birth of non-physical ideas, concepts, conceptualizations, and the neural activity to support this (sounds transformed into meaning) that lead to language and that lead to everything.
Once humans had language and the ability to conceptualize non-physical ideas, they reached the point of asking questions. How does the sun go across the sky? Answer, the gods do it. GOD, God, gods became the answer to things unknown, and 50000 years ago there was lots unknown.
Humans invented the God-as-an-entity concept (made gods into beings) and later (MUCH LATER) invented whole stories to explain how we came to be and why we came to be.
Let’s keep our timescale accurate. Language got a big boost somewhere between 50,000 and 125,000 years ago. Between 15000–50000 years ago, humans developed tribes and clans and evolved to select leaders: political leaders (tribal chief) and spiritual leaders (priests). These leaders helped “understand” how got here using whatever knowledge they had at the time.
We know that by 10000 years ago we had arrived at the agricultural revolution with the advancements to writing (7000 ya) and to communities and to shared responsibilities and to specializations. At this time there was no ONE GOD, there was no Christianity or Judaism. There were multiple pagan gods and there was competition between gods because there is competition between cultures (tribes, clans and the societies). This was long before Abraham.
Religion came about and persisted for centuries before Judaism because “religion” offered these evolutionary advantages:
- understanding of our world,
- comfort for the soul (hope, afterlife), and
- moderation of group behavior through rules (e.g Ten Commandments).
These factors helped the groups and made the group stronger (more viable in natural selection). This was an evolutionary advantage.
Somewhere around 1500–1000 years before Christ, the Old Testament Bible started to come together. The authors where trying to record their history (previously oral) and to codify the elements of their beliefs. Again, the understanding of the world was based on VERY LIMITED INFORMATION. They came up with the best they could, given their knowledge base.
Then Jesus came along: rebel teacher, help the poor, non-elitist, love thy neighbor. Something happened. It could have been a near-death experience, which at that time would not have been understood except as “rising from the dead”. But it would have seemed miraculous and would have seriously enhanced the reputation and legend of Jesus.
It affected Saul/Paul and it affected the Apostles. The rest is history. The ideas of Christianity (many of which are very good) spread throughout the known world. This dispersion of religions is because of physical communication of ideas in a political and social setting. Christianity helped a lot of people and clearly had an effect on western culture.
Religions offered benefits. The explanation of the world (God, Creation, Heaven, Hell) all made since in the early knowledge environment, hence the conceptions (of a Supreme Being) were very widespread in the culture (ideas or memes lodged in people’s brains). Christianity survided and spread because of this.
But that does not mean that Christianity and its theology are correct? God as an entity? Jesus as Divine? The Prophesies, Second Coming, Judgment Day? Such things as ‘Do not kill’, ‘Do not steal’ continue to be good moral ideas, even if there was no blueprint of all of evolution.
The essence here is that theist concept of God as an entity who thought up things and controls (Divine Will) seems, to be, to an invention (mental construct) of minds that didn’t have enough knowledge to truly understand what is going on.
Even today, we are stumped with “before the Big Bang”. But it looks pretty clear to me that if you define GOD as that which is ALL, and that you say the BIG BANG and the laws of physics are GOD’S creation, and that physics and chemistry are the controlling aspects of our natural world, you are on reasonable ground.
But when you create (as a figment of your understanding) a supernatural being who blueprints, controls, has Divine Will, impregnated a Human to give rise to another Divine being, well… I am thinking this is a little incredulous.
Note that I have published other essays that provide additional thoughts on these subjects: