On Science and Faith
The Core Argument:
In the minds of many, God is an all-powerful old man sitting on a cloud in a ragged tunic. This man supposedly controls the entire world, knows everything about you, and for an unknown reason didn’t want Jewish people to eat pork.
This is not what God is. In fact, God is not a being. God, in the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, is “the sheer act of to be.” Since this sounds confusing, let’s reframe it as “God is existence.” He is the reason that there is something rather than nothing.
Thinking of God as existence itself, rather than some super-powerful supernatural being, changes the way one can look at Christianity or Catholicism as a whole. Instead of praying to some “old man in the sky,” you are connecting yourself to your own existence, as well as everyone and everything else’s. When religious leaders say that God is with everyone or that God is inside everyone, that is because everyone exists, and God is that existence.
Another view that is changed by thinking of God as the act of existence is one’s own relationship with Him. For example, my own relationship with God right now is very positive. My own relationship with existence right now is very positive. Currently, I’m very happy that I exist. In contrast, the times that I’ve been most angry with God are also the times that I’ve been most unhappy with my own existence, at times feeling as though maybe it would be better to not exist.
This is not to say that one’s own circumstances are directly tied to their relationship with God or existence, as one can certainly have a good relationship with God and still dislike their current situation, but that contemplations of existence itself seem to coincide with one’s relationship with God. This can be confusing, especially because suicidal thoughts and other such contemplations of existence are typically tied to these circumstances, even though on a fundamental level they are different.
In other words, it is possible to keep your faith in God when bad things occur, but if someone is contemplating suicide because they’ve lost faith in existence then it is almost certain that they have also lost their faith in God.
Relation to Science:
This view of God is not entirely perfect, but it covers some of the most important aspects of God that science can directly refute. For example, science can very definitively state that there is no God that floats up in a cloud in the sky. Science, however, cannot deny that existence, well… exists. In my opinion, giving that existence a name is entirely logical. It creates an answer to a question that we can’t answer with science: “Why is there something rather than nothing?”
Many might argue with this notion, saying that providing your own answer to an obviously unanswerable question is “cheating” or “faking it.” This is not the case. Defining an answer to a previously non-definitive question is a wonderful way to understand that which could not be understood before.
For example, it was long thought that it is completely impossible to take the square root of a negative number. This only changed when mathematicians decided to give an answer to a previously unanswerable question: The square root of -1 is defined as i. From this single definition, mathematicians built the rest of a completely logical system that only works because they gave the square root of -1 a name. This system is often useful in the real world.
In this case, as well as with God, giving an answer to something that otherwise wouldn’t have an answer provides a basis for logical expansion. In the case of God specifically, it provides us with a definitive statement from which to logically extrapolate the rest of the Catholic faith.
In the next part of the On Science and Faith series, titled “Heaven,” we will take a closer look at how the Catholic view of Heaven as “full union with God” fits neatly together with the view of God as “the sheer act of to be.”
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