Why Bother With God At All?

A Question Worth Reflection

Perhaps for people who don’t feel the need for the God concept, why bother with God at all? is one of the most valid questions. Seriously, in a world where science is revealing more and more; where our understanding of medicine means full face transplants are not only possible but successful; and where technology now allows humanity (in the form of the European Space Agency) to attempt to land a probe on the surface of a comet; why bother with God? It’s an amazing world, and humans, are doing amazing things in it.

So, the question is reasonable: why do we need the God concept at all?

God of the Gaps

One, view raised and derided by Christians such as Henry Drummond in the mid-nineteenth century is what’s often referred to as the God of the gaps argument. It’s an idea that uses God as an explanation for things we can’t currently explain. Think explaining sunrise and sunset as the work of a God; or the thunder or stars or even good crops and you’ll see what I mean. As we begin to understand the effects of a revolving planet in a sun-centred solar system, we being to realise God isn’t waking up early to push a sun up or setting an alarm to remind it to take the thing down again. This leaves us with what one blog post on Skeptico calls “The Incredible Shrinking God.” The more we understand, the less we need God to plug the gap of our ignorance. That means, though some might want to explain the cause of the big bang by God lighting a match, someday science will be able to explain what happened. And when it does we won’t need God to plug that hole. Keep that logic going and it’s true: it’s only a matter of time before we won’t need to bother with God at all.

No Gaps Here: Evolutionary Creation

But for those who believe in God, the idea isn’t that easy to dismiss. Take BioLogos, for example. Their website explains they’re a “community of evangelical Christians committed to exploring and celebrating the compatibility of evolutionary creation and biblical faith”. The group hold to a view they call Evolutionary Creation or the “The view that all life on earth came about by the God-ordained process of evolution with common descent”. For them, though the universe evolved, it was kicked off by God in the first place. Put that thought beside a comment by the former head of the human genome project, Francis Collins: “if God chose to intervene from time to time in the natural world by allowing the occurrence of miraculous events, I don’t see why that is an illogical possibility” and it’s clear the idea of a creator God is very much in full swing for many people.

The logic seems to be something like, if God did create us and everything in it; and if it intervenes in our daily lives, how could we not bother with God?

Navigating The God 3.0 Impasse

Though some people see God’s role as diminishing, others see its role very much intact. And we can argue both sides forever.

I started this post with those two points because those are the kind of arguments that abound in contemporary discussions about God. Whichever way you slice it, one is saying there is no God for this reason, and the other is saying there is a God because of this. It’s the kind of impasse I started this website to try to navigate around.

To my mind, those arguments centre around God 3.0: our current ideas about God. The creator God that set the wheels in motion and comes back to grease them from time to time. The one we have to please. The one who in some versions is waiting to reward or punish use depending on how well we’ve followed its dictates.

So, Why Bother With God?

One answer to navigating that impasse is to rethink the God idea. That’s the point of this website, of course, but it still begs the question, “Why bother to reinvent God? Why not just let the idea go, already?

The Controller of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World would say we don’t let the God idea go because we’re conditioned to believe it. On the other hand Guy P. Harrison in his book, 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God offers, well, 50 reasons. Everything ranging from “My god is obvious” (number 1) to “I am afraid of not believing” (50).

The need for comfort or fear of death are often cited as reasons for why we bother with God. But that doesn’t really cut it for me. Mark Twain’s famous “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it” makes it clear that humans can live just fine without recourse to a God for comfort.

The question keeps coming back. Why bother with God? Why not give up on the whole idea?

Of course, lots of people have. The Washington Post reports that atheism is on the rise in the US. The BBC quotes Egypt’s al-Sabah newspaper as claiming three million Egyptians are atheists. And yet, despite the apparent international decline, a recent Gallup poll shows belief in the God concept is still strong. In fact 90% of Americans bother with God – a number that’s stayed fairly constant since the 1950s.

But when asked about religious affiliation, the numbers change. In the 1950s the poll says “almost all Americans identified themselves with a particular religion”. These days that number drops by 10%.

What does that tell us? Well, though there may be a decline in religion’s influence, the God concept still remains. That it endures despite humans being able to live with the certainty of death. That it survives even though religions that claim to represent it decline.

Bothering In A Different Way

To me, that signals a need for God, but not the God of tradition. The picture science offers shows us means the traditional idea of God is fast becoming bankrupt. But still, people bother with God. And it’s because the human spirit is still struggling to engage with whatever God is that we haven’t given up on it. Reinventing it, yes. But not willing to let the idea go. 


© Joe Britto and God 4.0, 2013. All rights reserved.

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