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The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
How do I become Baha’i?

God, Chickens and Eggs

Maya Bohnhoff | Apr 23, 2013

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Maya Bohnhoff | Apr 23, 2013

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

In a recent discussion about Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion on my Facebook page, someone posed the Chicken and Egg argument against the existence of God: that is, the God “theorem” just kicks the causal relationship further down the road because then we have to explain what created God.

This is certainly true if you conceive of God as being the same sort of being we are and therefore subject to the same natural laws.

Krishna hints at a more complex relationship and reality than that when He says:

All the visible universe comes from my invisible Being. All beings have their rest in me, but I have not My rest in them, And in truth they rest not in Me. Consider my sacred mystery: I am the source of all beings, I support them all, but I rest not in them. — Bhagavad Gita 9:4

As a writer of fiction, I find this concept comprehensible because of the relationship that exists between me and my creations. I am in my books, but I am not in my books. I create the laws that operate in my books, and yet I am not bound by those laws. The characters in my books may look human and act human and sound human, but they are only reflections of humanity.

So, from my point of view, to cavil at the existence of God because we can’t imagine what sort of being He might be (having only ourselves as a point of reference) would be very much like my characters being unable to imagine that there is a writer who conceived of them and put them into a book. They might theorize my existence and, if they looked carefully at themselves, they would see my reflection in them, but they would not see me.

I think this is what our relationship with God is like — we can’t see God any more than we can stare directly into the sun, but we can see His reflection. The Baha’i writings put it this way:

Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth is a direct evidence of the revelation within it of the attributes and names of God, inasmuch as within every atom are enshrined the signs that bear eloquent testimony to the revelation of that Most Great Light. …To a supreme degree is this true of man, who, among all created things, hath been invested with the robe of such gifts, and hath been singled out for the glory of such distinction. — Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p 177

Later in the same verse, Baha’u’llah says:

“He hath known God who hath known himself.”

Look at it logically: if we suppose that there is no essence or element or being behind the existence of the universe that is NOT intrinsically different than what is IN the universe, then no matter what you posit caused this or that, you’re doomed to an infinite regression of chickens and eggs.

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  • Elly
    May 7, 2013
    I love your analogy of you as the author to that of your characters. I've heard the analogy of a carpenter to their table: The table is of the carpenter and by the carpenter, but not the carpenter. It's so much closer to a human experience to think of your character theorizing their existence than a grain of wood doing the same!
    For myself, that is one of the reasons I like being creative; it allows me to GLIMPSE into what it is like to be a "Creator" ;)
    I can then explore that analogy of being part ...of Creation with a new perspective...
    Thanks for a great article!
  • Apr 25, 2013
    Dawkins doesn't get it, because he simply cannot comprehend the concept of infinity. For conventional phsyics, the universe started with a "big bang" some large but finite time ago, and will end in the "heat death" some large but finite time in the future. At least, that's the currently popular hypothesis, subject to change with perhaps a few years notice. The idea of someone (or even something) that has always existed, will always exist, is not bound by time but stands outside of time and space, is simply too weird to wrap his mind around.
    He is also bothered ...because the question of God is scientifically undecidable. In epistemological terms, the proposition "There is a God" is not falsifiable: there is no experiment you can devise or perform that will prove it false. By the same token, you can't prove it true. You can only believe, or not believe. I choose to believe, on aesthetic grounds as much as any other.
    Dawkins does not believe, which is fine. But for some reason he has decided to be the atheist's equivalent of the Jehovah's Witness type who goes from door to door preaching how you must accept Jesus because _he_ believes. Dawkins does not believe, so for him, it is necessary that we also not believe. Well, to quote Elda Innsmith, "Fine for him."
    • Apr 27, 2013
      Hi, Barry! Fancy meeting you here. Certainly, the evangelical atheist is a new phenomenon. And I think they are more anti-theist than strictly atheist--that is someone who simply does not believe.The question, of course, is what is it the thing they don't believe in?
      Chris Hitchens has said that his atheism is "a Protestant atheism." Which begs the question, which human conception of God he is rejecting.
  • Alfredo B. Ancheta
    Apr 25, 2013
    Maya, today just stumbled on this page and a very good venue for deepening. Am going to be your reader. Am a Filipino Baha'i living in Olongapo City. Had been a travel teacher during prime years of my youth during early 1970s through 80s.
    • Maya Bohnhoff
      Jun 2, 2013
      Amen. That's why I entitled my first collection of short fiction "I Loved Thy Creation"—because of that verse in Hidden Words in which Baha'u'llah says: "O Son of Man! I loved thy creation, hence I created thee. Wherefore do thou love me that I may name thy name and fill thy soul with the spirit of life." It is through creative acts that we get those "glimpses" of what He means when He says "He hath known God who hath known himself."
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