Several years ago, in a speech at Magdalene College Cambridge, Douglas Adams concluded that there is no such thing as an “actual” God, but that the “artificial” God is very real, made real because so many people believe in it but without any independent existence of its own.
A few years later I used that reasoning to put separate the idea of America from the actual United States as a way of addressing the fact that we Americans do not live up to our ideals and that while they may hate or at least resent the U.S.A. for much of what it does in the world, many outside the country nevertheless love America the idea.
That came in handy a couple of years later when the school age daughter of a close friend IM’d me demanding to know whether or not Santa Claus is real.
Oh shit! I thought. What do I say?
My first reaction was to frantically dial my friend’s cell, and then, getting no answer, to text just as frantically. Still no reply.
Meanwhile, the daughter is IM’ing me that she saw her mom hiding away Christmas toys that she had written Santa for. So she knew Santa wasn’t real and she just wanted for an adult to tell her the truth.
So I told her. This did not make the girl very happy.
I thought for a minute or two, then, secretly thanking the dead Douglas Adams who couldn’t hear me, told her that while there may not be an actual person Santa Claus, the idea of Santa Claus was real and she could believe in the idea even if she couldn’t believe he was real.
That she liked.
One of the criticisms of atheism is that it is another form of belief. For some people, that may be true. Even some atheists see themselves that way, such as George Carlin, who said, “For a while I thought of myself as an atheist until I realized that was a belief too.”
The counter argument is that not believing in something for which there is little or no proof is not a belief at all but simply a lack of belief. That argument, while valid in theory, often bogs down in its actual practice, like so many things in the realm of being human. However, I can nevertheless say with complete validity that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to Jews, Father of Jesus Christ to Christians, and Allah whose one and only prophet is Muhammad to Muslims does not exist. This is not opinion, this is fact, undeniable fact.
The artificial entity much of the world thinks of as God (Almighty, Lord, Allah, etc.) was first created to serve the needs of hill tribes living in the Palestinian highlands between the Mediterranean coastal plain and the lowlands of the Jordan Valley. This imaginary divine being’s actual name was Yahu/Yahuweh/Yahweh, probably the same as Yam/Yaw in the tablets from Ugarit, and he was in origin just one of the seventy sons of the supreme god and father of them all, El. There was one son of El for what was under Canaanite mythology each of the seventy nations into humanity was divided.
These gods and the tales about them arose on a much different planet in a much different universe than that which we know today.
In Biblical cosmology, our planet, Earth, is a flat disc between the underworld (sheol) and the sky (shamamayim) with a cosmic ocean surrounding the whole thing. That is why the sky appears blue. In order to keep the ocean from flooding the Earth, the gods (elohim) placed a firmament (raqia), an inverted solid transparent bowl, in the heavens separating the sky from the ocean. Another raqia prevents sheol from being flooded by the waters below it. The sun, the moon, the stars, and the planets all lie in the narrow strip of firmament.
According to the myth, it (the Earth and all of temporal existence) was created in six days (six 24-hour Earth days), has been around for about six thousand years (according to fundamentalist Christians) or a couple of centuries less (according to Orthodox Jews), and is the center of both the solar system and of the universe.
With slight variations and modifications, this was the dominant Israelite cosmology at least through the 2nd century CE, including early Christianity, as witnessed in Revelation 21:1 (“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea”). No more chaos-breeding sea in the new cosmos, where cosmos (order) is all that is left with no more chaos (disorder) around to get in the way. No more freedom either, but who needs to have choice in paradise?
In The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, one of Donaldson’s characters says, “No power can transcend the strictures which make its existence possible.” In other words, power cannot exist in a vacuum and needs a framework to contain it.
In light of the fact that the mythic cosmology under which Yahweh was conceived has been thoroughly demolished in every aspect, it is fair to say that beyond the shadow of a doubt that in a universe which is not geocentric, that is 13.8 billion years old and 21.3 untrigintillion (add 97 zeroes) cubic kilometers in volume, on an Earth which is more or less spherical, 4.3 billion years old, in a heliocentric star system, the Canaanite-Israelite-Jewish god Yahweh, as well as his guises under Christianity and Islam, does not exist.
(The above is the entire Universe, the ha-olam, according to the cosmology of the ancient Aramean group known as the Israelites.)