Questions from an Atheist
The Granularity of God
Day and night you must strive that you may attain to the
significances of the heavenly Kingdom, perceive the signs of
Divinity, acquire certainty of knowledge and realize that this
world has a Creator, a Vivifier, a Provider, an Architect—
knowing this through proofs and evidences and not through
susceptibilities, nay, rather, through decisive arguments and real vision
—that is to say, visualizing it as clearly as the outer eye beholds the
sun. In this way may you behold the presence of God and
attain to the knowledge of the holy, divine Manifestations.
You must come into the knowledge of the divine Manifestations and
Their teachings through proofs and evidences.
— Abdu’l‑Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace,pp 227-8
Behind the Questions
An online conversation started by an atheist
philosopher and blogger: “Maynard”
He asked these questions because he felt “the God
hypothesis” wasn’t granular enough. He wanted every
detail filled in. An interesting request given that few, if
any, scientific hypotheses
leap fully formed from even the most advanced
leap forth proven or even with enough evidence to
satisfy the scientific community.
1. Is God a (a) material or (b) non-material entity? (i.e., is God made up of the same kind of
stuff like protons, electrons, etc. with properties like mass, charge, spin, etc. that every
other thing in the universe is made up of, or is he made of something that is non-material?)
2. Does God exist everywhere in space?
3. Is God a sentient being like us, with thoughts and feelings?
4. Can God change the past?
5. Does God know the future?
6. Does God know absolutely everything that happens every moment, including every thought
of every being?
7. Can god intervene in events whenever and wherever, to violate natural laws and change
their course (i.e. perform miracles)?
8. Do you believe that you have a soul or spirit that will continue to exist in some form
(perhaps reincarnated) even after you are dead?
Nature of the Questions
The questions spring from a
number of assumptions:
That our concepts of omniscience
and omnipotence are applicable,
realistic, or even rational.
That God is a type of being with
material qualities, such as physical
strength and a human perspective.
That our concept of something
being “made” applies to God.
Is God a (a) material or (b) non-material entity? (i.e., is God made up of
the same kind of stuff like protons, electrons, etc. with properties like
mass, charge, spin, etc. that every other thing in the universe is made up
of, or is he made of something that is non-material?
What Sort of Being Is God?
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.
– Krishna, The Bhagavad Gita 9:4.
The Writer’s POV
I am “in” the books I write.
But I am not literally or physically in the
I created the characters, laws and plot
out of my innermost thoughts and
imagination, and the characters
continue to live and grow in my mind.
I am not encompassed or defined by
the story in the pages, nor do I have to
abide by the laws I establish for my
fictional universe. Yet, the book…
reflects my emotions about certain
things and people,
reveals my thought processes,
shows the reader glimpses of my
“All my visible literary universe
comes from my invisible being. All
characters have their rest (and
origin) in me, but I don’t rest in them.
Really, they don’t rest in me. I am
their source, and I support them all
by writing about them, but I’m not in
In other words, I’m not defined by
my stories or limited by them. I don’t
begin and end in them, but rather
Their reality reflects my reality
and my intellect.
“He hath known God who hath known
In God’s Image...
Sacred texts dating back millennia tell us that human beings are, in
some essential way, created in God’s image.
Krishna says that the atman (soul) is “God’s spirit in man” and that
atman makes the human precious in the sight of God and drives us
to seek Him.
Bahá’u’lláh writes of the capacity of the human soul to reflect the
“names and attributes of God”. He says,
O SON OF MAN! Veiled in My immemorial being and in the ancient
eternity of My essence, I knew My love for thee; therefore I created thee,
have engraved on thee Mine image and revealed to thee My beauty. – The
Arabic Hidden Words, #3.
I think if we recognize the
uniqueness of our own
rational faculty, we’ll have a
fraction of a glimmer of a
clue about the sort of
intelligence human beings
reflect in the universe.
So, here’s a neat twist...
The scriptures of the world’s
religions tell us the human
spirit is a reflection of the God
who is the origin of the
Perhaps this is why we ask
“Why are we here?” and “How
did we get here?” (which are
not the same question) and
seriously expect an answer.
We can employ that rational
faculty to arrive at the idea that
a transcendent, non-physical
God logically exists.
If we posit that God is, like us,
made up of star stuff (atoms,
etc) then we end up with an
infinite regression. (Meaning,
we have to ask what caused
Hence, the Origin of the laws
by which this universe works,
cannot, itself, be subject to
It must be something
Does God exist everywhere in space?
God dwells in the heart of all beings, Arjuna: thy God dwells in thy
heart. And His power of wonder moves all things… – Krishna,
Bhagavad Gita 18:61.
If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love
him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. – Jesus
Christ, John 14: 23
O SON OF DUST! All that is in heaven and earth I have
ordained for thee, except the human heart, which I have made the
habitation of My beauty and glory… – Baha’u’llah, Hidden Words of
Baha’u’llah, vs. 27.
The Home of God
The scriptures of these three faiths
(Hinduism, Christianity and the Baha’i
Faith), though thousands of years apart,
speak of God’s “place” as being the
In the Baha’i writings Baha’u’llah and
Abdu’l‑Bahá use more straightforward
language to assign this “realm” to what
Baha’u’llah refers to as the “rational soul”,
the reasoning faculty that separates us
from the animals.
Krishna said: Brahman is the Supreme, the
Eternal. Atman is His Spirit in man. Karma is
the force of creation, from which all things
have their life. – Bhagavad Gita, 8:3.
How does God
dwell in our
My understanding: He
dwells there when we
live by the spiritual
principles and practices
that can transform
human life and character.
Krishna gives God absolute
existence (a concept repeated in
diverse scriptures) and the
capacity to pervade and support
the entire universe without
“resting” in it.
Buddha further refers to this
absolute Being in this way: There
is, O monks, an Unborn, Unoriginated,
Uncreated, Unformed. Were there not,
O monks, this Unborn, Unoriginated,
Uncreated, Unformed, there would be
no escape from the world of the born,
originated, formed. – Udana 80-81.
Something to ponder...
The human intellect has
the capacity to escape
the world of the “born,
originated, formed”. It
can escape the animal
condition and the
limitations imposed by
nature, not just through
abstract thought, but by
and manipulating reality.
If we are “chips” off the Divine Block...
Why is it so hard for some of us
to accept the idea of a Being
even more placeless and more
powerful than our own intellect,
and more capable of creating
and manipulating reality?
When we deny the possibility of
the existence of God, are we
not calling into doubt the reality
of our own existence, as well?
According to Bahá’u’lláh, God does
not have a distinct physical “place” in
space — especially if by this we mean
outer space. He refers to God as the
Placeless. Clearly when the scriptures
speak of the “heavens” they do not
mean the physical skies around our
planet or even the outer reaches of
the cosmos, but something else
Baha’u’llah refers repeatedly to “the
heaven of God’s will” — something
that one can perhaps best find
through intellectual rather than
“And also in your
own selves: will ye
not then behold the
signs of God?”
Is God a sentient being like us, with thoughts and
Is God Sentient?
The scriptural record — from all
major Faiths, not just the Bible
or the Baha’i Writings — tells us
that we are created in God’s
What does this mean?
Baha’u’llah says that the rational
soul reflects the Divine Intellect.
So, given that we are sentient, it
stands to reason that if our
intellect is a reflection of God’s,
He is also sentient.
“God is sentient
— Thomas Aquinas
The Writer Metaphor
Consider the genesis of
the book I’m writing.
I tell the story from the
viewpoints of about halfdozen different
characters and I have to
put myself in their shoes
to do my job.
Like, But Unlike?
Perhaps our thoughts and
feelings are at once like and
unlike God’s in the same way
that the reflection of something
in a mirror is like, yet unlike the
The original object has three
dimensions, while the mirror
image has two. God has, as my
son likes to say, additional
dimensions that His creations,
including us, do not.
Between Two Worlds
Food for thought: Many of
our thoughts and feelings
result from interactions
God, having no
component, cannot be
caught between the two
realities as we are.
Why Would God Create
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.
– The Arabic Hidden Words,
“Yes, God is sentient.
And yes, He has
thoughts and feelings
that are at once like and
not like our own.”
Questions 4, 5 & 6:
Can God change the past?
Does God know the future?
Does God know absolutely everything?
Can God Change the Past?
God, Time & Science
Heisenberg proved that we can
measure either the momentum or
location of an entity. We cannot
Consider a movie: If we try to
measure the speed of the film,
we cannot determine the
position of a single frame; if we
determine the position of a
single frame, we can no longer
measure the speed.
What Sort of Being is God?
If we try to observe an arc (a
two dimensional object) we
capture only a single point (a
one dimensional object).
We humans cannot see the
universe from more than one
point of view.
Can we reasonably expect to
comprehend a Being that can
see, not just individual points,
but arcs and waves as well,
including the arc of time?
God could change the past, but
why would He?
We humans long to do that,
because we’re so clueless about
how to learn from the past.
Layli & Majnun. If God had
spared Majnun the calamity of
being pursued, he would not
have found his true love. His illinformed impulse to have the
past rewritten would have robbed
him of the very thing that
reunited him with his beloved.
past means we’d
lose the lessons
we have gleaned
from it – and
we’d never know
Does God Know the Future?
Bahá’u’lláh and Abdu’l‑Bahá’s
statements about the future
indicate that certain arcs across
time—Divine Goals—proceed in
a pre-determined way.
For example: Progressive
revelation of religion and the
maturation of humanity from
savage to civil, from material to
spiritual, from irrational to
rational, from selfishness to
How that comes about is up to
Does God Know the Future?
No human being can answer
this question with any certainty.
How does a being who can
only see points answer
questions that relate to an arc?
It’s as if one of my fictional
characters asked another, “Do
you think there’s a Writer out
there who knows exactly what
I’m going to say on page 123?”
I don’t know yet what my hero
will say on page 123, but I do
know that he will, in his own way,
help move the plot forward.
The Creator’s Eye View
Which path to take?
Certain things must happen in
the book before the plot unfolds.
BUT...how my characters arrive
at the end point changes as
they navigate turning point after
If I’m doing it “right”, the
interactions between my
characters will determine
their path through the plot,
rather than my forcing a
particular sequence of events.
Q: Does God
A: Only God knows. His
educators, the Founders
of the world’s Faiths, can
only tell us what we have
the capacity to
Does God Know it All?
This question deals with God’s
omniscience with regard to time.
Human beings have no experience of
omniscience. None. Irks the heck out
of us, but there it is.
Buckeroo Banzai put it eloquently:
“Remember, no matter where you go,
there you are.”. I take this to mean, in
part that we each have only our
singular, microscopic viewpoint.
We can’t know what a super-eminent
Being knows or does not know unless
He tells us, because we lack the
capacity to do more than imagine
Can God intervene in events whenever and wherever, to
violate natural laws and change their course (i.e. perform
I don’t know.
Does God “Do” Miracles?
None of us, not even Alan
Guth, knows everything
about natural laws and
how they function and
“breaking” them as
opposed to merely using
those laws in ways
I think God intervenes
Does God “Do” Miracles?
Not long ago, human flight seemed
a breakage of laws.
People don’t have wings, ergo,
people don’t fly.
But we do. And we live in space,
and at the bottom of the ocean.
What these miracles require is a
sufficiently advanced technological
understanding (which, as fellow
science fiction writer Arthur C.
Clarke pointed out, is
indistinguishable from magic).
If we can do such things
with the little bit of
subjective knowledge that
we have, what might the
Being who has a
Creator’s knowledge of
the system and its
potential be able to do?
The Prophets tell us
that God’s activities are
rational and purposeful.
Think about some of the
miracles you’ve heard
Now ask yourself: Why?
What purpose do they
[Miracles] do not constitute
proofs and evidences for all the
peoples of the earth, and they are
not decisive proofs even for those
who see them; they may think
that they are merely
enchantments. – Some Answered
Questions, p. 37
What is the Greatest Miracle of Any
Healing the sick?
Walking on water?
Calming a raging
Restoring physical life
to the dead?
Rising from the dead?
Or is it this:
That a Man with no worldly
power is remembered
world wide, has
transformed billions of
lives, and is revered when
great kings are forgotten.
Who Has Performed this
Only a handful of individuals
in all of history have
performed this miracle.
Baha’is believe this is the
chief way that God
“intervenes” in history — by
sending beings like Christ
and Moses and Muhammad
and Krishna and Buddha and
Baha’u’llah to guide us
through Their words and
And it shall come
...in the last days that the mountain of the
Lord’s house shall be established in the top of
the mountains, and shall be exalted above the
hills; and the nations shall flow unto it. And
many people shall go and say, Come ye, and
let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the
house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach
us his ways, and we will walk in His paths: for
out of Zion shall go forth the Law and the
word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He
shall judge among the nations, and shall
rebuke many people: and they shall beat their
swords into ploughshares and their swords
into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up
sword against nation, neither shall they learn
war any more. O house of Jacob, come ye,
and let us walk in the light of the Lord. –
How Does God Intervene?
His “house” is established
(He has a presence on
People willingly “visit” it.
His law goes out.
As a result, mankind will
“beat their swords into
plowshares” — turn
into productive ones.
What does the
verse NOT say?
It does not say that God
will do these things for
us. It says that we will do
these things in response
to God’s presence and
Do you believe that you have a soul or spirit that will continue to
exist in some form (perhaps reincarnated) even after you are
Humans clearly have a
capacity that animals do
The Rational Soul
I wrote this material in characters that
symbolize sounds and that, configured
in diverse ways, form words that carry
abstract and concrete meanings (in
I also composed this thing not found in
nature using technology devised by other
humans and which I understand only
dimly, though I’ve worked with it for over
The things I use these tools to describe
are rarely material, real-world things that
I also arrange my characters and words to
tell of things that did not happen to
people who do not exist in worlds
that I made up out of whole cloth.
The Rational Soul
Human beings—though naturally
wingless—have invented ways to
They have done this, not by brute
force, but through the use of
abstract reasoning and
extrapolation, something that
other animals—even those with
opposable thumbs and DNA that
is 99+% identical to ours—
Is a bird’s ability to fly the same,
categorically, as our ability to
write fantasy fiction or build
Human beings have a literally
supernatural faculty that allows
us to transcend nature. All of
us interact with the
supernatural on a daily basis,
but especially those of us who
do such things as science, art,
music, writing, technology
… and baseball.
It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would
make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a
Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure.
The power of the rational soul can
discover the realities of things,
comprehend the peculiarities of beings,
and penetrate the mysteries of existence.
All sciences, knowledge, arts, wonders,
institutions, discoveries and enterprises
come from the exercised intelligence of
the rational soul. There was a time when
they were unknown, preserved mysteries
and hidden secrets; the rational soul
gradually discovered them and brought
them out from the plane of the invisible
and the hidden into the realm of the
visible. This is the greatest power of
perception in the world of nature, which
in its highest flight and soaring
comprehends the realities, the properties
and the effects of the contingent beings.
The Sign of God
Bahá’ís believe the existence
of the soul gives life meaning
and depth, joy and sadness,
exuberance and wonder.
Without it we have no real
purpose beyond the physical;
with it our existence becomes
a powerful and purposeful
journey toward transcendence.
We are more than the sum
total of our physical parts.
Know, verily, that the soul is a sign of
God, a heavenly gem whose reality the
most learned of men hath failed to
grasp, and whose mystery no mind,
however acute, can ever hope to unravel.
It is the first among all created things
to declare the excellence of its Creator,
the first to recognize His glory, to
cleave to His truth, and to bow down in
adoration before Him. If it be faithful
to God, it will reflect His light, and
will, eventually, return unto Him.
— Baha’u’llah, Gleanings LXXII, p
Of this essential piece of the human
being, Krishna said:
“It is God’s spirit in man”
The authors of Genesis said we were
created “in God’s image”, and Baha’u’llah
“He hath known God who hath known
If true, this makes self-knowledge critical
to human existence — most especially to
a human existence that will someday be
free of the conflict between our natural
and supernatural selves.
And now concerning thy question
regarding the soul of man and its
survival after death. Know thou of
a truth that the soul, after its
separation from the body, will
continue to progress until it
attaineth the presence of God, in a
state and condition which neither
the revolution of ages and centuries,
nor the changes and chances of this
world, can alter.
— Baha’u’llah, Gleanings, LXXXI,