God (or any supernatural equivalent deity) is a figment of your imagination and a creation of that same imagination, probably aided, abetted and reinforced by your peers, your culture and your society. God therefore has a virtual reality but not a really real reality not that of necessity there even has to be a really real reality of anything, apart from your very own mind and mind’s imagination, imagination that has its ultimate foundations and is rooted in brain chemistry.
INSIDE: THE BRAIN RULES THE ROOST
You are defined by your brain. You are not defined by your big toe or your set of lungs or your good looking facial features or how much you weigh or how old you are. What makes you, you is all that which is contained within those cubic centimetres of grey matter, wetware, the brain, the mind (a subpart of the anatomical organ), whatever you wish to call it.
Your brain, or more to the point your brain chemistry, defines you. Everything that you are resides in your brain under the control of wetware chemistry. Consider the following list of things that are you and that are part and parcel of holding residence in your wetware: Awe, wonder and a sense of mystery; spirituality; a sense of purpose; all learning; all memory; all your emotions; all your likes and dislikes; all that you see, hear, taste, touch and smell; all of your thoughts; all pleasure and pain; all of your creativity; all your questions (but not always the answers); art appreciation; your sense of right and wrong or of morality and ethics; your values, beliefs or faiths; your all encompassing worldviews; all of your behaviour; your sense of self; your ego; your intelligence; your choice of spouse or partner or for that matter, choice or decision making – full stop; your ability or affinity to learn languages; your degree of numeracy; and of course and finally your perception and acceptance or rejection of the supernatural, including supernatural beings like deities, like God (for example). All this and more in such a limited space, but it’s true.
All this and more comes to the fore via your five senses, perhaps starting even before birth (a sense of warmth, wetness, body sounds like a mother’s heartbeat) but certainly the moment you pop out of the womb. Throughout your life, all of this input via your five senses, brought to you courtesy of life, the universe and everything, all of this data, is filtered and refiltered and mixed and matched and contemplated and broken down and constructed and deconstructed and reconstructed again and manipulated into one you, one personality, one mind, one unique worldview albeit forever changing, until the day you are finally declared brain dead.
But all of the above traits and abilities of the human brain says bugger-all about the reality of a deity, which is a bit of an abstract concept in its own right.
Brain chemistry ensures that humans (probably uniquely so) can try, but not succeed, in coming to terms with other abstract questions like what’s the maximum number of leprechauns that can hold a picnic using a dime for a blanket; what is the sound of one hand clapping; what’s south of the South Pole; what’s the nature and extent of infinity; and what transpired before the Big Bang?
One has to be careful of not reading too much into abstractions. We often see messages or meanings where there is none to be found, like seeing ‘pictures’ in clouds or the face of Jesus on a piece of toast or, for example, people who listened to Aaron Copland’s musical composition “Appalachian Spring” would comment to the composer how that music so perfectly described an Appalachian spring day. But Copland said the composition had nothing to do with the Appalachians or with spring and the title was chosen to please his benefactor or sponsor. It was all wishful thinking on the part of the listener.
Images are all in the mind, perhaps aided by the power of suggestion as in the case of the title “Appalachian Spring”. Now not every listener in the audience would have had identical mental images when hearing the music. Even the same listener could have had a slightly differing mental image upon a later hearing. Does the “Grand Canyon Suite” really conjure up a picture of the Grand Canyon (if say you heard the piece without knowing the title) or might it suggest a different place or a lot of different places or maybe it’s just a nice piece of music full-stop, just as a god or God can be a nice abstract concept, full-stop.
Humans can mentally conjure up an image of the Appalachians or the Grand Canyon from a piece of music (with a suggestive title) just like they can conjure up and contemplate the existence of a god or a deity (from something equally suggestive like the Bible or from a sermon), but that doesn’t mean any god or deity actually exists in any shape manner or form, any more so than “Appalachian Spring” or the “Grand Canyon Suite” of necessity requires the actual existence of a mountain range or a time of year or a hole in the ground in Arizona.
More to the point of the imaginary, and musical compositions stem from the imagination, actual objects like Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon exists in our culture, like God, though there’s way more evidence for those space heroes vis-à-vis God, as kids who routinely attended the Saturday matinees in the pre-Sputnik era would (if still alive) testify to.
And that’s another concept we have that animals probably don’t; the ability to conjure up the imaginary. Animals probably don’t have a world of make believe or fiction. There are human fans, even fanatics, of all manner of make believe human characters like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, James Bond, Batman, Captain Kirk, to Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes, even down to those who follow Greek mythology, the life and times of the Olympians, demigoddesses like Helen (of Troy), and demigods like Hercules. Even aliens like those in Star Trek or say Superman are still human otherwise we couldn’t easily relate to them. All of these and a whole lot more besides were created in man’s (and woman’s) image as the product of the human imagination. So let’s just add God to the list of imaginary beings created in the image of God’s collective creator. Why? Because it is not surprising or beyond the realm of possibility that God et al. also fits into that category of make believe, especially since there’s not any trace of any evidence that any supernatural deity, God included, has ever existed.
But is brain chemistry, the ultimate cause of all things mental, really all that important? We’ve all seen the unfortunate results of what can happen when brain chemistry malfunctions or misfires due to disease, genetics, physical damage or injury, drug use and abuse, so there is no doubting the importance of brain chemistry and the relationship between it and what makes you, you. It can produce all kinds of oddities as well like mathematical wizards who can do mentally in seconds what it would take you minutes to do using pen and paper. Then too there are the strange cases of people who can hear colours or taste sounds, etc.
GOD AND THE INSIDE LOOKING INSIDE: OUR FANTASY WORLDS
Your mind can examine the intricacies of your mind. Your wetware has an existence independent of anything else. Your brain could be the be-all-and-end-all of life, the universe and everything. If nothing else, you can only come to terms with life, the universe and everything after it has been tucked away into one of those recesses within your mind. In other words, you exist inside the universe, but the universe in all its entirety has to exist inside of you, or your mind. Life, the universe and everything can only be dealt with after it has found a home within your brain and can thus be contemplated via your brain chemistry.
“I think, therefore I am” is a widely bandied about quote, but it’s a case of your inside wetware contemplating itself. Even if you are removed from external stimuli, say in an isolation tank, you can still think, imagine, compose, invent, daydream, and if you fall asleep, dream. I think of things, therefore they are too. Your mind creates internal fantasy worlds full of things. For example, children often have imaginary friends and playmates. As an adult, we sort-of outgrow that, but we still create every day in every way internal fantasy worlds as part of our worldviews.
As such, your creative mind is akin to being a god, an inventive mind which creates and controls and perhaps destroys all sorts of mental fantasy worlds. Haven’t you often pictured the sorts of things you’d really like to do to Person X or Country Y if only you could get away with it?
While ‘day-dreaming’, you will often hold imaginary conversations with others in imaginary scenarios as rehearsals for dealing with all those possible scenarios that the real outside reality of life, the universe and everything could throw at you: which leads itself to the next section…
GOD AND THE INSIDE LOOKING OUTSIDE: IS THERE AN OUTSIDE AT ALL?
In theory there are two forms of existence – reality and virtual reality. You, or at least your brain, have reality. If someone, even yourself, dreams about you or writes a story about you, that particular version of you is a virtual reality you.
For all you know there is no external outside reality. All that is ‘outside’ is a figment of your imagination, of your mind, of your brain chemistry in the exact same way as your dreams (inside looking inside) are imaginary and not literally a part of external reality. Your dreams (while asleep) might be a dream within a daydream (your so-called external reality – life is but a dream), which is a variation on the standard simulated universe (virtual reality) scenario only substituting wetware for software. The only thing that is really real is your wetware, but that is subject to various outside forces, as noted above, assuming of course there are outside forces.
Even the body to which the brain is attached might be illusionary. There’s the famous tale of the two philosophers, one of whom said that a large rock was but an illusion and had no reality (Philosopher-I) and the other (Philosopher-R) who refuted that theory by giving the rock a really swift and violent kick, and in intense pain noted that he had indeed refuted the claim of Philosopher-I. But did he? Philosopher-I could argue that Philosopher-R was as imaginary as the rock; his kick was an illusion, and the pain therefore nonexistent. Philosopher-I could further argue that since he hadn’t kicked the rock not a thing about the reality of the rock was proved to his satisfaction. Even if Philosopher-I had kicked the rock and ended up with a black-and-blue big toe for his trouble, he could still argue that the pain was just his imagination, it resided only within his brain, and existed independently of his unreal illusory bruised big toe. All that was apparently outside of Philosopher-I’s brain, Philosopher-I’s body, Philosopher-R, the rock, the kick, etc., was just all make believe done via Philosopher-I’s brain chemistry.
So there may not be an ‘outside’ at all – your brain is the universe. But if there is an outside it could be drastically different than what you perceive it to be, as in the case of someone seeing sounds. Your brain chemistry has taken an outside reality and turned it into an alternative and inner reality, a personal reality, a reality unique to you and only you because your brain and brain chemistry is uniquely yours.
Contrast that when I’m asleep and dreaming ‘reality’ with your wide awake ‘reality’. Both can seem equally real, as anyone who has had nightmares can testify to.
Contrast your wide awake ‘reality’ to that when you are ill or exhausted or under the influence or after taking LSD or marijuana. Your ‘reality’ changes as circumstances change. Further, someone who is ill or tired or under the influence, etc. or is otherwise hallucinating, isn’t witnessing the same reality that you are.
Reality is a rather nebulous concept!
But either there is an external reality, or there is not. If there is not and you accept the validity of a god or a deity then that god or deity is a creation of your imagination and part of your fantasy world. If there is an external reality, then either a god (or gods) exists within that external life, the universe and everything or does not exist. In other words, either there is, or is not, a real supernatural deity who creates, controls and destroys, a deity that has an existence independent from your own. Regardless, let’s call this ‘is’ or ‘is not’ supernatural entity “God”. There can be no wriggle room between the two possibilities*.
Even in an external reality, Superman has no reality, only virtual reality. Superman was conceived in the human mind. In contrast, does God have reality, or just a virtual reality? If it’s the latter, then God was conceived and born in the human mind, where God resides to this very day. God is a figment of our imagination. In short, God didn’t make us in His image; we made God in our image since God was our creation. Of course if God was created in our image then it’s not surprising that what we like God likes and what we don’t like, well there’s God’s wrath we conjured up to deal with that. God’s virtual reality actions and reactions, as related in the Bible at least, are totally comprehensible to us. God is depicted as often violent, prone to temper tantrums, authoritarian, cruel, demanding, jealous, vindictive, vain, in sort, God’s human. But God’s not unique in that capacity. Zeus ain’t any better – he’s a downright sex maniac, even rapist. In fact if you examine any deity from any mythology you’ll find very, very human qualities exhibited. Hera (Mrs. Zeus) is a jealous scheming bitch; Zeus’s brother Poseidon is vindictive and bad tempered; his other brother Hades was a kidnapper. I’d better stop there; otherwise an essay turns into a full-length book!
How do we know for absolute certain that God didn’t create mankind in His image and not the other way around, as I believe? We don’t! But if God really wanted to make His humans a unique creation, really separate and apart from all else, He would not have moulded us with the same basic body plan and biochemistry as the rest of the animal kingdom. We might have been created instead with a silicon-based biochemistry and we certainly wouldn’t share any DNA with anything else, since that just confuses the creation picture. Further, the dust-and-rib scenario of Genesis is pretty ludicrous even to the relatively uneducated. Even Frankenstein’s monster is a more plausible account or act of creation than Genesis.
NO TWO GODS ARE THE SAME BECAUSE NO TWO BRAINS ARE IDENTICAL
I read recently that “… nothing precise can be said about God, because God is that which is beyond the scope of human thought or experience”. That’s wrong. At least I was under the impression that a whole potful of Biblical characters experienced God, like Moses. Anyway, God is totally within the scope of human thought since God’s our mental creation (recall all those human traits God has), and even if by chance God has some sort of independent existence, as per all else in life, the universe and everything, that existence is shovelled into and contemplated within something that’s human, the human mind. The human mind absorbs and reduces God down to understandably human terms. How many zillions upon zillions of words have been written and spoken about the concept of God (or Allah or whoever). 100% of those words have been generated via the human mind, so we’ve certainly spared no mental expense in dealing with the Almighty! Even if God is the sound of one hand clapping, well we can contemplate that. That contemplation might be wrong, and again every person will have his or her own personal contemplations that will all be different, but everyone comes to terms with the concept, so God (or the lack of a god if you’re an atheist) is not beyond the scope of the human mind.
Even if there is an external reality (your brain isn’t the sum total of all things), no two individuals, or rather their brains, will perceive that external reality down to the last and infinite decimal place. I believe in a god; you believe in a god, but when we compare notes, subtle shades of grey appear. How can there be such a thing as absolute reality when no two people will ever agree on what that reality is, even if it takes going down to the quantum level to find the split in the perception of that reality.
So there are as many versions of God’s (or equivalent) existence and nature as there are human minds. Quite apart from the formal definitions and distinctions between the thousands of formal religions that have been in the past and that are now in the present as to ‘who and what is god’ (all formally presented by the human mind), or even restricting things to God-of-the-Bible (the Bible by the way is the product of the human mind, as is the Koran, as are all religious texts), each individual human member of each religious sect or cult (like Christianity) has his or her own variation on the God theme, courtesy of their unique brain chemistry. So considering God apart from the thousands upon thousands of polytheistic deities (and who’s to deny their validity), there isn’t one God, but billions of Gods, each a unique God in the mind of that beholder. No two insides (minds) are identical.
GOD ON THE BRAIN
To illustrate all of the above with a specific concept near and dear to the hearts and minds of many a human, we shall further consider the lone ranger we call “God” or in more general terms the concept of a supernatural god or deity.
That God exists in one form or another is in no dispute since there are zillions of references to Him in all manner of formats, from the printed word like the Bible to what resides inside your wetware. That existence however can be akin to that of say Allan Quatermain, the creation of H. Rider Haggard. That Allan Quatermain exists is in no dispute either since there are millions of references to his existence too. But, Allan Quatermain is virtual reality – perhaps God is too.
That God is near and dear to the hearts and minds of humans is also because that’s probably what’s been taught or otherwise rammed down our collective throats by parents, teachers, church and sometimes state. Or, perhaps you have self learned about this godly concept off your own bat. Or you may have had what you perceive as having had a direct experience – a eureka moment – when God talked to you, or the angels paid you a visit, or you had some sort of defining rapturous moment that you identified with the supernatural, like your prayers were answered or you experienced a miracle.
Why would the human mind, the human imagination invent a god, or the human mind accept as given the concept of a god? Well probably because the human mind, of all the animal kingdom’s minds, is the one unique mind to have foreknowledge about personal death. Humans, like all animals who battle for survival, don’t want to die. Humans know that they will die and that they are powerless to prevent their death. But what if (a variation of the phrase let’s ‘make believe’), there was someone or something that could rescue one from this pending unfortunate state of affairs of kicking the bucket and give one a second (after) life? To do so, the imagination has to go beyond the natural to the supernatural (why not) and to a local inhabitant of that supernatural world, a god or a deity, who can make it so.
The key word here seems to me to be ‘supernatural’ not God, since God is a small subset of alleged deities inhabiting the realm of the supernatural. It doesn’t really matter if you substitute Odin or Zeus or even the Rainbow Serpent for God – same general concept.
Perhaps because of that concept of impending finality, death, our brains seem to be hardwired or conditioned to accept the general nature of the supernatural – things which are ‘above and beyond’ the natural or normal bits and pieces we associate with the concept of a Mother Nature. For comparison, it would be interesting to have conservations with, or read the mind of, your cat or dog or an elephant or chimpanzee (our ultimate primate ancestral species) and find out what beliefs or worldviews they have in all things supernatural, like in a deity or life after death. My guess is that only humans ponder over the possibilities of deities which maybe extra evidence that someone or something impersonating a deity (i.e. – ‘ancient astronauts’) has mucked about with our wetware to ensure this.
So somehow or other, the human mind, brain, and all associated electromagnetic energy and biochemical bits that collective make up our brain’s neural networks, are quasi-hardwired to invent and contemplate and in general put faith in the reality of the supernatural and a supernatural deity, albeit, if I’m right, it’s really just virtual reality since it all stems from within the mind contemplated by the mind and not from an external outside to the mind via the five senses.
When your wetware dries out; when your neurons cease firing; when the microbes attack and the rot sets in and the chemistry stops, then your inner reality ceases too. Whether you take life, the universe and everything with you or not is irrelevant. Your reality is just as kaput as kaput can be.
Assuming a really real reality, an external reality (and that’s probably the way to bet) coming to terms with life, the universe and everything is a job performed by your brain chemistry. The concept of God (or equivalent) is part of life, the universe and everything, so coming to terms with the nature of God is also a function of and a task performed by your wetware. I suggest that ‘coming to terms’ with God is entirely an internal mental affair; God was created in our image.
*There might be a third possibility. Something or someone masquerading as a deity, say ‘ancient astronauts’, who by artificial selection, starting with primitive primates through to the hominids and eventually to us, genetically engineered our wetware such that the concept of ‘god’ was hardwired into our brains, such that we would accept the external reality of a god(s) (with themselves in the starring role), all the better with which to control the great unwashed masses. ‘God’ carries a bigger more awe-inspiring stick than mere flesh-and-blood aliens.
By John Prytz
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