Question: Did God create the universe?

Where did the world come from?  Different civilizations, cultures and religions have all told creation stories as humans have tried to answer this age-old question.

Today the question most often asked is whether, however the story is told, there is a supernatural, superhuman intelligence most people call God who created the universe.

There are many different ways to answer this question.  For instance:

Yes, there must be a God who created the universe

Many people believe in God because we are here.  However far back one pushes the chain of events, there is always the question:  What or who caused that first event to happen?  How did the universe come into existence in the first place?  Even if you say “the big bang.” that doesn’t answer the question “what caused the big bang?”.   If there was a Big Bang, was it God who made it happen that way?  Many people believe it must have been.

Aristotle said that events have causes, an idea that seems quite logical to most of us.   Believers say that if you carry this idea to its logical conclusion, it seems obvious that there must be a First Cause.  For believers, that First Cause is God.

This doesn’t seem to be illogical.  In fact, it seems quite rational.  Why then, are there so many equally rational people who are not convinced that there is a God?

To say we don’t know the answer doesn’t prove there is a God

For non-believers, “we can’t think of any other explanation besides God” isn’t the same thing as saying “there must be a God.”  It would be better, they think, to say instead that we don’t know the answers to all our questions.  Perhaps, they say, it is the universe itself, not God, which is an infinitely unfolding mystery and has always existed.

Volcanoes and tsunamis, the rising and setting sun, the complexity of the human eye or a lucky escape from an accident have all been used as proof that there must be a God.  But today these events seem perfectly natural, and can be explained without resorting to explanations involving miracles or supernatural powers.

If everyone had been satisfied with “god” as the answer to everything we don’t understand, they say, we would not have electricity in our houses, or cars on our roads.  We wouldn’t even know that Earth revolves around the sun once a year. They worry that making God responsible for everything that happens is an excuse for not taking responsibility for ourselves.

What do you think?

Is it God or the universe itself which is infinite, beyond our present human understanding, an ineffable mystery?

Does the idea of God interfere with our being responsible for what we do?  Does it interfere with our exploring and learning more about the world in which we live?

Or as we learn more about the universe, its beauty and complexity, can we learn more about how to care for it and about a God who made it?

Copyright © T. Herman Sissons, Ph.D.

This is the first in a series of Questions Beyond Science.  For further details, see the post on this blog Request for your feedback dated 10/2/2010.   To receive an email notification when a new post is added, click sign me up in the right hand column of this page.

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About Terry Sissons

Terry Sissons is the author of The Big Bang to Now: All of Time in Six Chunks, and this blog is a dialogue about the universe and what’s happened in the last 13 billions years.
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2 Responses to Question: Did God create the universe?

  1. Jason says:

    “This doesn’t seem to be illogical. In fact, it seems quite rational. Why then, are there so many equally rational people who are not convinced that there is a God?”

    The fact that a star is born and a star explodes every second (lifeless matter) means that whatever created us did not have life in mind, or if we are being controlled by someone with life in mind, then it’s by someone who relies on chance, dice rolls and can’t get it right 99.99% of the time (we are more rare than we know).
    Nothing powerful enough to create the big bang and govern the results, would be weak enough to not get what he wants done, with life in mind (creating destroying a star every second). This means that if a God created the Universe with life in mind, he did it knowing life would be rare and he would have to create a universe full of random dice rolls he had no control over. This makes no sense because he finally got it right (we are here) and there is still no sign of him.

    This means that if an intelligent designer created the Universe, he is only capable of creating the big bang, not physically capable of governing what happens afterwards. So assuming there is a God who created the Big Bang, then it is logical to assume he only has power outside the Universe he created, or he wouldn’t have created it and not govern/control/fix it for life at will.

    It is most likely that this entity has nothing to do with the “spirituality” we think we all share, because our spirituality is quite simple, and this idea would be too complex (spirituality outside of our universe) of an explanation for something so simple (spirituality on our planet).

    So if God is complex, and complexities that are complex must be intelligently designed, then who designed the complexities of God? This is the only concept I can think of that can go on to infinity. However, is it more likely that there are an infinite number of Universes than even one God.

    • Jason – Thank you for such a well-thought out comment.

      It seems to me that you are elaborating what theologians and philosophers have called “the problem of evil:” how can an all-loving, all-powerful God have made such a mess of things? Even going as far back as Job, people have asked this question in one form or another. Some, like you, have concluded that the concept of God as Creator makes no sense. Others conclude that we need to change our concept of God. And others have concluded that, although they don’t understand, they are willing to put their faith in the existence of God.

      Unfortunately, our tolerance as a species does not seem to have expanded with our increasing globalization and exposure to alternative points of view. Many people even feel they have a God-given duty to impose their beliefs by force on non-believers. Within the last week we’ve had examples of this kind of terrorism from as diverse sources as Norway and Pakistan.

      It makes me doubly appreciative of your clear presentation of your own argument which did not include a personal attack on anyone who might not agree with you.

      (Personally, I have changed my mind about “God” several times in my life time, which makes it just a little easier to understand points of view which I no longer share.)

      Again, thank you. Not only for your thinking, but for the way you have shared it.

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