This month in the Patheos Book Club, we’re featuring God Theories, by Ken Ungerecht. We invited Ken to respond to a few questions about his inspiration for tackling such a daunting subject and what he hopes readers gain from engaging the conversation.
What motivated you to write God Theories, and what conversations do you hope it inspires?
The direct inspiration for the creation of God Theories came from reading an on-line survey that asked the question – Do you believe in the Creationist Theory, the Intelligent Design Theory, or the Evolutionary Theory for the origin of life? Now, if that question had simply appended “or some other theory” I am not sure the book would ever have been written. But that choice was not there and so I thought “Wait a minute. There is something mighty wrong if people think those are the only choices we have for such an important question. I can believe in aspects of all three of the ones mentioned, but not completely in any of them. And in none of them will I find other important concepts that I do believe in.”
It was that reaction to the survey that moved me immediately to the computer to begin the process of writing the book. But the impetus for doing that was probably simmering for a long time. Our world is an amazing, beautiful, and wondrous place. But it is also in deep crisis. The ongoing battles between religion and science and between the various religions have probably had more to do with creating that condition than any other single factor. Today the political process has essentially been brought to a halt. There are many reasons for that unhappy fact, but rigid and literal religious beliefs are often at the very heart of a large number of them.
I believe we need to bring a greater degree of logic and reason to the process of forming our spiritual beliefs. I would consider God Theories to be my contribution towards that effort. My ultimate motivation for writing God Theories was to try and help stimulate the open exchange of ideas we are going to need if we are going to create the kind of world I believe it was always meant to be.
Who is your ideal reader?
My ideal reader would be anyone who is a seeker of Truth.
Do you expect this book to change anyone’s mind? About what?
Based on the response of several people who have already read the book I would have to answer with a very confident yes. But changing beliefs is usually a gradual process and if you were to ask me, for example, if I expected an ardent atheist to suddenly become a confirmed believer in a Divine Presence after reading the book, I would have to say probably not. But, if that person is truly an open minded seeker of Truth, I would also expect him or her to examine that atheistic belief in conjunction with the many ideas presented in the book that provide compelling evidence to contradict it. I would further expect that examination to produce some kind of a change in that person’s set of beliefs even if that is nothing more than a move from the complete rejection of a belief in a Divine Presence to at least a consideration of the possibility of the idea.
Likewise, reading the book may not completely change the mind of someone with a religious belief that is maintained largely or entirely by faith and passion. But new ideas may be considered that might enhance or modify that belief.
It is important to emphasize, however, that my purpose in writing the book was not an effort to change anyone’s mind to my way of thinking as much as it was to simply encourage more frequent and honest examinations and updates of our beliefs than it seems we do.
You’ve mentioned that one of your reasons for writing this book was your concern about the way that science has often been seen as an antagonist to the ideas of spirituality—whereas you believe they are complimentary. How does science actually support a belief in God, in your opinion?
I think we can say with a great deal of confidence that there will never be a double-blind experiment that has as its hypothesis either the statement “God exists” or “God does not exist”. In other words, the concept of God will never be proven or disproved by a singular scientific experiment.
However, contrary to what many scientists might want to believe, scientific conclusions can be derived in ways other than from double-blind, repeatable experiments. They can arise from the systematic analysis of a set of experiments or events, whether repeatable or not. They can also be the result of valid mental and mathematical exercises.
No single one of these will ever prove or disprove the existence of “God”, but any one of them could prove, or at least provide evidence for, the existence of spiritual or psychic phenomena that we might associate with the possible existence of “God”.
But, while no one of these proofs in and of themselves will ever definitively prove or disprove the existence of “God”, we may be able to use a set of them to extrapolate a conclusion one way or the other. There is a great deal of scientific evidence that can be applied to this effort. I personally believe that an honest examination of this material overwhelmingly supports the existence of that Intelligence that we have come to call God.
Some of this evidence comes from the scientific disciplines themselves, particularly from the field of Quantum Physics. I think we are just beginning to comprehend what this field of study will offer in our efforts to determine a greater understanding of who we are and the universe in which we live.
A great deal of solid thinking also comes from the so called “Intelligent Designers”. This group has been much maligned by many sources as putting forth what they call a “pseudo science”. To some extent that label has been well earned and I personally will not follow them to all the places that their thinking takes them. But they have also put together some powerful arguments to support the central idea that a Greater Intelligence must be involved in the creation and functioning of our universe.
If a spiritual aspect is an integral part of the human condition, as I believe it is, then it would also follow that there must exist a set of Truthful Principles that does accurately describe the characteristics and functionality of that aspect. The vastness and obvious complexity of the concept of the Divine would virtually guarantee we will never be able to completely identify or understand all of these Principles. But, if we can collectively begin to identify and prove just a few of them, we will have laid a foundation upon which a true spiritual understanding can be built that will literally and profoundly transform the world. I think that is something it is ready for.
The scientific approach to gathering knowledge typically involves a cyclic or spiraling process of speculation, gathering evidence, formulating proofs, performing additional speculation, gathering more evidence, formulating more proofs etc. In God Theories I have attempted to incorporate each of these activities in unique ways with the intent of helping gain a greater understanding of just who and what we are.
It is important to remember that the production of legitimate scientific conclusions requires not only sound logic, but also the existence of valid and truthful assumptions to which that logic is applied. I will submit that God Theories does, in fact, make careful use of both of these necessary ingredients to prove far beyond any reasonable doubt several key spiritually related ideas.
One of the more intriguing theories in your book asserts that “none of us could have possibly come into this world by chance. “ Can you, in a nutshell, explain what you mean by that?
There are many reasons why things happen in our world, but they can be divided into two major categories:
- By chance – This implies the lack of conscious intervention
- Not by chance – This implies the use of conscious intervention
These two categories are mutually exclusive. If something happens and it can be conclusively proven that it could not have happened by chance then it must have happened not by chance and vice versa. If something happens not by chance it must have happened by choice or, in other words, through some application of conscious intervention.
Two people, assuming they have the requisite qualifications, can make the conscious choice to have a baby. They cannot, however, consciously direct the particular sperm to unite with the particular egg that would be required to begin the creation of the particular body that will be used by that baby.
In other words your parents may have made the conscious choice to have a baby nine months or so before you were born, but they did not make the conscious choice to have you. That happened because of a chance combination of a particular sperm and a particular egg.
Or did it? Might you have been born even if a different sperm/egg combination had resulted in the creation of a different physical body?
In my book I demonstrate that the mathematical possibility of any particular person ever being born into our world by chance is an absurdity of unimaginable magnitude. In other words, the existence of the Essence of who we are cannot possibly depend upon the creation of a particular physical body. It is utter nonsense to think it does. That would imply that this Essence must exist, both prior to the creation of any body that it does use while in the physical realm, and then, following the demise of that body as well.
I believe that our universe has sufficiently demonstrated that it functions in a manner that will never require us to believe in absurdities. It surely contains great mysteries including many we will likely never completely comprehend. It offers all manner of opportunity for human experience including many we might rather do without. But I think we would be pretty hard pressed to consider it a ridiculous invention. I’m quite confident none of us would be here if that is what it was.
So, if none of us could have possibly come into this world by chance the obvious question is: Where does the conscious choice come from that causes such an event to happen not by chance? Well, that is an interesting question and, as you might expect, it does generate some speculation and discussion in the book.
What was the hardest thing about writing this book?
I think the most difficult thing in writing the book was in attempting to express ideas that I believe passionately in a way that does not appear to make me arrogant. No one wants to be perceived as being egotistical regardless of whether or not they are. I have learned that in writing a book, especially one that involves an analysis of spiritual ideas, that can often be a very difficult feat to accomplish.
How did the writing of this book affect your own spirituality/faith life?
Forty years ago I would have considered myself to be an agnostic. I thought that the concept of God was one that could never be proven one way or the other and I was pretty much ready to let it go at that. My conversion from that belief was an intellectual one. I suddenly realized that our world simply could not possibly be the way it is without some kind of outside conscious intervention. Once I realized that I knew, at least for me, there was nothing more important that I could ever do than trying to learn all I could about the Consciousness that had to be involved in that intervention. An open minded exploration of that idea from virtually every conceivable point of view has been my passion ever since.
My own conversion from agnosticism to a confirmed belief in a Divine Presence primarily involved the logical mind. But that does not mean I think that an emotional or experiential one is any less valid. I believe in God for many reasons besides the fact that it’s logical. I have had many things happen in my own life that could never be rationally explained. I do not question these kinds of stories when I hear them from others unless there is some compelling reason to do so. Surely Truth can be found in domains other than that of the rational and it is important to explore these places to try and find it. But, when we do, we would be well advised to at least keep a tether to logic and reason. They are critical and integral ingredients of the mix that makes up our spiritual understanding. We have all too often seen the kinds of tribulations that are produced when they are missing.
I have long believed that Life is an incredible and eternal Gift from a God/Goddess that knows us and loves us unconditionally. I believe there are many things that are an inherent part of that Gift. These include the ability to love and to receive love, to think, to feel, to wonder, to discern and to make choice. I believe that our primary responsibility is to learn how to receive that Divine Gift, to learn to allow in the positive energies that come with it, and to learn to make it fun.
So writing this book did not affect what I believe to any great extent. That was, and is, a continually expanding and changing progression that would have been happening whether I had written the book or not. But, without doubt, the process of writing the book has brought a focus that has helped to make more cohesive many of those beliefs. I believe, and hope, it has also enhanced my ability to express them more clearly, both to myself and to others.
Name one person you hope reads this book. Why?
I hope one person who reads this book is the one who can, and will, take from it ideas that he or she will expand upon and will then use to more elegantly help create the kind of world I believe our Creator always intended it to be.
What do you hope is the most important take-away your book has for the reader?
I hope the most important thing that a reader of my book could take away is an increased desire to explore more honestly the mysteries of the incredible Being that they truly are and a greater sense of gratitude for the amazing fact of that existence.
For more on God Theories, visit the Patheos Book Club.