Editor’s Note: I must say, the nuns in Sunday school never encouraged us to ponder how God thinks and I never did on my own when I ultimately stopped believing in him. As you will see, this Clergy Project member has given the subject a lot of thought. /Linda LaScola, Editor
By Scott Stahlecker
Ever since monotheism began around the 14th century BCE, people have been turning an atheistic eye towards the less powerful deities. If we’re counting the Hindu pantheon, there have been a whopping 30 million gods throughout history, and the demise of these gods is no doubt due to how quickly human knowledge is growing. With this knowledge comes the expectation that if there is a God, it had better be a whole lot smarter, emotionally stable and ethical than we are.
In the past few centuries in particular, our assumptions about God have become so grandiose that the limits of language may not allow us to improve upon our current definition. We’ve even coined a few words to describe this God: Omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent.
Pondering how God might think is a fascinating topic. Yes, it requires a high level of rational speculation, but it’s an important study because Christianity teaches that humans are created in God’s image and are required to be like God, i.e., “godlike.” But is this goal achievable? Suffice it to say (with a few biblical exceptions) that God has chosen to remain invisible, making it impossible to see if God looks like us.
Possibly the only aspect of god that we can compare to our human experience is if humans think like God. More specifically, whether or not God could possibly think like we do. And for this mental exercise we need nothing more than subjective observation, biblical theories, and reason.
So how do human beings think?
The act of thinking is a process replete with mind-boggling possibilities and acute limitations. Thinking is also called reasoning, which is learning and using information for a desired purpose. Sometimes we reach our goals, but most times we fall short. We also make a mistakes along the way, because we’re far from perfect. Yet, our thoughts and actions become our life experiences, which are stored as memories that we use to start each exciting day anew.
Not only must we go through this process, but we must do so while negotiating a wide variety of mental challenges, including our changing emotions and attitudes. We also have an array of genetic and biological traits (our lizard brain), which force us to do things that need little or no conscious thought at all. We all have varying degrees of intelligence that we use to our advantage as best we can. In areas in which we are less intelligent we may suffer disadvantages. We also must deal with health issues that affect the performance of both body and brain. Cultural and social differences can hugely affect in how we think about life. Also, there are many other intellectual processes to consider, e.g., how well our brains store and recall memories, how creative and imaginative we are, or how we exercise our willpower. All of these brain functions—and more—are required in the process we call rational thought.
If we analyze the mental processes humans experience and compare these to the biblical rationales that describe God’s thinking, we’d quickly conclude that God couldn’t possibly think like us. As examples: Can God be blindsided by a fit of rage? Can he have a nervous breakdown or a panic attack? Does he have a sex drive? Is he smarter or dumber in certain areas? Is Alzheimer’s affecting his ability to remember his son’s name? Is he an introvert or an extrovert? Et cetera, et cetera. And we presume that none of these apply to God.
This is all straightforward enough, but let’s shift gears and consider the grandest assumptions we have about God’s intellectual abilities: his omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence.
Just imagine the horror of knowing everything about anything. Imagine not needing to recall memories, not being able to reminisce about good or bad times, or not being able to anticipate a future event with wide-eyed wonder. For if God knows everything, then he never learned what he knew a billion years ago. And he already knows what he could learn a billion years from now. Which makes one wonder: Does God think of everything at once, and always, as though his mind is caught in an incessantly repetitious deja vu?
And if we think that God is a creative genius, perhaps we should think again. God would have no use for imaginative or creative thinking. We use our imagination to experiment mentally – to create something from scratch, without a clue about how it will turn out. And still we fall short of perfection. But God would not have to weigh the pros and cons of creating anything, much less the details required in crafting a universe. God needs only speak things into existence, and there’s only one way he could accomplish this—flawlessly, every time.
Imagining a time long before the creation of the universe, when nothing existed except the presence of God, the universe would have only been comprised of the mind of God. From a physical standpoint, God would have been existing in a state of complete sensory deprivation. There would have been no galaxies to gaze upon, no Mozart to hear, no aroma of gardenias, no passion fruit to enjoy and nothing to touch. Such an existence would amount to torture for us, like living the life of Helen Keller minus three more senses, while being suspended in nothingness and having all the information in the universe bombarding you indefinitely.
We think of God’s omnipresence as his physical or mental ability to be everywhere in the universe simultaneously. We might just as well hypothesize a scenario far more comical: Our existence, and what we presume to be reality, could merely be just a figment of God’s inner thoughts; in which he is operating an experimental universe in real time just for kicks and giggles.
But the thing is, when omniscience and omnipresence converge, the intangible and tangible become one. In which a case, it would be pointless for a God to actually construct a physical universe beyond the confines of his mind.
One hundred million. This is the total number of people that have ever lived on the earth according to recent estimates. Imagine knowing everything about these individuals. Now multiply this knowledge by 100 million universes and their inhabitants. This gives us a sense of the kind of knowledge God should possess. Omnipotence means that God not only possesses this knowledge, but he has the power to speak all of these universes and individuals into existence with the turn of an effortless thought. Given the potential of this power, what would motivate God to create our world when he could just as easily keep us in his thoughts?
This kind of speculation helps us to understand how an all-powerful and all-knowing being might think. In actuality, there is a complete disconnect between the potential that these powers represent and the humanizing manner in which the Bible portrays God. Frankly, in my opinion, the biblical texts that reveal God’s emotional instabilities and intellectual deficits disqualify him as a potential candidate to be Supreme Creator of the Universe.
**Editor’s Question** What characteristics do you think a being should have to qualify as creator of the Universe?
Bio: Scott Stahlecker was raised a Lutheran but converted to Seventh-Day Adventism in 1980. After serving the church in both lay and professional capacities, he left the church in 1990. He identified as an agnostic until 2004 and has been an outspoken atheist ever since. Throughout his life he and his wife have owned many businesses to include hospice agencies in Texas and music stores in Alaska. He is the author of the novel Blind Guides and Picking Wings Off Butterflies, a memoir about raising a child with a traumatic brain injury. He continues to write extensively about the benefits of living life as a freethinking individual. Learn more about him at www.scottstahlecker.com
>>>>>>>Photo Credits: By Douglas O’Brien from Canada – IMGP2543, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41150509