There is an argument to be made that gods can’t actually exist.
Imagine studying an intelligent, yet uncivilised alien race from afar. By studying their developing knowledge and their culture across millennia, you find that their religions are the natural outcomes of their fear of what to them is yet unknown or culturally difficult to accept. What would it then take for you, as a silent and secretive observer in a galaxy far away, to convince yourself that one of these religions weren’t the result of extraterrestrial superstition?
If you observe the rise and fall of 1,000 different alien religions, you would at least know for sure that a minimum of 999 of them are to be categorised as naturally occurring delusions. It would be apparent, at least to the human observer, that religious delusion is something that occurs naturally statistically more often than such theoretical occasions when one single group of aliens stumbles upon the divine truth about everything.
Now, is religion something that occurs naturally in human culture, too?
We know for a fact that religious delusions are real, widespread, and a naturally occurring human phenomenon here on Earth.
Still, most religious people don’t care about other nonsense religions; they know that their religion is correct and that all other religions are mere false prophecies. And since is this is a conviction held by all religions, we know that these types of beliefs are, too, statistically mostly false. Alas, these types of convictions are to be considered as naturally occurring phenomenons. Both here on Earth and elsewhere in the universe.
We know, therefore, that nonsense religious superstition and blind, misguided defence of such false conceptualisations is commonplace. Still, we must accept the whims of such organisations because we can’t disprove the notion that one of these religious groups have stumbled across a divine truth. Any such attempts to hinder religious beliefs from spreading is regarded as a crime on par with human rights violations. Despite the proven mass psychosis that is all but a bare maximum of one single religion — and even that is a stretch.
But this is not, as many would readily point out, proof that their specific god DOESN’T exist. “God is not disproven, okay?”
Let’s turn to more solid and direct lines of reasoning: What makes a god a god is that it has some sort of agency over our lives and our destinys. They have some sort of agency over us both in life and in death. How is this physically possible? It’s true that we don’t know what we don’t know. However, it’s equally true that we do know what we do know. And we know some things about how our universe works.
In a scenario where our whole civilisation, even all of life on Earth itself, were engineered a long time ago by a vastly advanced civilisation who still to this day have some form of agency over our lives through technology that we cannot yet begin to understand, these aliens could for all intents and purposes be categorised as our gods. However, if we were to learn that this is true, would we still accept them as gods? It only takes one single human to see them as experimenting aliens to demote them from god status — because a god can’t be both and divine at the same time.
Another scenario is that such an advanced alien race (or one single alien consciousness) exists outside of the universe. This would allow it to operate outside of the laws of physics and possible also possibly grant them the power to set off a Big Bang to create all of our universe. In this case we encounter another serious physics problem — agency. To affect our lives in any way, this divine entity can’t just watch us from the outside of the universe. But if they wish to interact with matter that exists within our universe, it can’t do so without becoming, in a literal sense of the word, universal.
Universal agency within the confines of our universe will require some sort of force operating, well… where exactly?
can the hand of god be found in-between quantum fields? In parallell universes or dimensions? Via dark matter or anti-matter?
It’s only conceivable that a divine creator could intervene in everyday life from outside the confines of our universe, via perhaps a holographic interface — or if our universe is a simulation. If this is the case, we see no indication whatsoever of such an alien superpower taking a keen interest in Earth and what’s happening here. If such an alien would exist, it looks more like we’re part of a probabilistic hands-off experiment for exploring causality. In either case, such a deity would bear little or no resemblance with any known religious conviction existing in human culture.
So, even if we can’t disprove a divine entity operating outside the confines of our universe and outside the laws of physics, we can disprove the idea that some humans are — or have ever been — in direct contact with such an alien form of consciousness. if a supreme power exists, humans simply couldn’t physically be in direct contact with it. If religion is man-made and bear no resemblance whatsoever to a theoretical alien superpower, is this potential superpower then to be considered a god or as gods in the literal sense?
If we can’t know anything about anything existing outside the confines of our universe operating outside the laws of physics, without direct agency over our thoughts and lives, then it falls short of being a religious type of entity. In short: Such an alien might exist, but it sure isn’t a religious god by definition.
If we accept the existence of a god, then would such a god have a god? If it does, is it still to be considered a god if its powers aren’t supreme? Shouldn’t we, then, be worshipping the god or gods who created them? If it doesn’t, we can deduct that it or they came into existence without any divine intervention of any godlike powers — which in turn defeats any ideas of total supremacy.
This leaves us with the off probability that some humans get it right by pure chance. This isn’t a strong case for religion, though. Even if we had billions and billions of religions making only on simple claim each, the odds of anyone getting it right would be worse than astronomical. Add only one layer of complexity to each religion’s claims and the probability would be almost impossible to even calculate. Granted, if we live in one of an infinite number of universes, one ought to get it right, surely? Perhaps we live in such a truly unique universe? Still, it doesn’t change the prerequisite that such an entity wouldn’t be a literal god, not in the religious sense.
Agnostics might argue that they don’t believe in god or gods per se, but that they are open to the idea that there might be something. If we accept the probability of such a something, such a belief would constitute a belief in something that cannot be defined as a religious god.
Still, human ideas should be respected, examined, and explored.
Even naive ideas such as the notion that the Earth is indeed flat despite the existing body of evidence telling us otherwise.
Human ideas, unlike alien superpowers operating outside the laws of physics, have actual agency over our lives. And, one might correctly argue that a god exists as long as it exists as an idea. And a belief in an idea is something tangible, something that actually exists. One could go on to argue that god is a real idea and that real ideas matter. God, for a lack of a better word, is metaphysical.
God as a metaphysical construct makes it real in the sense that such gods actually exists, albeit not in our physical plane. Which is akin to what many religious believers are arguing. One could even argue that an idea, even though it no longer resides metaphysically anywhere anymore, still exists somewhere along the space-time continuum and therefore are to be considered real.
I can accept the line of reasoning that suggests that gods are real in the sense that they are metaphysical constructs. I would surely not deny the agency that such concepts have had — and are having — on our lives. However, there are two main types of problems with defining such conceptualisations as “god” or “gods”. One problem is that religious people couldn’t accept such terms, because if they did, it would cancel out their beliefs by extension. The other problem is that such metaphysical concepts, however real they are considered to be, didn’t create the universe we live in.
Now, we can’t disprove the existence of other beings no matter their level of supremacy. Nor would science want to; the efforts of the scientific community to find and explore a second genesis is not in question by anyone. Even if we realistically are hoping and expecting to find extraterrestrial remains of bacteria in the foreseeable future. But we can extinguish the notion of a god or of gods by definition.
In the absence of a god or of gods by definition, we’re left with man-made beliefs. As these beliefs have real agencies over our lives and our development as a civilisation, they deserve to be closely examined, but also revised — or perhaps even abandoned in time.