My memory goes way back. I mean really way back.
While I don’t remember every tiny detail, I do remember important bits because of the impact they would have had on me.
So it comes as no surprise that I remember very precisely the day I learned about the existence of god. Not the exact date to be sure, but certainly how things went.
As Baron d’Holbach said, “All children are born Atheists; they have no idea of God.” I clearly recall a period of my life – as short a period as it was – in which my mind was unoppressed with religious clutter, free from the guilt and fear of hell it instills which is unequivocally tantamount to child abuse.
And so it was one starry summer night, many many years ago, that my father and I were on the balcony together, as we often used to be in the evenings. I’m sure I had had noticed the stars before; after all, they’re always there and looking up is something kids are bound to do at some point.
However, on that particular night I happened to make what would be a calamitous statement and that was that stars are tiny little dots hanging from something that looked like a black ceiling.
Now give me a break; I was barely 5 years old. Besides, let’s face it, that’s what we thought the stars were for thousands of years.
My father, being on the lookout for every opportunity to teach me something new, quite rightly told me that the stars are suns – very much like our own – and they look like little white dots only because they are so far away.
I thought our sun was just a very bright yellowish ball made of something that emitted vast amounts of heat and that this ball was a few times bigger than its apparent size. So I figured that these dots were a few more miles further away from where our sun stood.
The fact that our own star is on average 1.496 × 108 km (≈ 150,000,000 km) distant from Earth was inconceivable to my little brain – and I still can’t fathom these vast distances, as minute as they are in astronomical terms, let alone distances of other solar systems.
So far so good, I had learned something of value. Problem is that my father didn’t stop there. And to give him some slack, I know he tried to do this in what he thought was my best interest, but he went on to tell me how god created everything.
“All children are born Atheists; they have no idea of God.”
I asked, “What’s ‘god’?”
“God is an almighty powerful being who loves us so much that he created the universe for us to live in. The stars are there for us to admire and the universe is infinite just as god is,” came the reply.
The obvious question followed which was, “Who created god?”
And I swear to god, the question came to me not because I was some prodigiously intelligent kid but I asked for three reasons:
- inherent childlike thinking which in its innocence it sometimes enlightens even the smartest adult minds; i.e. they come up with the kind of questions that usually go unasked by adults
- if god created the universe he must have preceded it, therefore someone or something must have created god. So on and so forth…1 This is called infinite regressInfinite Regression Fallacy arises when we ask what are the justifications for the reasons themselves. If the reasons count as knowledge, they must themselves be justified with reasons for the reasons, and so on, ad infinitum. The regress relies on the premise that a designer must be more complex than the thing designed. Therefore in the case of creationism, the universe must have a cause or a prime mover. However, the exception is then made, and that exception is called ‘god’.
- if god was so immense and infinite and big and huge and with such great superpowers as to create a whole universe, then following point 2, whoever / whatever created him must have even greater superpowers!
Needless to say that the first two reasons came to me in hindsight. As for the 3rd one, it’s how I always was and still am – I like ‘orders of magnitude’ lists2 and this certainly was the ultimate if there ever was one!
The answer came that no one created God and I simply said OK. I don’t know about kids who are the same age that I was then, but I believed absolutely everything my father said. And I never questioned him nor his answers to my questions.
He then continued with what must be one of the most ludicrous decrees in the history of mankind.
“Now that you know about God you have to love him and worship him, OK?”
And that was it. From that day on, I knew that there was a guy living in the sky who loves me very much.
If you’re a creationist and think that god resides outside of time and space, that’s an argument concocted up by human apes so you can’t really know this.