What is God?

Alasdair Forsythe
Jan 3, 2019 · 11 min read
Image for post
Image for post

In this article I will show that the scientific material universe, the religious God, and the spiritual ‘universal consciousness’ are all demonstrably the same thing, each being a different description of the exact same reality.

Let’s begin from a point that we all agree on. Everything that you know of is part of the same system, this is my initial premise. Let’s talk it through.

If you interact with something in any way (or it with you), for example, if you can see it, touch it, smell it, or if it can directly or indirectly influence you (no matter how little or how far removed) then it is part of the same extended system as you. If you can touch a table, or see a star through a telescope, then you are interacting with that table or star in some form, which means that they exist within the same system as you. You’re on the Earth, the Earth goes around the sun, the sun orbits the galaxy, the galaxy orbits other galaxies, etc. So all of this can be said to be in the same ‘system’. I’m basically defining the word ‘system’ as a set of things that are all connected together by chains of interaction. Are you with me?

Because this extended system is everything that you interact with, and everything that interacts with that, and so on, it means that if something is outside of that extended system then it effectively doesn’t exist as far as you are concerned. You couldn’t even theorize its existence because if you had any evidence for your theory (e.g. we see the effect of its gravity but we can’t see it) then that evidence would be some form of interaction (e.g. its gravity), bringing that thing within the scope of your extended system.

What I’ve done here is made the, actually self-evident, point that the entire universe can be defined as a single interconnected system. If you don’t accept this then you can stop reading now.

What I’m now not going to do is say something like “and that’s God and the universal consciousness! BOOM!” because that would be horribly boring and has been said before. If I did that all I would be doing is taking the word ‘universe’ and substituting the word ‘God’ then acting as if I’m clever — anyone can do that. Switching one label for another is not information. It’s useless for you to know that what one person calls ‘the universe’ is what another person calls ‘God’. No one has learned anything except that we use different words for the same thing. Instead I’m going to take a different tack.

What does the religious God do? What’s his job? Generally it looks something like: creating stuff, making rules, punishing the rule-breakers, rewarding the rule-followers, and generally upholding order, i.e. upholding the rules. Please step back and look at this for a moment… what is this a personification of?

God appears to be presented as a sort of ruler, a king. That’s been made very clear by titles such as ‘King of kings’ and also ‘father’, which is philosophically and traditionally an identical archetypal role as ‘king’, except for a family instead of for a kingdom.

It’s easy to dismiss this as either a superstition for controlling people, or wishful thinking on the part of people who want ultimate security and to think there is a greater good they can work towards that will protect them for being good, and punish those who hurt them. Such an idea has an obvious attraction? But is there more to it?

Let’s take another step back and look at these rules. What are they?

The laws of God are always things like ‘don’t steal’ and ‘don’t murder’ and ‘be nice to people’. “We don’t need God to know that” I hear you say. But hang on! The fact that these rules are obvious is no reason to dismiss them, on the contrary, it’s a clue to what is really going on here. All of the rules are community-supporting rules. They’re basically instructions for how to live amongst other people peacefully. They’re rules that sustain the system.

If you live in a community then you are dependent on the community, and it on you. You don’t defend the boundaries of the territory AND grow all the vegetables AND hunt AND build houses AND look after all the children. These roles are distributed between the members of the community, each person specializes, and everyone supports everyone else. The reason we do this is because it enables everyone to each have more than if we each tried to do everything ourselves. In small communities this can be done by pooling resources, and in larger communities by trade, an advanced version of which being the monetary system (which, despite some corruption, and despite some undervalued areas, effectively operates as an accounting system that keeps track of how much value each person has added to society and therefore how much they can ask for in return.)

The laws, whether they are laws of God or laws of the nation, are all set up to protect the community. You’re only allowed to do things that benefit the community. And what is the community? It’s a system. And what else is a system? The entire universe.

OK, but what does this have to do with God and the universe?

It should be obvious that God is basically the personification of the ruler of the community (or the spirit of the community), but on a universal scale. However, I’m going to go even further than this. I’m going to directly entertain the idea that God is a conscious being that rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked… ready?

Firstly, the spirit or personification of a community is personified in the leader of the community. And there is always a leader. Even if the community thinks it has no leader and decides everything by committee, some individual came up with the idea of doing the committee and everyone else followed them (followed the leader) and so you can say that the leader exists but has delegated their decision-making to the committee. Inevitably one of the members will dominate the committee and become the defacto leader, either by aggression or by earning respect from the other members, despite outward appearances. If you’ve ever actually been in a committee then you can vouch for this yourself.

You can extend this upwards continuously. If you live on the Earth then the Earth is your leader, you follow it around on its journey through the solar system. The Earth follows the sun, so the sun is the Earth’s leader. Now I understand that it looks like I’ve just drawn a parallel that is a little bit of a stretch, because I’ve moved from a conscious leader to an unconscious one. But if you deny that the Sun is your boss’ boss’ boss’ boss’ boss’ just because you don’t believe it is conscious then you are entirely missing the point. There is no requirement for a leader to be recognizably conscious, or human.

Additionally, you don’t even know what consciousness is. So making any claims about what is conscious and then trying to apply that in theory is as nonsensical as the opposite claim that a rock is conscious because I say so. The fact is that if the Earth goes left then you go left too, and if it goes right… to the right you go. The fact that the Earth is predictable in its movement just makes it consistent, it doesn’t say anything about whether you are following it — that’s an observable fact, and if you don’t believe me, try to go the other way.

Clearly then, there is a theoretical leader of the universe, since the Earth, follows the sun, which follows the galaxy, etc. I say theoretical only because if the universe is infinite then you’ll never find the final leader, there will always be another as far as you can see. But if the universe is finite then you can say for certainty that there is a single entity somewhere which is the final leader of all things, your boss’ boss’ boss’ boss’ boss’ boss’: the King of kings. Maybe some central universal sun or black hole (a sort of evil version of a sun that takes instead of gives), or something.

Now that I’ve cleared that up, what about the rewarding of the righteous and punishment of the wicked… doesn’t that require judgement? And judgement is surely conscious? Hence a central sun could surely not be doing such things?

If you’re in a tribe that fishes from a river, and you become greedy and eat all of the fish in the river, what happens? You starve and die. This is a sin. I like to say that it is not a sin to touch fire because it is immoral, it is a sin to touch fire because it burns. You don’t have to pay for your sins twice. Doing something that harms the greater community is a sin because it directly hurts you. Stealing and killing hurts the community, and you are part of the community and so it hurts you, therefore it’s a sin. But who judges you? The spirit of the Earth judges you by not giving you anymore fish, that’s your punishment. But the Earth does not consciously do that, right? Well… what do you mean ‘consciously?’ The lack of fish is a push-back from the Earth in response to your eating of all the fish, and your eating of all the fish was a conscious action… the lack of fish is just the consequence of your conscious action. The consequence of an action is part of the action, if I push you then you fall over: these are the same event, and the entire event was conscious. You can’t disconnect the consequence from the action and so the punishment handed out to you is just as conscious and intelligent as the consciousness and intelligence of the original action.

OK, but that’s not the universal sun, the ‘King of kings’, doing it though is it? Well… no… and yes.

Each level of followers follows their leader. Hence there is a direct chain of command from you all the way up to the theoretical ‘King of kings’. You follow your boss, who follows theirs, eventually the Earth, Sun, gravity, light, time, etc. Each operates within the boundaries given by the leader. You go to work and work, the boss works for theirs, even the ‘top dog’ is still limited by the Earth, the Earth is limited by the sun, etc. Each level has its own form of pushback. If you don’t work your boss doesn’t pay you. If the leaders of humankind steal from the Earth then everyone is punished by lack of food or oxygen. If the Earth leaves the orbit of the sun then it’ll break down, and so on.

Each punishment is proportionate to the degree of sin, and sophisticated actions have sophisticated consequences so the form of punishment is at least as conscious as the consciousness of the sinner.

Imagine the cells within your own body. If the cells could talk, and in some form they do communicate, then they might tell each other things like “make sure you do your job well because otherwise ‘God’ will smite you!” and this might become a sort of religion. The cells wouldn’t be able to prove the existence of their God, no matter how hard they tried, for the very fact that you are their God, and they exist inside of you so they’ll never be able to see the outside of the box from the inside, as it were. But what would happen if some of the cells didn’t believe this and instead decided that they can do whatever they want? What if they stopped working for the body and decided to take from their environment (you) instead of giving to it? They would turn cancerous, which are cells that are doing precisely that (and for precisely that reason.) In response to this, what do you do? You cut them right out of the body and incinerate them or fry them with radiation where they stand— that’s almost literally shooting them with lightning bolts! And if you can and would do that to them… well… maybe give that a thought before you organize your next pretending-to-care-but-actually-just-bitter-and-jealous rally against the greater community.

And if you do what you’re told then you are rewarded. How so? If you don’t steal from your own community, and you don’t overfish the river, and you don’t call for the downfall of your own civilization, then you will be successful and ‘looked after’. If you live sustainably and support the greater community then the greater community will thrive, and you will be part of that. That’s your reward. But each level can only give what it receives from above. No one can give what they don’t have. The Earth gives to the plants and animals for example, and the energy that it uses to do so comes from the sun. Where does the sun’s energy come from? From whatever the sun is orbiting, at least to the extent that the sun wouldn’t survive if it left that orbit. And so on.

And what of consciousness? Can I make any claim that the Earth and the Sun are themselves conscious?

Negotiating humankind with the greater community/environment of the Earth is very complex. It requires a great degree of intelligence and whomever is doing it is limited by the resources available to them, all of which themselves come from the greater community/environment. This is a continuous negotiation because every time humankind does something, the environment does something else. I’m sorry… but if humankind does something, and then the environment adjusts in response to it, tries to undo it, which requires humankind to then do something else to keep the upper-hand, then mankind is clearly negotiating with some form of intelligence. Some form of intelligence — not necessarily the same form of intelligence that we are. It doesn’t need a brain to do this, and no one has ever proven that brains have anything to do with consciousness. Sure, if you remove the brain then the consciousness goes away, but the same is true if you remove the heart, or liver, or atmosphere, or sun.

The point I’m trying to make is easier to see if you do away with the imaginary undefined thing that is consciousness. It then becomes clear that:

  1. All entities organize into groups for mutual benefit (e.g. families, nations, humans).
  2. Every group is part of a larger group (e.g. all animals, plants + animals), and this continues all the way up until it becomes the entire universe as one group/system.
  3. All groups have leaders.
  4. Every leader also has a leader, and this continues all the way up forming a giant pyramid structure.
  5. The purpose of the law is to sustain the group.
  6. The law is just a list of things that are counter-productive to the survival of the group.
  7. Hence if you break any law, there are consequences.
  8. If you follow the law, your group thrives and all entities within the group thrive as part of it.
  9. Your personal opinion about what is and is not conscious is irrelevant to this pattern. Actions have consequences either way, the observable reality is identical. And:
  10. Supposedly non-conscious entities, regardless of their non-consciousness, are nevertheless equipped to successfully push back against a supposedly conscious entity that is disrupting the balance.

And there you have it. Either:

  1. There is a God. God sets the rules and enforces them actively.
  2. There’s no God and no ‘law’. You can do anything you want but if you do stupid things then you die.
  3. We’re all one massive interconnected entity.

Choose whichever you prefer but know that either way you’re just using different words for the exact same reality. These options are valid models that describe the same thing and none of them are any more or less true than any of the others.

Is this one red rectangle or two red squares next to each other?

Image for post
Image for post

Don’t be fooled… it’s the same thing.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store