G-d is Universal, Idolatry (and Atheism) are Local
I'd like to return, for a moment, to the famous Richard Dawkins response to the simple question "what if you are wrong". Here's the video again:
I want to note (yet another) flaw in Dawkin's thinking.
There is a fundamental difference between belief in G-d and belief in idolatry – namely the universality of belief in G-d versus the local, particular belief in idolatry. It is true that the ancient Greeks believed in Zeus and that the Vikings believed in Thor. It is also true that at one point (for the most part) only the Jewish people believed in G-d as we know Him today (i.e., a Divine Creator of the universe who watches over and is Providentially involved with His creation). And finally, it is also true that one generally tends to follow the ideas and beliefs and the society, culture and/or family that one is born into.
With that said, let's ask a simple question. Where are Zeus and Thor today? What happened to them, how come no one worships them or takes them seriously anymore?
And let's ask another question – how did G-d get to become so popular? Why is it that belief in G-d is so wide spread and growing? How is it that this belief has crossed all known boundaries – geographic, temporal, socio-economic, religious, political, intellectual, cultural and more?
That is to say that over the course of history, billions upon billions upon billions of people from every imaginable walk of life have come to believe in the once local G-d of the Jews? More specifically:
- Belief in G-d crosses all intellectual boundaries – from the smartest, most brilliant and sophisticated minds to the dumbest and most simple-minded
- In almost every city in every country in every content in the world people believe in G-d
- Belief in G-d crosses all personality types – from the most creative and artistic to the most technical and scientific, from the witty and engaging to the boring and mundane
- In every period of history for the last 2,000+ years (in addition to the 3,500+ years for the Jews) people have believed in G-d
- Belief in G-d crosses economic and social status – from the richest, most prominent and elite members of society to the poorest, least known and weakest members of society
- In all the various groups, movements and sects of Judaism, Christianity and Islam people believe in G-d
- Belief in G-d crosses all political affiliations and systems – from the most conservatives to most liberal, from socialists (even some communists) to capitalists
G-d is truly universal (although not as universal as He someday will be). Zeus and Thor (and modern secular atheism), on the other hand, are particular. They are the products of particular cultures in particular times in particular places. It is true that someone born into those particular cultures at those particular times have a built-in tendency to follow those particular gods and/or beliefs. For instance, someone born into a modern, Western, liberal, intellectual secular society will be faced with influences and ideas that may lead him to become a modern, secular atheist.
But all of this makes the fact that belief in G-d is so universal all the more remarkable. How did G-d transcend these built-in forces?
One might argue that it was by force – that the Christians and Muslims physically forced their religion on countless millions. This is true, but not the full truth. Why was it G-d that was forced upon those countless millions? Why not some variation off of Zeus or Thor? Furthermore, why did that belief in G-d stick so strongly and passionately throughout the ages? Violence can start a new order, but it's hard pressed to keep that order going indefinitely. And yet G-d isn't just still here, belief in Him is growing.
And finally, what about all those countless millions who have come to believe in G-d through non-violent means (through inspiration, philosophical and/or scientific inquiry, self-introspection, etc.)? Where's the idolatrous counter-part? Where are all those millions flocking to Zeus or Thor based on all the various forms of life experience and/or inquiry?
Clearly belief in G-d has a quality that localized, particular belief systems and ideas just don't have.
Belief in G-d has not only stood the test of time, but it has also stood the test of geography, culture, status and more (as I mentioned above). As such, belief in G-d cannot be pinned on local, temporal or cultural influences. G-d has clearly shown that He is beyond the local, temporal and cultural.
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