Schrödinger's God

April 24, 2011
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Have you ever heard of Schrödinger's cat? It's a thought experiment devised by Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. The idea goes that you put a cat in a box capable of preventing any interference from outside variables, and the box is filled with poison, the cat can be either dead or alive until we actually open the box and observe the cat. Common sense dictates that the cat would certainly be dead- but the need for empirical observation demands that we treat the cat as both dead and alive until observed.

Here's my dilemma; for as long as I could remember, I've wrestled with the idea of the existence of God- and I still am. But since I was 12 years old, I've been on the same conclusion; there is no God.

But when I came to that conclusion when I was 12, I reached it with different reasoning than I do now. As an atheist in a family of Jews, where tradition is the glue that holds the faith together, I found that our traditions genuinely sucked.

Jewish holidays were, and still are, terrible. The ubiquity of Christmas makes Hanukkah's duration seem ineffectual. Christian Lent supports self-control and moderation, while the fasting of Rosh Hashanah supports a headache. The traditional Jewish foods are all awful; matzah tastes like cardboard, gefilte fish tastes like sour seafood pudding, and kugel... well, have you ever tried it? If so, then you understand God truly does want the Jewish people to suffer.

Not to mention the pointless dietary restrictions. Even if there is a god, I honestly doubt he will judge me on the content of what I eat.

It's also the stuffiness of attending synagogue. A kid with ADHD thinks about deep stuff when they're bored out of their minds and are preached to in a foreign language. Deep thoughts expound the mind such as, "99 bottles of beer on the wall," and "can I try drowning myself in three inches of toilet water?"

These gripes still reinforce my lack of faith in a higher power (and particularly conventional religion) but as I have grown new ideas on Gods existence and His theoretical omnipotence continue to reinforce my atheism.

Astronomy has shown that the universe in infinitely vast and great, and that we are but a single mote of dust in black empty ocean of stars. Whatever decisions we make here on earth are virtually meaningless in the span of the universe.

But chaos theory states that even the smallest decisions we make will have a compounding and resounding impact on our growing history. Each decision we make is another note in the symphony of the universe, defining every other following action and concurrently empowering our existence.

But then causality states that the "decisions" we make are but the relative positioning and interaction of subatomic particles in our minds; that our nervous impulses are the movement of potassium and calcium ions within our brains. Everything is therefore predefined, and "Free Will" is but an illusion of our self awareness.

Cogito, ergo sum. "I think, therefore I am." We know we must truly exist because we maintain the intellectual ability to ask such a question in the first place. If we do not exist, then what is the universe we see before us? Nihilism fails here.

So if we do truly exist, but we have no control over our destinies, what's left? John Calvin figured this out. He rationalized that if God did create the universe, and he predetermined the course of events to follow, then those who are destined to go to heaven have already been selected. He saw this as a sign to pray harder. Others saw it as a sign to both sin and not sin in the name of their predetermined fates. In a sense, it was the Schrödinger's cat of our eternal afterlife's. For me, I saw it as a sign to not pray at all.

I didn't agree with John Calvin at all, so the question still stands; what's left to do? We could kill ourselves, but evolution and psychology shows we would not do that unless we truly saw it as a practical and rational decision. We could all descend into hedonism, but economics and law proves this as impractical and irresponsible.

At this point, the only hope is to accept religion. We have no control over our lives, so why not submit yourself as a servant to the Lord? The poor decisions you might have made in the past were not yours to make, as it is God who predefined them. And the decisions you make from hereon in will be in the name of the Lord, and as part of God's great plan for the universe.

And this is where I am lost.

To me, the acceptance and belief of a god signifies defeat of your individuality. Belief in god is a sign you are without control over your life. It means the decisions you make are not yours, but Gods. With God, there is no free will, no achievement, no success on your own. It's been predefined by causality and God's choice of particles and where they started and how they will react.

At the end of the day, I am stumped. When I was 12, I realized that the practicality of not believing in God was great. Conventional religion was weighing me down, and rational decision making pointed me to a life free of boring sermons, fearing for my afterlife, and filled with as much bacon as I could eat.

But now, I ultimately don't know. After studying much (high school) science, philosophy and history, I have reached the same conclusion that Schrödinger did for his theoretical cat.

Science dictates that God both exists and does not exist until empirically proven. Good luck opening that box.

But common sense dictates that that box is empty and void of content. And hopefulness on my part shows I'd be glad for it. I like my free will, and the idea that I have control over my destiny is what keeps me from descending into hedonism. Or killing myself.

Is it agnosticism? No, because I am willingly forcing myself to believe there is no God. And if there is, and I am wrong, I can only hope He is a merciful God. For otherwise I am certainly going to hell; I have eaten too much bacon.

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