Monday, July 6, 2015

A New God Paradigm

"The Internet offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity.
This is something truly good, a gift from God."
Pope Francis

There are three distinct views of how the universe and life came into existence. (1) Two are familiar while the third has virtually no public recognition.

  1. Creation: This view is that of the Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It imagines creation as the work of an all-knowing, all-powerful being. From a transcendental dimension, the creator is believed to observe and judge obedience to his commandments handed down through sacred texts (as interpreted by religious hierarchies). This view is completely faith-based.
  2. Scientific: Only matter and energy are real. This builds on the determinism of modern physics that explains the origin of the expanding universe as a result of the “Big Bang”.  It does not explain what existed before the Big Bang. Life is seen as something that has evolved through a combination of chance genetic mutations and a competitive struggle for life, with survival of fittest for any given environment.
  3. Emergent: All of creation is the emergence of intelligence that develops, advances and realizes the possibilities through a continuing teleological process. Everything – the universe, stars, planets and life – is the expression of a pervasive, continually evolving force.  
This essay examines and develops the third view.

Shifting Patterns

In her perceptive book, Alone Together, MIT psychologist and sociologist Sherry Turkle talks about the ways technology is changing how people relate to one anther and construct their own personal lives. She discusses the psychological side effects of constant connection with the Internet.(2)

There are dramatic changes in the way people use and view computers. We no longer give "commands" to a machine; we enter into dialogues, navigate simulated worlds, and create virtual realities. Millions of people now interact with their computers on networks; they talk, exchange ideas and feelings.

In Turkle’s study of human identity in the age of the Internet, Life on the Screen, she reports that people are using networks to engage in new ways of thinking about evolution, relationships, politics, sex, and the self. Many talk of their online experience in spiritual terms. She cites one person who says: "To me, it's God coming together with science, and computers have made it all possible." (3)

In an interview with Time magazine for their Dec. 16, 1996 cover story, Jesus Online, Turkle explains that people experience electronic networks, like life itself, evolving by a force they can neither understand, nor control.  The Internet is one of the most dramatic examples of something that is self-organized. People feel that “God could be the distributed, decentralized system”. Turkle said this, not as a religious person, but as a scientist trying to understand what is happening in modern culture. (4)

Internet as a God Metaphor

In his meaningful and important essay, The Internet As A Metaphor For God, Charles Henderson brings up several insightful points.(5) I had just been discussing this very point with a philosopher friend over lunch and did a Google search as soon as I got home . This article (written in 2000, about 15 years ago) came up; it resonated deeply with me.

Most religious symbols were born naturally, through the everyday experience of real people. In the age of powerful kings, God was considered to be an almighty monarch who ruled from a throne somewhere beyond human understanding, issuing commands that could not be questioned by anyone, even emperors.

In the age of hierarchical government, God was considered to be beyond any human power. In the Industrial Age, God was thought of as the great designer who invented the very laws of nature. In the age of democracy, God was considered to live in the hearts and minds of individual believers.

Henderson continues: Likewise, in the Information age, God is being perceived by many as being present in and through that network which connects us with each other and with the world in which we live. Today, that network is the Internet. (6)

Connection to a Higher Power

Humans feel a need to consult a greater power. When they need advice or information, or some kind of help, they turn to a “higher power”. With no equipment, they simply “pray”. If they are connected to the Internet, they feel its power and derive knowledge, comfort, peace and almost always, all the assistance they may need.  (7)

The Christian view is that almighty God knows everything and can be accessed through the Bible; he can be communicated with directly through prayer.  Today, the Internet contains data that are vastly greater than knowledge that can be provided by any one person. And for most, it is easy to access online. Of course, what is found must be sifted through carefully. Clearly, the knowledge can corrupt (the equivalent of evil) as well as support and provide comfort.

Here’s a good question: In the current paradigm, when you need help, who do you turn to the most – God or Google?

Changing Paradigms

Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore wrote in their prescient, 1967 book, The Medium is the Massage: "When faced with a totally new situation, we tend always to attach ourselves to the objects, to the flavor of the. . . past. We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future." (8)

The images of a Creator as a single, remote, almighty being is deeply seated in human consciousness. It can and will change very, very slowly. While it is changing, many faith-based adherents will consider different depictions of God nonsensical, or even sacrilegious. Even so, these new spiritual views will continue to spread rapidly.

Substantial and even revolutionary changes have come about within just the past couple of decades. Ray Kurzweil points out that change is advancing exponentially and cannot be slowed. (9)

Creation Allegory

You may have read my blog, Creation Allegory, published October 6, 2014 – it has generated about 1,500 views. In this essay, I quoted a short story, Sole Solution, written by Eric Frank Russell, a British science fiction author.  It made tremendous sense to me as a creation story and I hope I can motivate you to read it. You may wish to read my blog again. (10)

I concluded that blog with a summary of my own view of creation.

“God is not some remote creator, but rather the essence of the universe that brought it into reality. The moment of creation was what may be considered the ‘Big Bang’. No one has yet explained how and why that occurred. This allegory at least provides a rational back-story that perhaps makes sense.

“In the present moment, the here and now, God is not some remote observer or judge, but an active participant through you and I and every part of creation.”

Adherents to strict science agree that all the laws of the universe apply only after the Big Bang occurred. The time before the Big Bang occurred is undefined and beyond understanding. (11)

I have discussed this with my scientist and philosopher friends. We have agreed that the creation allegory at least provides some explanation of events prior to the Big Bang. Lacking any other theory, the Creation Allegory may indeed be valid until someone proves it is wrong. I must point out that this extrapolation is my own.

Let’s Engage

To expand on these concepts, please share your ideas by responding directly via the blog:

  1. Which of the 3 views of Life do you hold?
    1. Creation by God
    2. Science and Evolution
    3. Universe is God         
  2. What’s your view of God?
    1. Almighty Person
    2. No God – I’m an atheist
    3. Don’t know – I’m agnostic
    4. Hindu, Buddhist, Bahá'í, Unitarian, other
    5. God is everywhere
  3. Is the Internet a valid metaphor for God?
    1. Yes, I like it
    2. Maybe
    3. No – does not appeal to me
  4. How was the Universe created?
    1. Big Bang
    2. God created
    3. I have no idea – don’t think about it

1.     Religion, Science, and Spirit:
2.     TED Talk - Sherry Turkle: Connected, but alone?
3.     Sherry Turkle book – Life on the Screen:
4.     TIME – Dec. 16, 1996: Finding God on the web:
5.     The Internet As A Metaphor For God:
6.     NY Times – Now, You Can Worship by Modem:
7.     The Internet of Life:
8.      Marshall McLuhan – March  Backwards Into the Future:
9.     Kurzweil – Law of Accelerating Returns:
10.  Creation Allegory:
11.  What Came Before the Big Bang?


Jim Pinto
Carlsbad, CA.
6 July 2015