Polytheism, Atheism, and Politics
Arguments from a "first cause" or prime mover", even if they were irrefutable, do not demonstrate that those things are the God of Christianity, or even that they are the same thing.
Perhaps the first cause is something entirely different than the prime mover. Perhaps those arguments demonstrate the existence of many gods.
It is quite probable that some such things do fact exist, that there are some sort of primary underlying forces and structures in the universe. The proper technique for the study of these gods, however, is science, and physicists the world over are already working on this branch of polytheology.
But there's no reason to believe those structures have any direct connection with the sermon on the mount or the politics of ancient Israel.
So, in both the highly personal end of reality—my internal experience that morning on my walk—and on the most abstract end of reality—philosophical arguments for the existence of a supreme being—we have things which have been called "God" and which actually seem, in some sense, to exist.
As reasonable people we are left with two choices: we can either become atheists or polytheists.
We can say that the word "god" is simply a misnomer and assign other names to these patterns or events, or we can keep the word, and investigate each of these "gods" as separate entities, which may or may not have any relationship to each other.
Our culture is currently split on this choice, but in a curious way.
For all pragmatic purposes we have implemented the first alternative—when we design a computer or a medicine, send a rocket to the moon, or improve the taste of a wine. In these cases we have dispensed with the word "god", chosen new words, like "electron" or "tensor equation", or complex molecules, and left theology behind.
On the other hand, in the realm of politics we have bypassed both alternatives.
We have neither abandoned the word "god" nor admitted that there are many gods.
Instead, we have clung to the strange idea that the underlying source of quantum physics and my compulsion to turn around halfway through an intersection are the same thing.
We insist, with no evidence, that my strange internal struggle that morning is directly related to the midnight mass, the big bang, and the anointing of King David.
There's an obvious poetic satisfaction in that unreasonable stance, and this explains in part why this division is not a division between one person and another so much as it a split in individual minds.
It's not at all uncommon for the same person to alternate between an atheist world view and a theist, or even specifically Christian, world-view daily: praying to the idea of God which conflates my early morning walk with the big bang and the politics of ancient Israel, then making decisions as a pure atheist when, say, adjusting the thermostat.
Many a scientist spends Monday morning investigating the structures of reality without the slightest reference to any god, having spent Sunday morning singing hymns to a very specific God.
We are strange and self-contradictory creatures.
Next time, one kind of evidence that
might prove monotheism...