Foundational Beliefs Part One: God and origins

Belief in God

Possibly the expected starting point is the recognition that a person’s belief would naturally include any conception of the existence of God. Do they believe in God? Do they believe in multiple gods? Is their God a loving being who answers prayer and is involved in the goings on in this world as in Christianity and Judaism? Or is their God just watching from a distance as in Deism? Is their God a more capricious taskmaster who demands submission as in Islam? Or maybe there are two gods, an evil and a good god who are doing battle as in Zoroastrianism? Maybe their God is actually in and of the world as in Hinduism. Or perhaps nature itself is the God. And there is also the belief that there is no God at all. And despite what some atheists would like to assert, their position is as much of a faith position as is belief in a God.

Whichever position one takes here, it is one of the most crucial parts of a person’s myth and it is not just from the aspect of a supreme entity being a lawgiver and thus being the foundation of morality. The existence or non-existence of an ultimate spiritual being in the universe impacts every other single aspect of a person’s beliefs and how they function in the world. Certainly, in some instances, people may view all of their ethical and political positions as directly given by their God, but generally, it is a little more complex than that. It is the logical implications of that belief that have to be discerned in order to understand the complete influence of one’s beliefs, or lack of belief, in a God. And all too often people treat their beliefs as if they are not inter-related and don’t need to be coherent. But since those beliefs are actually the foundation for how we live our lives, the premises for our ethical and political conclusions, then it is crucial that we think through what exactly are the logical results that are necessarily implied by our beliefs, beginning with a belief, or not, in God.


How we and the rest of the universe came into existence, or how we got here is a second part of an individual’s myth. The question of origins has major implications for how someone views nature and people. Are we, and the universe, merely the result of pure accidental chance, for example in the so-called Big-Bang theory, or as in other variations of the evolutionary theory?[i] Or maybe a God used the process of evolution to bring the universe and us into being as is the position of theistic evolution. Possibly God created the world from nothing in a special way as in creationist theories. As religious and philosophical ideas from the history of our world are examined, it is seen that every culture has had beliefs concerning their origins. Those stories gave, and continue to give, an understanding of who we are as people and our relation to others and nature. The stories gave to the people an identity. Those understandings continue to be an influential aspect of one’s myth.

The convictions concerning origins have implications for one’s views on human nature. What are we as people? What is our makeup and what makes us act how we do? Stories of origins served the purpose in tribal cultures of giving the people in the tribe an identity that was distinct from other tribes.  Those stories ultimately serve the same purpose today. If you believe that a God created human beings in His own image distinctly from the rest of His creation then that implies that humans are unique among all of creation. Depending on the understanding of being created in the image of God, that belief might also imply that humans are uniquely spiritual creatures, with a heritage, value, and responsibility that is theirs alone on this earth.

On the other hand, if one believes that humans are presently the apex of an evolutionary process that itself was simply an accident of purely chance events, then humans are not inherently any more valuable than any other part of nature.  They may be more intelligent at this point, but that is just a product of evolutionarily developed synapses firing in their brain. Indeed, it would be difficult to produce a rational explanation from an atheistic evolutionary position as to why we can eat beef and chicken and not humans. Certainly individual humans may be more extrinsically valuable than a particular cow, but not more intrinsically valuable. [ii] Obviously, this should have implications for a variety of political positions if a person’s myth and ethic is to be coherent. That is true with the variety of other possibilities as far as stories of origins and human identity are concerned.


[i] (Despite the evidence gathered by scientists over the past couple centuries to bolster the theory first developed by Charles Darwin, ultimately, at its foundation, it has to be admitted that evolution remains a theory, an asserted belief.  You may think that the evidence supporting evolution is overwhelming for any reasonable person, but regardless none of the beliefs about origins can be proven beyond question.)

[ii] If one wishes to support evolution as the process by which the world and humans came into being, and still believe that somehow humans are uniquely and intrinsically valuable, then one must believe that a God guided that process and at some point put his unique fingerprint on human life. If not, then humans are just a more highly developed slug.

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