Thursday, July 4, 2013

Don't believe in sasquatch?

Sasquatch and God

We were sitting around the campfire discussing sasquatch when one camper said emphatically, “I don’t believe in sasquatch.”  I’m sure he is just one of many who make that statement.

For centuries philosophers have tried to solve the problem of how we know what we think we know, with little progress, let alone solving how we know what we don’t know.

Assuming we feel comfortable moving on without solving the apparently unsolvable problem of how we know, how can you know something doesn’t exist? We know the world is a globe rather than a disk because we have physical evidence. We know dinosaurs once existed because we have physical evidence. We know hairy mammoths once roamed in the Arctic because we have the physical evidence.

Where is the physical evidence that sasquatch don’t exist? We can’t know they don’t exist. We can only know we don’t have evidence that they do exist, but someday we might. (I kind of hope they do exist, as I included a couple of stories about them in my collection of short stories “Dak and His Great Motorcycle Adventures,” available as an e-book on for 99 cents or individually on this blog for free.)

So I asked the camper how much of total knowledge he possessed.

He said he didn’t know, but for the sake of discussion, he would claim 1 per cent, though admitted that would be a bit egotistical.

“So, don’t you think in that 99 per cent of knowledge you don’t possess, sasquatch might exist?” I asked.

Yes, that set up is not original with me. I heard it on a tape years ago where the speaker was discussing the existence of God with an atheist, which is where I am going with this tale.

How is it we come to know the things we know? We have physical or experiential evidence, we get there through a process of reasoning, or we receive some kind of revelation, which is where many religious claims originate.

Since we have no physical evidence God exists, the first step in arriving at some understanding is probably some kind of reasoning.

There is nothing like doubt to lead a person to an understanding of truth, because honest doubters tend to search. It was at a time of doubt that I asked myself what I would need in a religion if I were to start one.

It seemed to me the first thing a religion would have to postulate is the existence of a God. Why? It seems to me there are only two ways all that we know and see could have gotten here: it could all have happened as a product of time and chance and an evolutionary process. The other way is that it happened as a creative act, which also could have involved a process of evolution, but with a design and a designer.

Which of these two stretches credulity the furthest? Put simply, it is easier for me to believe in a creative force than in time and chance (In fact. it is impossible for me to even begin to wrap my brain around time and chance as the explanation.). Also, if all is the result of design, there is a greater possibility that life has purpose, that I am a creature of destiny.

The second element a religion would have to have is recognition that human nature is in some way seriously flawed.  The several thousand years of written history and many more thousands of years of archeological history bear that out. The empirical evidence that something is wrong with human nature is overwhelming. We live in a world where children have to be taught to be moral. The natural thing is to lie, steal, cheat, covet, kill and maim.  Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, depicted a microcosm of our world at large. In its original publication, it carried the sub-title A World Without Adults.  It described a world without a superior intelligence.

Again, to argue against this idea, that is to say that man is innately good, is to stretch my credulity further than it can stretch in view of the evidenced.

Then, the third element a religion would have to have is some solution to the human condition.

The fourth element necessary would be that any solution would have to be based on grace, as personal experience tells me I lack the capacity to mend my personal flaws, try as I might. Just admitting to them is struggle enough.

Looking at these four elements, I realized I didn’t need to come up with a religion of my own. The one I grew up with, Christianity, makes allowance for these four things, though it needs to shed much of its baggage gathered over time. Maybe as one writer put it, Christianity hasn’t been tried and found wanting, it has just so seldom been tried.

Though I can reason my way to a belief in God, there is still the idea of revelation. Christianity sees God revealed in two ways, through His creation and through the Bible. Both can speak to us of His nature, His purposes and His expectations. Someday, we might also have physical proof.