Sunday, May 28, 2017

18 - Yotzer and Deism

There is another comment that I would like to bring to your attention because it leads to a topic that I want to discuss in somewhat more detail: that of Deism, and how my thoughts about yotzer compare with the beliefs of Deism. The comment is short, but demands a long reply, and so I will not have enough space to address in this post any of several other comments that are important. Responses to these other comments will be slipped in to subsequent posts.

Comment #2, Post #13:

I'm reading your blog & interested in where you are going. I don't know that I agree with all of its Deism.

My response: 

We can start by understanding what is meant by “Deism.” The most succinct definition I have ever come across, found on the “Religious Tolerance” website is:

Deism: A religion whose followers believe in a God who created the Universe, established its rules of behavior, set it going, left, and hasn't been seen since. 

In fact, Deism is not a religion but a philosophy (or theology) that can be held within any religion. The three key points that underlie any variety of Deism are:

  1. It is only rational to conclude that at some time, a god of some sort, created our Universe;
  2. Contrary to scriptures, If that god continues to exist, it has completely withdrawn from any contact or involvement with humankind;
  3. It is therefore up to humankind to fend for itself in defining the good life, the ethical way to behave and its own direction as a species. 

I, too, believe that it is only rational to conclude that some kind of god (yotzer) created the Universe and everything in it. I also agree that there is no evidence of direct interaction between the creator and humankind, though there are some deists who believe there once was such a relationship. However, my personal concept of yotzer is quite different from that of a disappearing god.

Deism sees the lack of human-divine interaction as evidence that the creator has withdrawn or ceased to exist after creation. This is based on the belief that creation was a singular, time-limited event.

In the yotzer paradigm, creation began with the Big Bang, and after roughly 14 billion years, is still happening. Humanity is one of a vast number of species in the evolving Universe, and has not evolved to the point where it is capable of perceiving and communicating with its creator (yotzer).

Deism does not attribute any purpose to creation.

In the yotzer paradigm, the purpose of the Universe is to produce one or more life forms that are sufficiently evolved to perceive yotzer, communicate with it, and participate in some way in the as-yet-unknown ultimate purpose of yotzer. In this vision, yotzer has a purpose and humanity has the potential to be part of that purpose.

Atheists believe there is no god. Deists believe there was a god. I believe there is a god, which I call yotzer, which is active at the Universe level, waiting for some species to evolve to the level where it can learn its purpose and become instrumental in accomplishing it. We may be the only species in the Universe that is close to that, or there may be millions of others with the potential to make contact and collaborate with  yotzer. At this point, we don’t know if we'll ever evolve far enough, or exist long enough, to reach that level of awareness and agency, and be part of achieving yotzer’s purpose.

The yotzer paradigm—a summary 

Unlike the Biblical telling, in which God created the Universe, including humanity, in a six-day period, I believe that the Universe’s creation only began with what we call the Big Bang. That creation, after approximately 14 billion years, is still incomplete and ongoing. Something is continually creating the Universe. I choose to call it yotzer. (Hebrew for “creator.”)

We know nothing about yotzer other than that it is creating the Universe. However, based on what we have learned about the Universe, there are a number of things that we can surmise:

  • The materials, forces, and rules of the Universe were first created and launched by yotzer;
  • Nobody knows how life was created, but the entire evolution of the material Universe appears to have been intended by yotzer for introducing and maintaining life on at least one planet;
  • Evolution, as built into the universe, is not only about survival, it is about at least one species developing sufficient intelligence to become aware of the Universe and the process of its creation.

Our species has developed a range of qualities that do not have obvious survival value. These include: the drive to learn and understand, even when the subject has no immediate or clear connection to human needs; a sense of aesthetics (art, music, etc.) and a drive to create aesthetically; a commitment to ethical systems, which generally privilege the species over the individual; a sense of spirituality, which, though difficult to define, involves an intense drive to search for meaning and purpose outside of the material aspects of life and the Universe.

It is the spirituality drive that is behind the founding of religions. Humans invented gods because the spirituality drive required satisfaction.  The basic questions (“primary concerns” - Post #9) that humans have been asking themselves and others for at least 5 millennia needed answers, as do many other questions about the world and the Universe.  

In their search for meaning and purpose, humans envisioned gods.  This invention resulted in laws and narratives that helped humans to develop codes of ethics and morality, as well as myths that became part of communal identity and helped explain how the physical Universe sustained us.

For millennia, these god-concepts and the myths surrounding them, served to advance our progress as a species. However, as human knowledge has advanced, they have failed to serve us effectively.  We have largely outlived our theologies, though the religions, including their traditions, communities, ethical codes and values, are still alive and useful.

I believe that the yotzer paradigm can point the way to a new theology, one that can be absorbed into any religion and is not only consonant with our growing scientific knowledge, but can help humanity, as a species, to continue its spiritual evolution.


"360-degree Panorama of the Southern Sky" by ESO/H.H. Heyer - ESO. Licensed under CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons