It seems as if there’s not much difference between the ancient world, where when two nations that fought each other brought their own gods into the battle, and the modern world, where when two nations that fight each other bring God into the campaign. For that matter, it would be interesting to compare the many speeches made by Saddam Hussein and George Bush in the beginning of 2003. If the Christian God is the same entity as the Islamic one, he must be suffering from a split personality.
Is the Islamic ‘Allah’ the same as the Jewish ‘Elohim’? If not, are they related? Are they enemies? If they are the same, how come so many millions of people know they think differently? Taking it one step further: What’s the connection between the existence of a creator, and the ridiculous, day-to-day rituals carried out by millions? The different religions of the world tend to drill this point carefully in our minds, using various kinds of human or semi-human messengers as a link to God.
Digging into the writings and sayings of some famous Jewish rabbis, philosophers and preachers, one can find two conflicting views for reason and belief: There are those who actually attempt to prove their way of life; they come up with some partially logic-based statements to convince and prove to others (or perhaps even to prove to themselves) that the Bible came from God, etc. We can find an example of this (which will be discussed later) in Rabbi Yehuda HaLevy’s famous 900 year old book, ‘The Kuzari’. And yet there are those, such as the late Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who claimed that they believe simply because they choose to, not because of reality-based reasoning.
Some people choose to believe in God as a calming mechanism. They find it really disturbing for their very essence to be made of flesh and act according to the outcome of chemical reactions. If I expect nothing after I’m dead, what hope do I have? What keeps me going? This is a comfort-driven belief. I am also terribly depressed due to the amount of wars, hunger and disease worldwide… perhaps I should believe all of it is not there, which will make me much happier? What keeps me going is personal goals, values, my family and friends, physiological reasons – a combination of many things.
Does it really matter? Does it have any impact on our lives if the world is managed by God or by the rules of physics?
The mathematician Alan Turing, who lived in the UK in the 20th century, devised a test for artificial intelligence. Imagine the following situation: You are given two rooms. In one room there’s a computer with an intelligent program that attempts to mimic the thinking of a human being. In the other room there’s an actual person. By similar means (say, by a messenger) you ask both of them identical questions of your choosing, and you receive their answers. If, after a while and in spite of everything, you cannot tell the computer from the person, then the computer program would be regarded as truly artificially intelligent.
The Turing Test was built with artificial intelligence in mind. Apart from the fact that in the early days of computing people were possessed with enthusiasm for artificial intelligence, this could simply be a test for intelligence (‘artificial’ omitted). From the point of view of the person who asks the questions, there’s no real difference between the machine and the human being made of flesh and bone.
Most people with an interest in God imagine an entity with self-awareness. Unlike the intelligent computer in the Turing Test, the real human being is aware of their own existence, with his or her own feelings and will. However, just like in the Turing Test, the self-awareness of some other entity is not something to be taken for granted. We humans tend to grant human-like characteristics to many of the gods invented by us over history, and self-awareness is certainly one of these characteristics.
So, just like in the Turing Test, does it make a real difference to us whether we have a thinking, feeling, human-like God? We want the world to have such a God, for it helps us to complete our limited picture of the world and provides us with easy answers to many tough questions. We may even feel there is such a God and there’s nothing wrong with that. What’s more, this is the way we have been brought up and have been constantly influenced by the environment that shaped our mind: Parents, teachers, preachers, stories, even our spoken language, God forbid.