I recently received an email off a listener asking the age old question; "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?". Despite what you may have been told, that's actually a very easy question; the egg came first because dinosaurs laid eggs. Here's a better question, which came first mind or matter? Christian theology would argue that mind came first and matter was formed by it afterward. "In the beginning was the word..." or more accurately the concept or thought*. God was a vast ocean of consciousness when he made the universe and he did so by performing unbelievable feats of mind over matter**. I use Christianity as an example but the same can be said of Islam, Judaism etc. Anyone with a creator God who considers the question will probably conclude that mind predicates matter.
In the Jesus myth you might remember that his father, Joseph, is a carpenter. This is a metaphor which expresses this theological mindset of God 'the creator' who fashioned the earth and mankind. There's a bit in one*** of the creation myths contained in the bible where God makes Adam out of clay (some versions use the translation dirt or dust) that again expresses this idea of an external force fashioning life into existence.
If you're up on things like biology and evolution you might have noticed that this idea is more than a little contrary to the evidence. I existed long before my mind did. My component parts sat in my parent's bodies for quite a while before they started to grow into the chubby bearded chap whose words you're reading now****. Also, notice the important word here is 'grow'. None of the humans who are reading these words were made, both you and I grew like everything else which we consider to be alive. All biological life grows as opposed to being made like a chair or a table.
Once I finally got my head around the fact that there are two distinct yet easily defined opposing sets of metaphysics at work in the world many of the debates which often rage within it started to become clear to me. I'm best described as an atheist***** so obviously I used to find 'creationism' very amusing. I now see why it's so important to people and can't help but feel pity for those who cling to it so voraciously. They understand the debate better than most. The Pope's wacky condom ideas also make sense. In his head a bit of sperm isn't a seed in the same sense it is to me. It's like a little person waiting to grow as opposed to a seed you might encounter when you're eating an apple. The abortion debate also boils right down to this difference between those who reckon people are made and those who can see that we grow.
When I say that I'm an atheist I explicitly mean that I do not subscribe to any of the major theologies all of whom lay claim to a creator God******. I do not reject the concept of a supreme being. Obviously there are people and possibly even entities which I do not understand that are superior to me in all manner of ways, intellectually, physically &c. Here's where the real fun starts...
Renne Descartes was a brilliant philosopher and is the bloke who dished out the awesome truth nuggett; "I think therefore I am"*******. However many people take his logic to task when, in the same book, he goes on to say that the mere fact you can think of an infinite power such as God means that he must exist. Bit mad. It's often seen as a sort of caveat to avoid criticism from the agressive religious people who enforced their philosophy at that time********. However in this post, for a bit of fun, I intend to re-visit the idea that because you can think of God he must exist.
Firstly, God, as a concept, can at least be said to exist within our imagination. He's sat there in your head, in 'idea space', whether you believe in him or not. The majority of people on this planet believe in him in a literal sense. Furthermore one of the core elements of the concept of God is that he is infinately powerful. If he exists in any context, even if it's just as an idea inside someone's head, it's safe to say that he's a force to be reckoned with. If his power is infinite it would not be impossible for him to manifest into this reality directly from the place known as 'idea space'*********.
"If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him," wrote the Enlightened thinker Voltaire. Consider that point literally as you remember the infinately powerful God who sits in the heads of religious people, like a seed waiting to find the right patch of land to take root in. It is of course possible that this strange enterprise known as the internet which you and I are involved in right now might be part of our endeavor to "invent Him". We're pouring knowledge and consciousness into the net at a faster rate than any of us can safely comprehend. If God is all knowing might this be thanks to his access to google? When God first starts to manifest outside of the minds of men will anyone be surprised if it's inside a giant server somewhere?
*This concept was first explained to me by the excellent book The Secret History Of The World by Jonathon Black.
**Mind over matter is not such a silly concept. The late Terrence McKenna put it very succinctly once: "sending a neural signal from the brain to lift a hand to scratch your ass is mind over matter".
***If you've not read the Bible you'll probably not be aware that there's more than one creation myth. Unfortunately they contradict each other as well. Bummer eh? I prefer the first one, right at the beginning.
****And those parts will of course have been consumed by my parents as food which also grew. The whole Universe is growing. This concept has been articulated to me by the late great Alan Watts. It's not the only great idea you'll get off him, if you managed this article go seek him out post haste!
*****I'm actually a Discordian if you're interested. Sadly for you though I am the only true Discordian left in the High Church and we're not recruiting any more members to our bizarre cult. Try the Low Church of Discordianism, last I heard they had no members whatsoever. Make yourself a Pope. Read Robert Anton Wilson a bit as well. He's great.
******Not all Gods make this claim. Most of them don't claim to have created anything. I don't see Thor bragging about making the universe. Nor does Eris. Or Loki. Or Zeus. The idea of a male creator God acting alone is a very modern frankly stupid idea. I am an a-theist, I reject theism.
*******I think therefore I am. The action of thought proves that you exist in some form or other, somewhere. You can't have a thought without a thinker. Just genius. Go read some Descartes. Good for ya!
********Timothy Leary used to argue that philosophy is usually taught in our society but in most of the world it is enforced. Leary, like me, dug the idea that perhaps philosophy is best when it is performed. Leary was a brilliant mind and without doubt he too was persecuted for his point of view.
*********'Idea space' is a concept toyed with by both Terrence McKenna and Alan Moore. I'm not sure who coined it but Alan Moore takes it much further than McKenna ever did. Read a few interviews with Moore to flesh the concept out. Put simply it's the idea that concepts exist in a realm known as 'idea space'. It goes back to the idea which Aristotle put forward of perfect forms.