Persiflage (or maybe not): the Great Oomph
Our universe may have been set in motion by a kind of indeterminate force, call it the Great Oomph. With sovereign dexterity, this entity stipulated the physical laws of our universe: the speed of light, gravitation, the periodic table, and so forth. As brane rheory posits, though, there may be sister universes, each set in motion by its own Great Oomph. In their own domains, these initiatory forces may have prescribed different physical laws, ones we can scarcely imagine.
Yet having set the rules and given the primal heave, our Great Oomph retired--for good. Sayonara. It is not coming back. If it still lingers at all, this demiurge is indifferent to all that happens after, which must play itself out on its own terms.
The New Atheists, it seems to me, create a soft target by assuming as their opponent a personal deity who studies and controls the minutest details of our environment and our behavior. ("Not a sparrow that falls," etc.) Yet personality and providence are in no wise necessary--at least not in the stripped-down version of theism I am envisaging here. I have put God on a starvation diet. In fact, the critter was always a kind of wispy thing. Perhaps it has wasted away, to die its lonely Nietzschean death--sa belle mort, as it were. But once it was a Contender. Once upon a time.
(I owe this somewhat bizarre set of thoughts to the religious minimalism of the novelist Thomas Hardy, who was much wiser than I.)
Labels: prime mover