why do deities need supernatural tricks?


Let’s pretend we’ve never been exposed to the notion of deities and the supernatural. Let’s imagine we’ve lived our lives considering only the straightforward natural world around us, where we can see, smell, touch, taste and feel everything we know exists.

Into this natural existence, we are one day given access to all the information available about every god and religious system in existence. So, without any preconceptions we can carefully and rationally assess if any of them might actually be possible.

What features of a religion are likely to give us pause for thought that invisible beings with superior powers are in fact real? Here are some suggestions:

  • If a message is part of the package, the message would have to be consistent and make sense. For example, if the deity or deities claim to be all about love, they couldn’t be vengeful, violent and wish to condemn most of their creation to everlasting suffering. 
  • If a proscribed way of living is required, it would have to fit with scientific understanding of human behaviour. For instance, imagining that people are ‘bad’ because they choose to be, when even a basic understanding of psychology demonstrates that genes and childhood environment determine most of our behavioural ‘choices’, would show a level of ignorance that is impossible for any superior being.
  • There would have to be a good reason for invisibility that overrides the fact that humans create random religions featuring conveniently invisible gods in every society.
  • There would have to be no benefit for the humans promoting the religion, in terms of control or wealth. For example, beliefs that give power-hungry individuals the opportunity to exploit and manipulate other people, taking their money to build obscenely wealthy institutions, clearly demonstrate their human roots.

Why do I not mention supernatural tricks? Because supernatural tricks, such as coming back to life and walking on water are of no interest. Superior beings wouldn’t need supernatural demonstrations to be taken seriously. As any sane person knows, magic tricks are for charlatans. Consistency, depth, logic and notions with an out of this world humming glow would be the sole requirements.