simple explanations


The simplest explanation for the ubiquity and persistence of the human concept of God is that there is a God to whom humans yearn to connect.

I came across this sentence in a post criticising atheists, and had to concede it’s the most compelling reason I’ve read for the existence of deities. However, I think this is the absolute peak of logic that the theist argument can get to: there’s nowhere to proceed after this statement. And perhaps a few good reasons to not even reach this peak.

Even the most fervent admirers of Occam’s razor would have to agree that the simplest explanation is not always the most convincing. The fact is that every human society has come to very different conclusions about what this god is (if indeed they fix on a god, and not spirits, or multiple deities), and their conclusions tell us more about their society as it evolved than anything supernaturally convincing. If every human was yearning towards the same, or even a similar god notion, we might have pause for thought.

To illustrate how meaningful this method of reaching conclusions is, let’s have a look at a few competing and similarly simple explanations:

  • The simplest explanation for the lack of evidence that any supernatural forces exist, is that no supernatural forces exist.
  • The simplest explanation for most humans following the belief system of their home society, is that indoctrination works.
  • The simplest explanation for Catholicism being the biggest Christian denomination in the world, is that the Pope is right, and contraception is evil.
  • The simplest explanation for men controlling human society, is that God created men to be in charge.
  • The simplest explanation for Islam being the fastest growing religion in the world, is that it is the one true religion.
  • The simplest explanation for the ubiquity and persistence of the human concept of ghosts, is that there are ghosts with whom humans yearn to connect.

It’s simple to conclude that it makes sense to move beyond the simplest explanations.