Taylor: Where you find God

I imagine Diogenes thrusting his lantern in the face of, say, an evangelical preacher, and demanding, “Show me God!”

You’ve probably met Diogenes, even if he lived 2300 years ago. Diogenes was a Greek philosopher who took a skeptical attitude to everything—including the public lectures of his contemporaries Plato and Socrates.

Diogenes is best known for his eccentric practice of carrying a lighted lantern around in broad daylight, thrusting it into the faces of those he met, looking for an honest man.

Of course, he didn’t find one. And I doubt if he would do much better today.

So I don’t imagine him asking the same question now. I imagine him thrusting his lantern in the face of, say, an evangelical preacher, and demanding, “Show me God!”

“This is the word of God,” says the preacher, patting a leather-bound King James Bible. “It tells us everything we need to know about God and God’s plan for the redemption of sinners.”

“How do you know it’s the word of God?” asks Diogenes.

“Because it says so,” replies the preacher.

“That’s a circular argument, isn’t it?” sighs Diogenes. “It’s true because it says it true, therefore its claim to be true must be true…”

He goes on to a liberal minister. “Show me God,” says Diogenes.

“I wish I could,” says the minister. “But the more I learn, the more I find that I can’t believe anymore. I’ve given up so many beliefs that I’m not sure there’s anything left to believe in.”

“At least you’re honest,” says Diogenes, withdrawing his lantern.

He goes to the Stock Exchange. “Show me God,” he says to a trader.

“God?” says the trader, looking up from his computer screen. “What’s God got to do with it? Life is about beating the market—buying low and selling high.”

“You win, they lose?”

“Their problem, not mine,” the trader shrugs.

“You’ve made the market your God,” Diogenes mutters as he moves on.

“Of course I believe in God,” says a nuclear physicist. “On Sundays. But God is irrelevant to my work. If God fiddled with the universal laws of physics, my work would be meaningless.”

“So your theories take precedence over God?” Diogenes asks.

“Theories are testable,” replies the scientist. “We develop a theory; we test it. It’s considered proven if other experimenters can predictably replicate the results.”

“And if they can’t?”

“That’s the difference between science and religion,” interrupts a biologist who has been listening. “Science deliberately tests its theories to look for flaws and errors. If it finds any, it revises the theory, and tests it again. Religion doesn’t test its theories; it only defends them.”

“I think I understand,” says Diogenes. “God can’t just be. To exist, God has to be externally provable.”

Diogenes finds an atheist. “There is no God,” asserts the atheist.

“Can you prove your claim?” Diogenes challenges him.

“You can’t prove a negative,” the atheist retorts. “It’s logically impossible.”

“Is God subject to logic?” Diogenes asks.

“You’re all the proof I need,” the atheist responds. “For 23 centuries, you’ve been searching for God, and asking people to help you. Did any of them succeed in finding God for you?”

“Not one,” admits Diogenes. “But you miss the point. God is not in the finding. God is in the searching.”