I have seen no visible evidence of spirit (whether good, benign, or evil), except for the concrete temples humans erect in honor of a good and Great Invisible Spirit, their fearful responses to what they perceive to be evil Spirits, and their confessions about both. Hence I begin with matter.
Observation #1: If the universe is not eternal, it had a beginning. If it is eternal, it is our "Alpha and Omega" (Revelation 1:8).
Observation #2: It does not appear that the universe is eternal, however, since its expansion at a rapid rate is an indication of remarkable change (hence, it is not eternal because it changes). This datum makes the idea of the known universe originating in a Big-Bang-from-Nothing a plausible theory. But from whence came the elements necessary to produce a Big Bang and what ignited it—if nothing existed before the Big Bang? The igniter and matter-from-nothing constitute the Ground of all Being (G/B) in that they have brought an end to Non-Being and revealed Being. But both igniter and matter-from-nothing are invisible, unknown, and unknowable since they are parallel to and not immediately tangential (touching lightly) to the universe. If they were tangent to or part of the universe, then universe, as eternal (see Observation #1), has simply perpetuated itself. Hence, there is an Unknown-Unknowable-Before-the-Big-Bang.
Observation #3: In popular religious thinking G/B is accorded the designator "God." But G/B contrary to popular thinking is not part of the physical universe or even involved with the universe, a fact that is verified by observation of the known natural and social worlds. The survival of the fittest (i.e., Darwin's more plausible theory of the Origin of the Species by Natural Selection) rules out any master plan for the universe and its denizens, and it seems to be the case with social organisms as well, for they succeed or fail based on human ingenuity and energy, and that, one must suppose, includes the church. In short, no guidance or care exists for Being (things as they are). We and the universe have simply emerged into Being, and must do the best we can. Our fate hinges on good genes, lady luck, and natural selection.
Observation #4: human beings are, however, universally "religious." To judge by our universal preoccupation with religion or religious-like actions endemic to all human cultures humans seem to have in some way come by a concept of a Divine-Other (D/O) and seem to have a vague sense, awareness, or impression of D/O—or they claim to. The limitations and imperfections of our sense of D/O accounts for the contrasting varieties of human religious expressions: we sense in part and imperfectly so. Because of the universality of the religious preoccupation, however, our "sensing" D/O seems plausible; so where does the concept of D/O come from, or does it arise from within us—that is, the concepts of D/O are latent in our genes and/or DNA?
Observation #5: Certainly it is possible that we each generate the concept of D/O from within ourselves, or perhaps it is generated by a few and learned by others.
Observation #6: Possibly concepts of D/O arise from G/B from "the other side" of the Big Bang. But how might that occur, if G/B is not and never was a part of our experienced reality (see Observation #2). Astrophysics suggests a possible parallel. Scientists discover unseen planets that orbit stars (those tiny pinpricks of light in the night sky) in distant solar systems by watching for the gravitational effect of an invisible planet on a visible star: "when the star has a planet orbiting around it, the star wiggles slightly from the gravitational attraction of the planet" (Nick Cohen, mathematician, physicist). I am suggesting that there may also be a similar effect from an "attraction" between Being and non-Being that prompts a universal religious response. The scientist sees nothing except the effect of the gravitational pull (the wiggle), and does not actually see the planet or the gravitational attraction. It is similar to the physical/emotional attraction between lovers. Claims of "sensing" D/O may be a similar "wiggle" effect between human psyches and D/O. The only evidence of gravity between the star and the postulated invisible planet is the "wiggle"; the only evidence of D/O between Non-Being and Being is a human religious response.
Nothing is certain, but those seem to be the possibilities; how do they seem to you?
Charles W. Hedrick
Missouri State University