I.

The endless praises of the choirs of angels had begun to grow wearisome; for, after all, did he not deserve their praise? Had he not given them endless joy? Would it not be more amusing to obtain undeserved praise, to be worshipped by beings whom he tortured? He smiled inwardly, and resolved that the great drama should be performed.

– Bertrand Russell, “A Free Man’s Worship” (1903)

 

II.

God doesn’t answer us directly, of course. There’s no nod to the left, no telling elbow poke in our side or “psst” in our ear. Rather, we envision God, and other entities like Him, as encrypting strategic information in an almost infinite array of natural events: the prognostic stopping of a clock at a certain hour and time; the sudden shrieking of a hawk; an embarrassing blemish on our nose appearing on the eve of an important interview; a choice parking spot opening up at a crowded mall just as we pull around; an interesting stranger sitting next to us on a plane. The possibilities are endless. When the emotional climate is just right, there’s hardly a shape or form that “evidence” cannot assume. Our minds make meaning by disambiguating the meaningless.

– Jesse Bering, The Belief Instinct: The Psychology of Souls, Destiny, and the Meaning of Life (2011)

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