People have been debating the existence of God at least since the 16th Century. I think earlier human experience has been primarily faith-based and believers, in at least one god, sometimes in several (or many). But when I think about all of this, I sometimes look at the issue from the “reverse”…from the perspective of our own body, life at the cellular level, and in various species. While we are capable of envisioning the existence of a supreme being, and contemplating whether the Holy Spirit exists or not, I wonder if the cells in our own body are capable of (well, to start with, if they have any consciousness at all) …ahmm… capable of envisioning US. Can a living organism in the sea have some kind of awareness of a greater being? Of planets and suns? Of a universe?
I doubt it. Okay, so what about the more evolved life of the animals? Can animals conceive of the existence of organized, civilized and self-controlled humans? Clearly some of them are aware that humans have organized societies, and a few of them know we have machinery. But do they have any awareness of the scope of human consciousness? I doubt it very much.
As you mentioned, Jonas, what distinguishes human acceptance of a Supreme Being from the daily perceptions of those who don’t, and the perceptions of animals, down to the cellular level in all living things is the capacity to conceive of a greater reality — a reality that is filled with something which is cognizant of what it is, and what it does, and capable of creating things out of that cognizance.
What amazes me is that we have all this creation going on around us, throughout the universe, and we keep looking for the source of it, because we can’t quite get comfortable with the idea that all of creation just sprang into existance from nothing, without any cause, without a purpose, without a goal, just “boing” and here it all is.
I know that agnostics and athiests don’t bother to be discomfited with how their acceptance of that kind of reality might just be a tad rediculous, or at worst, hopeless. But I think all of us, even agnostics, have this basic wonder about this.
I don’t think cellular life has any concept or notion of the greater reality in which it exists. My belief is that awareness, and purpose, starts from the cosmic level and floats down to those of us at the level of evolved sentience, and only trickles down below that to other creatures. I don’t think the Supreme Being has any “need” for us at this level to have an opinion about it’s existence, one way or the other. But I think it may welcome our awareness and our choice to commune through prayer and worship.