That god shaped hole

He used to be the god of the gaps. But then the gaps became ever smaller. According to Richard Bube, there were no gaps left when Darwin had written the Origin of Species. After the theory of evolution, humans had forever lost their special place on earth. This gives me an opportunity to put in one of my favourite quotes, by J.B.S. Haldane. When asked by theologians

– if there was anything that could be concluded about the Creator from the study of creation,

this geneticist and evolutionary biologist said:

“The Creator, if He exists, has an inordinate fondness for beetles.”

After all, this creator would have made 400,000 attempts at the perfect beetle. Haldane was duly impressed.

By Udo Schmidt from Deutschland [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (]

By Udo Schmidt from Deutschland [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (

And we all know he made even more different stars, which inspired Stephen Hawking to say:

“We’re just chemical scum on the surface of a moderately sized planet, orbiting around a very average star in the outer suburb of one among a hundred billion galaxies.”

So, maybe we are unique in the sense that we’re the only chemical scum around? No, I’m sorry, but it increasingly looks like we’re not. Very recently, the newspapers were telling us that six percent of red dwarfs have Earth-sized planets which could be habitable. The closest one might be only thirteen light-years away.


For one moment I thought this was an awkward predicament for preachers. But it wasn’t, because they’ve found a way out a long time ago. The God shaped hole is not in nature, not in the universe, it’s in your heart.

When Derren Brown, who is well-versed in the methods of the evangelicals, said it on “Miracles for Sale” I really thought he was overdoing it a bit. To have someone stand in front of a crowd and shout:

“You cannot fill that God shaped hole with drugs! with money! with sex!”

I expected people to laugh at this. But Derren was right. Only a few days later, I saw a real preacher saying exactly the same thing in front of some well-educated Pentecostal churchgoers. And after that I noticed a post from  a Japanese blogger She explained how she’d been threatened she would never be happy because of that very same God shaped hole. Suddenly, the God shaped hole showed itself everywhere. It must be synchronicity, except I don’t believe in that either.

It’s attributed to Blaise Pascal. I mean the quote about the God shaped hole. I’m not trying to tell you that you have a Pascal-shaped hole in your heart as well.

By Jastrow (Own work) [Public domain]

By Jastrow (Own work) [Public domain]

I’ve always had Pascal down for an opportunist because of “Pascal’s Wager”.

And I find it hard to believe that a modern-day person could be threatened or coerced to embrace God. (People could force you to live by their rules, I have no doubt about that. But could they make you believe something?) You could lose any belief in an instant, and once you’ve realised it, there’s no going back. Criticofchristianity, another blogger, describes her personal experience with this. By the time you start wondering what eternal damnation will feel like, it’s too late to change your mind back to its innocent state.

But don’t fear, because:

“Eternity in the company of Beelzebub and all his hellish instruments of death will be a picnic, (…)”

Pascal never knew it, but it’s the five minutes with a pencil and Blackadder that you really have to worry about. He says it all in this 31-second fragment on youtube. So it looks like even hell is not all they said it would be. This will be tough to face for some people, I’m sure, but Haldane can help you with that:

“I suppose the process of acceptance will pass through the usual four stages:

(i) this is worthless nonsense;

(ii) this is an interesting, but perverse, point of view;

(iii) this is true, but quite unimportant;

(iv) I always said so.”

With this in mind, please vote on the above blogpost, now…


About Pipteinpteron

Catch a falling feather. Don't keep it.
This entry was posted in atheism, sceptic, science and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to That god shaped hole

  1. So how about the atheist version: The no-God shaped hole. Even Hawking’s black holes can’t beat that. Sorry, need to run, my cat has something important to tell me.

    • Thank you for your comment. I guess I just feel puzzled by the idea that something’s missing. It being god or no-god like you said. Usually it takes me a day to start thinking my blogpost is not as good as I thought, but this time it was only five minutes. I guess I should have consulted my cat 😉

  2. john zande says:

    Love it! How has your blog eluded me until now…

  3. I like to say that we are born from spatter on the rim 🙂

  4. duncommutin says:

    I suppose if I were a believer (not that I am exactly an unbeliever) I would go along with Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the “God of the gaps” Wikipedia article you referenced: “We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know.” Very wise. (And he was hanged by Hitler for his troubles). And at the opposite extreme we have the creationists, who don’t worry about searching out a gap to find God in – they go ahead and make their own.
    I wanted to know what Derren Brown had to say, but was told: “This video contains content from Channel 4, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.” This must be the work of the devil. Or was it God who didn’t want me to see it, afraid of being evicted from his gap?
    I think I’m confused. Nice piece though, livelysceptic.

    • Thank you for your comment, duncommutin. I really appreciate your balanced view. If you still want to see Derren Brown, you could try 4oD on the Channel 4 website. That should work in the UK.

  5. Argus says:

    Thanks for the Wiki link to Pascal’s Wager. Funny, as a clever man he missed the obvious—that God would see right through any pathetic little deceptions such as Pascal’s feeble effort; He’s rather clever like that. I’m going to be posting on a similar issue in a couple of hours, you’re very welcome … oops, just had a thought—perhaps Pascal wasn’t trying to impress Good ol’ God, but the Holy Inquisition? Naaaaah …

  6. David Yerle says:

    It seems like today is “bash religion day!” What a fun way to end the week. You know, this “God-shaped hole” thing is subject to easy ridicule. I have several holes in my body and if any of them is shaped like God…

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