I was going through a book by Spinoza and he describes a substance as having its characteristic as existence and independence from any other substance. But if that’s the case, then matter has existed ever since and will continue to exist. It cannot be destroyed or created.In this sense isn’t matter self-existent? My physics is at the high school level. I have doubts about whether God exists because if matter cannot be created or destroyed it has always been there.(matter plus antimatter that is.) My view is extremely simplistic(I study social sciences so please bear with this poor soul). But could you please explain why I cannot go on with life believing that we came from the big bang?(I stayed up till 6 in the morning thinking about it.I might just fail one of the most important exams in my life but that matters so little.)


Spinoza was a Jewish philosopher with some Neo-Platonist leanings, so he believed in inherent properties. His philosophy tended toward deism/pantheism, as he believed in a single universal substance. Whatever you think about Spinoza, you should recognize that, no matter how intelligent, he was just a single person with an opinion about reality, which was just that—opinion.

For this reason, Spinoza’s opinion about matter is something you can either accept or reject. You should feel free to look at the evidence for what it is worth. Scientific evidence rather strongly points to the idea that the universe was “created.” In other words, all the matter and energy in our universe came into existence from “nothing” at an instant of time and space. The evidence which supports this conclusion comes from the cosmic “red shift” which is evidence that the universe itself is rapidly expanding. Other evidence which supports the “big bang” model includes the cosmic microwave background radiation which fills the entire universe isotropically (the same everywhere), which is confirmation of the big bang model, as well as the distribution of elements in the universe, which is in excellent agreement with the big bang model.

Did the big bang happen—did the universe come into existence out of nothing about 13.5 billion years ago? Obviously, we cannot say for sure because we were not there, but what we can say is that all the physical evidence we have at our disposal points in this direction. It just so happens that this agrees with the biblical picture of creation. It appears that at least part of Spinoza’s world view us incorrect. The biblical view (Hebrews 11:3) is that physical things were created, which agrees with the scientific evidence.

I am not sure why the evidence for creation is so disturbing for you. Clearly, the physical stuff our bodies are made out of are recycled. Our bodies are not eternal and they are made out of matter which is also not eternal. Why does it matter to you how old the carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen atoms which compose your body are? How does the age of the iron atom affect your feeling about yourself? If we are not eternal, why does it impact your feeling of self to know that matter is not eternal?

I hope this helps.

John Oakes

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