You might say that, at any rate, it is very natural to suppose that an animal whose brain processes sensory stimuli, represents them as patterns, and then reacts to them should be conscious. Granted, it is very natural for you to think this, since you are yourself a conscious being, and what's more you are evolved to attribute mental states to other things in order to help you survive and reproduce.
When we engage with fictional characters displayed in books or anime (leaving aside plays and movies, since in them the actors are real people), we are indulging our tendency to treat sets of letters or pixels which have no inherent meaning, as if they did have meaning, in fact as though they were people. But none of us think that the characters in books have an independent mental existence, since apart from the actions of an external mind in making sense of them, they have no intrinsic meaning or significance.
Well, in some sense we are in the same boat as these fictional characters. We have the advantage that our brains, lives, and actions are specified in considerably more detail, whereas in the case of fiction there are a lot of gaps to be filled in. But from a sufficiently “objective” perspective, we are ourselves just a collection of material objects, a set of 1's and 0's in the cosmic computer with no inherent meaning. Well, evidently this supposedly objective perspective is wrong. Our Universe seems to be more hospitable than that. Sometimes, when there is a collection of matter to which meaning might be ascribed, it is so ascribed. Something is to us as we are to anime characters, interpreting the pattern as significant.
As Muriel Rukeyser writes in her poem "The Speed of Darkness" [erotic themes, not safe for work]:
Say it. Say it.
The universe is made of stories,
not of atoms.
Well, all of this suggests that the fundamental nature of existence has to be more like a mind than like a set of equations, because no set of equations interprets itself. And obviously we are not the most fundamental minds in existence, because human beings are contingent. We are born and we die and we need not have existed. The Universe existed long before we did. Therefore, some other mind-like entity must be. At best we participate in the operations of this mind.
Being the most fundamental entity in existence, there can be no distinction between its subjective thoughts and feelings and the objective “real world”, as we have seen previously. Its thoughts are what is.
This is not the only way to try to incorporate mental qualities into the fundamental description of the world, but it has a certain appeal due to its simplicity. In any case, these considerations turn the tables on claims that Naturalism is simpler because it can describe everything in a mathematically quantitative way, without any appeal to basic mental qualities. You can't get mental qualities out of any model of the world, unless somehow you put them in from the beginning.
To recapitulate: a book is a material object containing a set of letters in a row. The words in a book contain meaning because a human being, who is conscious, reads and understands them. But why does the human brain contain any consciousness or meaning? Because the ultimate nature of reality is like a mind, not like a set of equations, and it "reads" our brains and finds them to be meaningful.
Given that the series has to terminate in any case, why not just stop at our own minds rather than on God? Because we know that we, as complicated, evolved, and contingent constructs, are not the most fundamental entities in existence, and therefore any reasonable worldview should explain everything about ourselves in terms of a more fundamental picture.
Or to put it another way, if there are any types of meaning in the world which cannot be deduced just from the laws of physics, then it follows that the most fundamental reality is more than just those laws of physics, and indeed it must be something capable of supporting this meaning. This increases the probability that the fundamental reality is more analogous to a mind than a set of equations.
By itself, this Argument from Consciousness might well support a pantheistic conclusion, rather than a theistic one. But for the reasons given before, I think the unity and clarity of Monotheism has a decided advantage, not least for making sense of a scientific approach to the world.
Next: Theories of Ethics