XIII. Is There A God?
And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.
—Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:35-36)
I debated at great length with myself as to whether or not I should write this particular post. I have lost sleep over it, in fact. But the truth remains, and if that is indeed what I am trying to covey– the Truth –to the best of my ability, then I cannot in good conscience discuss the perils and pitfalls of religion without having an honest discussion with you about The Man Upstairs. The Big Kahuna. The Holy Padre.
I was raised in the Southern Baptist Church and baptized around the time I started grade school. It wasn’t until around the age of 11, however, that I was actually old enough to appreciate the rapt emotions and overwhelming experience of being “saved” at a Baptist Revival. I remember the moment of accepting Jesus into my heart. I remember the warmth in my body, the spiritual ecstasy, the support of my church family around me, the sense of purpose, the nervousness of walking alone down the long aisle to the alter, the feeling of being pulled there. I remember thinking, as the preacher laid his hand on my shoulder and spoke a muffled prayer through bad breath, that I had finally found the path to Truth and Light. A few months later, among sweaty throngs of adolescents like myself in a Church Camp Tabernacle in North Texas, I walked down another aisle and dedicated my life to Christ’s service. It all felt so right.
I became an Atheist, at the age of twelve, less than a year later.
Atheism is the absence of belief in a deity. I do not believe, based on the evidence (and lack thereof), that any deities exist. Atheism is NOT a religion. Religion seeks to explain and nurture the relationship between humans and a god or gods. Atheism is NOT based on faith. Faith is the belief in something with NO evidence or in spite of evidence. Atheism is NOT itself a claim; it is the rejection of the claim that god exists. Atheism is NOT a belief system; it is an answer to a single question, “Does God Exist?”.
I prefer the term Humanist if you must ascribe a title. (That’s why it’s not “Chris the Atheist’s” Blog.)
Some Theists (people who believe in at least one God) argue that if God exists, then He is beyond our natural world and therefore unknowable and untestable to science. I agree. If that is the case then we really can’t ever know for sure. That is why the idea is rejected by science. It is a hypothesis that can not be tested and cannot be proven with the current complete lack of empirical evidence. If the evidence changes, if God makes Himself universally known, science will happily revisit the question.
Some believers challenge me to “prove that God doesn’t exist”. That’s impossible. You cannot “dis-prove” a claim like that. You can only reject it in light of insufficient evidence and offer alternative theories or hypotheses. I cannot “prove” that the Easter Bunny doesn’t exist unseen somewhere, but I do have an alternate theory involving sneaky parents. Interestingly enough, I don’t have to go around identifying myself as an “A-easterbunny-ist”, nor do I get looked down upon for not believing in Easter Bunnies, or the Tooth Fairy, or elves, or a Flying Spaghetti Monster (for the record I’m agnostic when it comes to Santa Claus).
No, in fact, you and I and pretty much every single person on the planet are complete atheists when it comes to Zeus, or Apollo, or Poseidon, or Pan, or the Egyptian God Ra. I just take it one God further than most people. The thoughts and feelings that a Christian has when trying to comprehend how anyone could believe in the Hindu monkey god Hanuman, and his or her complete lack of concern over going to Hell for not believing in such a god are the EXACT same thoughts and feelings that Atheists have when trying to comprehend Christians and their faith.
It is this faith that is so highly commended in religion that is so harmful to the world. Believing in something so much that you design your entire life around it, when that belief causes you to do harmful things in spite of a lack evidence or evidence to the contrary, is dangerous, unreasonable, and flies in the face of rational thought and the way most people deal with all other aspects of their lives. You don’t have “faith” in politicians, or the products that you buy, or your spouse, doctor, or even your preacher; you TRUST them based on a long-standing record of credibility and reliability. And a “leap of faith” is a poor replacement for an educated guess, which actually is a valuable thing.
Believers often claim that the feelings they have about God are proof that He exists. I’m sorry, but that’s not how it works. I had those same feelings, which, I admit, are completely real and valid, but they are the result of the communal ritualistic experience itself, not a direct line with a deity. These very same experiences can even be induced in the laboratory by stimulating the temporal lobe or administering mind-altering drugs.
I am told by the religious to look at the human eye as evidence of a Creator. The evolution of the human eye can be explained in 6 steps. And if we’re so special to God, why did He give eagles and cats much more powerful eyes, and for that matter, dogs and deer much more powerful ears? Creationists have a similar argument that claims that the Universe and the World are so suited to life, and to human life, that there must be a Creator. Then why is the Universe mostly empty space, with most of the areas where matter is collected being uninhabitable? Why is our tiny little planet such a harsh place of extremes, with many places being uninhabitable, and why is life here a ruthless, painful and constant struggle for survival? Why is the extinction of 99% of all the species that have ever lived before us on this planet part of God’s Plan? Why is the human body at times poorly designed, faulty, or useless if we are made in His image?
But how did the Universe come to be if God didn’t create it? Well, if God exists, then who created God? And if God has always been around, then why couldn’t the Universe always have been around? (There IS a hypothesis about an infinity of Big Bangs and Big Crunches.) We don’t know exactly what’s happening on these huge scales of time and space, but we’re searching for the answers, if they can be found. We’re pretty sure it’s not Yahweh though.
I am often asked why I attack the belief in God, when the idea helps so many people in their daily lives. Does it? The belief in a deity almost always involves a religion, and I believe I have addressed the downfalls and dangers of religion at great length already.
For those of you who don’t really put much stock in the religion, the Bible, or even God for that matter, but you may go to church with your family because “it’s what good people do”, you are providing the safety umbrella that religious extremists can hide under. There are far better sources of moral teaching and community involvement. And for those of you who are Agnostic and riding the fence on the whole God issue, you are guilty of the same crime. Tolerance is an incredibly demeaning and condescending term, and all religions cannot coexist, regardless of how cute it’s written on your bumper.
If you believe in God, then you believe in a being who does not answer the prayers of billions, who kills millions of innocent people in horrible ways in natural disasters on a so-called designed planet according to His plan. This is a being who aborts millions of babies naturally every year, who allows good people to die and bad people to live, and who watched with complete indifference as humans suffered in 25 year lifespans, most dying from starvation, disease or their teeth, for thousands of years before He revealed himself to us. And even then he failed to say anything that was of much use. If God is, in fact, real, I want absolutely nothing to do with Him.
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”
~ by christhehumanist on January 28, 2012.