What Matters More?

I am far from being an expert on the workings of the LDS religion, church, cult, or whatever it is. A friend told me about his father who was a convert to Mormonism. Apparently, if one is a good LDS, God will grant an enlightenment at some point. I have no idea what that is, but it sounds like speaking in tongues for some other denominations.

Anyway, my friend told me that his father went to an LDS bishop late in life to complain about either God or the Mormon religion not delivering on the promised epiphany. The bishop apparently then confessed that not everyone gets it. I’m unclear on the details, but I suspect a deconversion. My friend’s dad died shortly thereafter. So, then what?

One person commented on this blog that I must confess my belief in God before it is “too late.” The too late being when I am already dead, and God (who is love, who is forgiving, who sort of died for our sins) punishes my soul with Hell for eternity because I would not, could not, or did not believe that he, or she, or it was real. That commentator was trying to tell me what much of Christianity teaches. Goodness does not matter. Belief is all that counts. It sounds crazy and stupid, but the Bible backs them up on this.

Bottom line, if you do not believe in any god, or if you have serious doubts, you are doomed for eternity, according to the “good book.” That’s the theory, anyway. Nothing else in your life matters. In fact, you can be a lying scum bag, a murderer, a rapist, or all of these, and still be forgiven and spend eternity in Heaven, provided you claim that you think God is real (i.e., profess belief). This makes sense to millions of people. But not to all of us.

In her memoir, Anne Rice raved about her Secular Humanist friends and how wonderful and kind and caring and what good people they were. How they do all these wonderful things for others. Many are, of course, people who do not hold much belief (or faith) in any god. Anne was at times a very devout Catholic. In that Christian denomination, belief was taken for granted. But it was (and still is) how you live and treat others that matters most. For them, ass holes burn regardless of belief status.

I sat face-to-face in a confessional one day. The Priest said, “God does not care about all that, Bill. What He cares about is how we treat one another.” Two other Priests told me essentially the same thing.

No matter what I believe about the existence of any god, I am convinced that how we treat each other is paramount. Therefore, if I treat my fellow man, nature, and the environment (God’s creation?) as well as I can, I’ll bet God would give me the same break he would give Anne or any of her wonderful friends. As for the Christian jerks, if there is a god, I have my opinion.

Happy Friday,

Bill

Poetry: well, shut my mouth.

My crank goal is to write
poetry banned
in Southern USA states,
especially mine,
a few up north;
Russia,
China,
and every country
in Islam.

Find me
on the Catholic Church
shit-list so only Bishops
and Cardinals may
read my magic without sin.
May they touch themselves
with impure thoughts. May I
make a Baptist want a martini.

I want the ghost of Spiro Agnew to
haunt my poems as blatant
anarchist propaganda that threatens
to sap our national strength,
(unlike criminal conspiracy,
bribery, extortion, and tax fraud).

I want priests, rabbis, and mullahs
to denounce my freedom
five times every day from
their pits of pull on up to
minareted gravelly loudspeakers.

Let me be the de Mello or Merton
of modern skeptical letters. Bless me
with the censorship of weak minded
control freaks. May the young
bogart tabooed copies of my posey
into secret unsanctioned rooms.

Damn me to literary dungeon-hood
till the cows come home
and the ravens
overtake Capistrano.

Let sweet Jesus find me
one toke over the line, sitting
in a downtown railway station,
eyes opened, hoping
the literal reality freight train
is on time.

Let them hate me
for my
country mile honesty
about reality.


Yes. This Shel Silverstein poem from “Where the Sidewalk Ends” was banned in some places.

Gloss: In the first line (title), Crank in the sense of having or expressing feelings of joy or triumph.
Agnew was investigated for those crimes (and subsequently resigned as VP of the USA), but that is essentially what he had to say about the song, One Toke Over the Line (which was also banned).

***

Extra: Yeah, right. If you wanna hear from a couple old folk rockers (older then I), and the story of their one hit, the video is not high quality and about 7 minutes, but not bad. I watched the video of the Lawrence Welk Show number they mention being sung. The ironic humor is of that is beyond great and they agree.

Were You Really?

Are we what we do, what we say, or what we think and feel? Would the real me please stand up?

I usually take folks at face value regarding their claims. I accept that they are what they say they are. Why not? However, when I observe their behavior, I may become skeptical, or I may decide they lied. It happens.

I have met and heard of several people who, once firmly spirited into religious life, claim that they had been atheist before they found God, or vice-versa.

And things do change: “I once was lost, but now I am found, was blind, but now I see,” etc. Are people less likely to be honest, or more likely confused, when they use past tense? Maybe so. I also know people who will not say the word wretch when they sing the hymn, Amazing Grace. I agree. They probably never were miserable wretches.

I read a blog post where a former minister, now an atheist, theorized that most Christians who claim to be converted former atheists were probably not atheists, but were nones. He made a good case for his opinion. I have no way of knowing, but I’ve decided that I agree for several reasons.

Were they really atheists? Were they just ducking religion as so many claim atheists are doing? Did these people openly embrace atheism during the period of their lives when they claim to have been atheist.

Were they agnostic? Were they once practitioners of some religion before they left, sometimes angrily? Did they mentally equate some religion with the existence of God where they tossed the baby (God) out with the dirty bath water (religion)?

Setting aside false claims of unlikely death bed conversions, or someone laser-locking onto a flippant comment (like okay, maybe there is something), or confusion with the meanings of words, I suspect it is extremely rare for a convinced atheist to reach another conclusion and embrace any religion, much less Christianity. I suppose it happens. But very seldom.

The whole sociological and psychological phenomena of human religion and other beliefs are fascinating to me. When I openly declared my atheism, my wife’s comment was, “I’m not ready to go that far yet.” I doubt that she will ever say she is atheist.

Since I believe there is no god in the sense claimed by Abrahamic religions, virtually all religion becomes an interesting, often bizarre, form of human behavior for me.

I am not in the dark. I am informed and aware. I am neither lost nor wretched. I am happier being openly atheist than I ever was as a pay, pray, and obey Christian. While I may have been atheist in my thoughts and practices (or lack of) long before I said I was, it is hard for me to imagine someone like me honestly jumping back on the believer band wagon.

They were nones.

May you have a wonderful year 2022,

Bill

Essay: God Speaks to Him

Or her. Not an angel, messenger, inspiration, or idea; but the one and only true deity who created everything from nothing: “God spoke to me,” they tell us. That’s revelation with a capital R. There’s no OMFG! with this.

It happens all the time. Every single day. Twice on some Sundays. And they know who it is: it’s God. They tell us, and many of us believe them. God wanted us to know, told them, then they tell us. That’s how it works. We are communicated with, second-handedly, by God! God needs middlemen and scapegoats. No chance someone is lying about who said what, is there?

Googling god speaks to us got me more than two billion hits. His Lordship must be something of a chatter box. When I asked for examples, I got 758 million googly hits. Each one I glanced at said, Yes! God speaks to us. When such a claim is inclusive, as many are, they mean to metaphorically “speak” through scripture or some experience. It’s not like hearing a literal voice.

When I speak to people, words (noises) come out of my mouth. My vocal cords vibrate the air. If someone’s ears function normally and their brain works; if I am loud enough and near enough, they should hear me. They may understand me. They may speak or talk back to me. Communication could happen. Cats hiss or meow. Dogs growl or bark. Snakes may rattle. Birds chirp. Gorillas may grunt. God talks.

These days we are supposed to believe that the main God or Jesus “speaks.” The Holy Ghost (or Spirit) may move to inspire someone, but the Father and Son speak words. Often, it’s English with no Italian, Hebrew, or Aramaic accent. Only special people can hear God. They’re the “anointed” ones.

I’ve known a lot of Catholic Priests. All claim the apostolic successional ability to change bread and wine into the actual, real, body and blood of Jesus Christ during Mass. They can forgive sins. They can keep people out of Hell. Very special and powerful stuff. However, none of them ever claimed the experience of God speaking to them unless it was metaphorically. Nor did any of them, to my knowledge, speak in tongues, but that’s another post.

When confronted with hearing voices, the chosen to whom God talks often equivocate to hearing without actually “hearing.” Some claim reading scripture as God’s voice. Men and women wrote all the holy books ever penned. Humans wrote every word of scripture. God, you see, seems unable to write. Jesus wrote nothing. Nothing!

These circumlocutory claims of God speaking are pure charlatanism. It’s obvious. I knew all this when I was a teenager. It never changed. I may have believed in God, but this crap was all lies. And yet.

Ironically, people will vigorously challenge the Catholic Church’s claims about what their priests can do. But the very same souls don’t bat an eye when some TV preacher says God told him or her to raise cash for new private jet. They will sit right down and write that quack a check. Cuz, God told him to, for Christ’s sake.

Peace and love to y’all in this New Year.

Bill

Argumentative Essay: Why Fewer Christians?

You may know this. Nan posted about it. The trend is for fewer people to raise their hand when I ask, how many of you are Christians? It’s been going that way for years.

Twelve years ago, I would have reluctantly raised my hand. I preferred to say I was Irish-Catholic rather than Christian, even though there is no such thing. Officially, it’s Roman Catholic, but I am not even a little bit Italian, so says my ancestry spittle.

PEW Research keeps up with this stuff. They take polls and ask, what are you? For more than ten years, fewer people have been saying they are Christians. If that trend continues, folks claiming to be Christian will soon be the overall minority.

That has already happened with the younger crowd. PEW claims no rapid rise in the number of atheists in the USA, although we are growing too, albeit slowly. PEW says it’s now 4% of all, up from 2%. If every atheist was willing to come out, it would be more.

It’s the nones who are kicking ass. In the real world, if you say I’m an atheist, things can go badly for you lickety-split. However, being wishy-washy is a good way to cover your butt. Yet, folks are crossing a line by saying, nope, not a Christian. PEW does not tell us why this is happening.

So, why is it that fewer people claim to be Christians? Are they decamping for reasons, or just getting lazy? Most are not queuing up for atheism. These are mostly nones disowning the label of Christian.

For example, years back I had a bit of an email tiff with a guy from church. I considered him a jerk, but that’s not the point. He wrote, “I do not see how a practicing Catholic can support…” (abortion, I think). He was calling me out for being a liberal Democrat Catholic. I told him that I no longer considered myself Catholic, practicing or otherwise.

I did not say I was agnostic, atheist, or Methodist. It was the first time in my life that I disowned the religion of my birth (which is why I can relate to the struggles of people like Anne Rice). I was thinking and embracing none-hood. I was trying to figure it all out, which is what I think many nones are also doing. They’re searching for answers.

A former Christian (Jew or Muslim) did not wake up on some random sabbath and decide they will no longer be that religion. It’s a process; often a long, difficult, and reluctant one.

So why the Christian exodus to being a none? I would like to propose nine reasons for why it has been happening, and one reason why some stay.

Politics (sort of). Anne Rice went from being raised Catholic, to agnostic, back to Catholic, then bailed to a “faith in God,” then to not Christian (a none), then to secular humanist. Some call what she cites for her reasons as social issues, but I see it as the cognitive dissonance suffered by many progressive believers.

Many Christian writers, pastors, and even the Catholic Church point to the right-wing politics of evangelical Christians, conservative Catholics, and other extremely politically conservative religious folk as the reason many Christians are taking a hike.

Freedom from Religion. Let’s say you’re opposed to abortion but support a woman’s right to choose. Let’s say you are politically progressive, liberal, but believe in both God and Climate Change. Let’s say you do not take biblical scripture literally, you are opposed to capital punishment, and you care about the environment.

Religion, especially when it is authoritarian, is burdensome. Sometimes, it limits what many see as their freedom (freedom of thought). I’ve been told, “You don’t have to go to church to be a good Christian.” I get that, but you also don’t have to say you are of any religion to follow the teachings of Christ, Buddha, Mohamed, or Wicca. Freedom from religion is a different kind of freedom of religion, and in my opinion it’s more freeing.

Christian examples. Let’s name some names. While I doubt if many people leave Christianity because of the likes of Falwell, Robertson, or Peter Popoff and his miracle water; or due to the many, MANY scandals, those things people probably do not entice Christian encampment.

Morality of the heart. While this relates back to politics; blocking human rights, equal rights, women’s rights; demeaning the value of science and medicine and environmental protections; combined with the myriad of phobias purported within modern religions of all flavors are seen as immoral, and thus are seen as incongruent with being a good moral human being.

The no true Scotsman fallacy, or we shall bully or cajole you into it. Leverage is being used when people are told that they are not a “true” Christian (or Catholic). If they do not believe or practice as directed, the pressure to cooperate may help drive folks away. While this is far from unique to the Christian religion, it is divisive. I think few people would abandon church because of this, but they certainly will change churches or parishes. It is another reason to step back.

To be fair, this is a pain in the ass for any group, even atheists. Many of us deplore the insulting, overaggressive, know-it-alls who seem to think that behaving like an ass will result in folks seeing the truth.

The rise of doubt. The interesting thing about doubt (in religion of gods) is that it can be free of emotion or bogged down by it. Most believers seem to have minor, early reservations. Later, with more advanced uncertainties, folks may verbalize their concerns. These doubts often lead to action. They may read things like the Bible or spiritual writings; they may listen a little closer. They begin to realize things. These middle doubts have no time limit. Some people may doubt no further.

As doubt and questioning grows, ignorance diminishes. As more skeptics have come forward and the social acceptability of having no religion has grown, more people are willing to tell the truth about it all.

Technology. It’s easy to get data, it’s hard to make sense of it. For example, in my county I’ve read that 60% are nones. Most believers here are Evangelical Protestant, which is something of a denominational, holy-roller hodge-podge. The second largest Christian denomination is Catholic. One source said 40% are religious, thus, 60% are not. That is a lot of nones.

However, the data is there. I like PEW Research as a source. In minutes I have more information than I’ve ever wanted concerning religious demographics. That is my point. Technology allows us all access to tons of information, some true, much of it is not. But it’s all there. The information technology boom probably contributes to knowledge and to people making decisions. In combination with other things, it easily sends anti-religion torpedoes below the religious water lines.

Outspoken nones. Like it or not, we are affected by what other people say, do, and think. Anti-religion and anti-theist sentiment is everywhere—even between denominations. As people become more outspoken about their lack of religious participation, not naming a religion, or withholding any answer; others on the fence will often come down outside of religion. Why not? It’s important to remember that people get tired of the nonsense long before they decide to walk away.

What they miss most is the social aspects of church. While this is not exactly a reason for people to leave, it may be the only reason to stay. They call it fellowship. It is a bonding, it is nice (usually), people enjoy it (their tribe), and when they bail out it is what they usually miss most (I did not). This tells me that often, religious participation is based on issues other than the purported tenants of a religion. Religion often survives because going to church is a social club.

It keeps getting easier to just say no. People do get very involved with their church. Some also with the idea of Christianity, at least as they understand it. For many, it is a heaven or hell thing, but for others that is far from the point of their religion. I don’t know if many of them are among the nones of the past ten years.

What I do know is that social and economic pressures to go to church, to say one is this religion or that, to even be a culturally religious person is reducing each year. If someone wants religion, church, or Christianity (of some flavor), it will always be there for them. But if they would prefer either “no preference” or “none” embossed on their dog tags, it’s easy enough to do.

Obviously, many of the people leaving church and religion are skeptics or closeted atheists. But I’m inclined to think they are mostly just tired of the bull shit.

Bill

Is no evidence proof of no gods?

Atheists are often asked what evidence would be sufficient to enlighten us enough to agree that a god exists. Most of us can’t answer because what we need is irrefutable, repeatable, and clear proof. I would say “God” (or one of them), but how do I know if an entity is a god? One lady suggested that if Jesus appeared in my car next to me, I would believe. That can be hallucination. Since I have no way to validate the real Jesus, I must disagree with her.

I am more likely to confront an extra-terrestrial alien than any real god. And religion is a different matter altogether. Separating God and religion seems impossible for most basic believers because that is where they were led into the delusion.

When I used to say that I believed in a god (it was more like a something), that was not because I had any evidence. As I matured along with my beliefs, God went from what I was told to something downright obfuscated. If anything, I hung on to belief despite a complete lack of evidence.

I moved on to admitting that I did not believe any god existed. That was not because there was no evidence, but because such existence became permanently illogical to me. Of course, while a deity made no sense, there was supporting evidence in the form of no evidence of existence. That’s were I am on this.

When I commented on Nan’s blog that the existence of gods can be neither proved nor disproved, I was challenged by another atheist (RaPaR) with the argument that the lack of evidence supporting a god is evidence that no god exists. Well, I decided to check out this lack of evidence is evidence of absence argument (a rabbit hole). Apparently, I walked in on years of debate and discussion by scientists and philosophers. It’s nothing new, and it’s not a shallow idea. It deserves more than cursory consideration.

Two distinct concepts are absence of evidence and evidence of absence. Their relationship and distinction get rolled up in the aphoristic antimetabole, Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. I agree. It isn’t. However, we cannot logically simply dismiss real evidence nor thousands of years of none.

This discussion works best for real world things like medical efficacy, drug testing, and vaccine research. However, as Paul Simon wrote in The Boxer, “A man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest.” Why let silly things like evidence, lack of it, or proof and facts get in the way?

Here’s my argument. If the monotheistic Abrahamic God exists, why not any of the other five thousand or so gods as well? The amount of evidence for any of them is virtually the same. Only the number of gods differ. Monotheists are currently at bat, but polytheists have a bigger bull pen.

Important words that relate to evidence and proof are often used by believers. They are outward sign, testimony, bearing witness, and of course that old troublemaker, faith. Who needs it when you have proof? And which of those words provides evidence of a god?

A key defense of my hypothesis is knowledge or knowing. Many people claim not only to know that a god exists, but they further claim to know what God wants. They claim to know God’s mind. That is nuts. What does it mean to know something? The word is epistemology, but why go there?

Obviously, while I may have believed a god existed, I never knew such a thing. If I ever made such a claim, it was bullshit. I will let you go here or decide what knowing means on your own.

The unarguable logic fallacy is claiming existence of a god or supporting such a claim based on a lack of evidence to the contrary. If no one can provide evidence of non-existence, that does not make it so.

You can fill a library with the published books that claim to prove a god exists. Ten proofs, nine, six, however many you want. Why are we skeptics still unconvinced? It’s because religious books sell well, even when they are crap.

Until Christmas, Yule, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Day; Happy Human Rights Day, Dewey Decimal System Day, Animal Rights Day, and Nobel Prize Day.

Bill

The Continuum of Confusion

Howdy, Y’all,

Opinion surveys often make a statement and ask us to respond on a continuum, or scale, from strongly disagree on one extreme to strongly agree on the other, with neither agree nor disagree at the center.

Consider this statement: There is a God.

Believers would mark agree, atheists would check disagree, and agnostics would tick one of the I don’t know choices. We would all be responding to the same question based upon our opinion of the statement. Nothing more, but predicable.

How we define ourselves (believer, agnostic, or atheist) is one thing. How we define others needs to be understood in terms of how they see themselves. But people are complex. Beliefs and religions vary widely. Despite our best efforts to find common ground, we hold different meanings for many of the same words, especially the three in parenthesis above. As we strive for clarity, the water gets muddy.

One of the areas of confusion is seeing everyone on the same continuum. It is difficult for believers, especially Christians, to accept that atheists really, sincerely, deeply, and profoundly, do not believe in any god, much less theirs. Not believing is inconceivable to so many.

It’s difficult for me to accept that people believe the following.

At some point when there was allegedly nothing, God decided, I’m going to create a material universe with stars, galaxies, and planets. On one of them I’ll create animals and humans. Then I’ll drown most of the nasty bastards and start over with some incestuous drunkard. Yet, many do. I don’t know why or how. Even when I believed, I did not believe that.

We do not all belong on the believers’ continuum. Only they go there.

The following continuum is mistaken. In my opinion, it creates confusion and mental blocks.

Believer<………………………> Agnostic <………………………..>Atheist

Nope. This is biased in the same way the word atheist itself is biased. The focus is believing (theology, theism, or religion). The obvious confusion is that agnostics are halfway believers. Another is that atheists are somehow distant believers, albeit weak ones. Believers and atheists should have their own scales, like this:

Strong Believer<……………………………………………….>Weak Believer

Strong Atheist<………………………………………………….>Weak Atheist

Agnostics could probably be scaled according to degree of uncertainty, but why bother? They are merely saying that they don’t know if there is God, or that such a thing is unknowable. None of us “know” if there is a god, yet despite no evidence, many bet their life there is one. There is no continuum there. We don’t know what we don’t know. We can’t know anything that is unknowable.

Atheism is not the other side of the believer coin, even though it seems so. It is an incredibly simple conclusion drawn, often after years of effort. No proselytizing, no religion, no scripture to read or learn (as such, but many of us have read it all), and often no personal help to guide us.

There are other views and things can get complicated. For example, this one. Each group has their own bubble. Where they overlap, we creatively use both words. Funny, eh?

As difficult as it may be to comprehend, not everyone believes, not everyone knows, and not everyone cares. I would flip gnostic and agnostic on the knowledge scale above because gnostic relates to knowledge, especially esoteric mystical knowledge as in knowing. Whereas, agnostic is more, I’ve not the faintest idea, nor shall I ever.

Skeptically yours,

Bill

 

Five Reasons Why I Identify as Atheist

Last week I posted five reasons I don’t believe in God. By default, that is what an atheist is: a person who, for whatever reason, has serious doubts about the existence of any god. However, doubting deities is one thing. Publicly embracing atheism requires careful thought. The decision must not be made lightly.

Influential people have claimed that to be atheist is the worst thing a person can do. Worse than murder. Bush, Sr. said, “No. I don’t know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.” He never recanted that. I could rant on over this, but not today.

The bible has many verses regarding killing people who do not believe. All of these do not say to kill them.

Friendships, marriages, jobs, political office, and many other social aspects of life can be negatively affected just by telling the truth. Bush seemed to think it negates US citizenship.

Pat Tillman was a war hero who was shot and killed in Afghanistan. This story gets interesting regarding the fratricide by which Tillman died, the subsequent discovery of coverups and lies by the US Army/Government, and the discovery that Tillman was at least agnostic, if not atheist.

Since this sham occurred on Dubbya’s watch, I wonder who may have questioned Pat Tillman’s patriotism. I have no evidence that Tillman ever identified as atheist or agnostic. Many people do not and should not do so. That’s my point. (Tillman’s Biography by Jon Krakauer)

My reasons:

  1. I had nothing to lose. Back in the day I thought older folks went back to church, religion, and God as they aged, possibly to ensure a pleasant afterlife. That may be true for some, but not for me. Most of my family and friends were either dead or saw things somewhat as I did. Any estrangements had already happened for other reasons. I no longer worked, so I had time to learn.
  1. Someone asked me if I was atheist. I vaguely remember discussions about beliefs and religion during my late teens and twenties. I recall people telling me their thoughts about atheism and atheists. It’s not uncommon for people to ask me about religion, but until this person asked, everyone assumed I believed in God. Answering the questions meant coming out.
  1. Faking it is not making it. If there is a God, she knows who does not believe in his existence. I’m sure many who are wrapped tightly in religious practice do not believe any of it. Is it anyone else’s business? Probably not. But I felt a little guilty about my silence. When asked, I felt the promise of openness and honesty being better paths for me.
  1. During the three days I pondered the question of coming out I began to feel better, even though I never felt the least bit bad about it. I felt a certain freedom. I was not in bondage by religion, but by my own silence. The timing was right. I was ready. It felt great to say I am atheist. It still does. No regrets.
  1. This may not seem like a reason to be atheist, but in hindsight, it was. A world of information opened to me. My world view and philosophies regarding life became more manifest, in my opinion. I could run the race and wear the tee-shirt. While I was never unhappy about any of it, I felt more joy. I realized that I did not have all the answers and I needed none of them. I tried to learn as much as I was able (still do), but it was finally 100% up to me. I felt like I was being honest to myself and to the world. I no longer had to reconcile reality, truth, and facts with some religion or God someone else created.

Regarding using the words atheist, skeptic, agnostic, apostate, nonbeliever, free thinker, and whatever, whatever, whatever; I just don’t care. Atheist is not ideal to many of us because it defines us by what we are not. But it works for me because I have nothing else. I am not “one of the good ones.” We are all good and, in my opinion, better than many religious folks.

For the record, I’ve never murdered or raped anyone. I’ve robbed no banks and I do not lie on my income tax. I believe in love and compassion. I enjoy most of nature. And dogs like me. I like cats, but you know how they can be.

It’s almost December, a month of more US holidays. Happy and Merry everything to everyone. My Thanksgiving poem was published yesterday over on pluviolover.com. But who do you thank when you are atheist?

Bill

 

No God for Five Reasons

I don’t honestly know when I realized that I did not believe God was real. I was about 15 years old when I became dismissive toward my Catholic faith.

A few years later, when I learned what an agnostic was, I jumped on that because it saved me from being labeled an atheist. And it was mostly true. I didn’t know if God was real.

That was approximately 60 years ago. I can now say that I am convinced God is not real. Because of that, I can also dump angels, saints, devils, heaven, hell, eternal life, and even the handy trope, there must be something.

I was reading Greta Christina’s “Top Ten Reasons I Don’t Believe in God.” Since my reasons (and experience) are not identical to hers, I decided to post my five reasons. That’s enough.

  1. As George Carlin said, I tried to believe in God. For many years I tried. It was hit and miss. Eventually, I immersed myself in Catholic religious practice, after I had previously tried several Protestant denominations. They seemed shallow and superficial. I did it all: Church attendance, ministries, leadership, Bible studies, fasting, lots of extra praying, and much more. I envied believers. So did Thomas Merton as he explained in his autobiography, The Seven Story Mountain. I considered the thinking and philosophies of eastern religions. I prayed to God to cure my unbelief. I said the Apostles Creed (aka the profession of faith) as often as I thought of it. I wanted God to be real. I wanted to believe it. I eventually wrote an analogy to reflect my experience and the eventual outcome (The Man in the Room). I tried everything. Nothing worked.
  2. The Problem of Evil is a big deal often ignored or dismissed by believers. Is it denial? Too much cognitive dissonance? The abundance of evil in the world and universe creates conceptual problems for us about God. It means that God doesn’t care, doesn’t know, or cannot fix it. Of course, we’ve all heard, “God works in mysterious ways.” I suppose some sort of deist is possible for me, but I still say the more reasonable explanation is that there is no god or creator to step up and take responsibility.
  3. The existence of any kind of God is less logical than ghosts, tooth fairies, Santa Claus, or Leprechauns. God fails every logic test. All attempts to explain anything about any god’s existence results in mental tap dancing. I might as well believe all the aforementioned myths exist along with the thousands of named gods we’ve created throughout and before history.
  4. It does not work for me to say, “I am. Therefore, God must be.” The lack of evidence of God’s reality or existence is overwhelming. Unless it is the Sun, a biblical golden calf, or something more than a burning bush, I see no god, hear no god, taste no god, feel no god, and I’ve no idea what a god might smell like.
  5. Along with evil, there is much good in the world. I’m uncertain if that applies to the universe. People are quick to credit God for good stuff. I wanted there to be a good God. If God is no good, forget it. Love is good. So, they say God is love. Health is good. So, they claim God heals. Not dying and life everlasting are good, as is staying out of eternal damnation. So, they play the God card. The very fact that I wanted there to be a God who met my requirements and did as I asked contributed to my eventual disbelief. When I looked around, everyone else was doing the same thing. Creating their God in their image.

I hope that clears everything up.

Bill

Existence, Religion, and God

When I say or write that I do not believe there are any gods (or God), I try to keep the subject of religion at least in the margin, if not totally separate. Without belief in a god, the concept of religion becomes moot. Besides, religions are all over the place in what they claim. While related, god and religion are not the same topics to me. There is no chicken or the egg mystery. God first.

However, in philosophical beliefs like Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and in new age, nature-based belief systems like Wiccan, Pagan, or Druidism, attitudes and practices could continue because their god concept does not have the same core personification and monotheistic faith requirements.

Merriam-Webster claims that religion is “the service and worship of God or the supernatural,” or “a commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance.” Religion can also be “a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.” So, godless religion is conceivable. But their status as religions is arguable. Christians, Muslims, and Jews need God. Wiccans, not so much.

Some atheists say religion is the reason why they don’t believe. They may point to (or blame) people who are religious hypocrites for their atheism. Even the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church claims that the way many people practice Christianity is responsible for the rise of atheism.

Indeed, the weaknesses, silliness, and irrationality of religions, many who practice them, and the associated beliefs, serve to reinforce my conclusion that there are no gods. That includes the Catholic Church. But they did not cause it.

When believers present their case for why they believe in God, and why they think I should, they always use religion to support their rationale. They may quote scripture to me, or they’ll tell me I’ll die and go to hell, or that some god will punish me because I decline to agree with them. Health and wealth believers think they get that way because of what they believe. That is religion. Beyond all that, religious believers only have our existence as proof of God.

World views and philosophy aside, for religion to be valid there must be a god. I will discuss the existence of a deity, or some supernatural supreme being, or nature, or the universe. But when someone injects that discussion with religious beliefs, it moves the goal posts and changes the subject. It’s not even the same playing field. They become the home team and that’s not fair to me and my views.

Bill