End of the Line?

I realize that being an atheist means disbelief in any god and (arguably) nothing more. I agree. However, just as with believing in some god or other relates to religious practices, not believing likewise calls for answers to questions regarding that non-belief, at least to oneself if to no one else.

This is especially true if a change such as deconversion was involved. Answers may take any form from I don’t know to hypothetical suppositions, or even well-supported theories. It can get murky, but that seems to excite those who think they see the light.

For example, I don’t know what happens after someone dies. Neither do you. For now, barring evidence to the contrary, I assume death means you’re gone. Body, mind, and spirit: kaput. All other possibilities and claims are unsupported hypotheses of approximately equal value. The continuation of the human spirit might be so, but there is no evidence for that.

While not all believers resort to threats of punishment to be carried out after people stop living, such as Purgatory or Hell, a great many do. I realize that many believers manage to focus on life, “right here, right now.” I say that and believe it. I can meet them there.

Yet, just as with the existence of any god, afterlife of any kind, spiritual as with a “soul,” in some unknown form of consciousness, or even physically as in reincarnation, not one of the seven billion or so people alive today can be certain of anything concerning death other than it is not quite the same life as it was. Even the concepts of human resurrection with the second coming, or rapture do not promise a redo. Die and you’re done—not alone. Just finished with living.

My mother was a lifelong Roman Catholic. I recall her, while lucid but dying, lying on her death bed, after I asked if she wanted me to fetch a (Catholic) priest, saying to me, “When you’re dead, you’re dead.” She died without receiving last rights. Yikes, Mom! Why didn’t you tell me?

Afterlife is crucial to all Christianity. The biggest Holy Day in any Christian’s liturgical year should be Easter: The Resurrection of Christ. Life after death (not Christmas).

As the sign in my neighbor’s yard says, “He is risen.” The largest single religion on Earth, and the evidence for its rationale has been an unnecessary nothing for two-thousand years. The neighbor’s sign is not very convincing. But the beat goes on. Salvation is unnecessary if you cease to exist. Unless…


Do You Believe in Something?

I favor separating my discussions regarding the existence of god or gods from those about religion or religious denominations and sects. This is partly why.

I would have thought that, are you an atheist? and do you believe in god? were two versions of the same question. Apparently not.

In America, when someone asks if I believe in god, what do they mean? When I answer, what am I claiming? Are the inquisitors asking the same question I think I’m answering?

According to PEW Research, it is not always as simple as yes you do, or no you don’t. As we know, and as PEW suggests, within specific religions or religious denominations, members may not agree even though they admit to a belief in the same god and claim to practice the same religious denomination.

PEW did two surveys, one here and one in Europe. In the American survey, (view article here) wherein they worked out some clarity, the researchers claim that while 80% said they do believe in god, one third of that “yes” group does not believe in the god of the Bible.

Only two-thirds of that “believing” group believe in the god of Abraham. That’s 56% when you apply the sample to the total, or slightly more than half of the USA population. That does not mean, however, that the other 44% does not believe in god.

While 19% of the respondents said they do not believe in “god,” almost half of those who said no (9%) correspond with about a third of the people who said that they do believe in god. In other words, overall, one third of Americans, whether they profess a belief in god or not, think there is a higher power or spiritual force of some kind, according to PEW. I find that interesting.

PEW thus claims that according to their survey only 10% of Americans believe there is no higher power, spiritual force, deity, or god. We can split hairs regarding definitions of belief, disbelief, doubting, skepticism, and all of that. What PEW is suggesting is that while many of us claim not to believe in god, about half of those do believe that there is “something.”

It’s different in Europe. There, this number of nonbelievers is multiplied by 2.5 (about 25%) since a much greater number claim no belief in the higher power/spiritual force.

I think these surveys are interesting and have some merit. They are more in the food for thought category than good answers because people lie all the time. The whole social survey construct must be viewed with some degree of skepticism. Culture and human nature play into the answers. In the United States we are more likely to say we do believe in god when we don’t. In Europe, the reverse is likely.

A Jew, Christian, or Muslim might see someone who dismisses the god of Abraham but suspects a higher power or spiritual force exists as Pagan or even atheist. On the other hand, an avowed atheist may see the same person as a believer, just not in the Biblical sense.

I know people who claim to be Wiccan or Pagan. I have had discussions with some who use the terms Universe or Nature in the sense of a higher power or spiritual force. That makes sense because when we say god, most believers assume we mean what they believe, the god of the Bible, for example.

So, if someone asks me if I believe in god, my answer is “no.”
But maybe it should be more like this…

Please explain your question.
What do you mean by god?
What do you mean by believe?
Why do you ask?

While my accurate and honest answer is, I do not believe in any god, higher power, or spiritual force, perhaps it’s not a question for which I have such a simple answer. If the water is muddy or cloudy for the likes of PEW Research, it is a communication quandary for me. It’s as complicated as we are, but that is why it’s so damn interesting.


Credit – Linked Pew Research article.