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.


If there is a god, religions are still bad

I seriously doubt any spirits exist with the nature and capability most people consider a god to have. I’m convinced of that, but I don’t know and neither do you. If either of us could prove it, one way or the other, we would certainly tell all and put the great debate to rest. But callers keep trying to do so, and they keep Matt busy on The Atheist Experience.

Many true believers still would dig in if we could prove the negative hypothesis, but if God were proven to exist, the I told ya so’s would flow like Niagara Falls.

I claim to be atheist, but I am also (in my opinion, we are all) agnostic. How so? Because not one of us can possibly ever know if there is a spiritual god.

That is the essence of the biblical golden calf in Exodus 32 and I Kings 12. The calf is supposed to be the supreme act of apostasy. It is, for the people in the story. It’s the rejection of a faith once confessed. Moses seemed to be lost. Was he talking or toking with the Father up on the mountain with the burning bush?

It was a biblical metaphor. Everyone knew the calf was not a god. It was a man-made statue. Aaron, Moses’s brother, was the maker of the object, which was apparently decided democratically by the people. But this is bible stuff, not history. I don’t want to ponder there.

The great sin, for which they were allegedly killed, was loss of faith or belief. Jewish (and Christian) scripture is replete with hate toward non-believers and apostates. Biblically, killing us not only acceptable, it’s also God’s will.

And for what? Thought crimes? Having a different opinion? Remember, believers of other religions (or denominations) are also damned as evil and justly subject to eternal you-know-what. Kill them all! (Sarcasm, mine.)

This unfair and stupid opinion thus becomes a lie believers can scripturally attribute to God (or Allah, if you’re in that lane). I have been told that I am “one of the good ones.” She knew me and decided I was an exception. The implication is that others who do not believe in some god or religion are evil and do harm. Without any evidence, people of other religions or of none, people who’s only crime is to point out that the king has no clothes, are recreated as evil. That moniker is not for doing any crime or moral wrong. It’s for having a different opinion.

And yes, we resent it.


What is a god? Any god. Who is it?

I Googled ‘God.’ I got about 2.16 billion hits. Wow. The answer must be there. Right?

One was from a Christian religious site. Everything they claimed about God was supported with biblical citation by chapter and verse, of course. But there were two important exceptions.

First, the article claimed it’s obvious: “God’s existence is so conspicuous….” So, everyone should know. Second, it championed God by further claiming that “creation,” or existence, and human consciousness make God manifest. The writer did not answer what, or who is any god. But they continued to try.

The rest of the post made interesting claims. Such as, they said if you don’t get God right, that is idolatry, which is a sin (Pardonne-moi s’il te plaît). “God is spirit, by nature intangible.” No help there. But then they said, “We know certain things to be true of God…” Then they quoted more scripture. Why? Because all we “know” of that God are unsupported, written claims from thousands of years ago.

The piece also identified characteristics of God. Those are loving, truthful, holy, compassionate, merciful, graceful, judgmental, and forgiving. All human traits, yet again based on scripture because that’s all they have. Still not much to help with what or who a god is.

If we return to the it’s conspicuous and human consciousness claims, which make God obvious, there are problems. Nature, a certain creation of God’s, is obviously random and destructive. Additionally, God’s humans are incredibly destructive toward each other and to nature. Enter The Problem of Evil.

There is also the fact that no one is born knowing anything about any god. We are taught about God by others. God must be learned. How is that obvious, intuitive, or rising from human consciousness? And why not? Many less important things such as breathing, swallowing, our beating hearts, and more are there from day one or before.

A God, or higher power, is whatever we say it is or want it to be. We create gods and always have. That need may be a human trait. But so is thinking. A tree, nature, rain, an animal, something living in a volcano or in the sea may be a god because we say so. Personally, I like the Sun as a god. Planets named after gods and goddesses are all ready to step in for us. And what about goddesses? We’ve had Luna, Phoebe, Athena, Aurora, Flora, Freya, Iris, Cora, Selena, Thalia, and hundreds more.

I enjoy H. L. Mencken’s 1922, funeral oration for dead gods, “Memorial Service,” in which he lists names of many gods now gone. He ends with, “You may think I spoof. That I invent the names. I do not. Ask the rector to lend you any good treatise on comparative religion: You will find them all listed. They were gods of the highest standing and dignity – gods of civilized peoples – worshiped and believed in by millions. All were theoretically omnipotent, omniscient, and immortal. And all are dead.”

None of those gods ever actually existed. The author of the referenced Christian article would almost certainly agree with Mencken and me, with one exception. The one God and religion they were luckily born into and taught about. Lucky them.

I see the Sun. I get it. It’s there every day. We need it to survive. It preceded us and probably contributed to human and nature’s existence. Why not retro that old god? It’s nothing new. What is a solar system without a Sun?



Replicating Hypocrites Without Creeds

John Pavlovitz is a believer. He’s also a writer, blogger, and an omnipresent social media force. Once fired by some megachurch, he’s a pastor and a political/religious activist from Wake Forest, NC.

I share many views with pastor Pavlovitz. I bet I could discuss nearly anything with him.

He recently posted “How to Know if You Have the Wrong Religion,” as if there is a right one. Therein he presents an argument for good deeds (James 2:14-26) although he never says so. Thus, he champions the obvious case that when religion breeds hate it is wrong.

Without using the term atheist, Pavlovitz included the following obiter dictum. My retorts are in parentheses.

“If you’re passionately (dispassionately) anti-religious (anti-religion) because you think belief in a higher power (God. HP is an AA mantra) is abject (degrading?) fairy tale (unsupported?) nonsense, that’s fine too. (Thanks, John) But if you’re intolerant to difference and intellectually arrogant (a term I recognize) in the face of people who’ve reached different conclusions than you have, (It is my conclusion. Have they concluded based on evidence? Or is it [the bible] all they know?) you are simply replicating hypocrites without the creeds.”

I much like the last phrase, “replicating hypocrites without the creeds.”

I’ve seldom been attacked or severely criticized by believers. It happens, but they run out of ideas after they send me to Hell. Maybe they all follow JP on line, as my wife and I do.

However, a good many atheists and agnostics have indeed abjectly and passionately criticized me for saying that I understand why people believe in God. It’s not because there is one.

I do understand why folks believe. I think they’ve reached wrong conclusions, but it’s fine. I also understand why folks who share my conclusion may criticize my comment. That’s also fine.




Nones and Don’ts

I read a post on Patheos.com regarding the “collapse” of Christianity in the USA. The statistics and argument are based on opinion research. It wouldn’t surprise me if more people are jumping from or ignoring the Christian bandwagon. Evangelical PR has been abysmal. Now the US Catholic Bishops are making fools of themselves (again) over Biden taking communion.

According to the research and claims of the piece, millennials are largely responsible for the significant downturn in churchgoers and New Testament thumpers. I don’t know if it plays into this, but separation of church and state is always an issue and calls for such freedom may also be growing. It’s funny how we can say that separate church and state trope and we hear, “Freedom of Religion.” (Congress shall make no laws…, etc. Why do they only see half of that?)

When I came out with my own atheism, I learned that for some statistical purposes, I was and am a none. When asked which religion I am/practice/prefer/want to be part of, I have marked “none,” when that option was available.

When hospital staff called me a few years ago to ask if I wanted to change none, I told the lady to “keep those people away from me.” I may have I hurt her feelings, but she asked. Neither atheism nor agnosticism are religions. Rightfully, they are not usually on the religious preference forms. But guess what?

Now I can change that. I discovered the following options are now listed by my hospital under the personal information category of religion: “Agnostic, Atheist, Declined, None, Other, and Unknown.” That last one is a head scratcher. Do they not know?

If I change my answer to Atheist, it will be listed that under “religion” on my personal information. It is not a religion. I’m staying with none for now. But I’m thinking about changing it.

I saw few new religious movements (NRMs) or new age religious beliefs listed. I also read that many main line Christians hold such new age beliefs. Interesting. That is probably woo-woo in the eyes of organized religion leadership, but many folks go for it.

The article on the decline of practicing US Christians and the survey introduced me to a new category: the Don’ts. These are people who don’t know, don’t care, or don’t believe god exists. They just don’t. I don’t.

I now have a new statistical category to join (hear my sarcastic laugh). I recognize two of the subcategories (don’t know and don’t believe), but I chuckled at the don’t care group. I’ve never considered them. I might be a Don’t in all three subcategories. Sort of like that old joke about nuns (as in the religious orders), “Ain’t had none, don’t want none, ain’t gunna get none” (or something like that).

I have a suggestion for a new category: the whatever’s. Just for teenagers.


Essay: I’m Okay with That

Hello Real World Person,

I accept that to some degree there will always be different beliefs. I often discuss healthy eating, exercise, and medical science with my health care providers. Some might say we even argue. Neither religion nor science are going away in my lifetime. And totally disappear? I can’t imagine that.

And my dribble

I do not read or comment on religious media: not on religious blogs or any form of religious social media. I read none of that proselytization. But when I prepare to post my broodings on this blog, I may occasionally read some bible pages (John 3:16 for this one), or maybe some Catholic Catechism stuff. But rarely.

Most religious stuff is written for the already religious audience, not for skeptics, and certainly not for me. Occasionally, a believer or religious person will leave a comment on my blog to remind me how badly my beliefs, opinions, and atheist conclusions will go for me after I die. Sometimes they like to throw ad hominem at my intelligence. Of course, they do. The best I can do is say that either one or more gods exist, or he/she/they do not. What anyone believes does not change that. It’s either yes or no. Sorry, agnostics.

For the love of God, Billy!

Apparently, god’s love and forgiveness only apply to the sins of believers (John 3:16). It’s not for those of us incapable of believing that any god exists. The biblical condition is “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” I’m okay without the eternal life part. Such a biblical/New Testament threat is unlikely to compel me to believe. The added threat of eternal life in hell sounds awfully unloving and unforgiving. And I’m supposed to respect their religion? Not a chance.

I think I thought I saw you pray.

I really (honestly, for certain, doubtless) do not believe any god or spiritual beings of any kind exist. Period. I think ALL religions are nonsense. Prayer is silly, even if there is a god. That’s the best (nicest) thing I can say about most religions. Religion is spiritually pointless, but practically useful.

Yet, it seems to me, oddly, that religious people believe god exists, and consequently their belief (and their own existence) makes god’s exitance factual. Many borderline religious people seem to believe “something” god-like exists because they want it to be so. It feels better for them to think that something exists. Okay by me, but it is still inventing a god.

My point? I can tolerate woo-woo. I’ve certainly done woo-woo, studied it, and practiced it. But I now believe none of it. I never will. I can’t, and I don’t want to. Consequently, John 3:16 does not apply to me. I’m okay with that.

Skeptically yours,


PS: Tony on prayers: I write and read poetry—too much, maybe. I’m a fan of the late Tony Hoagland and his poems. Tony died in October of 2018. In the December 2018, issue of The Sun two of his poems were published. I particularly liked the one titled, “On Why I Must Decline to Receive the Prayers You Say You are Constantly Sending. Click on the title to read it. And, if you want, read “In the Beautiful Rain,” which is also good.

Is Forgive & Forget Biblical?

I agree. Forgiveness is a good thing for one’s emotional health. But I see no reason to even consider forgetting, much less figuring out how one would literally and intentionally forget something hurtful enough to merit such consideration.

Most of us seem to agree that getting over something or letting go is good. Yet, it still seems to me that if we can manage to forgive, forgetting is unnecessary. “I probably should forgive you, but I forget what for.” When forgiveness means moving on with one’s life, that’s a good thing.

In a discussion recently, I was told that the Bible says to forgive and forget. I know scripture says a lot of things, but forgiveness seems like a New Testament trope for being more loving. At least that is implied. Examples that seem to demand forgiveness include Matthew 6:14-15, Ephesians 4:32, Hebrews 12:14-15 and 2 John 1:8.

Not that your average American Christian is up to that since real forgiveness and love are not exactly low hanging fruit these days.

I suppose the old because the Bible tells me so is good enough for many devout Christians, but what about the rest of us? Being hurt by someone can be a lifelong mental or physical burden. Revenge may be sweet, but it seldom solves the problem or reconciles damaged relationships.

The perpetrator may be contrite and ask for forgiveness. He or she may even attempt some form of amends. But what if they don’t? The prayer goes, “…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us….” Here again, while I see no reason to make such a deal with any god, I still find forgiveness and reconciliation to be good things given the right circumstances.

How we define forgiveness makes a big difference. What it is and what it isn’t can help with finding happier days. I don’t think forgiveness means forgetting. It also does not mean that no harm was done or that what the guilty person did is now okay. Of course, it’s not.

It means we can stop fretting and walking around angry, plotting our revenge, or finding ways to fix it. Forgiveness means we try to move toward the issue no longer being a burden on us, no matter what the Bible says.

I’ve found that time helps me to work through a process of forgiveness. It is not an event like the flipping of a light switch. Trust is another issue. I’m not sure what the bible says about that and I don’t care.


Is god’s name God?

I know there are other names for the current one true Abrahamic god, and names for thousands of other gods who’ve fallen from popularity but were once worshiped by the masses.

We humans all seem to have a name (Bill) or a title (Dad or Opa) to differentiate us one from the other. We name pets, cars, places, illnesses.

Christians have three gods. The nameless father, the son is called Jesus Christ (but we all know that was not his real name), and the holy ghost/spirit was invented to make an unnecessary and meaningless third. But it’s all one.

Talk to the Hindus. They know how to name gods, for Christ’s sake. The planets have cool god names, except this one unless you want to stretch either Adam or Eve. But there’s Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Pluto (or maybe that was a dog’s name) and others. My daughter’s dog is named Thor.

Some Jewish folk write God as G-d as some form of respect. I would not feel respected if someone wrote B-ll. But I’m not considered a god even by the ones who call me Dad and Opa.

The commandment says we should not take god’s name in vain. Yet, the only time we do that is the JC name. Most of the god damn its and such expressions could be any god since no name is used. When Christians end a prayer with, in Jesus’ name, amen, why is that not a sin? Seems in vain to me.

There is the Jehovah name. If that is that god’s real name, who gave it to him? And if god is her, Jehovah seems so wrong. The Romans and Greeks had wonderful names for goddesses.

If God is god’s name, why the lower case in scripture? Even the devil has been given several proper monikers with which to be addressed. And that Rolling Stones’ song, Sympathy for The Devil ends with this name-game verse.

What’s my name
Tell me, baby, what’s my name
Tell me, sweetie, what’s my name

I’ve always called god by the name God. How un-creative of me! But Hey You, seems downright ungentlemanly.


Why I didn’t become Atheist

Why write this?

I read something yesterday on Rebekah’s blog that triggered me to think about how I express things about myself. I decided to write and post this.


Like everyone else, I was born without an opinion regarding the existence of a deity, a spirit realm, death, life afterwards, or any belief in a god. You could say I was born a passionate human agnostic about everything, but neutral about religion. That was 74 years ago to the day (happy birthday to me).

Eight days later I was baptized by a priest in a Roman Catholic Church. This event guaranteed my acceptance into Heaven, if I should die. Otherwise, it was eternity in Limbo, where the unbaptized but sinless souls allegedly went forever.

Baptism added a godfather and godmother to my religious life, in the unlikely event that my parents could not raise me as Catholic. They did.

My status

I was a Roman Catholic Christian whether I liked it or not. That situation lasted for sixty-some years. When I embraced atheism, my status was automatically changed to excommunicated, which means that I am excluded from the rights of church membership. I may not receive any of the seven sacraments. I’ve had six.

While my Catholic membership card is technically cancelled, I may still do virtually everything that is not specifically sacramental. I’ve not been shunned. It’s not a cult.

To undo this, I would merely need to re-claim my membership by denying my atheism. Complete re-conversion would be through the Sacrament of Penance (confession with a priest) and subsequent participation in the Sacrament of Eucharist (going to Mass and taking Holy Communion). I’ve done this process a couple other times in my life due to long lapses in my religious participation, called falling-away, non-practicing, or practical atheism.

When I reconciled before, the process was spiritually uplifting, fun, rewarding, guilt-relieving, interesting, and mildly embarrassing. It was also easy. The saying goes, once Catholic, always Catholic. I’m no longer that, sayings notwithstanding.

No regrets

I hold no animosity toward the Catholic Church or any of its people. However, I am irreconcilably pissed off about the Church’s history. I would still punish many bishops and priests for their culpability during the ongoing sexual abuse scandals.

I know church history well. I fully understand why people are religious. I accept it. I think they are wrong, but they’re not bad people. I wish they could similarly accept my conclusions to the degree that I do theirs.

I’m mindful that in many parts of the world, I could be killed for my outspoken atheism. Those who would do that are supported (and defended) by scripture, either Biblical or Koranic. That’s how religion works.

What I say and what I don’t

I have never said, I became a Christian or I got (or was) saved. I never said there was a day or time when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I have never referred to myself as a born-again Christian as my childhood friend, Jimmy, did.

When Jimmy died his family ensured he was buried as a Catholic. Dead people cannot receive sacraments nor can they resist the desires of the living.

I never felt superior to people of other religions or of none. If anything, living in the south (USA) I was guarded about my Catholicism.

I don’t say, I became atheist. I’ve embraced my atheism and the conclusion that god does not exist. I avoid prefacing things by saying as an atheist. I do not say something all atheists agree on. They do not. Except by coincidence, all atheists agree on nothing. I can only speak for myself.

I’m just sayin’

As with anyone who may have been born into a secular life, I was atheist first.

My baptism made me Catholic. I didn’t become anything. Roman Catholic is my legacy, heritage, and birthright.  I prefer to call it Irish-Catholic. They know why.

I have no issue with anyone saying, I became atheist or became anything. Unfortunately, atheism is one of those words that define people by what they are not more than by what they are. Since atheism means one does not believe in any god, it’s not like becoming Methodist, an artist, a romantic, or depressed.


The Bible: There is no such thing

The Catholic Mass liturgy includes three Old Testament (OT) readings, a selection from the prophets, and three readings from the New Testament (NT) to include Acts, the Catholic or Pauline Epistles, and the Gospels. During Christmas and Easter, a fourth is added for the evening service.

Growing up Catholic, I never had to read a bible. In the three-year liturgical cycle, I heard virtually the whole of Christian scripture read to me. In my eight years of parochial school, I took mandatory Religion and Catechism classes/courses as part the curriculum. I recall taking Bible History one year with a full-length history book to read.

I was taught the myth of Samson slaying the Philistines with the jawbone of an ass (hee-hee, back then) as historical fact. Since it is an OT story in the inerrant word of God, it must have been true.

There was no bible in my home. I doubt if many other Roman Catholics of my generation grew up reading a bible in the sense most adherents of sola scriptura (scripture alone) would understand it. We didn’t have to. A bible was read to us several times over by age 15.

How I became something of an amateur, or layman, bible study teacher (and expert?) forty years later would take too long to explain. But I was the first of such in a large Parish for about ten years. During that time, I acquired several different bibles, concordances, and various other materials that I used for learning and teaching.

The relationship people have with bibles fascinates me to this day. They claim to believe that it is the word of their god. They say it is the most important book ever written. Many have not read one single word of any bible, even if they own one.

Bibles are available for free in book form, electronically, or online. There is no excuse. Read one. Yes, an atheist just suggested that you read a bible.

One guy even used a bible recently as a prop for a political photo op (to evangelical silence, if not bizarre enthusiasm). I bet he never read it, could not say what version he was holding, how many books were in it, or if the religion of the church he stood in front of would approve of the translation.

We say it. We write about it. We talk about it all the time. However, there is no it. There is only them. There are hundreds of versions of the same book(s). I’ve seen the number 450, but I doubt there are so many official versions. It’s not the bible. It’s a bible—one of them.

One reason for this is the many different translations. Another reason is the various canons, or books and scripture, that are (or are not) included as authorized. Some of what may be included is referred to as apocrypha (not really the word of god).

There are no original bible writings that we can point to as the first or even the second copy. While some old scriptures do exist, they are far from first editions.

The Bible? Which one? It’s bibles. It’s them, not it. Confused by holy scripture, version 123.666 and 50 others.


Most popular? There are more?



No, but that’s not why.