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?

Bill

 

Essay: Prayer is Weird


It’s really weird. Because I don’t believe in any spiritual things like gods, angels, saints, or demons (except the human sort), I stopped praying on my own years ago.

When well-meaning people say they will pray for me, I try to respectfully decline, although they never ask if I would mind, or if they may pray. It is kind of like I have no choice.

It’s not that I fear any form of harm. I’m atheist. If you want me to respect your beliefs, please reciprocate. If someone prays for me, it’s fine. But it is no favor to me. Except, I always need fodder for this blog. I know I’m pissing into the wind, but I am simply writing about how I am affected by living in a mostly believing, religious community.

The weird part of prayer is that I do usually pray when asked. I also have changed tires for strangers, hung pictures for friends, mowed lawns for neighbors, fixed boxes for cats, and (rarely) given advise when asked. The latter things all require greater effort (and get better results) than the former (praying). But I pray when asked or to keep from being a jerk (usually). Here is an excellent article on the subject.

I have held hands or waited patiently to eat while someone thanked God for everything from creation of the universe to the traffic being light on the highway, to “this fried chicken and gravy that God hath blessed us with,” as the cook bows his or her head and grits their teeth.

Recently, a retired nurse told me that pain was “a gift from God.” In my 60+ years of religion and a prayerful life (albeit, spotty), I cannot recall a single time when anyone thanked God for pain. Not for their agony or that of any of their loved ones. Good grief. Ungrateful bastards! (sarcasm) Who wants a medical provider who thinks your pain is a gift from God? (seriously)

When we were in a thunderstorm 40,000 feet above the Marianas Trench, we all thought we might crash and die that night; however, not one of our B-52 crew of seven prayed. At least four of us were quite religious. We all tightened our ejection seat and parachute straps and did our jobs, which was probably why we did not crash.

I can mentally do a flash prayer in seconds. Some call them “ejaculation” (or ejaculatory) prayers (I still giggle). I was Catholic, not Southern Baptist or Evangelical, who clearly struggle to ejaculate quickly (sarcastic humor).

If a friend asks me to pray for something reasonable, I almost always do. But I’m greedy. I’ll only pray for me to win the lottery unless we have a deal.

My views on prayer may seem hypocritical. Others may see an irreconcilable conflict if an atheist prays. I don’t care. I prayed for some sixty years with no harm (or results) to me or anyone. I am atheist. I can do what I want. We have no rules.

It does not mean I believe in any god. It does mean that I like and respect some people. It shows that I care enough about them to honor their request to petition a deity (existing or not) to help them. My atheism is about gods or spirits (other than human).

Religion is a whole other donnybrook. But feel free to ask for an ejaculatory prayer. I will most likely accommodate.

I recognize that most people disregard my request to do something besides pray for me. I don’t ever know if they actually prayed. But I must ask, who is respecting whom? And why is that?

Bill

 

I’m Sticking to It

Just yesterday, I stopped at a traffic light behind a Lexus SUV with three stickers on the painted portion of the rear hatch. One was an image of a US flag with the word pray in the blue field where the stars go. The second said something about prayer and the USA, but I forget exactly what it said. But the third pressed my ponder button.

The sticker said, “I am Christian, and I vote.” My first thought was I am not and so do I. I like stickers, but I seldom put them on my car. When I do, they get peeled off when the election or whatever reason for them has passed. But my laptop and iPad are covered with them (nonpolitical).

I cannot consider the …I Vote sticker as anything other than a political threat or intimidation intended to state the owner’s political and governmental priority. That would be the Christian religion. I could not determine if they were Evangelical Protestant, Mainline Protestant, or Catholic. But I suspect one of the first two since while papists consider themselves the original Christians, they usually use Catholic.

Another bumper sticker I saw about 10 years ago said, “You cannot be both Catholic and Pro-Choice.” It was about then that I took my money and left the Catholic Church (the religion). It had nothing to do with the bumper sticker. But how’d that work for them?

So, the person in the Lexus likely opposes any separation of church and state (as long the church side is Christian). They claim to be one of 215-million US citizens identifying as Christian (now 65%, down from 75% in 2015, according to PEW Research), and one of the 16-million Texans (53% says ASARB) who identify as such.

I must assume the Lexus Christian has no qualms forcing his or her religious beliefs onto non-Christians. What a strange way to wring out freedom of religion (so long as it’s Christian) from the US Constitution. And they are downright proud of it, in a much holier than thou sort of way.

Then I pondered on with ideas for I’m (something), and I vote stickers. My ideas:

I’m old and I vote. I’m (single, married, divorced) and I vote. I eat bacon and I vote (hello CA).

I’m bald and I vote. I’m non-denominational and I vote. I’m an Aggie and I vote.

I drink and I vote (but not at the same time). I’m (Irish, German, Mexican, Swedish, Mediterranean, Apache, or ???) and I vote.

I’m atheist and I vote. I worship Satan and I vote. I’m (rich, poor, middle income) and I vote (and hopefully pay taxes). I’m antigovernment and I vote anyway.

I read and I vote. I’m a writer, artist, creative person, and I vote. I’m a teacher and I vote. I’m a flat Earther and I vote. I’m an old yellow dog and I vote.

I’m a (vegetarian, vegan, meat eater, vampire) and I vote. I’m a nudist and I vote. I’m a pluviophile and I vote. I am apathetic and I vote (I just don’t care).

I’m snarkastic and I vote. I like rock and roll, and I vote. I (do or don’t) own a gun or play golf, and I vote. I drink coffee and I vote. I can dance and I vote.

How about you? Do you vote? Do you have any stickers on your car, bike, computer, or whatever?

Bill

Poem: Holy Knickknacks, Batman

Also posted on pluviolover.com.


Got my Indian Buddha statue
the next day
after some Catholic Answers lecture guy
told us it was a mortal sin to have one.
First Commandment (Catholic version), no less.

My graven image now sits with my Dragon Chalice,
lion statue, and cowboy with horse bronze art,
family photos, among other things.
He’s been lotus sitting around my house,
mostly in my room, for more than 20 years.
The best years of my life
have been with Siddhartha.

My family has concurred many demons.
I’ve beaten cancer (for now), completed 15 marathons,
written hundreds of poems, cheated death
and heart disease (also temporarily),
lost twenty pounds (several times),
and today I mark 75 years since I squeezed
through Mom’s birth canal. Sorry, Mom.

My mother claimed I was a contrarian.
Dad said I was only half-Irish and my sibs
considered me a spoiled brat (that’s still true).
The (younger then I) lecturer from the diocesan chancery
died two years afterwards.
Wrong statue or just superstition, I guess.


Bill

Essay: On Praying

You can read about atheists being offended by prayer. Most of what I’ve seen was written by religious interpreters who seem to know what we think and what our motivations are. In my opinion, few skeptics find praying offensive. Anyone who comes from a religious background has probably prayed. I think it’s a waste of time. However, prayer can be troublesome.

Does It Even Make Sense?

I used to pray often. As a practicing Catholic, I was expected to pray to god’s three persons and dead people. I prayed to various saints who are dead souls in Heaven, and for those not there yet, but who are in Purgatory.

I’ve asked for things or prayed as a form of worship or self-punishment, called penance assigned by a priest after confession. I prayed for “the repose of the soul(s)” without knowing exactly what the hell that meant or why I was praying for it. I prayed without a logical thought as to exactly what I was praying for. Most often, I simply prayed to pray or because others were.

You may ask, so what? Is praying harmful? Did it do any good? Was it beneficial to me or to someone else? Was time spent in any form of prayer wasted and silly?

Ironically, I thought everything happened because a spiritual consciousness caused it. I assumed I was praying to a god responsible for everything that happened: a god who knew everything, was everywhere, and had everyone’s best interest in mind.

Yet, prayer was a crutch for me. Even today, I can hear my mind thinking, “Please don’t let this be happening…” Who or what is that plea addressed to? A god or the universe? Is prayer a habit?

“Everything happens for a reason.” That mild form of predestination doctrine is what many people say, most often regarding some undesirable event. Of course, no reason is ever given and one is seldom discovered except in some shoehorning effort to make it fit religiously.

Before I accepted my own atheism, although I prayed, I thought it was kind of dumb. However, since so many of us seemed to do it and thought it worked (all evidence to the contrary), I prayed hard and long. I gave blessings, I prayed over graves of loved ones, I prayed for sick people, for friends and enemies, and sometimes for things other people asked me to pray for, like for them or rain. Whatever I needed to do to persuade the eternal supreme entity to do differently, I gladly did. I carried a pocket notebook of things and people I wanted to pray about so I would not forget.

I no longer pray because I’m almost certain there are no gods, no saints, no spirits who care, or any receivers of my message. Additionally, if I did believe in any of that or thought it was likely, I would still not pray because it accomplishes nothing.

Do I care if other people pray?

Usually, I don’t. Sometimes I do. Prayers and praying can be annoying, especially when staged for living witnesses to see and thereby to be affected or persuaded. Prayer is especially annoying when my cooperation and/or participation is in some way socially expected.

On its own, prayer seems innocuous enough. However, even the bible (new testament) decries staged, showoff, holier than thou praying (Matthew 6:1-34). Must I wait to eat while someone prays? Why? May I talk while they talk to a god? May I take a drink of my beer? If I don’t want to hold someone’s hand while they pray, am I being rude? The act of praying does not make someone special or privileged. But it is fine if one assumes so. Just leave me out of it.

I consider people’s praying as I do when they do yoga or meditate. I consider most yoga and meditation beneficial to the person doing them. I am neither offended nor distracted by it. I simply don’t care. I don’t expect them to interrupt my evening, disturb my meal, or want to hold any of my body parts while they contemplate existence or do a downward facing dog. I’ve never heard of someone blocking an emergency exit while chanting a mantra or standing on one foot.

No one has ever said to me, “I’ll meditate for you.” And while no yoga pose has been entered for my recovery, I did appreciate when friends and family said they would be sending me healing energy and good vibes. Their sincere concern helped me feel better, and perhaps to recover. I’ve told friends that I would be thinking of them during their surgery and I hoped they would have a speedy recovery. “Get well soon.” Praying is not person to person. It invokes the will of spirits and that’s woo-woo.

When people say they will pray for me, I request, “Please don’t.” I’m not offended if they do. I just take a pass on prayers.

While I’m unconcerned with how people spend their time trying to change some god’s mind, I think it’s silly. Their intention may be good, but why can’t they accept that I reject all prayers?

What is the bigger picture?

Another problem is the package deal. Prayer is not an isolated independent action done by one person to the benefit of another. Except for children and people manipulated into it, no one is forced to pray. If nothing else changed and everyone just stopped praying, would some deity get pissed off?

Many believers think so (all evidence, etc.). It’s not so much that prayer is part of a belief in god and a person’s relationship with some god. Prayer is distinctly tied to a religion and often to a specific denomination.

On the other hand, when people have asked me to pray for them (or for rain in one case), I sometimes will. They seldom ask, but I do see or hear the occasional request. While I don’t believe in their (or any) god, that does not mean I don’t care enough about them to offer up a prayerful blurb or two. I consider saying or thinking “God help you” as praying. I am also willing to yoga up the cat pose or contemplate a nirvanic eternity, if someone were to ask me (no one has).

The problem I see with praying is the package or the bigger picture. When organized religion, personal religious beliefs, or cult-like attachments influence people, it is more than simply praying. If someone prays for me to believe in god, is it acceptable for me to pray or to wish that they stop believing in god?

Must I adapt my behavior to the praying behavior of others (holding hands, being quiet, closing my eyes)?  Does your right to practice your religion (freedom of religion) trump my right not to (freedom from religion)? If I decline an offer to pray for me, have I offended them simply because I think differently? If it is my opinion that people who pray are wasting their time, sometimes mine, and offering an opinion different than mine, is it acceptable for me to say so?

The prayer playing field is not level. It’s sloped in favor of those who pray even by some who don’t. What harm does it do? In most cases it threatens my freedom from religion. It is often staged “look at me” behavior and begs for someone to be easily offended.

Bill

What agnostics are not

According to the Merriam-Webster.com on-line Dictionary, the word agnostic shares part of its history with words such as prognosticate and prognosis, words which have something to do with knowledge or knowing.

The word atheist shares roots with words such as theology and theism, which have to do with god or gods, not knowledge thereof. There is a difference.

Being an agnostic is not, as many assume, halfway between being a believer or a nonbeliever. One has to do with knowledge, or the ability of humans to have knowing, while the other identifies a proclaimed conclusion regarding the existence of a god. Halfway could be either unconvinced atheists or unconvinced believers. I’ve probably fit both unconvinced categories at different times of my life.

According to me (I made this up), there are three types of agnostics. First are all the people who say they are agnostic. Second are all the people who do not believe in any gods but cannot prove that none exist (atheists). The third group are those who do believe in any number of gods (usually one), but likewise cannot prove the existence of even one god.

If you add groups one, two, and three; that equals everybody. Therefore, claiming to be agnostic is akin to staking a claim to be one of everyone (sarcastic eye roll). In the end, we’re all agnostic.

I don’t care if god talks to any of us, shoots lightning into our brains, or saves one of us from a hungry wolf (apologies to Duran Duran), we don’t know if such events are true and no one knows if god exists. We simply choose to claim such a belief, usually because that is what someone taught us.

We were not born with that belief. We may want there to be a god. Okay. It may make us feel good to think god exists. Also, fine. We may claim faith. Wonderful. But none of us knows. Not one person.

In my opinion, people who claim to be agnostic are essentially atheist because they do not hold to the belief or conclusion that a god exists. Knowing or not knowing is immaterial to belief. Either we believe in god, or we don’t.

We may have doubts. Maybe we want to believe but can’t. Maybe we have some other rationale for our position. All good. Someone may say they believe in god and be lying. That’s fine by me. But staking a claim to middle ground by hiding behind the claim of agnosticism seems disingenuous, in my (not so) humble opinion.

If we say we are agnostic, as we all should because we don’t know, that takes us back to why people believe: faith and preference, not knowledge.

That’s just how it works. It should be clear, but it’s not. I think it’s fair to ask someone why they do or do not believe in a god. If the answer sounds like I am agnostic, then I must assume they do not believe, unless they say otherwise.

Peace,

Bill

Fun video:

Evidence for God: None Detected

Because I’ve been lurking around medical clinics and hospitals for the past few weeks, their protocol required I be tested twice for Coronavirus. Both times the results emailed to me said, None Detected. Then they cautioned me with, “A negative test does not exclude an active SARS-CoV-2 infection…. Documentation of infection may be possible by retesting or testing of other specimen sources.” In other words, there is no proof that I am not infected. They just have no evidence that I am. Only a positive finding is proof.

A couple years ago, virtually everyone (doctors, family, me, and at least one surgeon) identified a lump on my forearm as a cyst. There was no discomfort or symptoms to indicate otherwise. I had it removed for the sake of my vanity. The operating surgeon removed the tissue, showed it to me, and said, see, it is just a cyst.

Later, pathology determined the specimen was cancerous. Following months of treatment, I’m now periodically monitored by medical science for recurrence. So far so good. While some may say that I am cancer free, I don’t use that term. I, and other cancer patients, prefer use of the initialism, NED, which means no evidence of disease. Medical science, without evidence to the contrary, was unable to claim that I positively had cancer at the time of the test. I’ll take it. Unless they prove otherwise, it isn’t there.

When I confessed atheism to a friend, she asked me if I could prove there is no god. I told her that while I couldn’t, I didn’t have to prove it. The requirement, at least for me, is that if I am to accept or believe the existence of something (COVID, cancer, or a god), there must be sufficient convincing evidence of existence. I don’t know what that evidence or proof might be, especially regarding something like a god, a black hole in space, or an exploding star.

It gets complicated. Which god am I to have evidence for? Do you claim only one?

How do I know that such evidence supports that specific god and not some other?

If there is “something” out there because someone (not me) can just feel it to be so, or because all this exists, or because there are stars in the sky, what does any of that prove? We perceive and experience many things, like bizarre nightmares, emotional trauma, or mental euphoria. It rains, plants grow, life continues, and there is a Universe.

If someone asks me why I do not believe in any god, especially theirs, I simply say I know of no proof that such an entity exists at all, much less one that is of a supreme being or god status. I may ask why that person chooses to believe in a god. They are usually much more committed and convinced of existence than I am in doubt. However…

In every case I can think of, the discussion about belief ends with what is called faith. Faith is seldom defined in the same way by believers and skeptics. Simply put, some folks prefer to believe a god exits than to admit ultimate agnosticism. No one knows if there is a god. In that case, NED is for no evidence of deity.

When I sneeze or blow my nose, my wife asks if I am catching a cold. Or, it could be the flu. Or it could be allergies. Or it could be nothing, just dust particles in the air or pepper in my nose. I never know. Only by testing to prove a positive can any hypothesis be supported.

I strongly doubt the existence of what most people claim as god. I make no serious claim that some sort of intelligence or deity absolutely does not exist, although I have said as much to counter the claim that there is a god.

It is possible that I have COVID-19, cancer, a cold, or that I am insane, but I’m simply unaware because no positive evidence indicates otherwise (although the latter diagnosis has been offered).

For me, religion is another matter. Religion exists, immaterial of a god’s existence. Either there is a god or there’s not, regardless of anyone’s beliefs. I try to write about the existence of god and the efficacy of religion separately, even though they should be closely related.

Bill

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.

Bill

How Important is Going to Church?

Growing up in the Catholic church/faith and Saint John’s Elementary school, I was taught that if I died with a mortal sin on my soul and did not go to Confession or have Extreme Unction (Last Rites) administered by a priest, I was going straight to Hell. No passing Go and no collecting $200. I’d suffer for eternity along with Hitler, Jack the Ripper, Stalin, and all sorts of evil souls. There’d be no option for appeal or some Purgatorial negotiated deal. Eternity. Got it?

The logical problem with this dawned on me around age 13 or 14. The list of mortal sins was quite long and by that age it was normal for me to have picked up one or two each week. If you had committed one mortal sin, you might as well have done 50. Even a god could not add on more time to eternity. I had not been introduced to the concept of levels of Hell (or Heaven) at that time.

I was also taught that not going to Mass (call it church if you want) on Sunday or a Holy Day of Obligation was a mortal sin. Interestingly, it was about that 14/15ish time that I stopped going until I was busted and forced to go (I was being watched) because since it was so easy to pick up a mortal or two during the week between Confessions, well, what the hell? One more made no difference. Right?

When I returned to the good graces of the Catholic church thirty-some years later (about twenty years ago), I did so in Titusville, Florida. I was working there temporarily and decided to go through that embarrassment with a priest I would never see again. He had given me a book to read (which I did) and we had a few meetings. When a fallen away Catholic returns to the good graces of Rome, it is done through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which is a fancy name for Confession. But it sounds right for this process.

In one of our meetings I brought up the concept of not going to Mass being a mortal sin. The priest told me that it was not a mortal sin. I told him that I was taught it was such an eternally damning sin, and the book he had given me said it was. He said that he needed to stop handing out that book. I suggested he read books before recommending them to others. He was quite a bit younger than I, so giving advice seemed apt. Anyway, not going to Mass when you can has always been a big deal (at the least), in the Catholic Church. But, the whole point of it is Communion or the Eucharist. Catholicism is nothing if not Liturgical and taking Communion is at the core of that obligation.

I don’t know if any other Christian cult/denomination thinks people go to Hell if they do not go to church. I’ve had Christians tell me they never go to church (or belong to one) and that one need not go to church to be a good Christian. Maybe the Orthodox, Polish Catholic, and a few other schismatic holdouts think so, but most Protestants and Catholics I know think church attendance on Sunday is somewhat optional. At worst, a venial (minor) sin, if at all.

Enter a highly contagious and deadly virus of the Corona family. We get this illness (COVID-19) very easily, and Americans are the world leaders in contracting it: over two million known cases today. Since sitting together (and yelling or praying or singing) for an hour in a room with someone who may be contagious may kill us, or at least infect us, church attendance (indoors and closer than six feet to one another) was placed on the list of no can dos until we get our arms around the epidemic/pandemic. Literally, not going to church was healthier than going. I love that irony.

The Jesus freaks went bat shit, fucking crazy. Lawsuits were filed. #45 and other politicians of a certain bent started yelling that church attendance was essential. I must admit, certain groups of Americans wear hypocrisy like a new Sunday suit or this year’s Easter bonnet. It looks good on them while I struggle to stop banging my head against the wall. Going to church on Sunday is, first, not essential for anyone, and second, a good way to cause unnecessary illness, hospitalization, and potentially death.

Churches do nothing for the economy, use government services/resources they do not pay for, and other than some fraternization or potluck/covered dish meals, are meaningless, even if there is a god. Hypocrites, remember? But they are essential politically. At least to some portion of the population. They were not essential six months ago. But now that it is a dangerous thing to do—going to church is vital (and god, strangely, always needs more money).

And when you ask them, “How much should we give?”
Ooh, they only answer “More! More! More!” yoh.

Even most Catholics do not believe that their god would send them to the fires of Hades if they went to play pinball instead of going to Mass. However, church attendance is the only active measure we have to determine the degree of religiosity in America. It also contributes big-time to the core concept of the mega church (go fund us). More religious and political bull shit.

Bill

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.

Bill


Credit – Linked Pew Research article.