The Appeal Of Belief (Part 2)

So what matters to you my friends? What ideas seem to strike down to the core of who you are and what you believe? I ask this because if you fail to think this through for yourselves then you will undoubtedly be told what to think by others. Be especially cautious if you are young and wanting to make a difference in the world. Religion will play on your ignorance, your fears, as well as your desires!

Many people may not immediately like my tone concerning religion. Afterall, there are a lot of commendable and amazing individuals that have come out of religion. I personally don’t deny that there are some good ideas within various faith based systems. It is predominantly the good parts of it that get popularized. It is when we take a closer look at what the “good book” says that we often come to find where fear, ignorance, and sometimes both of these begin.

I’ll be focusing again on Christianity since this is the religion I’ve been actively distancing myself from since the spring of last year. According to many believers I have been told that I possess some kind of internal awareness of god and the bible’s flavor of justice. Yes, I am allegedly suppressing the truth and blinded in my own sin right now.

I guess it would depend on how one wants to define truth? If truth is shoehorned to display its superiority only in the sixty six books of the Christian bible, then I am without a doubt a pagan of pagans. Thankfully, via the use of reason and objectivity we can examine the bible’s truth claims, compare them to what we have learned in Philosophy and the Sciences and come away from it knowing that the bible gets it wrong most of the time.

Some believers even acknowledge how fatal it would be to derive their views literally and solely from many passages. They recognize the primitive parts, the misinformed parts, and the downright immoral parts! The best justification that many conservative thinkers give for this is that whatever god says has to be morally good. Whatever he says, is good by nature. No matter how much it grates against our own reason. No matter how much it contradicts the more loving and kind traits that this being is said to possess.

Let’s work this out just a little more, shall we? Conservative Christians think that it would be superior to sacrifice our logic and replace it with an appeal to mystery whenever this bible’s god is said to have commanded or done a very morally difficult act. Morally difficult is the nice way of phrasing Yahweh’s violent take over and execution of the nations surrounding Israel. Israel was said to be this god’s instrument of justice. We’re talking about the slaughter of millions of men, women, and children. Why was this done? Well, essentially it was just to clean house so that god’s true believers wouldn’t be corrupted by all the idolatry surrounding them. As we read on we find out what a failed attempt that turned out to be!

At the end of my first paragraph I said that religion will play onto our desires. This is where I think religion likes to exploit our ignorance because I’m not going to sit here and deny that it is altogether unappealing to have an all powerful being on my side. There actually could be a lot of comfort drawn from the idea that this all powerful being will grant me eternal life, but I now have to say, “at what cost?”

If I have to sacrifice all other knowledge claims, many of which are superior in nature and in scope to what the bible offers, then it is simply not worth it! If I have to bend my moral compass so far back that the tension buckles under the scrutiny of reason, it’s not worth it! What is more important truth or faith? Faith remains unsupported, untested, and in many ways invalidated.

I’d rather die and cease to exist by embracing every form of actual truth that I can muster up before that point, than to live hoping in what has never been confirmed in the first place.

The Appeal of Belief (Part One)

What is the appeal to believing in a supernatural creator? To be more specific, the Christian version? I’m definitely not going to pretend that I wasn’t once interested. On the contrary, I used to be fascinated and very enthralled! There’s a reason that preaching and teaching is performed and formatted in a certain way. Even for the deeply devoted, strictly expository, “no bones about the truth” preaching types.

We as human beings are drawn in by stories, especially good ones! It would be a little naïve to ignore the entertainment industry that is built right into the appeal of religion itself. The church where I had first clearly understood the message of Jesus (at least one version of it) was just on the outside of town. The fire and brimstone wasn’t an immediate turn on for me, but over time I came to rather enjoy this dichotomy between the wrath and love of god. The wrath seemed to call out for this definite need for justice in the world, as well as in my own life. The love came sweeping in at just the right moment as the pastor was making a plea on behalf of Almighty God for me to repent.

After all, I had made mistakes like every other human being on the planet. I had been cruel and selfish with my family at times, I had lied, stolen, lusted, etcetera, etcetera! What did religion do for me when I didn’t know how to process my own guilt and regrets? When I didn’t know how to deal with my fear of the unknown? Did it save me? Did it really save me? It took years to realize what kind of number Christian Fundamentalism did on me.

Lie number one came to me in this form. Such acts as lying, stealing, cheating, and lusting are not only deserving of death, but they are deserving of eternal conscious torment! After all, you have sinned against an infinitely good unseen being and it is only fair and just that you be punished infinitely for doing this. In addition to this, I was told that I really do know this deep down. The very fabric of my existence testifies that I am aware of the one and only true god.

I feel like this should be one of those Saved By The Bell moments where Zach Morris steps out and pauses the screen right about now! Hold on just a second pastor so and so, are you listening to what you just said? You are telling me that what is basically a part of human growth and development is worthy of death and eternal hell fire? Note here that I am not advocating a snowball effect with these kind of offenses that eventually turns into murder, rape, and money laundering.

What I am saying is this, for the most part this concept of sin and evil is a maturity issue with human beings. We know this simply by observation and reason. As we get older it is less likely that we will be as reckless as we were when we were young. This is expected of other adults because we need to know how to best promote the welfare of others and ourselves. When we fail to do this we face natural consequences. If we don’t fall in line with other mature adults who are trying to protect themselves and their families then society has definitely found ways to remove the threat. Rightfully so, because what these things essentially amount to is stupidity and a lack of concern for the welfare of others and themselves.

Therefore, justice in the form of eternal punishment against human behavior is not only irrational but insurmountably cruel and vindictive. A supremely good being would recognize the maturity factor that I have pointed out. There are other factors that contribute to the problem of bad behaviors and these often stem from mental disorders and chemical imbalances. Yet another thing that this ancient bible never took into account.

In my next segment I plan to get into my negation that human beings possess some kind of internal awareness of god and the bible’s form of justice. I think we can all be rather thankful of this too, in light of how unreasonable these punishments appear to be in relation to the actual human condition.

Faith & Coercion

In my last post titled, Why I Remain An Atheist, I brought up a rather controversial subject. I think it is a topic that definitely has warrant for further exploration, however. I took a bold step in labeling my first serious embrace of Christian ideas as being one that was accompanied by an unhealthy amount of verbal coercion directed at me by my previous church leaders. I had just turned 15 years old at the time, mind you.

I was careful not to define this kind of coercion as directly malicious in any way. It wasn’t. I think it was borne out of ignorance and fear on the part of these believing parties. The first step into this breed of ignorance is the acceptance of human depravity. The idea that every one of us as human beings is infected with a sinful nature in conjunction with the burden of guilt for any crimes committed against a holy god.

It is first of all a very peculiar thing that this god is said to have created humanity originally to be without sin. This god is said to have at one time created the best of all possible worlds, paradise so to speak. Need I get into the rest of this myth? Premise one is that god created a perfect humanity in a perfect world. It all falls apart when we are told to accept premise two. The ridiculous notion that humanity chose to do evil apart from any outside influences. According to this fairy tale god is not to blame whatsoever for enticing humanity with a tree HE HAD PLACED in the garden, with a deceptive serpent that HE KNEW was there, or by the sheer fact that HE IS CONSIDERED THE SOLE CREATOR OF SUCH FALLIBLE CREATURES in the first place!

I’ve honestly entertained too much of this story already but I’m doing it for the sake of my believing friends. What good is it really to be driven by this kind of view of the world? A view in which the majority of humanity is hell bound simply for being human! I’m failing to see where the actual grace and justice is here? Then when we get into the concept of vicarious redemption we are supposed to leap for joy because this god endorses the death of an innocent man? People that are guilty of the most heinous crimes are able to be absolved of everything simply by putting their sins onto a scapegoat? This sounds more like an immoral loophole to get out of punishment than it does to experience actual grace and love.

I could go on about these inconsistencies, but the bottom line is that dogma is formed out of ignorance. People collect a number of biblical passages that carry the same vague idea or reference and then form a consensus about what they hope is its actual meaning. If science or any other form of gathering knowledge was like this it would fail to be a useful discipline.

Now we enter into the fear aspect of religious coercion. An alarming majority of these pastors and teachers actually believe that a wrathful all powerful being would have every right to exterminate them for any reason. After all whatever god says, basically goes. Whenever a dialogue is sought in this regard, it becomes very difficult to objectively criticize this view.

Reason being that it is somehow considered a virtuous endeavor to exterminate self worth and adapt the mindset of a slave. The bible refers to this as being a bondslave, but nonetheless it is an unbending devotion to an unseen master. This master, Jesus, is said to transfer his merits to the slave. It is the only way to be viewed as worthy in the eyes of The Almighty.

Aside from how cruel it is to deface human beings of their self worth, simply for being human, I have to wonder if it is even more heinous to imply that what replaces our dignity is the love of god? Imagine if we were to apply this principle to raising our own children? On second thought, I hope I never meet anyone that would do anything other than love their child unconditionally. Assuming the true sense of the word and not warped with absurd preconditions that require a ransom payment.

It is precisely this kind of thinking that brings me to question the morality of religion through and through. I guess the cat is out of the bag by now, I am also an Antitheist.

   

Why I Remain An Atheist

One thing I have realized very clearly since the time I went public with my skepticism toward all religions last June is that we unbelievers get kind of a bad rap. This is especially true when we find ourselves in the group of people that once believed very strongly in the idea of god and the supernatural realm. Some objectors will just say flat out, “you should know better” or “we’ve been giving you a free pass because of this difficult time you seem to be going through.” Granted not all of my believing friends are that “charming” and I’m all the more thankful to know that some will even call out others who make these kind of bold statements.

It didn’t take me long after to realize that I fall into the spectrum of what is commonly labeled as Atheism. Atheism itself carries a lot of baggage in the minds of many believers. We are a very misunderstood and mischaracterized minority both in America and throughout the world. For instance: If you think that Atheists are just a bunch of immoral god haters that are deceived by the devil, chances are you haven’t even had a chance to befriend a friendly skeptic in your neighborhood. Try that first before you make any judgements, but even if you meet a bad egg just remember all the bad eggs that claim to be believers too! Food for thought.

My deepest doubts flooded in as a result of many internal battles that I was unable to reconcile for years. I was an evangelical Christian from the time I was 15 years old and the way I came to embrace faith was in no stretch of the matter a combination of verbal coercion and subjective emotional experiences that I attributed to an unseen god.

This verbal coercion that I am referring to is not done out of malice by most Christians, I believe it is done out of ignorance and sometimes even fear. The very urgency with which many Evangelicals approach their unbelieving friends is in itself driven by an unfounded dogma about the human condition. At the heart of this ideology the believer affirms that human beings are utterly depraved and in love with sin. Sin is then conveniently defined as anything that stands in opposition to the authoritative nature of the bible and the picture of god that it conveys.

As an Atheist I am also concerned with deception because if the believer is wrong, and if these beliefs are not in line with reality then they are actually harming and hindering many people from acquiring and coming to know actual truth. Just as many believers are distressed about people essentially wasting their lives away on frivolity and meeting their final demise in hell, an Atheist is just as concerned if not more, that believers are creating a false dilemma for themselves and not taking the proper informed steps toward effectively bettering the world in the one life we know we have.

The lynchpin in all of this is where we as human beings draw the line in the endeavor of defining actual knowledge about reality or the lack of it. Is faith really a form of knowledge? If so, why does it remain so carefully nestled outside the realm of testing and objectivity? To be fair many Christians do acknowledge the collective agnosticism that humanity has in relation to demonstrating the existence of a god. In some way these folks are okay with leaving god in the realm of unaccounted for abstractions.

My subjective experiences were nothing more than repeated instances of getting goosebumps in relation to a sermon, prayer, or a worship song. In addition to that I had one or two dreams that were motivated by my previous conversion to Christianity. Need I elaborate on how unreliable this phenomena turns out to be in establishing any kind of certainty?

In addition to this when we approach arguments for the existence of a god, most or all of them provide god in terms of a presupposition and proceed to define god as having inverted characteristics from what is actually observed and known to be true about the universe. The universe is material, so what is god? God is of course immaterial. Well, what does it mean to be immaterial? It means to be without substance does it not? What does it mean to lack substance or detectability? Well, for everything else the indication would bring us to the closest definition of nothing that we can come to, but for some reason when it comes to god he/she/it is still allegedly present in some unfalsifiable way.

This is what we Atheists like to call moving the goal posts back in the realm of supernaturalism. There is no mechanism provided from this perspective on how to bring god into the realm of objectivity. If this were the case Romans 1:20 would be stated more persuasively. A god would actually be clearly seen and acknowledged in our universe. Invisible qualities that are asserted and not substantiated are just that. They exist only in the realm of human assumptions and if my eternal welfare depends on this then an actual god would be less powerful, knowledgeable, and loving than his followers believe him to be.

Therefore the definition of an Atheist stays true to its Greek etymology. ‘A’ means (without) and ‘Theist’ of course refers to a god or gods. To lack belief in a god or gods is the logical response to a set of beliefs that consistently has failed to meet its burden of proof. We reject the notion of god not because we hate authority, or doing good things, or giving people hope. I am still personally a very optimistic and positive person. I still aspire to influence as many people as I can to live in such a way that truth is extolled, justice is served, morality is pure, and happiness is achieved.

Let’s all care about the truth enough to continually question our deepest convictions. It will ultimately confirm and strengthen many of them, and anything that remains irrational and unfounded will erode and be replaced by what is hopefully a more concise way of viewing reality.

(After some reflection I’d like to elaborate a little more on what I meant by the term “verbal coercion.” On first glance this may be a very insulting notion for some of my readers. I certainly don’t intend this phrase to be used as a jolt or a slam on anyone personally. However, for some of the individuals who were involved in proselytizing me into Evangelicalism, I believe this word accurately reflects their methods. The particular form of preaching and teaching that I was exposed to played very much on my own ignorance and fear at the time. Every Sunday the Pastor would preach himself into anger and later into tears. His anger was allegedly a reflection of the indignation of god toward sin and the need for us desperately wicked human beings to repent. He did this with such conviction and apparent certainty. His tears would stream down his face without fail at the end of his sermon as if god himself was pleading through this man to bring my lost soul to the cross. Yes, it was at the foot of the cross that I would be reconciled to god and know unconditional love for the first time.

After about three months of this kind of indoctrination is it any surprise that I was convinced? Especially considering the fact that no other opposing views were brought forth for me to consider? Later on it became crystal clear just how deep the ignorance and anti-intellectualism ran within the core thinking of these church leaders. I departed midway through my college experience from this kind of thinking. It then took a few more years of being challenged and evaluating my own subjective experiences before I realized just how bankrupt the concept of faith actually is in relation to acquiring knowledge. My final thoughts are that I am well aware of many Christians that do not preach and teach with such forcefulness. Yet, in spite of this there is still a bible that seems to directly convey and endorse these kind of methods for conversion. Where else would the phrase “repent or perish” be drawn from? Just some more food for thought.)