Gnawing Uncertainty

Take a moment to ponder something with me. We are all born into this existence without a template for why it is that we are even here. Religion, by nature, wants to provide that template, it goes out of its way to establish authority through other loyal humans that believe that they are carrying the torch of God.

Humans all over the world are carrying contradictory messages about this light. About God. About this grand narrative for why there is something rather than nothing at all.

If said God exists, He is lighting this torch for a very select few people, having not a whim of concern for the rest, or it is the people themselves that create this light. They create this narrative. They create this authority because we are otherwise left utterly and completely in the dark.

I think it is easier and less torcherous for people to claim some kind of unvalidated certainty via a chain of religious authority than it is to admit raw uncertainty. You know, the kind that gnaws at us when our set of expectations are unwarranted, unsatisfied, or both.

Which path reflects a higher honesty about the human predicament? That is for all of us to decide.

Skepticism. A World Of Good!

For anyone that is even partly familiar with my writings it is no secret that I am a skeptical person. Call it a gift or call it a curse, but I must say that the nature of my own doubt is doing me a world of good! Along with every virtue comes great sacrifice in my view.

To be skeptical with the intent of narrowing down the things in life that are true, to me, is one of the most honorable tasks a person can take on in life. It is the resolve to serve the truth, wherever, and I really do mean wherever it may lead.

It may involve breaking ties with the minds of some of our closest friends so as to demonstrate the importance of standing alone for the questions and doubts that are worthy of exploring. It may involve humbling ourselves before the alter of what we do not know and being willing to leave a previous system of beliefs behind as a way of suspending judgement and siding with new evidence or acknowledging the lack of critical evidences that should exist for the most weighty kinds of claims.

I view skepticism as a way of purging poor thinking. It seeks to play no favorites and the intent is not radical unbelief, rather, the intent is to promote clarity and truly reliable methods of critical thinking and evidence. To the surprise of some who don’t find value in being labeled as a skeptic, skepticism itself, properly executed, is the most open and honest investigation there is.

That is again just my personal opinion but it makes the most sense to me given my own human standpoint. It makes sense to not play favorites with extraordinary claims until they are satisfied with truly extraordinary evidences.

My life has a lot more to model in this regard. Stay tuned as I daily seek to be refined and challenged with life’s most important questions.

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Intelligible Universe?

Why is there something rather than nothing? Well, the short answer is that we simply don’t know. Was DNA either intelligently designed or slowly jumbled together via natural processes over the millennia?

Evidence seems to suggest that if there is intentionality, design, or purpose behind these things then it is certainly an almost unintelligible, gradual, and dare I say, extremely fragile process that often looks like a failed experiment. Life is a myriad of failed possibilities and experiments with only a small host of living things that exist at the peak of an ever changing evolutionary process.

What do I mean by failed possibilities? Only that life itself has already branched out into varying species and forms that quite simply didn’t make the cut. Our species, the human species, may just as well be a form of life that will die out completely only for another species to rise and have its own glory for a small time.

So where is it in this process that we discern the plan of God? How is it that something that seems so painstakingly unguided has anything to say about whether this is a universe with intelligible purpose behind it? I suppose it is still at least possible that a God would intentionally make a universe that scraps far more of its material than it likes to keep around, but how is it that one gains a meaningful syllable of special creation from this? I’m just not sure, it baffles me quite a lot, personally.

This universe has been anything but precise and intentional. Perhaps life itself has been amazingly resilient, I’ll give it that. What I mean is that once this universe gave rise to life, life has shown itself to live up to that ever famous quote from Jurassic Park. Do you know which one I’m talking about? Fine, I’ll tell you.

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That’s right my friends! Life, uh, just finds a way, even if it means that millions upon millions of species that came before us had to die out just so that we could arise for a tiny window of time to both observe and write about these things. Life has struggled, morphed, and found pretty much every conceivable loophole to keep itself replicating to this day. The only thing is that even for all of that hard earned resilience, this universe has been intricately designed for complete annihilation.

I use that word “designed” very loosely. I mean, think about it, is there anything that displays better unintentionality than this universe? All we really know is both cosmic and life evolution! Matter as we know it is ever transforming and being dictated by raw fluctuations of natural law. Natural law is simply a set of conditions that science indicates may actually vary greatly depending on how we want to talk about the big bang or even a chain of separate big bangs that all occur under differing sets of conditions.

So if we want to get into intelligent design, why is it that there are so many varying possibilities for what could actually be considered natural law? It doesn’t sound so set in stone to me. It sounds quite flexible and if I must be the one to break it to the world, random. Are we just a random blurb of one particular set of natural laws and conditions that just so happen to dictate how this, and only this universe works? Could an eventual heat death be at least a small hint that this universe is not perfectly, intelligently designed?

It is an interesting kind of purpose that creates conditions for one supernova to occur virtually every second. Oops, there goes another galaxy. For unguided evolution and climate change to essentially scrap well over ninety-nine percent of all species that came before us with no indication that humans are any more special within this paradigm. Is this really an ideal world to survive in? Gosh, with mass populations of people suffering at the hands of harsh drought, lack of food, bad weather, relentless disease and sickness, it tends to raise a bit of a red flag for me.

If this universe is designed, my humble opinion is that it was not designed with us in mind.

Unbelief Is Not Rebellion

Lately, I have had a renewed interest in criticizing some important aspects of Christian and Biblical teaching. My readers must understand that I was one who hung on the words of the Bible for many years. During that ten year stint of serious devotion, I actually had many moments of pause due to the rather extravagant claims that the Bible makes both in the Old and New Testaments.

 

Today I want to hone in once again on the Bible’s attitude toward those who stray away from faith in God. It is far from one that actually strives to respect personal differences. In both the Old and New Testaments unbelief is understood to be an act of rebellion. There are instances where rebellion is portrayed directly as it involved individuals that apparently witnessed the clear intervention of God into their lives, however, in many other places apart from a more direct experience of the presence of God, an attitude of unbelief itself is portrayed as both wicked and deceitful.

 

This is what I intend to contest because it really couldn’t be any further from the truth for many of us. Think about it, if Christians are mistaken about the fundamental factors that often contribute to unbelief then this is something rather significant to consider. Many, not all Christians, harbor a bias about what leads people into a path of sin, which in many cases is equated with unbelief. Sin itself is described as rebellious and even treasonous! This is not without a measure of gravity and the weight of this gravity is what looms within the minds of many people today.

 

It is hard to convince a Christian that the weight of their doctrinal claims in this regard is harmful to embrace as well as not ideal to execute. This is what creates the very mixed signals that unchurched people experience throughout the world. On one hand, Jesus is portrayed with open arms and unconditional love and mercy, on another hand, the teaching of sin and depravity is such that the wicked truly are disposable in this view. Hence, the whole idea that an eternal hell exists.

 

Repentance is considered a given, because in such a view, people are anything but interested in living a good and righteous life apart from God’s intervention. Is this valid? Now, to one that has been taught this from a very young age just imagine the factors that serve as a confirmation loop for this idea that people are tarnished with a sin disease. People everywhere throughout history have been warring over differences about what authority or sets of authorities one must answer to. It is very tribal. Very, unsympathetic.

 

To a level I can agree that human beings are very selfish, very territorial, racist, unforgiving, ignorant, afraid, and downright stupid. I just wonder if it may not have more to do with a thirst for tribal and political dominance? I just wonder if disease, suffering, famine, and utter desperation isn’t something that functions as an instigator for humans to do some rather unthinkable and unspeakable acts?

 

So it is that my challenge for the Christian status quo is to consider whether there is more at play? Perhaps a sinful nature is too basic, too broad brush, too condemning of those who simply think about and view reality differently. This divide between the righteous and the wicked is going to backfire and here is my prediction, this mentality will dampen as varying cultures enjoy more exposure to one another. The human elements that are at play within all religions will have to continually be brought into the light of acknowledgement.

 

1 Samuel 15:23

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
He also has rejected you from being king.

 

Psalm 14:1

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good.

 

Romans 11:20

Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear.

 

Hebrews 3:12

Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;

 

Revelation 21:8

But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Wisdom 101, Man vs. God

Wisdom and discernment. These two qualities are something that the Bible speaks quite fondly about. However, within the context it is mostly applied to God and his will for those who believe. As we zoom out and begin to consider the claims of all religions, this alleged wisdom becomes less clear, perhaps even less compelling. You see, if the wisdom of God does hold true, it holds true in a very selective manner as we shall soon see. It begs the question, where is such wisdom for the nonbeliever? For those who do not carry such expectations or assumptions about a particular God or set of beliefs?

A big part of this debate is about who has the better wisdom. The upper hand, so to speak. Theists truly believe that they have the wisdom of God on their side. This gives them, in their minds, a corner on the truth. This is only true, I think, if it can be viably demonstrated that God exists.

So how about we level out the playing field and agree on what wisdom looks like. I’ll put it into question format.

  1. What does anybody truly know within life? What is the extent of our capacity to judge or even be aware of these matters?

There appear to be a few different groups or schools of thought:

Some people really do think that God talks to them and reveals his will to them plainly in our modern day. Some believe it is more subjective, as it is within their heart or mind that God speaks and/or reveals.

Others believe in God but acknowledge that their own relational standpoint does not involve direct revelation. These folks are attempting to stand on the shoulders of the best minds within their religious tradition.

Others do not know with any measure of certainty what to think. They ask, do I be believe in God or not? It’s a toss up.

Others acknowledge that enough seems to remain open ended and contradictory within this conversation to conclude that it is rather likely that religion and belief in God is false. It doesn’t hold water. The amount of poor data creates skepticism and unbelief.

I think that a line can be drawn here and it is primarily with regard to the confidence that people in these groups hold about what they know. What we know, or even what we think we know, has a lot to do with how we perceive reality. Am I right?

The line that I personally draw is that since there seems to be only a very small fragment of people that believe that a God or gods are directly revealed in the world, and since many of these claims are contradictory by comparison, the chances are really very slim that anybody is actually right about what they think they are discerning or perceiving from God. This gives us reason to factor in delusion, error, hallucination, and just plain falsehood. It is because again, by comparison, these varying claims across the religious spectrum, when compared to one another are contradictory and unable to be resolved.

Either the true God or set of gods is very secretive and unconcerned about being clearly known to the vast majority of human beings, or these people are simply deceived within the world. I go with the latter view. It makes most sense of the data in my opinion.

If there was more unanimity among the varying religions about who God is and what his/her plans are, it would at least give more reason for pause, and even more reason for consideration.

Apart from immediate evidence and revelation I see no reason to favor any particular religion. This is what I’m really trying to hit home with my Christian and religious friends. If they know something that I don’t know, then they are part of a very privileged few. It means that an existing God is not interested in being known by everyone in a truly sensible and reasonable fashion.

Who has the burden of proof in the end, you ask? Those who exhibit confidence that God exists because my twofold answer is, I don’t know, and I just don’t think so at the moment. Many believers in God, especially in the second group that I mentioned above are with me in that they admit that they do not know. There is uncertainty, however, they personally do not see such a lack of knowledge and data as being threatening to their belief in God. I must contend that it is if one is concerned about how to establish what is true.

In my next post I plan to explore how much one’s personal assumptions and expectations shape their own perception of reality. Especially with regard to this notion of the voice of God. Don’t go away!

Not A Religion

Good morning, friends and fellow humans everywhere! I am genuinely wishing you guys good health and wellbeing. You guys have made it this far. You’ve still got breath in your lungs and your whole body is thanking you for a good dose of oxygen. That’s one thing that gives me purpose. The very fact that I exist.

Today I want to talk a little bit about what Atheism is not. I can be the first to admit to you that Atheism is not a popular answer. I have a hunch that the reason it doesn’t resonate so well within the world is not because it’s talking points don’t seem to carry some weight, but it’s talking points do not carry the same kind of implications that are found within religion. In other words, an Atheistic perspective is kind of the antithesis of a religious one.

Atheism is not a religion, therefore, it does not teach about worship because worship is most usually directed toward invisible, unverified deities. Sometimes people, and I suppose that an Atheist could choose to worship another human being if that is what he or she desires but many of us just choose not to bother because we see no reason to put others on that kind of pedestal.

Another distinguisher of Atheism is that it does not carry within it an unfounded set of expectations about whether or not there should be be an afterlife, a heaven and a hell, a preset narrative about good and evil and the list goes on. Religion does this. Religion by nature wants to provide an overarching narrative for what we can expect beyond the natural universe. Atheism is first concerned with whether there actually is anything to expect outside of the natural universe? We question this because this world and this life appears to be quite consistent and supernatural answers that are given within this world appear to be rather confused, mixed, and often times wrong or contradictory.

In short, if you read through many of my other posts you’ll notice that I often challenge my religious readers to 1) evaluate what they truly know in life, and 2) level out their expectations. To do so just may end up presenting a new lens through which to understand reality. It may strongly imply Atheism. It is not a convenient answer. We Atheist’s don’t exactly jump for joy at the prospect that this one life is quite likely all there is. We just want to be honest and less vulnerable to explanations that often bypass the need to meet their own burden of proof.

Faith And Self-Preservation

As a disclaimer this not a “nice” post but it is an honest criticism of what I see at the heart of the Christian message.

Let us start with the most well known verse in the New Testament, is it on the tip of your tongue just yet?

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).

Talk about a bargaining chip, am I right? The implication here is that everyone is a sinner, no exception, the very best human beings deserve justice in the form of death and likely, hell. Believe in Jesus, and you won’t perish!

Pop movie reference,

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Romans 6:23 famously states that, “the wages of sin is death,” and  “the gift of God is eternal life,” so on and so forth. Now, embrace the up and down motion of a verbal teeter totter.

Death, life, heaven, hell! Death, life, heaven, hell! Pay for your own mistakes or embrace a substitute to suffer in your place. “Gee, thanks Jesus, I’m gonna love you forever and ever and…” I’m imagining the overly repetitive and annoying voice of Patrick from the well known Spongebob series.

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My friends and fellow comrades let us not be naïve here. What form of justice places the sins of the guilty upon an innocent? Sure, it’s a nice gesture, if voluntary, but at the same time pretty lousy justice. Not to mention that this is said to be God’s solution! Wow, almighty God came up with that one?

Allow me to adjust the lens to give you guys a broader picture for a moment. In this scenario God hates sin so much that whether you think about that cute person lustfully or kill someone in cold blood, both are equally deserving of death and hell. Whether you lie to your loved ones about who stole the last candy bar in their secret stash, or whether you physically abuse a child, the same verdict stands. You deserve death and hell. I suppose the only caveat is that the lusting candy bar stealers won’t be punished as severely as the cold-blooded murderers and child abusers. Fair enough, right? The punishment is still forever but justice has now been satisfied.

Is anyone else sensing the disparity here?

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Also, I don’t really like being the mean guy but if someone is trying to make the sale with me, I’m going to think about their motives. I’m going to think about what weaknesses they may want to exploit within me to get that deal closed and my apparent need satisfied.

You see, Christianity wants us to bite. We each have an impending death that is drawing ever closer. We each probably have some regrets about how we’ve made mistakes, hurt other people, and have struggled to find amends at times. Jesus comes along and claims to wipe the slate clean as well as grant us life everlasting. I call this the ultimate appeal to one’s own desire for self-preservation.

Oh, and there is still a cost my friends. There is always a price to pay because the reverse form of this wager is that we may have wasted the one life we know we have enslaved to a system of thinking that just isn’t all that helpful in the end.

To which side shall we favor a better outcome? 1) Conform to a sketched out scenario narrated by one of out of thousands of other holy books, or 2) Think for yourself! Period.

Do not be ruled by fear but instead bravely evaluate everything thoughtfully and even be willing to challenge the status quo. For your own conscience sake, think about it! Evaluate what you really know in life, level out your playing field, and think about it.

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My Idea Of A Good Atheist

For many people the words “good” and “Atheist” don’t seem to fit together very well. Some view folks in the Atheist movement as being angry and kind of nihilistic, and frankly, some are! Others harbor distrust because let’s be honest many people who are Atheists were once very dedicated Christians, Muslims, or Jews.

I fall within a previously Christian category and I get the impression that some people are still quite perplexed as to why I have separated myself so clearly away from faith in Jesus. After all, for so many others Jesus seems to be, well, the perfect savior. Why go any further when the New Testament seems to pour with authenticity, power, and love?

Rather than giving my traditional reasons for why I no longer accept Christianity as a viable option for myself, I want to simply express where I see myself going from here. In other words, I want to give my own take on what authentic Atheism should look like. Also, in my view Atheism is secondary from desiring to first and foremost be one who loves and seeks out truth within this world.

To give you guys a nutshell, I think there are three important ways to be a good Atheist.

1) A good Atheist knows when to pick his or her battles. The further I go along this path the less I need or even desire to be dogmatic or forceful with my position. It is far more important to just ask the right questions. This is not to say that I don’t desire the debate. I desire the debate because I personally find it to be very helpful. It helps me articulate my thoughts and there is something honorable to me about having good minds that disagree engage in the struggle to exemplify the very best ideas. Purity within one’s reasoning is something I find highly desirable and attractive.

2) A good Atheist is driven to define morality fairly and live it out practically. I mean, here we are as a segment of people within the world that do not extract morality as being the authority and inspiration of a God or gods. This is the key contention, an Atheist concludes that there is a void in the place of traditional Theism.

We are the one’s who honestly do not find God in the world. It could be because an existing God does not reveal himself in our lives, but in terms of viability we think it is safe to say that gods are absent and quite likely nonexistent. This is the best our combined powers of observation and the arguments within the world religions appear to afford us. So if you want to know where I draw my morality from, I base it out of a simple principle to be honest and objective with how I approach all of life’s burning questions.

Is the endeavor of morality futile without God? Well, if you are convinced that morality must stem from an immaterial divine being, then yes, upon that definition morality is futile without that being hovering over our existence. If, however, you become convinced that an immaterial divine being is not evident or forthcoming, then morality is our creation. It is our creation that begins from assessing the positive and negative aspects of our actions. The need for empathy becomes very strong in this view. To be immoral is to lack the basic components for empathy that most people express quite naturally. I’m even willing to concede that for some people life is utterly meaningless. Some people, unfortunately are broken units in terms of possessing good judgement and concern with regard to the wellbeing of others. They become the definers of psychopathy and sociopathy.

What we should acknowledge in the end is that such attitudes are not the norm. They are the exception and what I am far less skeptical about now is the ability of the vast majority of our race to both exemplify and strive for empathy and compassion. Yes, it takes work. No one is claiming to live out a perfect utopia that we can all but entertain and imagine. By the way, many of us imagine it quite differently.

3) A good Atheist is not someone that does not want to acknowledge that a God exists at all costs. We are willing to concede this point if we find viable ways to do so. The contention, at least for any good thinker, is how to establish these basic arguments.

What Do You Perceive?

Picture this. The way you think, perceive, and believe is a lot more manufactured than you’d probably like to imagine. This is true for you as well as for me. Whether we like it or not, we are the products of our own environments. I don’t have to be an Anthropologist to make that judgement.

If you are beginning your search for the truth with the impression that you are a part of some kind of cosmic warfare that favors the destruction of your soul, do you think that may breed just a hint of a prejudice in your mind about how to assess the facts? You see, this is why I am going to challenge my Christian friends to deeply question whether their perspective is in line with reality.

As an Atheist this is actually what I strive to do daily. I don’t tell myself dogmatically that I must always conclude that there is no God. As I attempt to run the problem through my mind I have been concluding this for the last year and seven months. It does not negate, however, that my perception of reality could evolve differently as time presses on.

Rather than marrying myself to a religion or a particular ideology, I instead would like to find a principled approach that finds joy within the investigation. I am quite humbled by how little I know, or even how little anybody seems to really know within life.

At certain points our lack of knowledge becomes a crisis, especially if our expectations are in need of some fine-tuning. At other points it incites a sense of awe as we consider the elegance and vastness of our universe. One thing is for sure though, to recognize what we lack is a great motivator to press forward and make mind blowing discoveries within the actual world.