What Do You Expect?

When we think about our beliefs we are also by default dealing with our own personal sets of expectations. When we think about what we do not believe we are also expressing where there is a lack of expectation. This lack of expectation, especially when it relates to our knowledge, is one that grows and matures over time.

Belief and expectation do not always align very well and the same can be said about a mentality that lacks belief. It can be especially grueling to depart from a previous system of beliefs. Especially when our personal expectations have been left dissatisfied and perhaps even offended in a very clear sense.

To come to the conclusion that we were wrong about something that seemed so rewarding and so right, well, it’s a natural let down. It calls for a period of adjustment and personal growth. This is what my blog has been picking up from. For my departure from faith was admittedly quite emotionally and mentally taxing.

It is the outcome of that process, however, that I am quite happy to announce was worth the struggle. This is true even if I ultimately find myself having restored belief in God in the undetermined future. As a thinking and reasoning person there is nothing more liberating than taking charge of our logic and resolving to be convinced by the best evidences and skeptical toward poor systems of discernment.

This of course does not absolve me or anyone of the challenge to deeply evaluate my choices and what the ensuing consequences may be in terms of the knowledge that I can gain in life. I don’t think I’m capable of ever leaving the conversation about religion alone because it will either bring me to be a stronger and more well rounded skeptic due to my present concerns, or I will find myself at another place to graduate into if I acquire good intel about the reliability of a set of religious claims.

To sum this all up for my friends and readers, think for yourselves, embrace the struggle, and love the truth no matter how much or how little of it can actually be acquired within this life!

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Divorce From Reason

I by no means consider myself a scholar but I am on a deep personal quest. It is one that I think about, research, and reflect on pretty much daily. What my blog is, is an open book to the world about how I’ve been thinking for the last couple of years. However flawed it may be in some cases. I don’t claim to always make perfect arguments for my positions.

With all of that being said, I still enjoy taking a stab at important issues. I’m very interested in how to continually refine my own approach toward seeking and acknowledging the things that are true in life. I have just a few thoughts on what divorcing oneself from a reasoning mindset looks like.

I personally view the process of reasoning as a desire to, 1) reflect honesty about what can be known about a claim and, 2) find either a solution or acknowledge the lack of one for a problem within that claim. So it is that one of the top things that I now criticize is the notion of having faith or confidence in the existence of gods.

At the most basic level, with regard to this issue, I really wouldn’t be having this conversation with people if the existence of God was something that was clearly established within reality. The process of reason must beg the question, which God are we even talking about here? There are quite literally thousands, perhaps millions of different conceptions of what a god is. The answer here is far from being cohesive if we want our approach to reflect what can be known from a human vantage point. Well, if we are beginning from a human vantage point then it must be acknowledged that humans do not see eye to eye. Humans across the span of history and into our modern day harbor contradictory conceptions of how to define and describe the simple question, “who or what is god?”

In my mind a lack of unanimity about a claim that is unable to acquire a method or principle that serves to narrow down upon the problem is what then breeds confusion. A rather justified type of confusion. I often ask those who believe in a God, “is it in any way important to know what is behind the veil of what you believe?” Is it important to provide clear evidences for a source? If not, then the former confusion and unresolve remains justified to acknowledge.

I can’t stress enough that the higher the weight that a claim carries, the more in proportion such a claim should be with what can be understood as reality. The concept of God, angels, and even souls, by definition is one that stresses the invisibility and immateriality of these entities. To that I often respond, “how convenient.” In other words, we have no reliable means to introduce God to people from a human vantage point. At least, not in a way that is meaningful, clear, and undisputed.

The way that religion wiggles around this issue is by introducing a new process for the mind. That process does not involve valuing hard evidence for the existence of God. Instead what it advances is faith. One must trust or express confidence toward a particular God or set of texts but it happens not by unveiling the deity clearly, instead, it happens by picking a holy book and adhering to a teaching of inspiration and authority. In other words, whatever holy set of texts is chosen is accepted to have somehow been inspired by a God or gods.

This formula for inspiration and authority is advocated by a wide host of religions that clearly disagree with and contradict one another. From a human vantage point it seems to me that the most likely factors that bring people to lean in toward a specific religion are one’s immediate upbringing and cultural context. The context of immediate family, friends, and the common strains of belief that are found within that region of the world. It would seem that the deep bonds that people make with one another in their varying religious communities are often what help dictate and nurture continued belief. To be fair this also is true for those who don’t believe or happen to live in a more skeptical culture.

Anyone and everyone inherits the lenses through which our most valued human teachers, family, and friends see the world. The next part of this process involves evaluating for our own selves the strength of the beliefs and biases we were raised to have. Modern Apologists for Christianity, as an example, try to take an approach that serves to magnify the reliability of the Biblical texts. It strives to build a case in which one’s confidence can be completely satisfied within the narrative itself. Whereas miracles do not appear to be substantiated in our modern day, the basic principle that is drawn from the text is that, “with God all things are possible.”

Certainly if there does exist a God that is immensely powerful and knowledgeable, then I concede that suspending the laws of nature is probably not a difficult task for such a being. The problem comes in when we ask ourselves, “what clear evidences exist today for me to confidently advance that such a God even exists?” You see, the other side of this scenario demonstrates to us the behavior of religion. The behavior of religion is such that belief in miracles and the supernatural are needed in order to establish special authority.

Not only is the resurrection story one that is supposed to incite awe and wonder, it doesn’t stop there, and any good miracle account never does. What happens here is that a believing sect uses an extraordinary miracle claim to advance both its popularity and authority within the world. A rather basic component within religion is that once people buy into its set of authoritative claims then it serves to establish a greater community of like minded people with a similar mission and way of life. Well, just think about it my friends, this is what humans do! Not only religiously but politically and culturally.

Humans have always striven to establish religious and political movements that advance a new way of life. Not all of it is driven by bad intentions either. We do this with even our most noble goals and intentions. We want people to conform to good beliefs. I want people to conform to good beliefs. They don’t have to mimic my thoughts to a tee but I truly do desire to influence a movement of good behavior within the world. I love people and the last thing I want to see is a world situation that keeps getting worse because I didn’t try to play a small part in eliminating racism, unjustified violence and hatred, greed, and ideological ignorance, to name a few.

My contention within this whole discussion about religion and faith is that religion is somehow satisfied with promoting an open ended position, one that fails to close the gap for modern truth seekers with clear and undisputed evidences for the claims that it wants to advance. What this does as a default is that it provides no meaningful method, from a human vantage point, to discern which religion is the true religion. So, what are the implications of just picking a religion and contenting oneself with it? The implication here is that when people do this, when they simply take a leap of faith, they are clearly doing this without good justification. It is done wearing an intellectual blindfold.

It becomes a decision that is made out of a built up confidence for past narratives that do no justice to provide a guiding principle for the modern truth seeker. What may have been great for inciting belief in God within a past religious narrative is not even close to being as effective within a modern investigation of these things. A modern investigation that acknowledges the vast unresolve and contradiction that exists within the world religions is one that will need our beliefs to be in proportion to the evidence. If our modern scenario does not favor supernatural phenomena because science has a more reliable means of concluding that such things remain unsubstantiated in the world, then our biases really ought to favor that reality.

We favor that reality because this is where the consistency is found. Once supernatural miracle claims can establish consistency and authenticity within the world then there will be good justification to change our tune. As much as a religious position will cry foul here, it does this without good justification in the present. We can’t just drudge up a host of miracle claims from the past and somehow expect them to carry a higher weight over the modern data that suggests a clear absence of reliable proof. It is when we do this that we divorce ourselves from good reason and evidence.

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The Chasm Between Belief And Unbelief

As an extension to my previous post, Unbelief Is Not Rebellion, I want to get into a few things that tend to widen this chasm between belief and unbelief. You see, smack dab in the middle of this debate is this idea of delusion. Are the believers in God deluded, or are those who claim utter disbelief deluded?

There appear to be factors from both sides of this equation that propel us toward our particular biases. I’m fine with admitting that I’m biased, my contention of course is that my bias tends to side more with the actual human scenario.

I desire to start from the ground up. This search for what is true necessarily is grounded from a human vantage point. We don’t begin this search by descending with awareness and knowledge from the heavens, I’ll call it, “the God memo.” No, for that religion attempts to add an extra step of a said God’s top-down authority over our lives.

We are admonished to just trust that this is so. We just need to believe that this inspired set of texts matches some kind of internal wiring that we have to recognize the heavenly voice. Well, if we want evidence for how unreliable that scenario is we need to look no further than the mass variety and contradiction that exists among competing religious claims.

This is good reason from a human vantage point to question the authority of religion. Yes, any and every religion. It is fueled not by conscious rebellion but by a sincere drive to narrow down upon the things that are true. We skeptics don’t always mind wearing the badge of rebellion because we know who we are actually rebelling against. We are rebelling against other humans that know just as much or as little as we do about whether a God exists. We have drawn the card that says, “cut the bullshit man, neither of us has a corner on the truth here. I’m just admitting that faith is far more comfortable with authority than it is with hard evidence.”

There is good reason to raise a red flag up to poorly supported authority. It’s because we want to be brutally honest about what can be known by anyone with regard to these matters. Divine claims, by nature, give a handful of people throughout history a privileged vantage point. Well, my contention is that if a God or gods truly desires my vote, then every human ought to be given an equal vantage point to discern whether such things hold true in the world. If not, we are simply left in the dark by default.

Enough of this talk about the handiwork of God being displayed by the things that are made. We haven’t discovered a moon yet with a line of craters that spells out, made by Yahweh, in hebrew. We haven’t discovered a principle yet that guarantees that universes must spawn from an intelligent source. The source of a universe could just as well be nothing. You know, the same source that is cited for a far more complex entity, that entity being an eternal mind that somehow possesses all power and knowledge that could ever be attained. At least big bang cosmology leads back to a singularity.

God, we just expect is beyond time and space. As if anyone even knows what that means? What if this universe is instead a neutral seeding ground that leads to the advancement of civilizations that become basically indistinguishable from how God is defined? Once science takes off there’s no telling how far it can go. Could it be that men become like God?

It is this kind of statement that tends to reinforce prejudice because, well, I guess the more pious position is to worship what we do not know.