The Diary Of A Truth Seeker

We all make mistakes. When it comes to our beliefs, what makes it especially difficult to change them is our sense of deep kinship with family, friends, and our greater communities. Like it or not, there are often consequences attached to our beliefs.

These consequences stem from a long history of social interactions, and yes, social conditioning. There are many communities and families where it is simply socially unacceptable to be skeptical about religion! This is the truth. I am speaking on behalf of millions of people right now.

A truth seeker has a choice. We can suppress our doubts and search for the truth in secret. I happen to think that there are a vast number of religious people all over the world that feel and live this way. Thank you Internet for becoming so widely accessible!

Another option is that we can be honest about our questions and doubts with everyone we know. This has highly varied outcomes and consequences. It can range on the world spectrum of being put to death for blasphemy all way to a softer form of social rejection from our closest friends and family. Thankfully, I live in a country that highly values diversity of thought and even many of my friends and family have been accepting of my decision to no longer believe in the Christian faith.

It’s been a mixture of responses toward me personally. It has helped me learn who my closest and truest friends really are. Thankfully, many of them are still Christians. Yes, with as much as I question and criticize Christianity I still have Christian friends, and I still love them to death!

It’s a complicated line to walk sometimes but in the end I hope that everyone who knows me understands that I am deeply interested in finding out the things that are true. If we think about our search for true things as being like a dude with a huge machete trying to chop through the brush, that’s me. I have my machete in hand and I’m attempting to work through many of life’s deepest questions.

Sometimes we realize that we’ve chopped our way to a dead end, well, the attitude of one navigating through the thick jungle and the attitude of a truth seeker is just the same. If we need to turn around and find another pathway, then dammit, that’s what has to be done! In the arena of our beliefs and our doubts it could well turn into a rather interesting progression over a lifetime.

I cannot guarantee that I will always be an Atheist, though, I also cannot equally guarantee that I will someday come back into a belief in God. The future for me and many of my fellow truth seekers is simply undetermined. This also makes the pursuit just a little more savory and exciting!

Did you want to know the third option? The third option is to basically not care about what is true. It is a passive, lazy, and rather pathetic path to take. I don’t have much respect for the guy who throws in the towel. Not when it comes to treasuring and valuing what is true.

I would point such a person to Science! Be it Science, Mathematics, Philosophy, and learning from the vast conversation about Religion all throughout the world. It’s worth our time, our energy, and our very lives!

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Hell: A Failed Form Of Justice

As a recap here is a list of my main criticisms toward cultivating belief in the concepts of God and hell, as presented by many conservative Evangelicals. My disclaimer here is that not all conservative Evangelicals agree with what I am saying in this post. It appears, however, that there are segments that do.

With that said, a failure to intersect claims about hell, God, souls, etc.., into our present reality is a failure to speak from a legitimate position of concern. This is regardless of how serious hell may seem to the Christian.

It puts these claims into a knowledge category that is admittedly conceptual even within the lives of most Christians. An inability to demonstrate the truth of these claims leaves them on par with all other religious claims out there! There is no reason to give any more credence to Christianity than any other set of faith-based claims.

What this means is that reliable forms of knowledge and evidence are not forthcoming for the Christian. They would do well to consider whether it is time to suspend judgement about whether there is actually a God on the other side of this equation?

Whereas the Bible appears to teach that people knowingly suppress their knowledge of God, specifically the Bible’s God, our world situation is such that a myriad of external factors appear to influence the minds of people to believe and value vastly different religious and philosophical ideas. One’s immediate family, culture, and region of the world plays a large role in this process.

This would seem to speak against some kind of internal awareness of the Bible’s God. People do not knowingly suppress information that they do not possess. They embrace the ideas and beliefs that they were raised with and exposed to in their immediate context.

This should bring into question whether it is justified for the Bible to hold a position that condemns all people who do not believe in Jesus as their Savior. Since many Christians themselves do not profess firsthand knowledge of God, this should also give credence to the fact that humans do not suppress the truth, or knowledge of God, in their unrighteousness.

On a final note what does either an eternal or temporal hell do to resolve the problem of human suffering? It seems to me that the traditional view of hell, a place of eternal conscious torment, would serve to magnify the problem of human suffering to its highest degree.

Not only would this world have been a place with an immense amount of unwarranted human suffering, but the prospect of unending hell would be a purposeful intention, on the part of God, to never put an end to the worst possible suffering. It is safe to say that anyone who believes in a literal eternal hell is giving credence to the idea that suffering must find no solution or resolve, ever.

A temporal hell doesn’t fare much better in the sense that salvation through Jesus alone is going to fill up hell with the vast majority of humans that have ever existed. It will have been a purposeful plan, on the part of God, to extinguish a vast majority of people that He has created. Simply to make a statement about a way of salvation that He chose to implement.

Neither predicament appears to be conducive to saving and restoring humanity meaningfully. Sure, maybe for a select few who believed in Jesus, but certainly not for the majority, or even for our race as a whole.

As one who has read through the Bible firsthand, I have to unfortunately agree with the interpretation of many of these passages. It becomes a very selective view of redemption served on a plate of extreme condemnation. A form of punishment that intends to never let up or even consider creating a path toward the restoration of sinners.

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Hell: A Failed Hypothesis

I’ve recently just read up on the equivocation fallacy and now I am wondering if there is not some kind of fallacy with regard to why many conservative Evangelicals believe that anyone who does not believe in Jesus is going to hell? An often cited justification for this position is a passage in Romans 1 that essentially teaches that wicked people, anyone not trusting in Jesus, suppress their knowledge about God in their unrighteousness.

In such a view humans are left without excuse because what can be known about God has been shown to them. Even His eternal power and godhead. The clear implication here is that people naturally turn away from the God they somehow know about. They knowingly go after false gods, false religion, false ideologies and their goal is to worship sin and to remain unaccountable to the one true God.

There’s just one problem here. We, as human beings, are all born into this one world. A very, very diverse world, mind you. Within this one world, especially depending upon one’s own region and culture, religion is vastly different. What is considered sacred, holy, and true is totally different and varied depending upon where we are born.

So, what we have are hundreds and hundreds of competing religions, many of which claim to be exclusively true, and they are all vying to be treasured within our minds and our lives. If the majority of human beings do not claim to have special revelation and knowledge from God, then what justifies the notion that human beings deserve hell due to external factors that prohibited them from believing in the “true” religion?

For Christians, the Bible is the only source in this world that tells them, “Salvation is exclusive to those who believe. Period.” Well, considering that this is a very diverse world, and considering what can actually be known from a human vantage point, there are countless other theories about salvation, about God, about truth, and about whether or not one or more gods even exist!

It all comes down to this notion of special knowledge. Do Bible believing Christians truly have special knowledge and authority from which to discern the ultimate fate of the human race? Considering the arguments in my previous post, I think the most sensible answer is, no. Christians do not have such knowledge.

From what so many admittedly confess with regard to their lack of knowledge about God’s existence, I think a case can be made that human beings do not have some kind of internal knowledge about the true God that they actively suppress. Only one source is saying this while all other evidence about how people gather knowledge seems to point strongly to the contrary.

While the Bible as a whole may have many verses that teach that Jesus is the only way, we live in a world that contains a vast amount of counter examples both within and outside of other religions. If the vast majority of humans that exist don’t have special, immediate knowledge of God, this is reason to rethink our source of authority when it comes to judging our worldwide fate.

Why should we think that anyone has a corner on the truth? It makes the doctrine about hell less believable because this teaching fails to account for the world predicament we find ourselves in.

It appears that I am turning this into a series of blog posts, so, stick around as I still have more to say about why belief in God and hell is truly problematic with regard to what people know. Human knowledge and human suffering appear to be two big problems that find no resolve within the framework of many conservative Christians.

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The Problem Of Hell

Justice is important, am I right? If you’re like me you’ve got some convictions about it. Disregarding for now where we should find our foundation for justice, I think it is time that I revisit the problem of hell. The hell I am speaking of is the hell that most Christians believe that the Bible teaches about. There are a few interesting takes on hell that can be found across the spectrum of Christianity. I’m going to briefly mention two primary views that are taught by many conservative Evangelicals.

1) The traditional view of hell. This is commonly viewed as the place of eternal conscious torment for the wicked.

2) The Annihilationist view of hell. In this view hell is not understood as an eternal holding place but nonetheless will involve torment and punishment until such a time that God decides to annihilate or erase the wicked forever.

Who is going to go to hell in the minds of those who hold to Biblical Inerrancy? In short, most unflinchingly (okay, sometimes flinchingly,) teach that anyone who does not believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior will be condemned. There is a ton of support for this found within the Gospels, especially the book of John. Much more is provided within the writings of Paul, 1,2, and 3 John, and the book of Revelation.

I don’t intend to get too specific here because what I first want to appeal to is not what these Christians think and believe about hell, I want to appeal to their personal sense of certainty about whether or not this God even exists? That’s right, I’m going straight for the gold here. I’m doing this because I want to hear honest answers from these people about whether they can speak about God from a position of viable certainty?

What this means is that we are wiping out ambiguity. Forget about how deeply connected these folks may feel toward the concept of God and Jesus. What do they really know right now with regard to the verifiable existence of God? Do they know what or who they neither see or hear from in any tangible way? If these men and women are predominantly approaching these claims on pure faith, and faith alone, then in my opinion they’ve got a pretty vast knowledge crisis on their hands.

You see, a failure to intersect claims about hell, God, souls, etc.., into our present reality is a failure to speak from a legitimate position of concern. Now, we all know that Christians are concerned about hell, but what I am highlighting here is that their concerns are presently unjustified and they exist only as conceptual ideas within the world. The problem with that is a vast amount of religious competition that intends to teach about different gods, different hells, different, well, everything! In terms of what many Christians honestly and admittedly do not know firsthand about their own beliefs, in a roundabout logical way, there is no reason to give any more credence to Christianity than any other faith-based religious claim.

The reason I make this case is because I want these Christians to understand their human standpoint. That is, what side their alleged knowledge about God actually stems from? If they have neither seen or heard from this God firsthand and they are ONLY trusting in the authority of others within their tradition, their predicament is such that knowledge and evidence is not on their side! They would do well to consider whether it is time to suspend judgement about whether there is actually a God on the other side of this equation?

It’s a lot to ask, but nonetheless relevant if this group of Christians is serious about upholding their set of truth claims? Faith truly is not enough to drill down upon the veracity and truth of a claim. Especially claims that are no longer testable or falsifiable in nature.

This is problem number one when talking about the existence of God and hell. Problem number two in my next post will involve an Atheistic criticism of whether the teaching of hell actually conveys a meaningful form of justice? Is it possible that this teaching is so flawed that this sense of cosmic justice is actually quite problematic in terms of reconciling human knowledge and human suffering within this paradigm? Stay tuned, as I have a few more important criticisms to wage against the Christian conception of ultimate justice.

Don’t Waste Your Time!

 

If you are someone who believes in God simply because you were raised that way, my encouragement to you is to stop wasting your time. If you are someone who believes in God because you find the stories in your Bible or holy book to be pretty exciting and hopeful, my advice to you is to quit wasting your time. If you are someone who feels deeply emotionally connected to the message of your religion, I want to highly encourage you to tweak that sentiment into a vast hunger and passion to find out the truth, if it is the last thing you do!

You see, for whatever reason, one’s devotion and value that they attach to their faith is quite often not reflective of what they truly know in this world. I myself interacted and lived among a community of deeply devoted Christians for about ten years of my life and the thing that I find fascinating to this day is that I could discern that the vast majority of these people, probably all of them, did not have a viable knowledge that God does in fact exist. I met many people who were very much convinced by their own set of subjective experiences that God exists, at one time I was able to include myself in this group, but over time I came to realize that what I felt was the presence of God, and what many others feel is the presence of God, was a form of self-deception.

For a conservative Christian to read this, it probably sounds terribly insulting! After all, faith in God is a very personal thing to question. Why should I try to convince you otherwise? What is my agenda? Well, if you read enough of what I write on this blog you’ll see that I am highly concerned about how to talk about what is true. I want to know what is fact from fiction, and I approach this with a vast amount of seriousness and care.

When I say to not waste your time, what I mean is that in your own pursuit of the truth you really ought to strive to live by and only acknowledge what you know. So, what first needs to be done is an evaluation on your part that asks if there aren’t other viable explanations for what convinces you that your faith is real? For instance: What ought to take priority in evaluating whether God is real? Your own subjective feelings and sense of comfort that God is with you, or, clear evidences that can be acknowledged by anyone investigating the question?

I think anyone in their right mind is going to go with option number two. Option number one, after all, is quite risky. It is often a failure to recognize that sincere people that believe in a different God or religion also very much have this sense of certainty that Allah, or various gods within the Hindu religion are with them and affirming for them the sacred truths. Whatever this sense of divinity is, we need to make sure that it is not potentially a form of self-deception. So, in your search for what is true you would do well to stick with solid arguments and data that can be recognized by people across the board.

With that in place, whether you personally feel that you have a connection with God or not, you should now ask yourself honestly and sincerely: How can I know that I am correct? Ask yourself this for the sake of the context that you were raised in. Is belief in the existence of God valid simply because your family believes in such and such a religion? Simply because your church does? Or because in your region of the world Christianity, Islam, or some other religion is the primary belief system?

For the sake of getting at the root of what is true my hope is that many of you are seeing why it is important to begin this investigation? Ask yourself what reliable knowledge is? Is it selective and secretive, or is it plain and able to be grasped by all who sincerely want to know? What cannot be ignored here is that regardless of what religion we believe in, regardless of what region of the world we come from, we are all human beings that find ourselves in very different situations all throughout the world. We must take into account what humans have been experiencing and learning all throughout history as well as all over the world today. If we are not informed by the greater picture of what is going on, well, we will remain uninformed about how to discern what is fact from fiction.

Unfalsifiable God?

Did you know that there are a myriad of things I cannot disprove to you? For instance: I cannot disprove that I am not sitting in the middle of a vast crowd of invisible elves, or that there is not a large undetectable whale hovering above my head at all times!

There is simply no viable method available to completely rule out these possibilities. That being said, should I believe it? Is there anything at all that can tip the scales so that my personal sense of certainty is skyhigh about the ghost of Moby Dick always floating around me?

Well, I would say that the only thing that could or would necessitate that belief is to find some means to identify and detect the ghost of Moby Dick. This is logical and this is very basic with regard to how my belief in that could, would, or ever should be justified.

Alright, so, why beat around the bush any longer? I think that plain straightforward reasoning would have us apply this same kind of principle to the question of God. The question isn’t whether there is a slight chance that a God exists, the question is whether there is anything to justify belief in God in the present?

To that question I have concluded that there is about as much likelihood for God’s existence as there is for the ghost of Moby Dick always being present with me. What this means is that I have found nothing in these past two years to reel me back into a firm belief that God exists. The unfalsifiable nature of this claim is actually what has launched me into applying skepticism toward my former faith.

Anyone who wants to rest on the authority of their religious tradition alone is by default playing favorites without good justification. I’m a broken record about this, but I must insist that logically this is the case. It all comes down to one’s personal psychology and desire. Faith is far more about desire than it is about honesty.

All of the greatest religions have formulated their own set of authoritative claims, none of them provide compelling evidence for their claims, and as a default belief boils down to whatever one personally wants out of a religion. Whatever essentially trips your spiritual trigger.

This is why my challenge toward a mentality of faith is to stop playing favorites and start asking what serves to presently justify belief in God or any particular religion? If you wouldn’t believe in the ghost of Moby Dick always hovering above you, then why is it that you believe in God?

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Who Are You?

Who are you as you sit there reading these words? If you’re like me, you’re probably asking yourself who you are almost every minute of every day! It is truly an all consuming question for me, and what I recognize is that it has a lot to do with our own psychology as an individual.

Other folks are far less introspective and they would rather be focused on a task of some kind. You’ve got your doers and you’ve got your dreamers. I am an all out dreamer. My imagination is my best and worst friend.

To describe for you the essence of who I am, I have a self-placed calling or duty to leave a legacy behind. I will have wasted my life if I have not at least tried to apply all of my energy toward thinking about life’s deepest questions. I have a burning desire to evaluate the things that are true.

My service to what I perceive to be the truth is to be as honest and raw as possible about it. Right now this involves questioning religion skeptically but rest assured my goal is to arrive at the truth. Whatever I can take to the bank and cash in on is what I want to pass on to my fellow truth seekers.

We deserve well thought out answers. We deserve the truth if it is the last thing we do! I mean, this is at the heart of seeking justice and dispelling myths. This is at the heart of highly valuing honesty. The expense is that taking positions about religion, philosophy, and science can cost friendships. As unfortunate as this may sound, people are terribly torn and divided with regard to what the truth even is in many respects.

Another necessary task that I must pursue in life is the path of compassion. I yearn to lead others in creating a movement of compassion and empathy throughout the world. I don’t care what your creed is, what your race is, what your personal IQ is, my concern is about leaving this world better than how I found it.

I am angry at the exploitation of women and children. I am angry at racism and radical forms of religion and philosophy that promote violence and terror. I think that at the heart of crime and chaos is a terrible dysfunction within how many people understand and have a capacity for empathy. To not have an inclination to treat others with empathy is to essentially be within a spectrum of people that are truly insane in some form or another.

Now, it may be controversial to say that some people are just inclined toward violence and insanity, but a principle of accountability still applies regardless of whether people are just badly wired. There’s enough of us that know the value of not acting on every inclination that arises to essentially create an atmosphere of safety for the majority.

With all of that being said, I would probably be the guy willing to risk my life to reform the mind of a mass murderer. It would certainly be a very complicated relationship, but I would befriend an enemy and strive to leave a legacy even in that scenario. I wouldn’t in any way justify the heinous acts of such a man or woman, but I would perhaps in the rarest type of situation be willing to sacrifice my own life through demonstrating the value of nonviolence and compassion. It would be a statement.

So, again I ask, who are you as you sit there and read these words? To daily spend time thinking about that, is in my opinion, extremely valuable! As a natural outcome you’ll just know what to say and do in many kinds of situations by endeavoring to be thoughtful and well prepared.

You Call That A Relationship?

Tangibility, interaction, communicability, these are all things that we ascribe to having viable relationships with other people and living things, right? We are beings that really only know how to have physically tangible relationships that are based upon an understanding of a physical kind.

All of the social technology that has been produced, such as the Internet and our Smartphones, is simply providing a medium to still have a physical transmission of information between living beings. It seems to me that the hallmark of calling something a relationship is to know with a great measure of certainty that we are interacting with other living beings within reality.

Can we apply this kind of principled understanding of relationality to God? Is there something going on between undetectable invisible beings and human beings? My most honest top-tier answer is that I simply do not know. If something truly tangible and relational is going on between a God and other human beings, I feel as if I’m just not in the loop. I have no way of discerning in the present whether the Bible’s God actually exists and interacts within my reality.

I say this after ten previous years of being convinced otherwise, but what convinced me in the past is something I have realized is entirely unhelpful within a quest for tangible knowledge and data that can be gleaned about this. I want to speak from a place of confidence and my confidence, I have learned, ought to be in proportion to what I can know with a great measure of certainty. I view this as a place to focus one’s integrity when speaking about matters of religion.

Pressing forward and insisting that Jesus is God without tangible access to a kind of relationship that we otherwise enjoy with other living beings, it seems to me, is not something that can be done with viable knowledge on our side. Those interested in the truth really ought to seek viability with regard to their most cherished faith claims.

Are we talking about a relationship with God that is real, discernable, and able to stand the test of scrutiny? What happens when we fail to find ways to demonstrate the source of a claim? Quite literally what occurs is what I describe as psychological blindness. If we lose the capacity to connect an idea with the actual world then we are left ever speculating and guessing. Does this reflect purity of truth? Does this give us reason to rest upon the claims of a particular religion? I think not.

As uncomfortable as restless uncertainty may be with regard to the question of God, it may actually be the most appropriate response in light of the human struggle to connect spiritual claims with reality.

Addressing The Stigma

There is still very much a stigma about Atheism within America. It stems from not being well understood because when we think about the nature of belief, in the mind of a devoted Christian or Muslim, there is really nothing more noble than the endeavor of honoring and serving God.

To detach oneself from a devotional mindset is nearly impossible, it seems, among those who desire to passionately pass on the torch of their religious heritage. This is nothing I condemn anyone for, though I suppose the only thing I would implore a believer to do is to understand that a mindset of belief can and in fact does change or even fade away within the minds of many people.

There’s a whole psychology behind this. I am now at a point within my journey where I must acknowledge that there are some ideas, when presented without clear evidence, that I just cannot give the green light to. It begins to contradict how I understand the process of gathering the strongest and very best pieces of information with regard to a claim.

How closely related is belief to one’s own temperament and psychology? I’m gonna venture to say that these things are quite related, and yes, perhaps quite beyond what we can choose at a certain juncture. So, if you are one who believes in God with great confidence, ask your God why not everyone is able to maintain a psychology that is favorable to belief? It would seem that these factors are beyond one’s own control or ability to choose. This is the honest side of unbelief and a skeptical mindset that not many people are talking about. Peace out!