Acting As If God Is There

Acting as if God is there, as it seems, is a necessary component of having faith in God. Especially if the book of Hebrews in the Christian Bible has anything to say about it.

Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

“Must believe that He is,” isn’t that an interesting quote? I find it especially interesting in light of a theory that I have about the majority of folks who believe in God. Lately, I’ve been making the argument that a significant majority of people who claim to believe in God do not equally claim to know that God exists.

So how does this honest admission live up to what is instructed in Hebrews 11:6? The best I can figure is that people are acting as if God exists without actually knowing it for themselves. I think many Christians see this as safe to do because they think of themselves as standing upon the testimony of the Apostles and Christ’s earliest followers.

So, let’s break this down a little bit. Christians have a New Testament, and within this collection of books are a series of extraordinary claims about Jesus of Nazareth and what God was said to have done within the lives of his followers. I’m not here to say that these stories are not interesting. In all honesty, there are some very fascinating ideas in the New Testament. People in union with God? His Spirit living within them and empowering them? Eternal life? A sense of brotherhood with people from all different backgrounds and walks of life? This is great.

Although there are many positive elements to the New Testament story, my position is that truth does not always coincide with hope. The truth is the truth, however the chips may fall. Part of guarding the truth involves applying discernment as it pertains to the reliability of miracle claims. Miracle claims abound in these texts and there are emotional reactions bound up within the narrative itself. Doubting Thomas touches the nail prints in the hands of a Jesus that he thought was dead, but now is alive. He falls to his knees and worships God.

It’s a heart-warming account, but it doesn’t make it true. I’m here to advocate the idea of not putting the cart before the horse. The cart is brimming with emotional appeal to the New Testament narratives. There’s a lot of fuel there to work from. The horse represents truth and how we can best discern what that is as it relates to these stories. My argument is this, and Bart Ehrman makes a similar point.

Miracles are the least probable events to consider for any critically minded historian. This is because miracle claims all over the world have a very poor reputation as it relates to what is true over what is mistaken or downright fabricated. Miracles, as a category of evidence from which to draw from are notoriously unreliable. It can be a complicated debate when I run into people who are convinced that they’ve encountered miracles. It isn’t as if I’m not open to changing my mind, but as the saying goes, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Miracle claims need to earn a reliable reputation, until then, it is no stretch of the matter to say that believers are resting upon very poor evidence.

Guarding what is true also means recognizing when we are unable to classify a set of claims as true. This is my conclusion about the New Testament as well as every extraordinary claim that the Bible makes. A most appropriate response is to suspend judgement and believers in turn have the burden to demonstrate that such claims are reliable. In the interest of believing in true things, each of us is entitled to rest upon the very best forms of assurance. Assurance should be clear, reliable, and derived from the best evidences available.

This brings me back full circle to the admission of a great majority of believers that they do not in fact know that a God exists. They act as if God exists because they draw their inspiration to do so from the New Testament narratives. We all must decide, does the New Testament pass muster as it pertains to the evidence? Not if it can be agreed that miracles are notoriously unreliable to put forth as evidence.

If the greater likelihood is that miracles are made up or highly susceptible to error, then it has not been established that Christianity is true. Many people of course believe it to be true in the face of its poorly purported evidence, in such a case a belief should only carry as much weight as the evidence it can bring to bear. If someone honestly doesn’t know if God exists and yet they tell us that they believe, they are demonstrating that this is a belief based not upon evidence but desire. Desire trumps evidence in the minds of believers all over the world.

When desire trumps evidence, there is a definite likelihood for such a belief being wrong. If people are acting as if God exists without knowing that God exists, they are structuring their lives and giving a lot of time to something that they don’t even know to be true. There is one key element that I think could change the minds of millions of believers. If Christianity was no longer a culturally normative set of beliefs, if it fell out of fashion similar to the way Greek Mythology and many other ancient religions have, this would act as a  lynchpin for helping many people proportion their beliefs to the evidence.

 

The Unifying Element Between Faith And Skepticism

A significant unifying element between faith and skepticism, between belief and unbelief, is that both parties in this debate DO NOT ACTUALLY KNOW THAT A GOD EXISTS. A minority of believing Christians and people of other faith’s do claim to know to some degree or another that God exists, but I estimate that this is not representative of a large majority of people who believe in the existence of God.

I think that this common element is quite telling. The honest answer for so many people all over the world is that WE DO NOT FUNDAMENTALLY KNOW IF GOD EXISTS. If God isn’t a person that we can get to know and relate with, THEN WHY CALL GOD A PERSON? We don’t know God like we know other persons, the personhood of God becomes indistinguishable from an abstraction. An abstraction that looks like this.

Many Christians, Muslims, and Jews do view their devotional lives as an interaction with God on some level, but this is a transaction between God and people that is entirely done in faith.

It is being done in a Hebrews 11:1 fashion.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

People are praying to God, reading their Scriptures, writing in their journals, and living in their communities with a deep conviction that God is leading them and guiding them. I’m of the view that conviction and knowledge are two separate things. WE CAN HAVE A FIRM CONVICTION ABOUT ANYTHING AND STILL BE WRONG ABOUT IT. So it is that THE REWARD OF HAVING FAITH IS NOT THE SAME AS HAVING THE REWARD OF KNOWLEDGE AND RELIABLE EVIDENCE.

Take away the rewarding feelings that accompany faith, and what are these people left with? They are left with the admonition to act as if God exists without even knowing it. If you can’t act as if God exists, you won’t feel rewarded and it may be the beginning of a new search for a more reliable form of assurance.

It may bring one to recognize just how strange and peculiar it is to act as if they are in a relationship with God, without actually knowing it. I mean, think about it, isn’t this a most odd way to talk about a seemingly real relationship? Why must it be so, as in, why is this the normative or dominant way that people relate to God?

It’s as if a large black curtain rests between people and their God. Is He on the other side or not? God is believed to be behind the curtain pulling the strings. He is thought to be listening but He doesn’t talk back. He is thought to be present but He doesn’t put His hand on your shoulder. It is assumed that He loves us, but let’s be honest, feeling alone and waiting on God are sometimes one in the same.

Believers in God, of course, learn to accept this, and it even gets further explained as being a necessary component in the journey of faith. If we can keep acting as if God exists, things will get better in time. “Let patience have its perfect work.” There’s a reason for everything and “God knows those reasons.” “His thoughts are higher than your thoughts, and His ways are higher than your ways.”

These are promises, right? God will fulfill them later in life. Oh, but wait, that’s often too early. Don’t worry, God will show you His ultimate purpose for everything that happened, the good and the bad, the thick and the thin, and He’ll do this AFTER YOU DIE. For what is this life but a few fleeting moments to endure?

If we start acting like this existence is the only thing we truly know of for sure, our faith might be in trouble. “Don’t act like that, friend, remember the promises of God. These promises are reliable, you may not actually know that a God exists, but you can trust Him. He’s reliable. Just keep acting like He is there, He’ll reward you. Just wait and see.”

Faith is a very important component for believing in something without knowing it is true. My friends, just imagine yourself in a world where having faith is a foreign mindset. In other words, instead of advocating faith, most people just honestly respond, “I don’t know,” when asked if God exists.

It’s clear, straightforward, and upfront. It is acceptable for people to simply say, “I don’t know.” They say this without flinching and they instead structure their time and their lives around what can be known.

I say this because if God exists, and if it was evident that God exists, I suspect that there would be a lot more driving that hypothesis than culture. At this time in history it is still culturally normative to believe in God. In other words, it is still culturally normative to act as if God exists without knowing it.

GOD LIVES OR DIES WITH CULTURE, NOT WITH EVIDENCE. If God was evident the debate wouldn’t rage on as it does. Between Theists of all stripes people are arguing about which God or gods to believe in, and between Theists and those who are skeptical we’re still trying to establish if this being even exists. There’s two issues that I see.

  1. If God exists, who could it be, and how many are there?

2. Does God even exist at all? Or will God die with the whims of what culture accepts as normative at the time?

Evidentially speaking, our world situation may well be what one could expect if religion is made up. Made up ideas tend to fall out of favor over time. Greek Mythology is outdated for a reason, am I right? So are many other ancient religions.

Believers of course are going to keep hedging their bets, they’ll say, “well, you can’t prove that God doesn’t exist.” Yes, they’re right about that, I can’t prove without a doubt that there is no God.

I can, however, make the point that 1) Most people, believers and skeptics, do not actually know that God exists. This is very much to the disadvantage of the believer because evidence can’t be used to put this matter to rest, only arguments in the form of wagers and alleged best guesses.

2) Without evidence that translates into knowledge, we are unable to differentiate the God of classical Theism from all other mythical beliefs. I don’t know about my readers but I find it highly important to separate myth from fact.

3) Since faith involves acting as if God exists without actually knowing it, it becomes apparent that truth isn’t the main objective of faith. After all, truth is able to be identified and bring people of vastly different viewpoints into agreement. Does belief in God work like this? I don’t know. Find me an apologist for Christianity, an apologist for Islam, and an apologist for Hinduism and let me know what they figure out?

If God isn’t known in this world in such a way that people from every culture can rally around the clearly known facts about this being, then what does this say about a God that is thought to intervene and make Himself known in the world? Why be so secretive? So hidden? Why keep billions of people guessing and erring about how to properly define and understand the most basic aspects about Him? Bear in mind, religions like Christianity and Islam attach very heavy penalties upon people for getting this information wrong.

Worshipping the wrong God, and even thinking about God in the wrong way isn’t taken too kindly by all three of the worlds largest Monotheistic religions. I am at the end of the day challenging how reliable “faith” is as a method for determining what is true? In my opinion, it breaks down, especially when trying to discern between fact and fiction.

Assurance? Are You Sure?

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” -Romans 8:16

I am just one human being out of many. I certainly have not experienced all of the same things that other people have experienced, so why should I pick on the Christian? I pick on the Christian because I was one, yes, a very seriously devoted person for many years. This is also an opportunity for my Christian readers to be challenged in their perspectives. Living a life of faith is definitely a different way of dealing with knowledge and certainty. How should people deal with knowledge and certainty? We’ll return to this later.

This verse from Romans that I quoted above is precious to many believers. Believers of all stripes are convinced that the Holy Spirit dwells within them, just as it was thought to indwell Jesus and his earliest followers. For some folks it may bring to mind these words, “I will dwell in them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 2 Corinthians 6:16

When people talk as if a God is in their midst. When they have a mindset that the Holy Spirit dwells within them I am brought to wonder if it is the language itself that they are most taken in by? I mean, let’s be honest, this is the language of intimacy. It’s the language of having a close union with God. I know how people feel when they use this language. People feel as if God is truly present. Like he is right there in the room. Like he is speaking to their hearts.

My challenge for those who feel this way is to ask whether they can truly speak from a place of knowledge, or whether feelings are the primary driver of this vehicle? Feelings can be deceiving, but not only can feelings be deceiving, our sense of interpretation can be poor if we are looking for subtle signs of guidance. Navigating this inward terrain of feelings and little subtleties that seem like guidance could well be a form of self-deception. Such can be the nature of subjective experience.

This is a fair warning for those who are interested in what is true. Being fascinated and interested in what is true involves practicing discernment, especially introspective discernment. What you once thought was guidance from God could later be understood as an indiscernible pattern. It is fine to acknowledge it as such. We want to be cautious about what is true. We want to guard the truth and avoid error, at least this should be the goal.

So here I am, a former Christian, putting it out there for those who still believe. How is it that you can know the difference between God’s Spirit and your spirit? If it is thought that God is an inner witness, how are you to know whether this inner witness is God or just you? Please take your time and think carefully about this question.

There’s a whole spectrum within Christianity that ranges all the way from people who think God speaks to them just like another person is talking to them, all the way over to those who say that they take a passage like this by faith. They take it by faith because they don’t have this sense of the inner witness of God’s Spirit. They wouldn’t know how to begin to tell the difference between their own inner witness and God’s inner witness.

As an outsider looking in, who knows what it’s like to be on the inside, I’m more prone to think that those believers who admit that they wouldn’t know how to tell the difference between God’s witness and their own inner witness, are likely being the most intellectually honest.

It’s a mighty heavy burden to say that one undoubtedly knows the voice of God. It’s typically the more Charismatic Christians that think God is speaking to them in some form. The question remains, how introspective are such people? How discerning do they strive to be? Otherwise, they are at risk of exhibiting delusional thinking.

At the end of the day, a truth seeker should be willing to say, I could be wrong. I may need to change my mind about whether I can know that God is actually giving me clear assurances. About whether I know the difference between God’s inner witness and my own self?

To take this a little further, I think it would be refreshing to see more people admit that they are not even sure if God is there. For many it would be an intellectually honest admission that God’s presence and existence in their lives may be in question. There is no fear in this because what we all should strive to avoid is pretending to know things we don’t actually know.

This gets us into trouble and it sets us up for a hard fall. So how should Christians deal with knowledge and certainty? Can knowledge of God be so private and subjective that there is virtually no longer any room for discernment? Is this honest?

Should certainty relate to what we know? Knowing something, truly knowing something involves ruling out alternative explanations. Are people interested in knowing things clearly? Should this move them to a more objective approach in their understanding of knowledge and evidence?

The reason I changed my mind is because I didn’t want to fool myself anymore. What I thought was God’s assurance, presence, and guidance in my life, was not. I had to reason hard about what was going on in my own head. It was met with personal trials. Hitting rock bottom is often when one is encouraged the most to not give up on faith, however, that in itself may be a myth.

Faith is thought to bring many folks close to God, but please pay attention to the other side of the aisle. For many folks there comes a point where faith loses all meaning. It loses all relevance if assurance cannot be obtained. If an honest person cannot tell the difference between a real God intervening into their circumstances and simply having an affair with the language of the Bible, then at some point, talking like Jesus talks in the Gospels, or like Paul talked in his writings begins to lose its flavor entirely.

A thirst for the truth is a thirst for knowledge. It’s a thirst for discernment. It’s a thirst for reliable forms of assurance and certainty. When I speak about the nature of reality I want it to be known to my friends and readers that I take that very seriously. Whether I’m accountable to God or not, I am first accountable to myself.

The same should be true for everyone, if God created us, He didn’t bless us with a knowledge of himself in the same way we know ourselves. We know ourselves best and it is from there that we work outward by interacting with other people and the reality of the external world.

Does God exist? I can’t ever entirely rule that out but thus far my accountability to myself and the reality of the world around me doesn’t impress upon me that God is the best explanation. I’ve heard the explanation, I’ve interacted with it, I was a devoted Christian for many years. I spent many hours over the years both in prayer and devotion, and I am either an orphan of a real God that hasn’t impressed upon me a knowledge of himself, or I am a child of nature. The clearest information that I can gather is that I am a product of this universe.

I’ll leave my readers on a poetic note. I recently wrote this.

 

We are all orphans, but we are not…


We are orphans if we think God is our Father


We are children when we know nature as our Mother


It’s all about perspective, you see?


We are orphans if we pray to a Deity


We are children when we stand in awe of the universe


Not only are we children, we are a way in which the universe knows itself

 

We Should All Emulate Doubting Thomas

Somebody needs to redeem the phrase, “doubting Thomas.” I googled the definition and the first thing that came up said, “a person who is skeptical and refuses to believe something without proof.”

I think this is totally legitimate, in fact, such an attitude seems quite reasonable and worthy of respect. Particularly when we place this attitude within the context of an extraordinary claim.

Should we believe that someone saw the ghost of their dead Aunt just because they said so? Should we believe that someone saw an Angel just because they are totally convinced that they did?

A desire for evidence is wonderful. This is because good people, yes, even very smart people, can be mistaken. Richard Feynman has a great quote, he said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.” How can we best guard against deception and error? We need evidence. Good old fashioned hard evidence.This should be especially true in light of highly unlikely or extraordinary claims.

The further away in history that we get from an extraordinary claim, the harder it is to discern on good grounds whether it was a credible  event in history. This seems especially appropriate to bring up with regard to the resurrection of Jesus. I can’t tell anybody that it for sure didn’t happen, and I especially can’t tell anybody that it did.

This claim appears to be a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” issue. You’re damned if you do claim that a historical person named Jesus rose from the dead because miracles are highly unlikely, if not, virtually impossible to put forth as reliable. In the interest of guarding truth and avoiding error, miracles need to be redeemed from their reputation of being either totally unreliable or unknowable as an explanation.

You’re damned if you don’t think that Jesus rose from the dead primarily in the minds of many believers who are convinced. Their reasoning is such that a risen Jesus would seem to fit best with explaining why early Christianity seemed so unified and took off so quickly. Granted, I think we can all think of it as not improbable that early Christianity could have quickly formed and grew apart from Jesus resurrecting bodily.

I’m more inclined to side with the idea that miracles are highly improbable. Which means I’d venture to guess that Jesus died and is still dead to this day. Miracles should have to earn their place in the world of probable explanations. I put them in the least reliable category. Right along with those who claim to see ghosts and angels. Claiming a higher number of witnesses also doesn’t make it so.

It may be thought that there were many early witnesses, perhaps hundreds who claimed to have seen Jesus after his death, but jumping to conclusions about something as unlikely as a miracle may not be the most rewarding way to invest oneself, at least not with regard to best reflecting what is true.

Part of honoring what is true is to recognize when we can’t make a clear call on the truth of a matter. I would recommend to those who believe that the resurrection happened to not speak about it as if you know without a doubt that it is true. Truth as a concept deserves more respect than that. It deserves more weight than that.

People don’t know if a resurrection happened, they just know that they personally believe it. We all must decide what is most likely to trigger belief in the resurrection. Is there clearly good evidence that can aid us in that regard? Evidence that miracles can be put forth as reliable explanations?

This is for all of us to decide and as a reminder of what David Hume once said, “a wise man, therefore, proportions his belief to the evidence.” If by some extraordinary means the resurrection is true, doubting Thomas had just the right attitude. He withheld belief until the evidence presented itself. I’m inclined to think that this was the best way for even a Gospel narrative to present the merits of having a critical mind. Even if that wasn’t the overall goal of the story.

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On Pretending To Know Things We Don’t Know

 

Is anyone here familiar with the phrase, confidence building? I ask this because as I’ve surveyed what faith in God appears to be, it appears that the Bible itself advocates a mindset of faith as a kind of confidence building exercise.

Instead of focusing on yourself, faith asks you to focus on God. Relating again to yourself, the exercise may look like this. You say things to yourself such as, “I’m a good person, I’m smart, I’m funny, people like me. I can accomplish my goals. I can learn through the pain and the struggle.”

Now, shifting the focus to God, many of the same things are said and highlighted. “God is good, He is all-wise, He’s my source of joy, He likes me, no wait, He loves me. God will help me accomplish my goals. I can learn through the pain and the struggle.”

These are all rewarding feelings, are they not? This is why faith is often so highly treasured. It makes us feel loved and valued. It makes us feel as if God is there in the good times and in the bad. Who could be a greater friend?

Now, this is one aspect to having faith that I don’t deny brings many people joy and comfort within their lives. For many years this was the role that faith played in my own life. Over a period of time, however, the mindset of faith that I had, a faith that I indeed felt was very strong, began to gradually lose its strength as I challenged myself with the hardest questions I could use to test its validity.

What is faith exactly? Hebrews 11:1 gives the clearest definition of it.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Assurance and confidence are pretty well synonymous. This is a mindset that forms and gets built up by reading the Bible. Just think about the Gospel narratives in the Bible. At the end of each Gospel Jesus is portrayed as a victorious Savior who defeated death so that we could live and have a relationship with God. The death of Jesus is only just the beginning because the Gospels tell us emphatically that God raised Him from the dead and that he ascended into heaven shortly after.

These narratives are interested specifically in how you feel about Jesus. Who do you think he was? Is this a hopeful message? Could you see yourself as one of the disciples encountering Jesus after you thought he was dead? Would you be like a doubting Thomas? In John we get this intimate picture of Jesus appearing before Thomas and putting his hand into the nail prints and the wound that was still in his side from the crucifixion. Thomas responds by falling to his knees and worshipping God. It’s a very moving story, I won’t deny anyone that.

My questions involve asking whether being moved by this account is a good enough reason to believe? This is where it gets tricky because people undoubtedly are very moved by this story. Christians often say, it is the greatest story ever told.

I get concerned when people start talking about faith as if it is a form of evidence. Hebrews 11:1 would like us to think this. Other translations render faith as the evidence of what is unseen. This is where I now see it as necessary to get gritty, are faith and evidence synonymous? I don’t think so. Regardless of how moved I may be by the story, regardless of how moved billions of others may be by this story, I cannot agree that good discernment would have me equate faith with evidence.

Faith is a form of confidence that gets built up from reading the Bible’s stories, nothing more and nothing less. Faith feels great. It’s an exercise of boosting one’s confidence about things we neither see or know about. Think about it, if people really knew that God exists, there would be no need for faith. Faith is the encouragement to act as if the Bible is true without actually knowing it.

Consider this other verse from Hebrews 11:6, it says, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

It doesn’t get any more explicit than that, does it? Drawing near to God requires faith. Another important aspect of faith is this idea of acting as if God exists without actually knowing it. If one doesn’t act as if God exists, it won’t be a rewarding experience. If you act like it, however, if you can make yourself believe it without actually knowing it, you will feel greatly rewarded.

For whatever reason, this is the best way to go if we want to feel as if God exists. We need to act like it, and if we can’t act like it, we won’t benefit from it. I don’t want to sound mean when I say this, but I am hard pressed on whether there is a difference between having faith and pretending? In other words, faith appears to be acting upon what one doesn’t know. It’s pretending to know things that one does not know.

Faith is pretending to know that God is there when we don’t actually know it. It is pretending that our prayers are being answered without actually knowing it. It’s pretending that we have a soul without actually knowing it, and it is pretending to be saved without actually knowing it.

My conclusion is that faith should not be equated with evidence, this is a poor way to characterize knowledge. Faith is best understood as a confidence building exercise that happens from reading the stories in the Bible, and another important aspect of faith is to act as if God exists when we don’t actually know this. Faith is pretending to know things we don’t know.

I wish everyone the very best in their search for what is true. Take care!

 

 

Seven Problems With A Mindset Of Faith

These are some of my reasons for not viewing faith in a rewarding light. Since I am most familiar with the Christian understanding of faith I make a few explicit references to how a mindset of faith is poorly encouraged within this line of thought. I think it is valuable to pass these insights along because I’m not sure how aware many believers are about the downfalls of believing on poor grounds? This is a call for my believing friends to take a close look at their foundation for understanding truth claims. Does a mindset of faith deeply undervalue evidence? This is for my readers to decide.

  1. A mindset of faith acts as if it is a valid resting zone. Rather than resting on a surefire case that miracles have happened in history, the reward instead comes from suspending reason and believing in the miracle anyway. This would appear to be a red flag because truth is not being distinguished from myth. Instead one is encouraged to rest within this new mindset. The search for ultimate truth is thought to be over. Questioning any further appears antithetical to one’s decision to believe.

2. A mindset of faith as a natural consequence does not value evidence. The point to having faith is not whether the evidence is strong enough, the point of having faith is to act as if a truth claim made on poor evidence is true. Jesus is thought to be the Savior. Having faith that he rose from the dead is the highest reward anyone could ever receive. It is thought to lead to eternal life. The thinking quickly becomes, “I would be a fool to pass up this offer.” In this scenario, desire trumps evidence.

3. A mindset of faith is in fact acting upon what one doesn’t actually know. People don’t actually know without question that a God exists. The whole point of having faith is to act as if God exists. In what other discipline would it ever be encouraged to act upon what one doesn’t actually know?

4. A mindset of faith sees doubt in a negative light. It is thought that doubt will drive one away from God. In all actuality doubt is moving away from a mindset of faith. There’s a difference. Based upon what anyone can actually know for sure, why should faith be seen as the best avenue for understanding what is true about the God question? If natural doubts are arising with regard to that question, with regard to assurance, this may actually be a very positive thing. It might be a closer way to reflect what is true with regard to the God question. This question may not have an answer. It may not be a question that provides good evidence and assurance to the seeker.

5. A mindset of faith argues that morality is best understood by trusting in the commands of God. It appears antithetical to entertain the notion that God may not be the best foundation for morality. Earlier Philosophers like Plato asked a very important question concerning God’s relationship to what is good. He said, “is that which is holy loved by the gods because it is holy, or is it holy because it is loved by the gods?”

This is known as Euthyphro’s Dilemma. A modern way of stating the question would be, “is something morally right because God commands it, or does God command it because it is morally right? If it is right only because God commands it, then this makes God’s commands arbitrary and moral principles are not self-evident. If God commands something because it is morally right, then this would imply that morality is self-evident regardless of whether God is in the picture. In essence, morality without God.

6. A mindset of faith often involves accepting claims about the human condition that could well be inaccurate or false. In example, while many of us can agree that we as people do not always live up to higher standards, that we sometimes act impulsively, and that we sometimes do morally reprehensible things, this does not actually meaningfully demonstrate that people are infected with a sinful nature. A belief in sin and a sinful nature carries with it the assumption that people are cursed and fallen from a prior state of perfection. There is no evidence for this claim. This is totally taken on faith. One can agree that people do morally bad things without accepting the idea of depravity. Are we all guilty of falling short of higher standards, yes. Have we all done things that we highly regret, yes. Does this make us sinners? No. To be a sinner implies that we can confirm that God exists, this doesn’t appear to be possible apart from divine intervention.

7. A mindset of faith often acts as if truth is only ultimately known and experienced by the ingroup. In other words, it is thought that some truthful things about the nature of reality can be hidden from those who do not adhere to the same faith position. This stops the conversation because now it is thought that those who are not in the ingroup are at a disadvantage. It is thought that the rest of the world is deceived. If one does not conform to the standards of the ingroup then this breeds distrust and they walk away feeling confirmed that the world walks in darkness, for only those who believe are in the light. Could this be arrogance? It well could be.

25 Ways To Both Question And Be Skeptical Of The Existence Of God

These are both basic and challenging questions that can be put forward for Theists and Non-Theists to consider. Although there may exist many apologetic resources that intend to answer such questions, I first encourage my audience to deal with the questions at face-value. Before consulting a William Lane Craig or a Ravi Zacharias to help answer these questions, I first implore my audience, for the sake of honesty and the value of thinking on one’s own two feet to read these questions, absorb them directly for what they are, and proceed to address them based upon what can be known. It is this first process that will yield the best way to move forward in one’s desire to acknowledge what is true. Thank you!

1) God is by definition unseen. Why?

2) God is by definition undetectable. Why? How?

3) God is defined as uncaused. Why? How?

4) God is thought to be all-powerful. (Can he create a stone that is too heavy for himself to lift?)

5) God is thought to be all-loving and all-powerful, and yet there is suffering?

6) God is thought to be the source of objective moral truths? Are things good because God says so, or are they good independently of God saying so? (The Euthyphro Dilemma)

7) God is said to have created all things? My friends, who created God?

8) God is thought to be an unembodied mind? My friends, is there any evidence that minds can exist apart from being conceived of within physical brains?

9) Theism often defines God as being a singular person, as in, only one God, what reason is there to think only one God exists as opposed to 0, 2, 3, or even millions more?

10) God is often thought to be relational? Why is it that millions of honest seekers do not have an awareness of God in the world? (i.e. praying for years on end with no inkling that anyone else hears or is aware of these petitions?)

11) Why would a good God allow evil?

12) Why would a good God allow the majority of humans to fall into sin and evil?

13) Why would a loving God create an eternal hell?

14) Why would God need any kind of atonement or transaction so as to forgive sin? Couldn’t God just forgive?

15) Is it logical to favor faith over evidence?

16) Is faith a form of knowledge or is it separate from that?

17) Must knowledge about God be so private and subjective?

18) Should certainty be dictated by evidence or a strong desire that Theism is true?

19) Why are God beliefs so closely tied to culture and specific regions of the world where people dwell?

20) Is freewill just an illusion created by a sense of self-awareness?

21) At what point within the evolution of our species did we become special moral agents, distinct from our other primate cousins? (i.e. Humans and chimpanzees have about 99% DNA compatibility).

22) Is morality a human construct? If not, how can we disprove it?

23) Why are claims about God unable to be tested and/or falsified? Does this help or hinder Theistic claims?

24) Is there any immediate reason to dismiss other claims that cannot be falsified in favor of a Theistic God? To illustrate my point, why should I favor the existence of Yahweh over the existence of Thor or Zeus? Are either of these perspectives less extraordinary and more in line with  readily presented reasons to reject the one in favor of the other? If so, why? What is your evidence? If not, why? What is your reasoning?

25) Should one favor belief in God simply because it is thought to be more rewarding? Is this a good litmus test for discerning whether it is a true belief to hold? Why or why not?

I have an interesting challenge for Theism. Theism asserts that God is a personality. It is thought that God is an intelligent, willful, eternally existing mind. An unembodied mind. Well, what if I wanted to challenge this by presenting a different alternative? By presenting a different alternative I will avoid using the word God. If God is a personality, I will counter that by saying that an alternative to God could be an impersonal force that only computes. Yes, instead of God, maybe there is a force that acts as the ultimate supercomputer. It isn’t a conscious thinking being. It does not possess a personality. It only computes. It only calculates. If it is thought that God as a personality can exist uncaused then why not something akin to an ultimate supercomputing force? An impersonal eternally existing supercomputing force? Food for thought. By the way, I’m not saying that this is what I think. As an Atheist I simply make it clear that I do not know what exists beyond our universe, if anything?