Sunday, March 8, 2009

Chain of evidence and faith in what.... exactly?

Another evangelical Christian expressed her dismay at my lack of faith in ‘god’ today. It wasn't anything I did or say that caused her anguish. It is just the fact of my not believing in her religion... One of those 'if I didn't like you then I wouldn't feel sorry that we won't be meeting in heaven after it all' sentiment. Something I find both patronizing and flattering at the same time. 

I believe things when it jives with real evidence. I buy into a notion when its predictions and assumptions are borne out of established patterns of nature and experimental data or a solid line of testable reasoning that can be repeated by anyone with the necessary tools. Nature itself and reality are the arbiter of what I accept as truth. If god is the maker of nature or is nature itself, why would it have any problem with that?

A real god doesn't need a middle-man/cellphone to talk to me.

On the other hand, her ‘faith in god’ is not based on ‘god’ at all. It is based on what some men wrote in a bunch of books thousands of years ago that hundreds of years later were compiled by another bunch of men who picked and chose what books to keep or to leave out - whose motives were based as much on politics as they were on beliefs. Not only does she NOT have any certain knowledge that any of the original authors were actually god or were inspired by one, she doesn’t know for sure nor does she have an indisputable chain of evidence that attest to the identity of the actual author the individual books of this religious text she worships. If you are one of those who actually think that the books of the Bible were written by the men they are named after, you have some serious research to do. Most of them weren't!

And yes, I said ‘the religious text she worships’... She can dispute that all she wants while claiming to worships ‘god’ (not just any one of the many different ideas of god put forward by many different religions, but ‘the god’... As if her willingness to believe it makes it more true than all the other notions of gods out there that she hadn’t even put in the time to investigate and study yet.... And likely never will. Bite that, Pascal!), but there is a difference, a crucial difference, between worshiping what one thinks (hopefully after having put a lot of thoughts into it) ‘god’ really is, and worshiping what other people say ‘god’ is or did or said or wants. When one would brush aside what nature itself can testify to in favor of what a man-made church and/or its representative says god said... Think about it... the choice is really between nature (which no man can fake since it is something only a ‘god’ would have control of) and what other men wrote and say and want you to believe.

If you are a god, what would you think of a bunch of self-righteous men who go around trying to pass their own ideas off as yours? And what would you think of the people that willingly accept such travesties as YOURS without considering first what your real scope of capability is? Would Renoir be thrilled with you if you ‘faithfully’ pay $1,000,000 for a grade-school level painting that I said was done by Renoir but really wasn’t?

A god that is responsible for every single thing in this mind-blowingly large universe from the tiniest of subatomic particles to the biggest of stars and galaxies, from inanimate pebbles on the beach to thinking human beings... And you are willing to believe that that powerful a god lacks the ability to directly communicate with you and has to ask some other lowly human beings to be his middle-men? To write for him? To speak for him? Honestly?

If the answer is still yes, well, I have this suspension bridge uptown that I’d love to get off my street that you can have for a very reasonably price...

Am I an atheist? No... The closest description of me is as an agnostic. Whether I am a theist or not depends almost entirely on how ‘god’ is defined. I can entertain believing in a ‘god’ that is defined as nature itself, or its most fundamental laws/essence. Though I wouldn’t be ‘worshiping’ it. A god by that definition would be in everything... me and the snail and the deer droppings on the yard included. A ‘god’ as defined with all the weird mixes of human qualities (i.e; jealousy, vengefulness, lust, temper tantrums, all sorts of emotional insecurities, and whatever else things humans feel) that the theistic religions, with perhaps the exception of the Deists, believe in, I don’t buy for a minute.

Now, I’m not writing this up to try to convert anyone. I’m just fed up with being evangelized all the time by the various Christians who have now taken to hanging at street corners in downtown and sticking their ‘come to god’ pamphlets in my face whenever I pass by (this is no isolated occurrence! It's something evangelical Christians are doing all the time now, unapologetically and with complete disregard to their preys' thinking). The 'self-defense' excuse doesn't fly when you are the ones playing offense! You guys ought to be careful... there might actually be a god out there who isn't keen on having words put in its mouth!

I have no faith in a ‘god’. If there is one, it and I can do fine without it.
Rather, I have faith in the consistency of nature
And that those who judge by the weight of empirical evidence and sound reasoning
are less susceptible to manipulation and malice than those
who defer to the judgment of revered others and humanly authors of scriptures
to avoid being ultimately accountable for their own deeds and thoughts.

I have faith in neighborly good deeds...
That are not done just for the sake of one’s religion,
nor in the hope of after-life rewards
or to avoid possible eternal punishment,
but because their doers are genuinely compassionate
and have empathy and the awareness of own vulnerability.

Faith in fantasy is easy. Living with things as they really are and accepting one's own limitations and actual lack of absolute knowledge is harder. But you at least get to say in the end; 'At least I know that I don't know and didn't go around pretending to know something I really didn't.' 


Cease said...

That's really good! Very compelling indictment of the manipulation inherent in worshipping interpretations of a text...I've often said the same thing about the need for good inspired by compassion rather than out of fear. The good feeling that comes from helping out is practically verifiable. The concept of doing good to avoid hell contains relevance through the prism of immediate experience; protestants typically don't do good out of a threat to more than an empty list of treasures...but why would regrets factor into a joyful afterlife? It doesn't make sense, does it?

Cease said...

Oh, obviously the hell referred to within immediate experience is guilt, rather than eternal damnation.

Smorg said...

Hiya Cease,
Indeed, bro. :o) It never ceases to amaze me how normally well reasoned people can be so easily persuaded to shelve their logic and commonsense when it comes to religion. :oP

Sometimes it seems that some people are so keen on believing in something that they totally forget the importance of making sure that the thing is merit such a vote of confidence in the first place (the difference between consistency and accuracy - one can be constantly wrong and that ain't no virtue at all). ;o)

Thanks a bunch for stopping by and for your thoughtful comment, too!

Smorgy :o)

Heather said...

I have been thinking about the life of Jesus (as represented in the Christian gospels) lately, and how he really wouldn't have looked very 'evangelical' to most American Christians. Of course there can be a lot to debate and discuss about the authorship of the gospels and the historical Jesus, but if I as a Christian believe that he did live and that I am to follow his example, then I should be following his pattern of ministry. What did he do? He healed the sick. He cast out demons. He cleansed the lepers. He fed the hungry. He even made water into wine at a wedding to ensure the honor of the host and see that a good time was held by all. He wasn't very concerned to get people to say a prayer, confess about who He was, or commit their lives to him. He did God's work, and let the rest come naturally. He knew that just to pray a prayer could be superficial and that the matters of the heart were more important.

If Christians, myself included, want to share God's love with others, we should focus on doing his will and being a blessing. We should also not just believe something because someone said it, but because we seek it out, research it, and experience it ourselves.

Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts! I know many people can relate with you.

Smorg said...

Hiya Heather!
Thanks a bunch for your thoughtful comment. :o) If more Christians would de-emphasize evangelizing and focus more on their own spiritual life (like you do) I think the religion wouldn't be so poorly received by non-Christians these days.

Somehow the American Christians seem to be more extremely fundamentalist in their outlook these past few years... Or maybe it is just a relatively few but very prominent ones who are getting disproportional media coverage (since the republican politicians are still catering to them even though the wackiness of religious extremism is one of the things that lost them the last election). :oP Weird. Sometimes I wonder if they even remember that their bible says that Jesus said to render unto Caesar what is Caesar.

Thanks very much again for stopping by! I hope things are getting better where you are, too!

Smorg :o)

Georg said...

Bonjour Smorgy,

Great post,this one. And it gives a description how it is in your area.

When I was living in Brussels, I had a neighbor next apartment and this guy was Jehova's Witness. Naturally, he tried to work on me and I countered by saying that in my office, right in front of me, there is already a member of JW. "Thus, do not loose your time with me". It worked, he only asked from time to time if I had already converted.

By the way, religion is a hot subject. I wrote several posts and never had so much comments. Same as you here. So keep on the good works. Let's have another one.


Smorg said...

Hallo Georg,
Thanks! So Jehovah's Witnesses do go door-to-door even in Europe, too! I'm lucky that I live in an apartment complex with limited access now so none can get to my door without an appointment. :o)

Well meaning folks, to be sure, but a few of them got me really mad a few years ago when they walked into the nursing home I was working in and tried to convert the really sick patients (before the time runs out, you know). One Buddhist guy was really so patient with them and I was just about blowing my top off. :oP

I've better go look for your posts on the subject. The past week went by so quickly I haven't had time to read many posts online but I'm catching up, I think. Thanks again for stopping by!!

Smorgy :o)

Anonymous said...

Can hardly argue with this... You're right. People don't tend to distinguish what they think of as god from what certain religion or books say about god. A sort of false dichotomy happens. Believe in god doesn't necessarily means one religion is right about it. GOod write.

MS Johns