Friday, March 30, 2007

Can't Win

I enjoy the scholarly discussion of theism. Particularly Christianity. It perks my interest to dive into an intriguing question of whether the Gospel of Luke knew Tacitus or vice versa. Minute, probably irrelevant points, that very few even have the remotest curiosity about.

That fascination developed during my deconversion. And it has been the primary focus of my discussion with other theists, both in real life and on the internet. I tend to refrain from discussing how devastated I was toward the end of my deconversion. There are two reasons for that.

First, because in this debate we tend to worship intellectualism and dogmatism. Oh, we can protest that axiom all we want—but read the blogs. Read the posts. Read the comments. What I so often see is that a person who claims they believe in God because of an uncomplicated faith is blasted by non-believers.

“But where is your proof?”
”Would you believe in anything anyone says?”
”Do you believe in the Tooth Fairy?”
“Are you simple-minded?”

No, what we expect, nay, demand is proof. And argument. And citations. And bibliographies. A person with such a simple belief, and no Ph.D-written articles to back up their assertions is dismissed as not worthy of being part of the discussion.

Conversely, a naturalist that dares say there is no god, but asserts they do not know how the universe began, or how life came from non-life is equally blasted by believers.

“Don’t you find that incredible?”
“Isn’t the idea of god so much more believable?”
“How can you claim there is no god, when you don’t even know how the universe started?”

No, what we expect, nay, demand is some article that lays out the chemical process of natural abiogenesis, and the physicist that carefully explains how the universe came into being.

Worse, dogmatism is seen as a quality of character. If a person dares say, “You know what? You are right, and I was wrong” it is feared that credibility will be forever lost. “Doubt” is a four-letter word. I have seen people blindly adhere to some proposition when it has been completely shredded to the most ridiculous of premises, and we all know why. Because to say, “Hey, I was incorrect” is viewed as a character defect, and it is better to be thought stupid than wrong.

To be honest, at times I fall into the intellectualism/dogmatism trap, and therefore avoid talking about any emotional feelings involved in deconversion. It doesn’t sound very intellectual. It sounds full of doubt.

Secondly, I do not talk much about it because I fear the focus will shift to my deconverting because of some emotional response—not for the intellectual reasons. I fear the following conversation:

Me: I studied the following areas:

1) Inerrancy of the Bible
2) Archeology and History
3) Writers of the Bible
4) Textual criticism
5) Reliance of one book upon the other
6) Canon of the Bible
7) Other early Christian writings
8) Possible solutions to Christian problems
9) Euthyphro Dilemma, and the Epicurean Question.
10) Problem of Evil, both logical and evidential
11) Problem of Suffering
12) Problem of coherence
13) Problems with Jesus’ nature, resurrection, trinity, election, Heaven, and hell.
14) Atheistic arguments against god.
15) Problem of unanswered prayer, when I asked god to do something to show he exists.

Theist: A-HA! The reason you deconverted is that God didn’t do what you asked him to do!

I feel like pounding my head on a wall. The other 14 reasons I listed immediately fade into the background and disappear. The only focus for the rest of the conversation is now on my dictating to God. Easier to not list reason number 15, than have it crush the remaining statements into oblivion.

There are two reasons I do occasionally let slip that deconverting was emotionally traumatic.

First, because it is the truth. I live by the maxim that there exists such a thing as “ring of truth.” That some stories are believable, because of the honesty involved. Elvis is really dead because no one would fake their death by having themselves found dead on a toilet. That creates a “ring of truth.” (pun not necessarily intended.)

If I pretended to have had a purely intellectual transition from Christianity to atheist, in that one day I said, “O.K. I am convinced. I am no longer a Christian. What’s for supper?” eventually I would be found out. It isn’t true. It isn’t me. It isn’t what happened.

Mark Twain said it best: “Always speak the truth. That way you don’t have to remember anything.”

Secondly, I talk about it because I am aware of others that are deconverting. If they are anything like me, or anything like the 100’s of deconversion stories I have read—they, too are finding it an unsettling prospect. They too are discovering it is not the same as switching from briefs to boxers. A great deal more uncomfortable.

And, sometimes as humans, it is a modicum of comfort to know that some other human has experienced the same, and what one is feeling is not out-of-the-norm or unusual or completely wacko. We all struggled. Welcome to the party.

But for a moment, I DO want to focus on that emotional time—both to give some insight and to raise some questions. A very brief background to bring us up to speed may be necessary.

I first encountered non-believers discussing Christian concepts out of curiosity. Like seeing animals in a zoo. I had never actually talked to an atheist that was fully aware of all the arguments for Christianity and still was not persuaded. In my naïve mind, there were atheists that did not know the arguments (yet) or atheists that knew them but willfully rejected God so as to live sinful lives. I figured the latter were racked with guilt.

But these seemed both happy AND aware. My curiosity grew to a level of study. I wanted to know more about how atheists thought, and how they knew so much about the Bible. My study grew to a search. I needed to know as much about the Bible as they did. My search grew to a quest. I needed to know more about the Bible than they did.

To fully understand, at this point I was in no fear, no danger of losing my Christianity. I held truth. Sure, they knew more than I, but that was a matter of time and reading. Eventually, either God would direct me, or I would discover the error. The place where they turned, or their bias came into play and we would part ways.

Then I started reviewing the arguments. Even did a little arguing myself. And I realized the arguments for Christianity rang hollow. The arguments against were more believable. (I have discussed my methodology before, and will not waste time reiterating it here.) That, too, was O.K., because God wanted us to have faith. It wasn’t supposed to ALL be easy—we were supposed to have a few doubts. Otherwise we wouldn’t have free will to wend our way through the difficulties.

But more and more arguments I found myself finding the non-Christian position more persuasive. I was nodding my head to the non-Christian position, and shaking my head at the Christian claim. I realized I was in trouble.

I talked to someone, explaining that I was struggling. (A side note. The vast predominance of people reading this blog only know me post-Christianity. As a Christian, it was extremely unheard of, unique even, for me to admit to any struggles. I was raised that one did not talk about struggles, unless there was death involved. The fact that I made this call only demonstrates to me how much trouble I thought I was in.)

That person told me two things: 1) That they always found me intelligent and had faith I would find the right path, and 2) at times we solely have faith in God, and rely upon not knowing everything.

Well…I sure didn’t feel very intelligent. I felt as dumb as a rock. And I wanted to have faith; I really did. I only wanted faith in the right thing, is all. Look, if the Bible is not inerrant, then I shouldn’t be spinning my wheels, busily “having faith” in inerrancy. I could easily have faith in an errant Bible, yet maintain Christianity.

I wanted Christianity. I wanted faith in Christianity. No one wants a false faith. No one wants to get to heaven and find they spent their whole life believing and defending and writing on the concept of “election” only to discover they got it all completely wrong. It wasn’t a question of whether to have faith—that question was settled. It was a question of what to have faith in.

But one can only concede the arguments in favor of Christianity being false and continue to be a Christian so long. Something has to give.

For a period of time, I entered a familiar cycle. During the day I would read arguments for/against Christianity. In the evening I would read books either for/against Christianity. But in the dark of the middle of the night, the demons would come.

I would wake up at 2 a.m. and the wheels would start spinning. I’d creep out of bed, go into the living room and pray. I wasn’t interested in reading, or writing or even thinking. All I wanted to do was pray. And I only prayed for one thing—that God would show me he existed. I didn’t care which God, I didn’t care whether he did it in the form of a vision, or a miracle, or the right book, or a phrase or a person or a quote—or whatever.

When I prayed, I pointed out (realizing that a God would already know it) that my mind seemed to work in a certain way. Why and how--I did not know, but apparently it yearned for information in a distinct pattern. Whatever that pattern was, whatever my particular brain seemed to require, but was not getting, all I asked is that God would provide it.

I prayed that God would show me, and if it was enough for me—even if I could never prove it to anyone else, or use it as a “club” to beat those atheists—that was just fine with me. All I needed was to know he existed. I didn’t ask for a particular God, or for proof on a particular point. I figured knowing there was a God would be enough. I could enjoy the rest of my life working out the rest of the details—but know there is a God.

I prayed standing up, I prayed kneeling, I prayed pacing, I prayed doing sit-ups. I prayed every way I knew, with every word I knew. I prayed for words to explain what I was praying for. Eventually I would sleep for a few hours. The next day I would capture a few moments of reading at work, read at night, lie down exhausted, and at 2 a.m. my eyes would open. For a few nights, I tossed and turned to go back to sleep, but soon gave that up. Once 2 a.m. rolled around, I might as well get up.

I literally reached a point where I said I did not know what else to say. I just sat there. Not thinking. Not forming prayers. Wondering what was to become of me. God had his timing. God knew what I needed. I did not want to rush him.

I thought of quitting the research entirely. I would assume the claim of being a “theist” and dare not think any further. I would be afraid to move forward. Afraid to move back. Live in a perpetual half-belief of “God” and nothing more. But that gave legitimacy to the questions. That would mean I was afraid of looking for what was true. Even if no one else knew, I would know—by being afraid to ask myself the question, I was conceding I was terrified of the answer.

I began to read other deconverts and their stories. They, too, talked of the struggle to give up faith. They talked of the fear of doubts. Of the countless hours of praying. If God didn’t answer them, and they certainly seemed genuine enough, why would he answer me? But I suppressed that idea as quickly as it rose up. To dare think that God would not answer was inconceivable. He loved me. He wanted me to find him. He wanted to answer my prayers.

Although deconverts talked about being at peace, I couldn’t help wondering if it was just preaching to the choir. Rallying the troops. How could they be at peace, without hope of an afterlife? (Remember, I am still a Christian at this point.) I recalled Christian converts talking about being rich, partying girl-magnets, but not really happy until they were saved. Apparently these deconverts were poor, non-partying losers until they could fulfill their sinful desires by abandoning Christianity.

But the thing that really scared me was the numerous tales of divorce. How the Christian spouses either also came out as atheists (never going to happen in my situation) or else divorce occurred. How friends disappeared.

I felt trapped. I couldn’t get off the train without admitting concession to the defeat. I couldn’t abide where the train was heading. And all I could do is pray.

Eventually I tapped out. I remember telling God it was too much to keep doing this. If he wanted me to find him, he knew where I was. But after speaking to an empty sky for so long, and trying so hard to do it right, I had given all I could. I knew I was loosing my grip on my belief in God. I had not lost it yet, but I saw it would take a Miracle (and I still believed in Miracles!) to keep it from falling away.

I became patently aware of two things—I was becoming agnostic (but atheistic to the Christian God) and there was no afterlife. As I pried the elements of Hell out as contradictory and incomprehensible, the elements of Heaven left with equal speed on each wrench.

I was about to become the terrible monster—a man without God. The concept of a creature that my entire youth, and much of my adult years had pounded and nailed and riveted as being hopeless, moralless, and miserable. I recognized that I had too much knowledge to hold onto God, and that I was going to become wretched.

It comes as no surprise; this threw me into despair. No one could look forward to this existence of dredging through a reality I hated. It was receiving a terrible disease, for which there is no cure, yet I would have to live out my life in pain.

One morning, I looked in the mirror and said, “O.K., I cannot live like this. I am going to say it. ‘I do not believe there is a God.’” (Yes, I half-expected a lightening bolt to come right out of the electrical socket and in a moment appear before a very Angry God.) And then I got ready and went to work.

I wish I could say that immediately I felt a flood of peace, and all of my cares and troubles flew away. Life is rarely in that fashion. Change is slow and in a progress, not a jump.

What I found is that I worked that day, and it was just like every other day. I went home and spent time with my family like every other night. I wasn’t getting depressed. Instead, I was feeling more at peace—relieved. I started to sleep better and better at night. Instead of wrestling with questions, I could address them. “If there is no God, then this is just some human’s attempt or picture of God, and is no better or more true than anyone else’s.” Amazing how many questions that clears up!

I started to actually enjoy my studies. No longer was I bound by a certain dogma that required a God at the end of it. I could be free to study and come to the conclusion of This God, That God, We Don’t Know God, or no God at all. I could use my “head thinking” as much as I wanted, rather than stifle it with “heart thinking” and then try and figure out what the heck “heart thinking” was.

I started to enjoy my life about me.

With all that being said, it raises some thoughts I have about that part of the deconversion process.

We can’t win.

If I said that I practiced Christianity, but upon reading a book by Price, or Dawkins, and immediately I intellectually deconverted to Christianity—I would be assured I was never a Christian in the first place. It didn’t stick. I was only head-believing, not heart-believing. Oh, admit it—you are out there! That is exactly what you would think.

But if I say it was gut-wrenching to lose 37 years of belief in one direction, and turn to a completely different direction, then I am assured that the reason for my deconversion was emotional—that I was “disappointed” in God, or depressed or some other silly nonsense.

If it was intellectual, I wasn’t a Christian in the first place. If it was emotional, it was for all the wrong reasons. If it was a combination, I wasn’t a Christian AND I did it for the wrong reasons.

I prayed that God would show me he existed. I had faith that he would. People inform me that I was “dictating to God.” Wait a minute. If I prayed that God would heal Aunt Betsy, and had faith he would, I would be considered a “Person of strong faith.” Pray that God would show me he existed? An arrogant heathen!

Curious, that.

I prayed, expecting God would show me. I am told that we should not expect things from God. Are you saying that when Christians pray for something they don’t expect it to happen? And that is how faith works? Ask God, but figure it won’t happen? How does that play out?

I’m told that now if I prayed for God to show me he exists, it wouldn’t work because I don’t believe God exists. That’s a bit of a bugger, isn’t it? I have to believe God exists before I can ask him to show me he exists, but if I already believe he exists than I wouldn’t have to…oh, never mind.

When I believed in God, it was wrong for me to expect him to show me he existed, when I no longer did, it would be ineffectual. Are we to never question God as to his existence?

Human: Dear Jesus, can you heal mommy—
God: Check.
Human: and help daddy get a job—
God: One’s on the way.

Human: And help the missionaries—
God: In progress
Human: I love you.
God: How nice!

Human: Oh, and what would I look for, to see if you existed?
God: WHAT? You are questioning my existence? How dare you! No Answered Prayer for you!

Is that how God works? Just like our family reunions where certain conversations are “off-limits”? We can talk to God about anything, ask for anything, do anything, but the one thing we mustn’t do is dare inform him we are having trouble believing in him!

Attitudes like that fully explain why I didn’t share my doubt with others. I wonder how many other people are sitting in pews, day after day, going to Bible Studies week after week, and late at night, when the demons come, are on their knees begging God to show them he is actually there? Yet within the Christian community to vocalize such a doubt is considered heresy. Lack of faith. Something to be avoided at all costs.

If I say it was hard to lose a belief of 37 years, I am told that is because I truly still believe it in my heart. If I say it was hard to lose a belief of 37 days, I am told that is because I never believed it in the first place. No matter what we say as deconverts, it is always wrong.

We were either Christians too short a period, too long, too much head knowledge, not enough head knowledge, not enough faith, not long enough faith, not the right kind of faith, we wanted to sin, we wanted to be like God, we didn’t trust God…the list goes on and on.

Every year, for St. Patrick’s day we make a leprechaun trap—my seven-year-old and I. We bait it with those chocolate coins in gold foil. Figure that the combination of gold and chocolate would draw US, it certainly would work on a leprechaun.

It is carefully constructed of shoe-box, and paint (do I have to say what color?) and very St. Patrick-looking-items in order to entice the little fella. We have included a bed (to make it inviting) and a picture (to make it look homey) and about everything one could possible do in order to have our very own leprechaun.

Last year he left foot prints in and about the trap and was able to escape with one coin. But no luck in actually capturing him. This year we were much closer! He jumped out so fast; he left behind one of his small, black shoes! Already plans are in the making for next-years upgraded version.

Question: How do you open a leprechaun trap? Me—I would fling open the top and attempt to look surprised at the lack of success. But my daughter wouldn’t. She really believes. When she opens the trap, she carefully instructs me to be “at the ready” in case he jumps and we have to catch him quick. She keeps a sharp eye out for the cats, because THAT would be tragic.

And slowly she peels back a corner, peering in the darkness, looking for where he might be hiding. More slowly she lifts the lid (ignoring her father’s suggestion to “just shake the box!”) carefully examining where he might jump out. Finally, after the entire interior is revealed, and there is obviously no one inch person in green tights within, the inevitable sigh of disappointment.

“We came close, didn’t we Daddy? Look, he lost his shoe! Maybe next year we need something to bring the lid down faster so….” and the planning begins.

If I asked you, “Does she really believe in leprechauns?” you would be stunned at my question. “Look at how she acts. Look at how carefully she treats that trap, and opens it, fully expecting something inside. Look how she plans with those about her for the obvious fact that such a creature was within. Look at how genuine her disappointment upon failing.”

That, my dear friend, is why claims of “You weren’t a Christian in the first place” fall on my deaf ears. Why shouts of “You were dictating to God” or “You didn’t believe hard enough” or “You didn’t have enough faith” do not move me. Go ahead and proclaim that I became a heathen because I want to sin. That it was some emotional reaction to a disappointment in my life. I will inwardly grin. With all due respect—you haven’t a clue.

You might as well inform my daughter she really doesn’t believe in leprechauns. She and I would both laugh, and work on next year’s trap. It is sure to work this time…

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Obligatory Blog on the Jesus Tomb

I just wish there was this much intense study and outrage in the Christian community on how to better demonstrate love toward fellow human beings. On the lack of churches to be effective within their neighborhoods.

Rather than the outrage as to the silly claim that Jesus had a son—I would have preferred to see the outrage at the size of their own stock portfolios, when claiming to have “faith” that the Jesus who was NOT in that tomb would have the ability to sustain their needs.

Instead of the mockery of a person who had a commercial endeavor before being involved in this project, I would have liked to see they believed Jesus’ bones are impossible to locate by donations of “Titanic” proportions.

I’ll help ya out. The Jesus Tomb controversy only reinforces two (2) premises to me.

One-The flurry of knowledge provided by Christendom was convincing this was not the tomb of Jesus. (Not that many skeptics thought it was in the first place, mind you.)

Two- the whirlwind of the vast predominance of Christendom in order to make their life here as comfortable as possible, including social, educational, and political activity is equally convincing that Christians pragmatically think his bones are buried somewhere else.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Why I say there is no god

The concept of god is a solution to a then-current perceived problem that did not have an apparent resolution.

Let’s look at the course and development of the concept of god(s) from what we know as humanity travels through history.

Every day the sun would rise. It did not take a rocket scientist to figure out that the sun provided light to see by, warmth to live by and regularity by which to monitor time. Useful thing—the sun. But where did the sun come from? Why was it so regular? How is it that it provided light? It was that “why” question that started to trouble humans.

Worse, without the knowledge of the “why” we lose some sense of control. How do we know the sun will continue to rise day after day? Sure, we could put a blanket over us to avoid the light. Or go to shade to avoid the heat. But what accounted for it? Without that knowledge, we are powerless to either stop the sun if we desired, nor fix the sun if it was required. We were helpless.

And so, the concept of a god regarding the sun was born. For the Aztecs, it was a god that sacrificed himself, becoming the sun. In order to continue to cross the sky, however, the sun/god needed human sacrifice. For the Aztec belief in god, while the sun was necessary to survive, it was also a method of practicing belief through the observation of death. Unfortunately, this included human sacrifice.

For the Greeks, the sun was a chariot-drawn god, who oversaw all. It was a reminder that secrets may not stay hidden forever.

The concept of a god became a convenient tool. Humans watched the seasons turn from winter to spring to summer and back to winter. Why? A story of a god, mourning for a period of time is created. This provides a few benefits. First of all it answers that pesky question of “why”? Secondly it can return a measure of control back to the humans. If humans could be bribed by beads and food—why not a god? Allowing nature to run its course seems so…well…fatalistic.

By coming up with the concept of giving offerings to gods for a better harvest, a rainy spring, a warm summer, or a short winter, the human was able to re-gain authority over a situation they did not have before. If summer just happens—what could a human do about it? But if a god controlled summer, and could be persuaded by a human—bingo! Possibly the human could direct his or her destiny.

Unfortunately, this also gave rise to humans exerting control over other humans. We have always seen a variety of personalities in humans. Some are leaders; some follow. Some are bullies; some are encouragers. In every endeavor, from as minimal as a group choosing a restaurant, to as complicated as a government running a country, the various personalities come forth.

God-belief is no different. It does not take long for the leader personality to start informing others that they are not sacrificing correctly. Not that this is done out of meanness, or even necessarily a sense of domination. The leader could be quite a loving, kind person. They just want to make sure that others “get it right.” And, by virtue of their personality, they begin to lead others in “correct” god-belief.

Of course, there are also personalities that are selfish, or dominating. The selfish quickly realize that giving away such knowledge shouldn’t be free—giving it away is a full-time job! Is it not fair that they are provided for by a portion of the sacrifice? The dominating soon learn that humans are motivated by fear. By intoning that it is possible to sacrifice “incorrectly” and hinting they have the “correct” way of doing it, people became afraid of the wrong god-belief.

People started following different god-beliefs. And in competing groups.

And what is the surprise in that? We emulate our parents and our immediate society, in our mannerism, in our goals, in our actions, and equally we emulate them in our beliefs. If your parents were Native Americans, it is only natural that you, too, would believe in animal spirits. Encountering new people that believed differently than you would introduce new god-beliefs they received from their heritage. Those beliefs would compete.

We congregate with those that tend to believe the same as we do. When moving, a person looks for a new group with a similar religious belief. We look for those who hold to the god-belief most like our own.

Churches and formal religions are born.

A distinct advantage of a god, is that it is perpetually out of reach. Unobservable. Unverifiable. Undeterminable. This allows it to exist with qualities that do not make sense. How, exactly, does a supernatural being impact on a natural being? The “how” becomes unimportant, because it is covered by the broad concept of a god. Within the definition itself is the essential characteristic of the unknown. What was the chariot traveling on when crossing the sky? Only a god would know. How does a god impregnate a human? Only a god would know. Why is one sacrifice “better” than another? Only a god knows.

A solution to a problem shouldn’t provide more questions, while leaving the problem intact. That isn’t a solution at all! If you told me your car wouldn’t start, and I gave you the solution of “Gremlins invaded your engine” while technically qualifying as a “solution” (in the loosest terms) it doesn’t solve the problem. How are gremlins invading? What are the doing? How do we go about removing these terrible creatures?

Introducing a god as a solution to a problem, while initially may be satisfying, with a little unpacking, it becomes hopelessly tangled, and no real solution in sight.

Probably the most common solution for which god is utilized is creation. The “why” of the fact the universe exists. But simply saying “God made it” is one step on a long, long journey of troubling questions. What method did this god use? (i.e. out of nothing, theistic evolution, abiogenesis, etc.) Did god create evil? Is god bound by laws or logic or space or time within creation? How does supernatural cross over to natural? Do humans have souls?

And we hear a plethora of theists, each giving their own particular philosophical stance on the who, what, where, when and why of this god proposed to make creation. And what we see—what we KNOW—is that this god is completely unverifiable. Frankly, the theist hasn’t a clue as to what god is like.

Rather than discussing the vast, book-length treatise on the nature of god, I ask a simple question: “Can god lie?” By placing this god beyond our observation, or ability to verify, we are unable to answer even this most basic, three-word question: “Can god lie?” A theist can discuss with me the immutable moral character of a triune being for pages on length, yet I realize they do not even have the ability to know what boundaries the god is working within when it comes to imparting truth. That kinda makes their dissertation on some vast property of god not very persuasive.

I don’t mind: “I don’t know.” Use it myself. There are plenty of things I do not have the knowledge of, either due to my lack of study of what other humans know, or my human limitation of observation. I don’t know if there are other habitable planets in the entire universe. Neither does any other human, due to our current technological limitations.

And, I can appreciate that a theist may also say, “I don’t know” when it comes to a god. But upon inspection, they don’t really know anything about a god. What I can’t fathom is how some minute characteristic of god is described and explained, yet when I ask about something more troubling, “god is mysterious” comes out. Well, if god is so mysterious, how did the theist know about the previous minute characteristic of god? Apparently god is not entirely mysterious—there are some things that can be known.

I am uncertain what method a theist can use to claim what can be “known” about god and what cannot. (Oh, and if I am told that we “know” things about god because of what this god told me, I go back to my three word question: “Can god lie?”)

This propensity to make positive assertions, with no ability to verify the same reminds me of my father and watermelons. As a parent is inclined to do, my father played a trick on us when we were young in order to entertain our insatiable curiosities.

He informed us that the insides of a watermelon are actually green.

“But all the watermelons we have ever seen are red!”
“Ahh. That is because when oxygen hits the inside part, it turns it red.”

He now had three boys focusing their normal destructive tendencies on resolving how to see the inside of a watermelon without oxygen touching it. No matter how fast we cut it, air reached it first. Drilling, x-rays, flashlights—everything we dreamed up we were stymied by the fact that in order to observe it, air must strike it first.

I get the same feeling. God, like the “green” inside of a watermelon, is placed out of our ability to observe. Yet the theist, like my father, makes a positive assertion as to the property of this god—“it is green.” Everything I try comes up with a red watermelon, so I finally begin to question how it is that oxygen causes something I can’t observe to become something I can. At which point the theist says, “I don’t know. God is mysterious.” And I suspect that they don’t know what color the inside of their watermelon is, either.

[A troubling side note. Many proponents of god recognize this inability to observe and introduce a concept of “faith.” A notion that one must believe despite the capability to confirm. In and of itself, faith is not bothersome. But by presenting it, the idea of “lack of faith” is also born. The idea that if you dare question the god, or question the person presenting the god, or question the idea behind god, you have “lack of faith” and therefore are barred by god.

Because people fear “lack of faith” they avoid even treading on any questions at all about their god. As if somehow their god could be offended and take away any reward by a mere human pausing to reflect on the reality presented by another human. It is then claimed that looking for god without the proper motivation will result in failure. A built-in safety switch to explain why God cannot be found by a skeptic. Clever.]

We watch gods change as humans gain knowledge and technology. Native Americans often believed the Great Spirit only made land newly discovered in the recent past. There was no reason for the Great Spirit to make more land than that—who was there to discover it? Humans thought god were responsible for earthquakes. Until plate tectonics was discovered. Humans thought god(s) revolved around the earth in the form of planets/stars and sun. Until we learned that the earth was not the center of the universe.

The printing press provided the opportunity for the god of Protestantism to break fully free from the god of Catholicism. 200 years ago, the Christian God supported slavery. Now, that would be aghast. 3000 years ago the Jewish God support polygamy.

We have watched creationism change from young-earth to old-earth to “intelligent design.” Why? Did the god provide new information? Nope—humans discovered it. Over the grand course of history, we watch as gods rise and then fall, as humans learn and advance and discover.

Because a god is a solution to a perceived problem. If that problem, such as how seasons form, or how the sun travels across the sky, or how sicknesses occur, or diseases are cured, or places are discovered or study produces interesting results, if that problem is resolved through other means—god becomes no longer necessary. It is discarded, or withdraw from consideration.

Now up until this point, any theist in the world would be standing next to me and nodding their head. “Yep, you got it right. Yep, there are plenty of other god beliefs that history has proven wrong. Yep, those other humans sure got god wrong.” Any theist in the world would agree I would be quite properly correct to vociferously say, “There is no such god” when reviewing these various other historical beliefs. They say it themselves!

Every theist in the world would be telling me that simply because some human says they have it right when it comes to god, it does not mean they are correct. The theist would concur with me that most human claims about god do not have it correct.

But wait. It is a human telling me to not trust humans as to what they say about god. It is a human telling me that other humans will be wrong about god. What makes the human standing next to me immune from the same concerns it is claiming about others? What gives this particular human the “inside scoop” as it were, to god?

And even this human will inform me that much of their information they received about god came from another human. Oh, they may claim some internal revelation, but again, that is out of reach of observation. The fact of the matter is that they heard it from another human. Or read something written by another human. Which another human informed them was from god.

To the theist—imagine standing on a stage. In your hands is a rope. Looking up, that rope is held by another person. The person who provided you your immediate information about god. On the rope is the word “legacy.” It is where you get your particular theistic belief from. And above that person is where s/he got their information from, with yet another rope. Looking back from person to person, you can trace the steps through various people, along pieces of rope, back to the very first recorded instance of your god.

If you are a Protestant that rope would travel through the likes of Martin Luther, Eusebius, Paul, Jesus, David, Moses—right back to the person who wrote Genesis. You have a long legacy leading directly from god to your belief.

But standing next to your right, on this stage, is a female with very, very similar beliefs about god such as yours. Perhaps the two of you only disagree about a minor point on predestination, or a small passage of scripture. And she is also holding a rope. Because the two of you have such similar beliefs, her rope would fairly quickly be joined by some person in your line and then travel together.

Standing next to her is another female with slightly different beliefs than hers, and a little greater difference than yours. She too, holds a rope. Hers, as well, goes to a person and so on, eventually merging with your line.

If you are within the Christian god worldview, as you look down the line, there are 15,000 people to your right. Look the other way, there are 15,000 more. All with lines. All looking at you and pointing straight up as to how their legacy also has a direct line to god. Sure, the farther away they are, the higher up until those lines converge.

It gets worse. The development of the god belief is not a straight line. As you look up, there are places people holding 100’s of ropes for where the beliefs differed off after them. Some are only holding one rope. Some people are taking 3 or 4 ropes from people above them, and holding 3 or 4 ropes for people below them. It is not 30,000 sets of straight ropes, but a tangled, interwoven weave of ropes criss-crossing as beliefs develop over time.

Further, it is not a clean, straight line. As you look now, you are in the middle of a crowd. There are people who believe slightly different on one point with you, but agree on everything else. Others that disagree on another point, but everything else is in agreement. All holding ropes. Some holding a number of ropes, having received the legacy from a variety of beliefs.

And that is just Christianity. Add Muslims, Mormons, Jews and we see more and more entangled ropes and beliefs.

As you look, you see where ropes end, as a belief ends. Or a large segment that trails off into nothingness over the course of history.

Add in the other 100,000 varieties of gods, and their various nuances, some “borrowing” from others. Even Judaism borrowed from Babylonian beliefs. Christianity borrowed from cynic philosophers.

As I step back, I see a huge clump of people and ropes, with long legacies, and intertwined connections, and see, frankly, a mess.

As history continues, you will pass your legacy on. So will others. The ropes will continue, some will end, and some will blossom into whole new sections. You, your ropes and your line are a miniscule portion of the entire picture.

And every theist on there is telling me two things:

1) They are right
2) The people not in their direct line of ropes are wrong.

It is a cacophony of voices clamoring, “I am right. They are wrong. I am right. They are wrong.”

And so I am left asking another simple question; “By what method do I determine which ropes among that mess have the divine thread of truth? How do I tell which ropes are human, and which are divine? What system do I develop by which I can say, ‘This rope is correct and that is not?’ Is there something more than cries of ‘Believe me. Believe me.’?”

I have yet to see such a consistent method. A method that is more than just a person pointing to their own rope and claiming it is correct. A method that makes a person’s legacy stand out on its own.

Why do I say there is no god? Standing next to me are numerous people. While they believe in a god, they point to your god and say, “That is not correct.” And, for 99% of the time, you stand next to me, and in agreement with all those others, you point to another person’s god and say “That is not correct.”

Think of all the people that say your god is not correct. No matter what you believe, over the course of the entire human history, your god-belief is in the vast, vast minority. If there have been only 100,000 god-beliefs, 99.999% of the beliefs have said your particular version was wrong.

It does not mean you are wrong, of course, but it does mean for your position to be persuasive as to its reality, you need to really, REALLY show some evidence. If we filled a college football stadium, you would be the sole person claiming the reality of your god, whereas the other 99,999 occupants would shout out a resounding, “NO!” Best have something outstandingly convincing!

After watching all the theists pointing their fingers at each other, proclaiming, “There is no god such as yours” I step out of the ring, see the tangled ropes and the pointing fingers and say, “There is no god.”

It makes sense.

(Posted simultaneously on ‘cause I owed them a blog entry.)