To clarify my thoughts regarding the existence of God and religion in general...


What follows is a statement of my faith, or rather my absence of faith, that is intended as a corollary to my recent and my upcoming posts about attending church.

The world as we know it shows no evidence of an all knowing, all wise, all good, and all powerful deity, but to posit a God that lacks these qualities (as in pantheism, deism, and much of liberal Christianity) is to render God's existence all but irrelevant.

To respond to a question about how something came about by saying that God did it or God made it that way isn’t to give a reason but to evade the question.

To say of God that he is a supernatural being is to define God with a term that cannot itself be defined.

Other than to project attributes that we wish we had onto God, no one can say what God is, yet millions of people imagine that they know God’s mind, and that God wants them to oppress those who disagree.

The more effectively science can explain the existence of the universe and life on our planet, the harder it becomes to defend theism. This is why lesser educated believers tend to be hostile to science, while better educated believers worship such an attenuated version of God that they are left with little that outsiders can criticize or that they themselves can find comfort in.

Alongside the complete lack of evidence to support a belief in God’s existence, there is strong reason to believe that God (as a being who is all good, all knowing, and all powerful) does not exist. This proof is evident anytime any creature suffers, whether from violence, accident, deformity, disease, addiction, oppression, mental illness, starvation, natural disaster, natural selection, or for any other reason.

Despite what theists commonly argue, there is no evidence to suggest that those who believe in God are more open, honest, moral, compassionate, spiritual, sensitive, fair-minded, intelligent, common sensical, open to wonder, or superior in any other way to nonbelievers. I would even argue that the reverse is commonly true with religion being used to justify behaviors that require a lack of positive qualities on the part of those who engage in them. For example…

In nearly every instance, the God of a given nation is portrayed as favoring that nation above other nations (Gott Mit Uns the Nazi belt buckles proclaimed), and that nation’s powerful above its oppressed, the latter of whom are told that by submitting to their wealthy oppressors in this life, they will receive mansions in the next. It is even commonplace in modern America for ministers to promise the poor that they will receive mansions in this life if they are willing to prove their trust in God by donating generously to those same ministers.


All of the above being what I believe, it follows that I don’t attend church because I think I am in good company, it being my conviction that the company of believers as a whole is very bad company indeed (America's Christians continue to support Donald Trump), or because my beliefs about God or religion have changed. I instead go to church because I gain from the experience in ways that I have blogged about and will continue to blog about, and because I make a strong distinction between liberal Christians and other Christians. Unfortunately, liberal Christians are in the minority, the reason being that most people have an emotional need for assurances beyond what liberal religion can provide.

18 comments:

Emma Springfield said...

This was a thoughtful and revealing post. Many years ago I read a book authored by a rabbi. He was addressing the notion of "it's God's will" in connection with tragedies. This rabbi reminded us that God was not interested in making mankind suffer. Instead we have free will and live our lives accordingly. Joys and tragedies are the results of our own actions and actions of others as well as natural occurrences. He pointed out that individual accomplishments and failures were too trivial for God to be right there every time. I admit I am not a religious person. This man made a great deal of sense to me however. If I could remember the name of the book or the author I would give it to you. I believe you would like it.

rhymeswithplague said...

KbLEjjaK;bL and I think the book might have been When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Rabbi Harold Kushner.

rhymeswithplague said...

That gobbledegook at the beginning was supposed to be Emma and Snow, !! My fingers must have been on the wrong row for a second....

Tom Sightings said...

Hmmm, I'd like to believe in some kind of god, but I'm not sure that I do. But I have to say, if I had the choice of picking a random churchgoer, or a random non-churchgoer, to look after my valuables for a while, I think I'd pick the churchgoer b/c I think I'd have a better chance I'd get my stuff back.

Marion said...

1 John 4:7-21 - God Is Love

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot[a] love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Footnotes:
1 John 4:20 Some manuscripts how can he

Linda Sue said...

No evidence for any of the gods. it has always been a contrived notion either to keep people from going mad or to control them or both. The Christian mono theism is particularly absurd, especially the old testament. A great book to read is " God is disappointed in you" - hilarious! Another is "Zealot". "holy blood Holy Grail" was OK...but really, what a wild invention! All of the splinter groups are also insane, Mormonism, seventh day adventists, Witnesses, the lot, they are all nuts.

Snowbrush said...

"Joys and tragedies are the results of our own actions and actions of others as well as natural occurrences...individual accomplishments and failures were too trivial for God to be right there every time."

I haven't read the book, but from what I know of Kusher's book, I think Rhymes might have the name right. I think of Kusher's premise--that God is well-meaning but not all powerful--to be unsupportable, in that any God who was powerful enough to create the entire universe would most certainly have the power to eliminate cancer, macular degeneration, tooth decay, mental retardation, birth deformities, floods, droughts, and a million other things that plague humankind and other species, and that would exist no matter how well we behaved. Think of smallpox, for example. Given that we humans were finally able to conquer smallpox, then surely God could have done the same long ago and saved millions of lives, so why didn't he? I hadn't heard that Kushner also took the position that our little joys and pains are simply, by and large, too trivial to warrant the interest of an overextended deity, but if this is true, then Kusher's God is no better than my no-God.

"if I had the choice of picking a random churchgoer, or a random non-churchgoer, to look after my valuables for a while, I think I'd pick the churchgoer"

Back when I was living in Oregon but still owned property in Mississippi, I often found myself cheated by churchgoers (everyone from realtors to pest control men), while I've never, to my knowledge, been victimized by an atheist, and my own atheistic wife is the probably the most ethical person I've ever known. I might also add that I am involved enough in efforts to fight religious oppression that I know much about the hatred, lies, thefts, and oppression that religious people commonly exhibit in their efforts to force religious values, observances, and monuments onto the public. Yet nothing has turned me against religion like the support religious people have given to Donald Trump because, on one hand, they claim that only they can live a moral life, yet instead of doing right and trusting God, they enthusiastically support a man who violates every standard of morality. All of these things combined have caused me to wonder if religion might not have a hardening effect that makes it LESS likely that religious people lead moral lives. If I were in the situation you posit, I would leave my money with the non-churchgoer, and if a person whom I was considering leaving my money with knew I didn't belong to the same branch of the same religion as he, I know I would leave it with a non-churchgoer. This isn't to say that I think that all churchgoers are immoral (I would unhesitatingly leave my money with Rhymes), but that I've had such bad experiences with so many of them, that I have exceedingly low expectations of any who I don't personally know.

Snowbrush said...

"1 John 4:7-21"

Marion, it worries me that you quote Bible verses instead of engaging in dialogue. You might be, and probably are, a far stronger person than I to have survived all you've been through, but giving you credit for your strength doesn't erase my worry, and it doesn't negate my feeling that you're not talking to me but past me. I've tried so hard to engage you in dialogue, and all I've all I've gotten in return have been Bible verses that I scan but don't read.

"The Christian mono theism is particularly absurd, especially the old testament."

Monotheists claim that the advent of monotheism represented a quantum leap in human thought, yet it I'm unaware that polytheists ever killed anyone for worshiping the WRONG God.

"All of the splinter groups are also insane, Mormonism, seventh day adventists, Witnesses, the lot, they are all nuts."

You've surely heard it said that the main difference between a church and a cult is that a church has been around long enough--and grown big enough--to win societal acceptance (Christianity itself started out as a cult). Did you also know that in a Pew Research study of how much people know about religion, atheists, Jews, and Mormons scored highest?

The Kellogg Brothers (the cereal bigwigs) were bigwigs in Adventism, and Adventists tend to live longer than other Christians because of their clean living. JW's? No transfusions, no saluting the flag, and no advanced education. Yeah right. Something that atheists are starting to take note of is that church membership has a positive effect on satisfaction and longevity, although initial studies seem to suggest that this isn't because of what religious people believe so much as because of the social support they enjoy. I can certainly see that church attendance has a salubrious effect in my own life. I just wish I could enjoy some church like the Unitarian in which my lack of belief in the supernaturalist wouldn't raise an eyebrow, but, no, I need liturgy, and the Episcopal Church is surely the most tolerant of the groups that still retain a semblance of Christian belief.

Thanks for the book recommendations.

Linda Sue said...

Agree ab out liturgy and Episcopal church, Church of England, it is gentle and has marvelous trappings, fresh flowers, great tunes for the glory, generally nice people that really have no interest in shoving anything down your throat. When ever I am in England, which is often, I invariably drop in - they do Church nicely, tolerant of my not kneeling or praying, They even have finger sandwiches and tea. My atheistic parents allowed me to choose when I was about nine years old- I visited Catholic, loved their swag, the Mormons, loved their spaghetti dinners, Methodist, loved nothing about that one, and finally the Episcopal church, and my folks were OK with that. Lasted for about twelve years before the god stuff began to annoy me and stifle thought. So , yes, I agree with you.

Snowbrush said...

"Methodist, loved nothing about that one"

It's a denomination that is undergoing inner turmoil over the rights of homosexuals,and, just this summer, it failed to pass an amendment to its Book of Discipline stating that men and women are of equal value in the sight of God, and that God is neither male or female. (You probably know that Mormons envision God as an anatomically correct humanoid male.) Yet, my local First Methodist congregation goes out of its way to welcome LGBTs, and I'm sure the failed amendment would have easily passed if the values of the denomination as a whole were the same as that congregation's values. If I were not an Episcopalian, I wouldn't have much in the way of other options (I waited a bit to late to become a Reformed Jew, and I would never join a group so alien to my life's experience as Buddhism), but my local First Methodist would be one I would consider, along with the United Church of Christ and, of course, Unitarianism.

You know so much that I worry that I will insult you by saying something that you consider painfully obvious, but America's Episcopal Church isn't well accepted within the "Anglican Communion" simply because it champions equality for all humans. The Anglican Churches of Africa in particular are SO sexist and SO anti-gay that they are forever threatening to leave the Anglican Communion altogether if that Communion should ever grant equal rights to women and LGBT, and Jason Welby (the current Archbishop of Canterbury) is solidly behind them, at least on the issue of LGBT rights (he is the same fellow who expressed doubt about God's existence). There's a documentary (Love Free or Die) about gay Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson that you surely would enjoy. I also recently read and enjoyed a biography of the notorious '60s bishop James Pike. It's entitled "A Passionate Pilgrim: A Biography of Bishop James A. Pike, and I liked it so much that I read it twice.

"...the Episcopal church... Lasted for about twelve years before the god stuff began to annoy me and stifle thought."

I've long had an in-and-out relationship with the Episcopal Church, which is actually the only denomination that I've ever adored. I'm under no illusion that my views would be well-received by most devout Episcopalians, yet I don't feel like I'm walking through a minefield either, and I've read books by no less than two Episcopal bishops who shared my non-belief in the supernatural, and a third who came awfully close. I even shared my blog address with the rector, and he said he "loved it." I have actually become so bold as to think it possible that, after five decades of trauma and struggle, I am finally able to reap the many benefits of church attendance without constantly feeling that I lack integrity for going. I'm written one significant (to me anyway) post about my conclusions, and I'm working on an even more significant one.

kylie said...

I think this post summarises nicely all the things you have said over the years.
It's interesting that you love liturgy so much, just as the Salvation Army in Australia tries to remove all of the (very streamlined) liturgy we ever had.

Snowbrush said...

"the Salvation Army in Australia tries to remove all of the (very streamlined) liturgy we ever had"

Do they replace it with longer sermons and more songs? Episcopal sermons tend to be quite short due to the length of the liturgy, and this suits me well since most sermons just aren't that good. I often take a book to church, and read from it during the sermon so as not to feel that my time is being wasted. Non-liturgical churches tend to put so much emphasis on the sermon that everything else feels like an prelude or an afterlude.

Sue in Italia/In the Land Of Cancer said...

A good essay. I do hate how believers or those who say they believe take the moral high ground and believe they are superior just because they are delusional.

kylie said...

That's a good question.
A traditional service used to include a choir piece, a band piece, the piano was played for the offering, there were opening and closing prayers and often a period of sharing. oh and announcements.
These days all those things have been cut out. We probably have longer songs but not more of them and some preachers fill in time with sermons but if they don't you just end up with a very short service.

haha! reading a book in the sermon! I couldn't get away with that, i just do dagger eyes at the unruly teenager who sits in front of me

Marion said...

Snow, I know you are an atheist. You know I am a Christian. I have no desire to argue about why I am a Christian or you an atheist. God's Word speaks my beliefs perfectly. I love you, my friend. xo

Strayer said...

I do resent the basic assumption that those who go to church occupy some higher moral level while I've found also that the reverse is usually true. That's in my work helping stray cats. The Christians or self described religious people are less likely to donate, are less likely to have any compassion whatsoever for the kitties or even me, and are usually very ignorant on many subjects. For example, I was discussing with a vocal conservative Christian contractor the wish that we could develop a chip that could convert the chemical signals sent by neurons in the brain to digital signals that could control bionic limbs, for paralyzed patients. However, he not only thought the brain's actions are all from God but that electricity itself cannot be understood and is akin to magic. I thought he was joking but he wasn't. I asked "don't you read" then tried to explain electricity to him. He just stared at me as I rattled on about electrons and chemical reactions in the brain. Deliberately ignorant followers and the self proclaimed moral religious often make me want to throw up.

Snowbrush said...

"I do hate how believers or those who say they believe take the moral high ground and believe they are superior just because they are delusional."

Like the released preacher who knelt before Trump and asked the Holy Spirit to help Trump continue his work, presumably his work of hatred and alienation since that's all Trump knows and all Trump is capable of.

"A traditional service used to include a choir piece, a band piece, the piano was played for the offering, there were opening and closing prayers and often a period of sharing. oh and announcements. These days all those things have been cut out."

Who makes these decisions on behalf of the Salvation Army? By the way, you're the only SA I've ever known, although they have a church not twenty blocks away, and I've enjoyed learning about them from you.

"I have no desire to argue about why I am a Christian or you an atheist."

Then, we'll skip over the verse that reads, "...always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you..." and move on to another question.

Since you think so highly of the Biblical admonitions to love that you continually quote entire passages advocating the same, how is it that support a president from whom hatred flows like vomit; and how is it that you, a victim of sexual assault, support a president who mocks sexual assault survivors and has personally boasted of being a sexual predator? And is it okay with you that this politician whom you adore is using the presidency as a money-making scheme, that he has largely turned the work of the Department of State over to his children and son-in-law, that he has shown bad faith in appointing as agency heads people who spent their legal careers trying to destroy those very agencies, that he separated screaming immigrant children from their desperate parents only to lose those children in a national network of stark warehouses after deporting their parents, that he is giving Saudi Arabia a pass on murdering a Washington Post journalist, that he bullies people on the Internet and everywhere else his words appear, that he has told thousands of easily verifiable lies during his brief time as president, that he changes his beliefs as often as the winds blow, that he fires people on Twitter without having the courtesy of telling them first, that he goes all out to help disaster victims in states that voted for him while only making token efforts on behalf of the far more desperate residents of Puerto Rico that aren't allowed to vote, and that he equates the ethics of neo-Nazis with the ethics of their victims? How it is, Marion, if Christian love is so important to you, that you are infatuated with a man so narcissistic that he boasts of having never felt the need to ask God's forgiveness, a man who mocks the disabled and has done his best to silence his opponents? Even if you believe him when he says that the media (except for Fox) is "fake news," I should think that his ceaseless tirades would be adequate cause a thousand times over to convince you that here is a man in whom virtue has no reality, and that by supporting him, you betray the very values that you claim to hold most dear. When he was running for president, he boasted that he could shoot someone to death on a crowded Manhattan Street, and it would make no difference to the faithful, and you reflect the truth of that statement. Much of Christian America has abandoned the gospel of Christ in favor of the gospel of Trump, there being no way other than rank hypocrisy to claim allegiance to both.

Snowbrush said...

"I do resent the basic assumption that those who go to church occupy some higher moral level while I've found also that the reverse is usually true."

Like millions of people, I was taught that only those who fear hell have a stake in virtue, and that Catholics don't care about virtue because all they need do when they sin is have the priest forgive them. Only later did it occur to me that the people in my church had it easier than did the Catholics because we could ask God's forgiveness directly. The fact that I didn't see this immediately didn't speak well for my intelligence, I fear, but unlike my grown-up preachers, I, at least, was a child, and children tend to regard as true whatever trusted adults tell them.

The church I go to composts, actively supports recycling, and gives to environmental charities. All of these changes came about since my last foray there about fifteen years ago, and I was extremely pleased by these changes, it being my impression that, as organizations, churches couldn't care less about the environment and nonhuman life. That was quite a story about your contractor acquaintance. Evangelicals in general are keen enough on technology but suspicious of science in general.