It has recently been pointed out to me that I have not specifically stated my reasons for not believing in the existence of a deity. True. I wrote this blog with the assumption that readers would understand my beginning position and that the posts would go from there. It never occurred to me to actually write out the logic behind this stance. I guess with most of the audience being theists, this might be something worth tackling; though as I’ve said before, far better thinkers and writers than me have written extensively on the topic–for both sides of the argument.
But anyway, I’ll list some of the reasons…at least a few of them since I couldn’t possibly write them all coherently in a single blog entry. In fact, there are whole books dedicated to many of the reasons listed below.
Disclaimer–These are not “my” reasons. They are common reasons that many people have written about and elaborated on. It took a while, but when I was emotionally able to look at these arguments honestly, I found that they make much more sense to me than any theistic arguments I had (have) ever heard.
Burden of Proof
First of all, when the emotional attachment a person has to his or her particular brand of religion is broken, it’s easy to realize that the claims are, in fact, quite ridiculous. Imagine looking at Christianity, or any other religion, as an outsider. What would it be like if someone told you that there was an invisible guy that you could talk to telepathically, that he was everywhere all the time but you couldn’t see him, that he could and perhaps would change physical laws upon request, that he needed to come to earth to die because the humans he created are so bad that only the torture and murder of a god in man-form would save us, that he was conceived without a father, that he was a man on earth but a god in heaven at the same time, that his earth self talked to his heaven self, that he walked on water and performed miracles, that he died but came back to life in three days, etc., etc? It would sound absolutely ridiculous if you weren’t raised from the time you were a child in a culture that accepts this view as plausible.
Given these incredible claims, the burden of proof lies with theists, not atheists. If I told you that there were invisible fairies in my front lawn, I would be expected to prove it to you, the non-believer, before assuming that you also believe the fairies exist. It wouldn’t make any sense for me to make the claim and then tell you to prove to me that there aren’t any invisible fairies. How do you prove that invisible fairies don’t exist? You could say that it is highly improbable, but it would be impossible to say for certain that something with “god” characteristics (invisible, not testable or measurable in any way, etc.) does not exist. Hence why most atheists are agnostic atheists rather than gnostic atheists.
Since tackling the god issue rationally, I have not yet seen a convincing argument for the existence of a supreme being or anything supernatural at all. And believe me when I say, I’ve been reading up on it more than I care to admit. 🙂
Why do you believe the Bible? Because it’s The Word of God. How do you know it’s The Word of God? Because the Bible says it is!
God is real because I can FEEL Him. I just KNOW he’s real.
I passed that really hard test after I prayed. God exists!
My relative had cancer, but God healed her and now she’s better! Proof!
This kind of “logic” is all too common in religions. These are just a few examples among many. To touch on just one of the above statements, the religious believe their holy text to be divinely inspired, even though other religious texts claim the same, but have contradictory information. In response to this, theists generally invoke “faith” to say that one should believe and live by their text and not the others. But why should a person have faith in one religious text over another? Couldn’t you just as easily have faith in the Qu’ran? The Book of Mormon? The Bhagavad Gita? Why did you chose your particular religion? If you really think about it, it probably has a lot more to do with geography than anything else.
On a similar note, based on the incredible religious diversity and the hugely contradictory depictions of God, the most logical conclusion is that these people really have no idea what the crap they are talking about. If there really were an all-powerful deity, wouldn’t it make sense that the major world religions would perceive him (or her or it) in a way that there would at least be a little bit of agreement about what is being perceived, his (or her or its) nature, what he wants from humans, his laws, what he does and does not do, and so on? Again, the belief systems spread based on geography more than anything else.
Science and the History of Religion
Throughout history, supernatural explanations were standard in explaining occurrences of the world that did not make sense at the time. A volcano erupts? The gods are angry! Sun rises each morning? It’s pulled by a god on a chariot! Each unexplainable phenomenon was explained supernaturally. As science advanced, religious and supernatural explanations were replaced with concrete, testable, scientific hypotheses and laws. Perhaps that person is acting strangely because he is schizophrenic, not because he is possessed by demons. Perhaps earthquakes happen based on the movement of tectonic plates and not divine wrath. Perhaps the vast diversity of life can be explained by the theory of evolution and lifeforms were not uniquely created by a supernatural being. Perhaps germs cause illness. And on and on and on. Religions have evolved (well, some of them) to accept current scientific truths, but this process shows the flaws of supernatural thinking. God is <this>. Oh wait, no he’s not. Never mind. God is <this(a)>.
Now, one could say that god works through these natural processes or that he created the natural processes, but I don’t see the need for the extra step. If the world could theoretically work just fine without a deity, why assume a deity?
Whence Cometh Evil?
The major monotheistic religions for the most part assume three characteristics about a deity: He is omniscient, benevolent, and omnipotent. The single most compelling reason for me not believing in the deity of these religions in particular can be summed up by the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus.
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?
And I know the theological response will inevitably invoke the principle of free will and that there are countless apologetic books devoted solely to this topic, but the free will answer has just never sat well with me, even when I was a devout Christian. People can have free will without floods, earthquakes, diseases that kill innocent babies and children, and so on.
One final note: What if I’m wrong? What if the Christian god does exist? I think YouTube user TheoreticalBullshit explains how I feel about this much better than I ever could.
But these are just the thoughts that I have about this subject at this time. As always, it could change. I don’t expect or want you to be convinced. Fundamentally changing the way you see and understand the world is quite a difficult process and I wouldn’t want anyone to enter such a journey unprepared. Continue in your own search and find what works for you. Do the best you can with what you have right now. Yesterday is a memory and tomorrow is imagined. Now is reality. (In other words, none of this really matters anyway.) 🙂
“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” ~Siddhartha Gautama