This report was submitted to us by reader Tony Sharp on Jan 24, 2003. The Ethical Atheist welcomes your submissions. We like to provide our readers with viewpoints of others.
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1: Reasoned Faith and Religious Faith
- Chapter 2: “It’s a Miracle!”
- Chapter 3: The Moment of Creation
- Chapter 4: A Journey’s End
- Chapter 5: Science
To believe in a universe that is under the guidance of a divine power, in my opinion, is far more reassuring than believing in a random universe that is without divine guidance.Religion is celebrated for giving its followers comfort and meaning, states most of us require to live happily without excessive worry. My longing for purpose led me onto a journey toward theism, a search for God, where I found myself embracing spiritual advice from several priests and religious friends. From their advice came another journey through prayer, meditation, and many hours of reading “prophetic scripture”, which included the writings about Jesus Christ, who is arguably the most famous prophet of the lot. Nevertheless, instead of finding myself under a warm blanket of confidence and founded conclusion, through theism and religion I only found myself lost in a cold world of greater mystery and discomfort.
What are the religious basing their ideas on? Is the source for their ideas a reliable one? Did God create man and his ideas? Or, did man and his ideas create God?
Our flawed perception and intuition deceives us daily. Even the most basic of optical illusions could confuse the average person. Why would a God insist that we rely solely on our intuition, our fallible minds, and on faith alone to believe in Him? Is it really asking too much for a kind of physical touch or audible voice? Instead of playing “Hide –n– Go Seek”, is there not a more productive way, especially for a devout critical thinker such as myself, to test one’s allegiance?
Most religious writings describe very obvious interactions between man and the supernatural, via angels and magical transformations, just to name a few. Why are these interactions between man and the supernatural not as obvious today as they were in the past as stated in biblical writings? Above all, why is there absolutely no realistic evidence for the supernatural? In a natural universe, does the “supernatural” even exist? Can it exist? Why should it exist?
For as long as I can remember, I have never been able to completely believe in the religious ideas most parents, including my own, try to promote as historical truth to their children. Even at the age of seven I was analyzing the Noah’s Ark tale with questions like, “How could a wooden boat almost the size of a football field float? Why would a God, with the power to create galaxies, waste His time on a global flood?” I did not exclude the God concept itself though. Far-fetched religious concepts were not proof for the nonexistence of God. God could have created man, and man could have created religion on his own, without divine guidance. In realizing this, I kept my mind open, and continued my search onward.
Chapter 1: Reasoned Faith and Religious Faith
I spent many days, weeks, months trying to bend and shape each vague answer that was given by my spiritual guides into something legible, and, above all, rational. They explained that I was not supposed to question the answers given to me, and that I was to surrender my rational mind to something called “faith.” Nevertheless, why would a God give us rational, critical, minds to understand everything but Him? If rational thinking has been the key to our survival since our beginnings, rational thinking should also be the key to understanding our creator, if there is one.I have found there to be two different kinds of faith —
• A notion based on a sustained experience supported by naturalistic evidenceReligious Faith:
• A notion based on a brief “divine” experience that is without naturalistic evidence
If I unplug my computer, I know it will turn off. I have reason and evidence to support my notion. I have seen it happen before and I have reasoned faith that it will happen again. Belief in a heaven, a supernatural place that exists outside of our world, requires religious faith. The concept of a heaven is without both naturalistic evidence and reason. Why should there be a heaven? Aside from the religious writings that we can only believe were inspired by a divine force, there is no naturalistic evidence or reason to support the notion of a heaven, or hell. Therefore, to believe in such concepts requires a religious faith.Some would even go as far to argue, “I don’t need reason or evidence for God because of my religious faith!” However, what is your faith based on? Why do you have faith in God? Most people believe in a God because of their parents and upbringing, but very few have introduced themselves to the God concept without the help of a parental guide or friend. Even those who do introduce themselves to the God concept typically do so out of fear or because a “divine experience”.
If there is no naturalistic evidence, reason, or basis for religious faith, what does it equate to? Believing in God through religious faith, I feel, essentially, is no different from having religious faith in an invisible super frog that lives inside of the planet Mars. Every one has the right to believe in what they deem credible, whether it be an invisible super frog, or God. Nevertheless, simply because one has religious faith in such concepts does not make them –instant– universal truth. If there were not a line drawn between reasoned and religion faith, all concepts, whether true or false, would be deemed true by default.
Religious faith took me nowhere, and I was still without a philosophical foundation. Nevertheless, my journey continued onward for the truth, and for some sort of understanding.
Chapter 2: “It’s a Miracle!”
Some claim that they have heard from, been touched by, and/or have had a kind of divine experience through God. Nevertheless, how do they know that their continual belief in a God is not psychologically disturbing their rational judgment, and mentally creating what they feel to be God’s presence? How do they know that an answered prayer was not the result of a series of natural causes motivated by them? Some may ask me, “But, how do you know that their divine experiences aren’t real?” My answer, “I don’t know, and neither do they. But without any evidence for the supernatural their claim lacks credibility.”Some claim that the prophecies found in many religious writings is proof that there is a divine power. Nevertheless, the prophecies that describe current events are too vague to accept as hard truth, and the early ones that claim to have had eyewitnesses are without rational merits. Again, if there is no realistic evidence for the supernatural, like the divine experience claim, biblical prophecy lacks credibility. Without credibility, you have nothing.
Some try to use circular reasoning and “intelligent design theory” to prove the existence of God. “Proof of God can be found through life and its design.” – – “Life and its design is proof of God.” This kind of reasoning is nothing more than personal, religious-faith based, interpretation. This kind of thinking is also without rational merits. Simply because one cannot explain the complexity of life naturally, does not give room for one to jump to unfounded, supernatural, conclusions. Simply because the world is too complicated for you, personally, to understand, does not mean a God had to have been responsible for its being.
Jumping to unfounded conclusions is the basis for practically every claim for the supernatural. Someone saw or experienced something that they could not explain naturally, so they chose to give it a supernatural explanation. This realization of our impatient thinking took my journey on a dramatic turn, and to a most important question. In the midst of the advanced science and information age of 21st century, our critical ability is obviously flawed. If the foundation for our critical ability is weak today, how weak was it many years ago during our ancient past, during the time when our religious were first organized.
Chapter 3: The Moment of Creation
Is the concept of man creating God an impossible one when you consider our ancient, pre-scientific, first concepts about the world?During our less sophisticated beginnings, before computers and technology were in common use, many of our explanations involved supernatural, or magical, concepts. Many of us thought that the rain was from a deity as a gift and not from condensing clouds. Many of us thought earthquakes were not from shifting land plates but were punishments sent from a God for a wrongdoing. Many of our divisions then even began the practice of sacrificing humans in hopes to alter the nature of Mother Nature; in hopes to calm God’s fury. Many of us thought the Sun moved around a flat Earth because, from our vantage point, that is how everything appeared. “How could something come from nothing,” we later asked. “There must be a creator, a God, something beyond us, living outside of our physical world.” Our flawed perception was the basis for everything.
We did not have weather balloons and meteorologists to accurately interpret the weather then. We did not have a Richter scale and geophysicists to accurately interpret earthquakes. In addition, we did not understand quantum mechanics, the physics that gives explanation to how something could — in fact — come from what we consider “nothing.” Without science and technology, we only had our imaginations, and through our imaginations, we saw everything under an abstract — supernatural — light.
Chapter 4: A Journey’s End
At the beginning of my journey, I was an agnostic. I took a very neutral, but critical, approach to both religious and non-religious views on the world. Through a search for God, I thought I would be able to find comfort, meaning, and a better understanding of myself. I was wrong.Through my journey through religion, I became very frustrated and annoyed. I eventually denounced all religious concepts because each lacked credibility, and each seemed as nothing more than cleverly written mythology based on our early misconceptions and pre-science.
My journey continued through theism, a search for God outside of religious concepts. There is no proof for or against the existence of God, so now I was trying to find a reason to believe or disbelieve. Through my research on past and present concepts, I eventually realized that the God concept derived from the same misconceptions and pre-science that religion derived from. All historical evidence points towards this conclusion.
I am now at the end of my journey, and at the beginning of a new journey, and a new life as an atheist. I find no evidence for, and no reason or logic in the God concept, therefore I will not believe in such concept. Some believe that the atheist is a person who hates God. They are wrong. You cannot hate someone that you do not believe in.
Atheism has taken to a reasoned world of secular science and philosophy. Instead of answering each question about the world with “God did it,” I am now able to give insightful and original responses when asked about the Earth, universe, or myself. In addition, philosophy has helped me develop my own philosophy, a customized way of living that did not require any bending or shaping of any sort.
Religion would not have allowed me to be myself; it would have turned me into something that I was not. It, essentially, would have turned me into a sheep without an identity. It would have locked me into a world of unchanging, ancient, concepts. It would have made me deny anything that was modern, like the Big Bang Theory and the Macroevolution Theory, or anything that was unconventional. I want to learn and be an active participant in the joy that is life. I do not want to be idle.
Chapter 5: Science
Many of the religious are quick to question the weight of science but never to take the unbiased approach to question their own faith in God. In addition, how can anyone properly question the weight of science without a thorough education in the field they wish to criticize?What is the Big Bang Theory and the Macroevolution Theory based on? – Hundreds of years of research by thousands of college-educated minds – most with PhDs in the fields they are studying. Many need to realize that a theory is a notion based on extensive research and facts. A theory is not based on random speculation devoid of facts, or a religious faith.
The effect religion is having on society today is a tragic one. Instead of believing in the new revelations brought on by rational thought and science, many choose to ignore rational thought and keep themselves in a world of unchanging concepts, the world of religion. Does it make sense for someone to put his or her religious faith before a theory, or a fact, that is based on more than religious faith? I, personally, do not think so.
It sickens me to see parents trying to replace science curriculums in school with religious concepts. As I stated earlier, “simply because one has religious faith in such concepts does not make them –instant– universal truth.” We should try to step outside of our religious concepts and pursue truth, what ever that may be.
Truth was, essentially, the essence of my journey, and through science, I have found more truth than anywhere. And no – I do not worship science. I trust it, and I have reasoned faith in it.
The burden of proof is not on the person who denies a claim. The burden of proof is on the person who is making the claim. Christians, Muslims, Jews, the non-religious believers in a God, and so on, all claim that there is a God; billions of believers, divided into categories all across the world. Unfortunately, not one of them, including the God they believe in, has given any proof, reason, or a way to believe from a rational standpoint. To believe you require religious faith, a blind acceptance devoid of logic.If there is no God, what should our next step be? We first should become more responsible for our actions and for the world around us. We only have one planet and one life, for now, so we might as well take care of it. I, personally, feel that there needs to be less worship of invisible concepts, and more concern with our planet, well-being, and future.
I, clearly, take a Secular Humanists view as an alternative over religious dogma. I believe we should focus our talents on making a world better for all living kind.
There is also Transhumanism. It is similar to Humanism but only a little more science based. Transhumanism is a philosophy that promotes transcending our human limitations (fatigue – mental capacity – death) via science and technology. “Why die if you do not have to? Each new generation will bring new ideas to explore. Wouldn’t it be nice to be there to explore those ideas, and have a mind powerful enough to comprehend each idea?” The concept may sound far-fetched now, but we should never deny the power of human ingenuity. Our will has taken us very far within the past decade alone. My mind will remain open to Transhumanism as well.
If there is no one to tell us what is right from wrong, we must use our own intelligence and common sense to remind ourselves of the differences, and not do nonproductive acts simply because we can.
Ignorance will get us nowhere.
So, what is the answer?