Why I Do Not Believe.

Nazzeef commented on the previous post:

I can understand your reasons why you don’t/can’t believe in religion. I just don’t understand why you can’t believe in God. From my point of view, religion is a way for one to be closer to God, ergo the existence of many different religions. When any religion is broken up into its simplest equation, it simply conveys the message that we should believe and appreciate the fact that there IS something that creates us, and is greater than us. It is a matter of choosing what type of religion you wish to follow (that fits you best) to feel or be closer to God. After all, not everyone has the same taste. It is true that you can only believe in one religion at one time, but they all convey the same message. Lets take Heaven and Hell as an example. Follow this religion and you’ll go to heaven. Don’t follow this religion and you’ll go to hell. But if all religion says that if you follow it, you’ll go to heaven, won’t following any of these religion allows you a spot in heaven? Or the hidden message is, won’t simply believing in God allows you to go to Heaven? (provided that you’re been a good boy. and not a naughty one. hehehe) The problem is most people are too proud to admit that all religion are equally valid and should be respected. The normal way of thinking would be that, I’m a muslim, you’re a christian, i’ll go to heaven, and you won’t. When in actuality, a religion only ask you to follow it to be closer to God. Religion is up to one’s interpretation for him/her to be closer to God. Yes, there are verses of the Quran that says, the kafir, or non believers won’t go to Heaven, but not once did it said in specific who the kafir’s are or point to any other religion. Not to be rude or anything, non-believers are meant to those who don’t believe in the existence of God, not those who don’t believe in the teachings of Islam. A religion is there to provide faith and hope and something for mankind to aspire to. To do good. Although i must admit, most people use the teachings of any religion for their own benefit which often resulted to violence. That is the weakness of Man, and the very reason why we need faith in God even more. I have a grandfather who believes in all religion and only follow certain beliefs of certain religions, but nevertheless, he believes in the existence of God even though his thinking is not generally accepted by people. My theory is, it is probably easier to only stick to one religion because there is so much to know about one already, so people just generally go with the flow. The way i see it is, I strongly believe in God for God inspires me to be better in every way, and i choose Islam as my religion because it suits me best. I hope i don’t sound like im imposing my truth on you or anything, it’s just my opinion. You are free to choose your own truth. It is what makes us special. Joel told me this the other day, “wouldnt it be easier to believe in God, die, and realize that there is a God, then to not believe in God, die, and realizing that there is in fact a God?” Anyway, forgive me if i appear biased or rude to you in any way, i just really strongly believe in God, and as a friend, I guess im just providing you with the means to widen your options.

At any rate, this is a lengthy comment with quite a number of claims and assertions, and in my opinion, it deserves an equally lengthy response. The above comment will be quoted partially as we move from argument to argument. On to the actual response:

I can understand your reasons why you don’t/can’t believe in religion. I just don’t understand why you can’t believe in God. From my point of view, religion is a way for one to be closer to God, ergo the existence of many different religions. When any religion is broken up into its simplest equation, it simply conveys the message that we should believe and appreciate the fact that there IS something that creates us, and is greater than us.

Firstly, the idea that it is necessary and beneficial to worship God. The first, natural question one should ask in response is this: does God even exist in the first place? Many people presume that the evidence pointing towards the existence of a benevolent, omnipotent being  is plentiful, when it isn’t really the case. Over the course of history, the strongest arguments for the existence of a beneficent Creator have largely been hinged on mankind’s ignorance. Hence, the arguments for a God have also waned with the decrease in man’s ignorance regarding the nature of the universe and life. The trend has always been consistent- these arguments have progressively held less and less sway over our collective conscience, not the other way around. The ‘first cause’ argument is gradually being explained away by physicists like Hawking and Einstein, while the argument from design was dealt a fatal blow when Darwin published On The Origin of Species. This is something no one can afford to ignore within the discourse about a general divine entity- that the evidence isn’t really sufficient to prove beyond reasonable doubt that a God exists. Granted, it might be difficult to prove that God doesn’t exist, but the reasonable position in this instance would be to suspend belief and admit that “we really don’t know” if God exists or not, rather than falsely imply that we do know that he exists. I’ll use an thought experiment (loosely based on Russell’s Teapot) to explain this idea.

Assuming that I make a very specific claim, that between Jupiter and its moons, there is a tiny ceramic elephant orbiting Jupiter. The ceramic elephant is too small to be spotted by conventional, modern telescopes and satellites, and to make things worse, it is an invisible, ethereal elephant which cannot ever be seen or touched by a physical being. With that said, I ask you to believe that this minuscule ceramic elephant exists.  The natural response of most people to such a claim would be disbelief, and also a demand for evidence. “Show me proof that this ceramic elephant exists before you expect me to believe in it,” you might say. Why aren’t similar amounts of intellectual rigour and evidence required when the entity that we are talking about happens to be a divine being?

So why is it imperative upon us to find the best way to worship God, when the reasonable position to maintain that the chance of a divine being existing is far below the threshold required for reasonable belief? In a way, we are all atheists- those who believe in God believe in a very specific kind of God, which naturally means that there is an infinite number of gods that a ‘believer’ doesn’t believe in. For example, the regular religious person doesn’t believe that God is evil, or that God is an alien, or that God is generally clueless about what goes on in the universe. We don’t believe in Osiris, Ra, Anubis, Xenu or Zeus anymore- the God we would like to believe in is a God that we were constructed in the image of- a humane one we can all relate to, with no evidence showing that this is a God that is likely to exist.

Even if we presume that the specific kind of God we would like to believe in exists, would it still be imperative upon us to worship him? Because it seems to me to be more than a little self-gratifying to create a universe out of nothing and then expect the inhabitants of that universe to worship you (all this is reminiscent of Sim City or the Sims) – as if God has an ego to satisfy. Why wouldn’t God be happy if we just went on with our own lives, living blissfully and happily?

We also hear claims about how all religions are the same:

It is a matter of choosing what type of religion you wish to follow (that fits you best) to feel or be closer to God. After all, not everyone has the same taste. It is true that you can only believe in one religion at one time, but they all convey the same message.

I bear no ill will, but it is more than slightly naive to presume that all religions are the same. Besides the obvious common ground that all ‘religions’ have a supreme, divine leader at the top (it’s in the definition, so that ‘common ground’ isn’t really much to brag about anyway), the nature of the religions and the methodologies of worship within different religions differ vastly. The three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam and Christianity) may have some common ground, but any common ground found there is almost wholly due to the fact that those religions emerged from the same region, and the fact that their holy texts and scriptures are largely based off each other’s anyway. However, when two geographically separated groups worship a higher being, they often do it in extremely different ways. For example, I wouldn’t exactly consider the Trinitarian doctrine of Christianity (the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost) to be analogous to African rain-gods or the Shinto god Amaterasu. If all religions were the same, and the purpose of religion would merely be to worship God, why don’t we just cook up our own religions, like Keefism or Nazzefism (I was tempted to write Nazism). Wouldn’t God be happy if  we just worshipped him in our own, personal ways? Apparently not- Shi’a Islam is outlawed in Malaysia, and a well-meaning old man whose worship somehow necessitates teapots is forced into exile in Southern Thailand. Freedom of religion isn’t exactly as thriving as we’d like to think. For example, if you tried to leave Islam, the punishment for the apostasy would probably be death (correct me if I’m wrong). This isn’t meant to be harsh, but chances are, you aren’t a Muslim “because it suits you best”, but instead it is because you were born into a Muslim family, in Malaysia where conversion isn’t allowed. If you were born in the American Deep South you’d probably be saying the same thing about Jesus, much the same way that if you were born into a Hindu family you’d be saying the same thing about Shiva and Brahma, or if you were born in Viking Scandinavia you’d be saying the same about Odin.

Moreover, the differences in worship between religions aren’t exactly benign ones either, because they often result in misery, fear and conflict when two differing religions meet. At this point I have to clarify something. While it is true that some conflicts do not happen exclusively because of religion, it is even more true to say that many conflicts happen entirely because of religion. Prime examples of belligerents and their respective conflicts would include Jews and Muslims in the Israel- Palestine conflicts, Muslim Bosniaks, Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats in the Bosnian War, Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, and closer to home, the killing of minorities from the Ahmadiyyah sect in Indonesia. In Pakistan, within two months, Shahbaz Bahti, Pakistan’s only Christian minister, and Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab, were publicly assassinated for their opposition towards a proposed blasphemy law. It wouldn’t be so bad if the killings were publicly condemned; instead, the murderers became public heroes cheered in the streets of Pakistan.

If there really were a beneficent God, why would he make so much suffering necessary in worshipping Him? All this pointless suffering, fear, and death could be averted- if God made only one form of worship possible, in other words, only one religion. But the problem here would then be the problem we see today, religions and sects clambering to claim position as the ‘true’ religion.

From here the best way out is clear- instead of one religion, have none. There will no longer be a war over divine legitimacy, and neither will there be religious zealots strapped with bombs to their back claiming to do God’s work, under the divine instruction of His representatives on Earth.

But ah, all this evil is a result of Man, and not God:

A religion is there to provide faith and hope and something for mankind to aspire to. To do good. Although i must admit, most people use the teachings of any religion for their own benefit which often resulted to violence. That is the weakness of Man, and the very reason why we need faith in God even more.

The problem with this claim is that it is tautological: everything that comes from God is defined to be good, and hence everything that is bad has to come from another actor (i.e Man in this scenario). The problem with this is that it is particularly hard to look at everything that happens in this world, separate the good and bad bits, and then nicely label them as “caused by Man” and “caused by God”. Whenever a  natural disaster, like a tsunami that kills millions of people in Indonesia, or an earthquake that wrecks hundreds of thousands of homes in Haiti happens, religious people are quick to interpret it as “God is angry because mankind hasn’t been behaving himself”. Almost no one interprets a natural disaster as “God was bored and just wanted to have some fun. Religions, or at least the ones which teach the doctrine of original sin, give divine entities far too much credit for the good that exists in the world, and give man far too little. Values like empathy, respect and love can very well thrive in non-theistic societies, such as Confucian China, or Shinto Japan. (I also hope that I, as a personal example, show that atheists too, can lead fulfilled, happy lives)

Here, while I am still addressing the claim of “religion can help us behave better”, I must introduce something I call “Hitchens’ Wager” (mentioned by Christopher Hitchens in many interviews and debates): name me a single act of good that a religious person can perform, that a non-religious person cannot. I daresay that there is only one answer (hint, it starts with ‘n’ and ends with ‘othing’).

Now we reach the final part of the comment, which is also one of my favourites, Pascal’s Wager:

Joel told me this the other day, “wouldnt it be easier to believe in God, die, and realize that there is a God, then to not believe in God, die, and realizing that there is in fact a God?”

This ‘argument ‘ can also be rephrased as such: “What if you’re wrong that God doesn’t exist? You’d burn in hell, so why not play it safe and just believe? (Oh, and by the way, when hell burns, its forever.)” Some analysis will show that this argument is essentially a mathematical one: the odds are better if you bet on God, than if you don’t. The plain and simple response is that the odds of choosing the right God are horribly small. (I’ve made this argument in a comment on the previous post, but I’ll repeat it here.)

Presuming that

1. There are infinitely many past, present and future Gods (I hope I’ve named enough at this point)

2. All these gods have an equal chance of being the right God (the one that really exists)

3. You can only believe in one God at a time

Simple probability will show you that the chances of a person believing in the right God will be (1 / Total number of gods) = ( 1 / infinity), which more or less equals to zero.

To quote Dawkins, What if I’m wrong? What if you’re wrong, and the God that we meet after death is Zeus, or Apollo, or the African Juju At The Bottom of The Lake? I doubt that he’d be pleased.

However, the second, and equally important response to Pascal’s Wager (or God’s Veiled Threat), is this- a reasonable, fair and just God would reward the honest search for the truth rather than a false belief in him. As the way things are, God has made me in a way so that I cannot believe. I could lie through my teeth and say that I believe in Him, but it would be an excruciatingly painful, but more importantly, thin, lie- a lie that God would have no problem seeing through. A famous British philosopher, Bertrand Russell famously said, when faced with the question: “What will you do if you die, and meet God in the afterlife?’, to which he famously replied, “But sir, there was not enough evidence!” I would think that a reasonable God would prefer truth over lies, and honesty over falsehood. And honestly, there just isn’t enough evidence. If God wants to punish me for my honest quest for the truth, I’d gladly burn in the deepest circle of hell.

To which I would like to conclude with a counter-wager to Nazzeef and Joel, the Atheist’s Wager:

You should live your life and try to make the world a better place for your being in it, whether or not you believe in god. If there is no god, you have lost nothing and will be remembered fondly by those you left behind. If there is a benevolent god, he will judge you on your merits and not just on whether or not you believed in him.

Contrary to popular belief, not being religious does not mean that I do not try to live a moral and responsible life to the best of my abilities; it just means that I spend less time worshipping an invisible, unknowable deity, and more time understanding the full capabilities of Man’s capacity for good, and also more time trying to expand that capacity. Living without faith in God does not mean that I live a life without hope, it means that I believe in the goodness of real, living people, and not the deeds of prophets who lived in an age forever removed from our own. Being a secular humanist enables me to look past things that divide us like religion, and it allows me to identify the basic ground that unites all of us- our humanity.

This, is precisely why I do not believe.

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13 thoughts on “Why I Do Not Believe.

  1. Well said, and i was expecting this same exact answer from you (if you actually cared enough to reply la, but it turns out you do). Although, not longer than mine, and better grammar. Definitely expecting the scientific, philosophical jargon thrown here in there. Like i said, you have your truth and i have mine. It seems the topic of religion is an ongoing battle with you, that is why i sometimes wonder. You seem to get defensive when people talk about religion, almost sinister sometimes in the way you laugh, it made me think, is it that you’re anti religion or you just lack faith? Either way, my questions are answered. I know you are a genuinely nice guy who’s also an atheist, but what if you’re not, what’s to stop you from thinking twice? It is your ego that troubles me, if you don’t approve of religion or the existence of God, why dwell in it? Then i wonder, maybe you’re trying your hardest to believe in God, but can’t. I know youre defensiveness is most probably driven by the factor that those of religious beliefs would always preach, and you probably can’t stand it. And so you taunt them more by declaring how much of an atheist you are. Why “poke the bee’s nest” when you know, at least i think you should know by now, those of strong faith will never be swayed by a true atheist and vice versa? why not just leave it be and we can co-exist in peace? And you might counteract by saying that, even different religions can’t co-exist together, what difference does it make to an atheist? I think this comes right down to humans and our ability to hate. It’s sad really. But if all of us would just mind our own businesses, and respect each other, will there be any disagreements? But religions can’t mind their own business do they, since they have to preach? But who’s to say they’re preaching to other religions or atheist, they’re really preaching to the believers of their religion. Those of other religion or with no faith are always welcome to participate, if they choose to. Again, if i have to play the blame game, i blame solely on the weaknesses of humans having feel the need to politicize everything, make everything controversial and complicated when it really isn’t or does not need to be.

    So i leave you with a question, and hope that you would write another blog post about it. We learn that deviance, what can be construed as evil or bad in the past, can be seen as good or acceptable now. Religions never change in terms of what is seen as good or bad, it’s like a constitution, it sets the fundamental principles as to what is good and bad, and then us humans begin to interpret with our wonderful and powerful brains in order to relate it with the current society. Conventions are set. If since the very dawn of Man, religion never existed, at all, never existed, not even one. Do you think humanity will ever take form, or shape, and eventually prevail? Or do you think a greedy and powerful dictator will take over and spread fascism for his own benefit and there is absolutely no one to challenge him except for another greedy powerful dictator? Are we all really that good to begin with to even comprehend what is humanity? Take the Arab Jahilliah, before and after Islam as an example. When all is good, and the masses understand the concept of good and bad, through religion, then we have atheists ; because what was once so pure, has now become less pure. In a way, without religions, there wouldnt be awesome and nice people such as you.

    The downfall of every man, is their need to only believe in one thing, one extreme and subconsciously become bigots of their own sets of beliefs, and not realize it . We all just need to come to a common ground where all of us can agree and live harmoniously together. World Peace. (Miss Universe speech haha). That’s how i feel. Again, it is my truth, does not necessarily be yours. Another annoying comment, per harps God created religions and non-atheists so we could learn from each other, and then decide our truth, our faith. How strong is your faith? How strong is mine?

    And yes, i do choose my religion. At a very young age, i was exposed to many religion solely because of my background and upbringing. At first, i must admit, i was swayed towards another religion, but ended up sticking to the religion i was born with. So, I chose.

  2. Did you not know that we as humans are limited in our natural form in many ways? Simply put it this way, a normal person is created with five senses to help go through the day doing daily tasks. What about one that’s born with no gift of sight? He lacks one and thus he regards sight as a non-existing factor that most of us enjoy and believe exist. So here’s the deal; lets say God is something to be experienced and “seen” with senses 7 and 8 then I strongly believe we are missing out the point of God’s existence. At the end of day, we find ourselves debating to whether or not God exist based on scientific methods, protocols and humanly understanding without realizing how limited we are in terms of abilities and knowledge.

    By the way, I find your perspective interesting. =)

  3. I believe that God is an attempt by mankind to personify the unknown, and channel his fear/respect of it towards this personification. Gods’ existences are by definition, or at least by the definition of their followers, impossible to prove. The other realm is something we can neither see, nor touch, nor hear, nor explore, nor ever ever reach until we die. Much effort has been spent making sure there is no way to empirically verify the existence of the various afterworlds of various religions. I daresay that this may have arisen out of the fact that we have found nothing that positively proves its existence. We therefore say it is there, but beyond our ability to discover. Convenient. Nazzeef’s (if you will kindly permit me to address you by first name) very commendable stance seems to bent toward pantheism, or the belief that all religions in fact worship the same thing under different guises. Nonetheless, apart from the difficulty of reconciling the hundreds of Hindu and Taoist gods with a single Abrahamic one, the very doctrine of much Abrahamic faith really is: believe in this or burn in hell. Therefore I take the liberty of charging that attempts at this reconciliation take place in spite of the commands of doctrine, and are not complemented by it.

    I do not at all disrespect religion and its practice, but I have no illusions about its claims to divinity. Religious creeds are by definition incompatible. One must be the objective truth, and all others false. Either that or all are false. I plead ignorance to a concept of ‘many truths’. I cannot see how two mutually exclusive assertions can be true at the same time. Apparently, neither did those who wrote aforementioned religious doctrine. If there is some warped dimension in the afterlife which somehow allows this, it has obviously been beyond the scope of any religion so far to point it out. All claim they are the truth. All claim they are the SOLE truth.
    I respect religion for what it is: an ideology. The fact that its apex is God does not make it any less of an ideology to me. Ideologies help many get through their daily struggles, and turn many lives around. They also help create wars and motivate people to unspeakable cruelty. I do not see any need to cherrypick good effects of religion as being of God, and bad ones as being of Man. Because religion, no matter what its origins, will always be run, managed, spread and practised by the latter. If Gods do exist, I sincerely believe they would be above religion, the same way they are above ideology. We do not know what is out there, and we may make very elaborate guesses at it, but the fact that it’s the Great Out There doesn’t make it more of a guess, or more than any other parallel guess at the same thing. Religion, even if not man-made, is man-run. It’s time we treated it as such, regardless of our beliefs as to its origins.

  4. hi keefe. we don’t know each other, but someone sent me an email asking for my thoughts on your very well-written and well-thought-out blog post. it seems that it is making people think, and that is a wonderful thing. =)

    i’d like to post here, my responses to your first two paragraphs:

    i would admit from the outset that the question of God’s existence cannot be proven conclusively one way or the other. that is why it is an article of faith, and also why we can debate about it more or less forever.

    i disagree with the contention that “the arguments for a God have also waned with the decrease in man’s ignorance regarding the nature of the universe and life.” if i understand it correctly, this is saying that we worship a ‘god of the gaps’, and that as the gaps in our knowledge decrease, there are less and less areas for God to reign over. however, i reject this on 2 counts:

    1) as Christians, we believe that God is the God of everything, not just ‘god of the gaps’. when scientists discover more about the universe, decreasing our ignorance, they are revealing things which were created and designed by God. therefore, from a Christian theistic point of view, scientific discoveries glorify God, not disprove Him.

    2) no matter how much we progress in terms of scientific knowledge, science can never answer the question “why does the universe exist”. it can answer the questions, “WHAT is the universe made of?”, and “HOW did the universe come to be?” but in terms of purpose and meaning, it is bankrupt. at the heart of it, an atheistic worldview claims that we are nothing more than a meaningless cosmic accident.

    the Big Bang theory tries to explain HOW the world came into existence; it does not and cannot prove that it was not God who brought it into existence. in fact, in positing that there was a beginning point, it seems to me that it actually makes the existence of God more probable; as it excludes those models of cosmology which posit a universe that has existed eternally. again, darwin’s theory of evolution tries to explain HOW we have all the varieties of species today; it does not and cannot prove that it was not God who designed and created those species. to conclude this point, i may know exactly HOW you sent me an email – you used your fingers to press the keys of your keyboard and clicked the ‘send’ button with your mouse. that does not prove that you did not send the email to me.

    as for russell’s teapot, it is logical to disbelieve it because there is really no evidence for its’ existence. whereas there is plenty of evidence for God – the existence of the universe, the existence of you and me. of course you can dispute the validity of the evidence, but the evidence is there. in the case of russell’s teapot, all there is is russell’s assertion that the teapot exists. there is nothing else to argue about. whereas in the case of God’s existence, we could – as i said earlier – argue on indefinitely.

    thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts. hope to read a response from you soon. =)

    1. Hello, Siehjin! Thanks for taking the time to comment and reply- appreciate it. =]

      On to the matter-
      Firstly, while I currently agree in the present circumstances that it is close to impossible to ascertain whether or not a God exists, I’m inclined to think that at some point in time, however far away that point in time may be, we will know the truth. I really do think that humanity’s understanding of the universe can only grow deeper, and not shallower- so I think that this debate will be over at some point in the future- all we are doing is looking at the probabilities of one side being right and the other being wrong. I think the question of God isn’t purely an article of faith, but a empirically verifiable / falsifiable hypothesis. If God exists, it certainly does have implications on the physical world. It would bring forth a whole long list of questions, for instance, where does God’s mind reside, how do miracles happen, how does omniscience work, etc.

      With that aside, on to the numbered content.
      1) While I understand what you mean by “scientific discoveries glorify God, not disprove Him”, and “that God is the God of everything, not ‘god of the gaps'”, I still think that a huge amount of faith is predicated on God being the answer to questions such as “where did life come from?”, and “where did the Universe come from?”. Religion used to have the best answers to questions of this nature, such as the Genesis account of creation, which, say, 70 or 80 years ago, would still hold huge amounts of intellectual sway and credibility. However, with the discovery of theories such as evolution, in which complex, intelligent systems can come about with gradual selection over a long period of time, religions started losing their monopoly over truth and knowledge- it just isn’t very practical to continue thinking that the Earth was created 6000 years ago anymore. This has consequences, even more so on ideologies which claim to have infallible knowledge of the Universe- which simply isn’t true. While certainly I do concede that scientific theories aren’t perfect or infallible, the current models for life are the ones that have the highest probability of being right.

      2) I certainly think that it is a fallacy to think that everything has purpose or meaning, i.e maybe the answer to the question “what is the purpose of us being here” is simply “there is none”. We would like to think that we are important, and that the Universe was created with us in mind, but I think people have to gradually come to terms with the possibility of us just being a cosmic accident. Perhaps we are just the byproduct of a coincidental mixture of matter and heat and gas, but it doesn’t stop us from making the most of this accident and living life to the fullest =] As humans, it is very easy for us to think of the creator in the way that we think of ourselves- creating things for a purpose. For instance, if a child asks, “what were mountains made for”, I think you would agree that it is more truthful to say that “it just happened to be there” rather than saying that “mountains were created for you to look at”. Humans aren’t the centre of the universe- there are infinitely more places without life that there are places with it. There are millions more imploding and dying suns compared to the one that sustains life on this tiny blue marble, and even as we look at this tiny blue marble, we realized that more than half the area of it is uninhabitable.

      I think that it is only wise to presume the presence of a Creator in cases where we have seen evidence- i.e if we see a Coca-cola can being made in a factory, it would be sensible and natural to claim that a Pepsi can comes from a factory if we see one. Granted that we haven’t seen a planet conjured out of thin air, or a human being moulded from a rib, I think it would be fair to suspend belief until we have sufficient evidence to justify belief.

      I certainly wouldn’t have the audacity to say that God definitely doesn’t exist, and that what you believe in is absolutely false, all I am saying is that it is a belief that is unlikely to be true. Thank you for the time, siehjin. It certainly is refreshing to talk to a polite, open-minded believer about faith =] Take care!

      1. “at some point in time, however far away that point in time may be, we will know the truth.”

        that is a very optimistic point of view. it might not be realistic though. if God is a being of higher dimensions than us – which is one possible theory about Him – then it’s pretty much impossible for us to know anything about Him. He is absolutely outside of our 3-dimensional space.

        to illustrate what i mean by this, let us envision a 2-dimensional world – flatland. mr. and mrs. flat live in flatland. there is a cylinder, a 3-dimensional shape, that floats above flatland. but the flatlanders are totally oblivious to it… because in their world, there is no ‘above’. it is simply flat.

        there may be theoretical physicists in flatland who suggest the existence of higher dimensions and try to envision shapes in 3-dimensions. but it’s all theoretical. there is no way (as far as i can tell) for a flatlander to prove to a fellow flatlander that 3-dimensional shapes exist, let alone 3-dimensional beings like us. UNLESS one of us chooses to reveal ourselves to them, for example by sticking a finger into flatland. and even then, the evidence could be disputed by the flatlanders.

        to bring this illustration home to us, if God is a being of higher dimensions than us, then there is no way we can know ANYTHING about Him. He is beyond our experience, our senses, our science, our universe. we can make guesses about Him, and argue about Him, but we can never know for sure whether or not He exists…

        …UNLESS He reveals Himself to us, stepping into our 3-dimensional space somehow. which is exactly what Christians say He has done. but just as in the case of the flatlanders, the evidence for this can be and is disputed.

        who says that the world was created 6000 years ago? (i know, i know… some of us crazy fundamentalist christians, lol). personally, i think that those who choose to believe in that are not defending the bible – they are defending their particular interpretation of the bible. from your writing i can tell that you are very well-read, so you may have heard this before. the hebrew word for ‘day’ in the 7 ‘days’ of creation does not necessarily mean a 24-hour period of time. it may mean an epoch, or a period of time. when one considers that the first day occurs before the appearance of the sun and the moon, it makes perfect sense to consider that the genesis account does not mean to say that the world was created in 7 24-hour periods. maybe 7 periods of several millenia each would be more accurate.

        i agree with you that the current models for life have the highest probability of being right – and they will only improve as we progress and gain more knowledge about the world we live in. but i maintain my stand that this does not make faith irrelevant. it may cause us to take another look at our bibles and our interpretations of it, and give us reason to re-think some of our doctrines and beliefs. but because i believe that both science and religion are a search for truth, i believe that ultimately there will be no conflict between the two.

        there will always be people who are searching for meaning and purpose that goes beyond this world – and that is what faith offers. this desire for eternal meaning and purpose seems hardwired into the human psyche. as st. augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

        “we’re just a cosmic accident, let’s just make the most of it and live life to the fullest.” i can deal with that on a good day. i’m happy, fulfilled, enjoying life, sure, life’s an accident, but it’s not bad. but what about the bad days? when i’m sad, depressed, in pain, etc? and i’m just one middle-class individual. my so-called suffering is nothing compared to what millions of others go through everyday. all this for nothing? just an accident? why go on then?

        i guess what i’m saying is that, when life is rosy and i’m looking at the sunny side of life, i can stomach the thought that we’re an accident, let’s just enjoy the ride. but when i consider all the bad and evil in the world – and there is a lot of it to consider – the thought that it’s all meaningless makes me want to give up. why go on? more suffering and more pain, and nothing to look forward to but death and the eventual extinction of all life. rather hopeless, no?

        i certainly agree with you that humans are not the centre of the universe. if Christians are right, then it is God who is the centre of the universe. He is the one who created all things, and all things point to Him. so to the question, “what were mountains made for”, i’d say, “to reveal the majesty and beauty of God”.

        thank you for reading thus far. look forward to further conversations here. =)

  5. I think life is complicated enough, we ought to just focus on being good. That’s it. With or without a God. We all can be good guys without God can’t we?

  6. There is another counter wager I would like to offer in place if Pascal’s Wager should anyone not be convinced with Keefe’s debunking. It goes as follows:

    There is a (admittedly small) chance that god exists, and he wants you to give Jonathan(me) all your money, and will only allow you salvation if you do this and will torture you for eternity if you don’t. Since the stakes are so high, it is better for you to give Jonathan all your money and never realize you made a mistake, rather than to not give Jonathan all your money and go to hell. Please forward your banking details to my email address.

  7. First-off, wow. It was a really good post, filled with so much detail and it’s admirable how you know so much about religion, being an atheist. Like Nazzeef, I think you’re looking for a reason to believe, but I definitely don’t agree with him that you’re “poking the bee’s nest”. It’s not like you’re attempting to kill the faith of believers, you’re just expressing your opinions on why you can’t believe. And in my opinion, I don’t see a necessity for a reason to believe.

    It’s like trusting a person, what reasons do you need to trust someone? You may say that you trust him/her based on his past actions, but 1) people are subject to change and 2) when you decide to trust a person for the very first time, there were no ‘past actions’ for you to judge him/her on. Some people still manage to put faith on a person who has wronged them, we can’t say that this is definitely right or wrong. We believe in people based on intuition (at least I do) and we don’t always have concrete reasons to believe in them or not. The same way we don’t always have concrete reasons to believe in God.

    On the other hand, I don’t see what’s wrong with not believing in God either. Though I personally do believe in God and I’m thankful for all that He has given me, I don’t think it is wrong to not believe in Him. The God I know and believe in, wouldn’t do ridiculous things like sending people to hell just because they didn’t believe in Him, he punishes those who have done others wrong and forgives those who have sincerely regretted their wrongdoings. In a way, He’s just like a parent to us, and watches after us dearly no matter what we do. So I think it’s rather silly to say that just because people don’t believe in God, they can’t have happy lives because you obviously can 🙂

    Whether God really exists or not, we’ll probably never know, but I choose to believe in Him because it helps put an optimistic light on things, especially when they aren’t going so well. It’s always nice to know that there’s someOne up there watching over you, but ultimately, the decisions are up to us to make so whether one believe in His existence or not don’t determine how life will be, though some might argue that when we believe we are more inclined to do the right things. ‘More inclined to’ isn’t definite, so it is entirely possible that people can still have a happy life without believing in God.

    Having said all that, I don’t really have much evidence to back up everything (I probably have a long way to go before I can quote as much as everyone here), so I guess it’s purely opinion for now. =P Then again, everything we do is affected by the way we think. =D

    It was a wonderful post. =)

  8. No matter what your beliefs are keefe, there have actually been archaelogical and scientific evidenciary backings that suggest the existence of a god. I’m a christian but I’m not imposing my beliefs. I just ask you merely not to totally discount the possibility of a god. Contrary to popular belief, science is not contradictory to god. God created the world and it’s science. Because theres no way I can prove to for a 100% that God exists, you either have to experience him for yourself, or marvel at the overwhelming suggestive evidence that somewhere far away, transcending space and time, is a conscoius, all-powerful being, that if my teachings are to be believed, loves you for some dumb reason.

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