Monday, May 3, 2010

You're Not Really an Atheist

I've heard it said quite a few times, "You're not really an atheist. You know God exists! You just don't want to admit it and be accountable." This is usually followed by quoting, "The fool says in his heart there is no God."  Or, better yet,
Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
A little bit wordier, but the same idea. It sounds like a classic case of somebody who believes so strongly in their god that they can't fathom anyone else not believing (for whatever reasons convince them). And it's really tough (and sometimes impossible) to convince them otherwise. Maybe it's because they believe the bible, and if everything the bible says is true and if the bible says I really do believe, then I must believe. Now wouldn't that just be convenient.

I've known a lot of people that really wanted to believe (and I'm not excluding myself) but ultimately gave up their faith for logical reasons. This is admittedly rare, probably partially due to the fact that it's tough to get reasoned out of a position you didn't reach with reason in the first place. But it happens, and often enough that I'm not completely discouraged. It's tough to explain how someone could go from being a fundamentalist conservative evangelical Christian or Muslim to atheist if they really knew a God existed. But it definitely happens. Perhaps some religious people only see what they want to see.

Though I have to wonder, what exactly was Paul talking about when he mentioned the "things that are made"? Is he referring to the earth or the universe or Jesus or unicorns or what? I don't buy the Argument from Design for various reasons and that seems to be what's being pushed here. "Don't you know that every watch has a watchmaker?" the writer asks. Yes, actually, I do know that. I know that watchmakers exist and I know the explanation for how a watch gets into my hands. I also know that snowflakes exist and are quite complex, but I know of no snowflake-maker in the sky that carves out each and every one individually. But that seems to be the problem. Pesky naturalistic explanations of things, always encroaching on God's (former) territory. I don't feel particularly "without excuse" when it comes to my apparent lack of "understanding by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead." Am I supposed to infer from my mere existence that there's an eternal being that exists beyond this realm of understanding? Seems like a stretch in any case.

But of course, we can't forget the accusations of foolishness. Seems like an unfair trump card to me. If I were to go around touting my beliefs as inerrant and unquestionable - proclaiming everyone who disagreed with me to be a fool, I'd probably gather more than a few haters. But this is what Christians can get away with, because it's in their holy book.

In any case, I have plenty of good reasons for not believing the bible or Christian claims (or religious claims in general). These range from scientific to philosophical to logical to historical and a few more I don't know how to categorize. Despite that, some people will just continue to insist that I know that a god exists (and not just any god, but the Christian God, mind you) and that I just don't want to face up to it. And that seems like the most absurd claim of all. If I really knew for a fact (somehow) that there was a God and a hell that I'd go to forever if I didn't do the things he wanted and I knew I didn't do them, I'd be a little reluctant to outright reject his existence. That would literally be the dumbest thing any person could ever do, but apparently some people (like myself) work up the courage to do it every day. That kind of thinking blows my mind.


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