I believe what?

This was a post i decided would make a good page to keep.

Let me try to background before i define.

I have found many born again Christians have their minds so unfortunately closed, (1), so firmly welded shut, they stand there with their fingers in their ears, eyes tightly held closed, loudly saying “lalala i can’t hear you”.  They assume all atheists just need reeducating. I cannot count how many times i have been informed it is about faith, all i have to do is believe, and accept Jesus into my heart. How? Virally? Some sort of operation? Is that like getting a pacemaker inserted? Or is Jesus a nanobot? Really, it is a very silly phrasing.

One cannot force belief. That is ridiculous. One can force surface conversions, one cannot force anyone to suddenly have faith.  I have attempted, quite seriously, to believe. When i was younger, i envied the apparent comfort of those friends of mine with faith. I attempted to revisit the church of my childhood, the Catholic faith, and found it (even pre scandal) woefully Middle Ages, mired in centuries of suspicion and control, the need to tell people what todo – even what to eat, when to eat it, how to think, feel, be, who to marry, what to do with their fertility. Really?  When did you guys stop time??

Ok, not for me I have looked at the tenets of other branches of Christianity, of Islam, of Buddhism (probably some of the more enlightened teachings I found were in variants of that), Taoism, Hinduism, etc etc. I researched my subject on a personal level. I brand shopped, as a consumer, i did faith comparisons. I applied scholarly principles. I tried common sense. I tried even, with all my might, to believe. Nothing. Nada. Zip. No voice in the darkness, no still inner certainty in my soul that someone was out there.

In the end, even though i could find teachings cherry picked from each flavour and type that held some appeal, made some sense, in the end, the one thing that got in the way was the fact, the utter certainty within me, that they were wrong. It makes no sense. Their teachings, taken as a whole, make no sense. The concept of deities makes no sense.

I regard myself as a spiritual atheist. I can be moved, spiritually, by the large and the small — by the amazing wonder of the Higgs-Boson element, of the pictures from Hubble, of looking at my children’s beloved faces. I can echo the wonder of Carl Sagan in Cosmos, and also the awareness that this Pale Blue Dot is it, our cradle, our one chance. We are blowing it.

To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour.

 

I have all the comfort i need in the now, in my friends, my family – and in the knowledge i will die. All else is unknown, but i suspect not much will happen when i am dead, as my brain will cease to function. If that energy in my brain moves on to something else, in a way that we have failed to detect as yet, well, i think highly unlikely, but won’t it be a nice surprise. Nor will it be me, as we define our sense of self. Our sense of self is so intrinsically linked to our bodies,we make a fuss about the disposal of our corpses – mummification being an attempt to have your body and take it too, as it were. So much for reincarnation.

Heaven it won’t be. I have long ago realised the Christian or Islamic concepts of the afterlife match my concepts of a hell quite well. Perhaps Jean-Paul Sartre should have not said “hell is other people” – perhaps “Other people’s heavens are other people’s hells”. Not as pithy.

Ok, that is the negatives – what i can’t, don’t, will not ever believe in. There is something in me that cannot possibly take in board a religious belief – to be honest, i respect other people having beliefs, i do NOT respect them forcing it on anyone else, and i do, oh dear, i do tend to find it all a tad – umm, silly, at times?

Some of religion is soaring – architecture, art, music – but those are human things, and can be soaring without religion. Yet Monty Python, and countless other satirists could not have invented religion to poke fun at – they merely pointed out the absurdities for us to see. Like a balloon when pricked, the pompous Wizard of Oz like machinery of religion, has, when the curtain is pulled aside, revealed itself to be merely smoke, mirrors – and a rather pathetic, funny little man, or men, attempting to control the show. Were so many of them not hell bent on forcing their beliefs on us with inquisitions, fatwas, and terrorism (the Crusades counts, Catholic Church, as terrorism), or through politics (the rise of the intolerant religious right), it would be – purely funny. Often, it is tragic, frightening, and terribly wrong. An eye for an eye leads to blindness.

So what do i believe? Will i EVER get to the point?

I do think we should live our lives here as intensely, as fully, as richly as we can. This is it. Other lives, afterlives, doesn’t matter – what we can count on is the here and now. We cannot even count on that, if you want to get into the realms of (brain injury, mental illness, and philosophical debates about individual perceptions of reality).

I think people can believe what they want. Teach their children this is what they believe – but let their children be aware of other beliefs, and be free to make up their own minds, without fear or intolerance. Stop telling me how to love my life, and stop trying to enshrine your desert herding aged historical texts, which are endlessly debated about, into laws and societal demands on my life. Back off.

Welcome to the Spectrum of Theistic Probability. You may call me no 6. (A reference toThe Prisoner tv series may be made here but that is all, pay attention).
Richard Dawkins came up with this way of defining belief in The God Delusion, and it is an attempt to make it simpler for people to understand what belief, non belief, theism and atheism are – should they wish to learn.

1. Strong theist. 100% probability of God. In the words of C.G. Jung, ‘I do not believe, I know.’
2. Very high probability but short of 100%. De facto theist. ‘I cannot know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there.’
3. Higher than 50% but not very high. Technically agnostic but leaning towards theism. ‘I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.’
4. Exactly 50%. Completely impartial agnostic. ‘God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.’
5. Lower than 50% but not very low. Technically agnostic but leaning towards atheism. ‘I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be sceptical.’
6. Very low probability, but short of zero. De facto atheist. ‘I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.’
7. Strong atheist. ‘I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung “knows” there is one.

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7 thoughts on “I believe what?

  1. Ed Plato

    I am a scientist and a christian and I can see how the evidence points directly to a creator. I also respect your choice to not believe in a creator. Liberalism teaches that ALL must be tolerant of others views. However, I find that most atheist and/or liberals are not tolerant at all towards christians. If we choose to believe what the bible says, then you should be tolerant to that and not make statements that we are “narrow minded.” We christians are not calling atheist “narrow minded.”

    Maybe you have seen some of your friends and others have a peace that is beyond your understanding. That only comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ, whom God sent here for the sins of all men. But, maybe you can’t see that and if so, I feel compassion for you b/c you might be to the point of no return based on your choices.

    So, in closing, practice what you preach. It might make the world a better place. In the end of our lives, if atheist are right in saying there is no creator and that we all just cease to exist, then we christians have nothing to worry about when we die. But, if christians are right, then atheist have lost their souls for eternity. It is either a right or wrong end.

    BTW, have you ever wished for something and have it all of a sudden appear out of nothing? Probably not, b/c matter and energy can not be created or destroyed, only transformed from one form to another. Thus, before the big bang, where did all the matter and energy come from? It points to the original causer, which is a creator, which is called God in the english language.

  2. timelady Post author

    Nice reply:)
    First, nice of you to respond:)

    Now, let me address these points:

    Atheists are all the time called narrow minded. We are reviled. Statements have been made that atheists are not really citizens, such as the infamous one by George W Bush ( http://thinkexist.com/quotation/no-i_don-t_know_that_atheists_should_be/207975.html ). We are constantly hassled and asked to just believe.. We are told to accept incursions into education – Christians arguing to dismiss evolution at worst, or at least, and insidiously, “we just want both sides taught”. What is both sides? If belief and disbelief, why not have Hinduism as the example of belief? Or Islam, or Wicca, or Buddhism? No, Christians are atheists when it comes to other religions. Think about Buddha. Do you believe in Buddha, in the godness of BUddha? No? Well, welcome to how we feel about ALL religion. We accept, if there is sufficient evidence, that humans have made beliefs over time, and that individuals may have claimed a divinity that was believed and enhanced over the years – Catholic Saints, for example. BUT we do not accept the divinity axiomatically goes with the claim.

    Yes, you Christians have reviled and made atheists uncomfortable for years. You can put up signs and billboard willy nilly about your beliefs, but oh, the controversy that erupts with us putting up a billboard! http://www.examiner.com/atheism-in-philadelphia/christians-offended-by-atheist-billboards is one example…

    I have atheist friends with the same serenity you describe. They are at peace, knowing that they have one life to lead, in the best way they can. That is it. So, your claim of ‘only comes with a relationship with Jesus Christ’ not only lacks empirical evidence, it lacks the allegorical evidence to back it up.

    I have made the world a better place. I have helped found a not for profit group that does environmental and ethical work donating unwanted first world technology to communities, individuals, and countries that lack the means and resources to access the technology themselves. I am working on a second not for profit group. I have raised five healthy, wonderful human beings. I am a devoted daughter, and a loyal and reliable friend. I have no fear of death, thinking if only i had lived my life better. Ad i have lived my life honestly, doing good for the sake of doing the right thing with my life, not some fear of an afterlife or an angered deity driving me forward. I would regard that as hypocritical…

    Oh dear, we don’t fully understand the mechanics of the universe pre the Big Bang – THEREFORE that must have been a god. Just as once, we did not understand elliptical planetary movement, or that the earth revolved around the sun – gasp, that was attributable purely to a god too! (until science provided the candle in the dark, showing the light of evidence against that). Look, as a scientist, surely you understand Occam’s Razor, and the principles of hypothesis and empirical evidence? Yet you blindly state that if x is unknown, it MUST be god attributable?

    Thank you for your thought out response, however, as you can see, you have not provided anything but mere statement of your belief, and easily demolished arguments against what i have stated. However, i really appreciate your time in discussing these things, and doing so with a rare courtesy.

  3. Deadpan110

    My favorite quote by Stephen Fry on his ‘Big Think’ talk about The Importance of Unbelief.

    And I love how when people watch I don’t know, David Attenborough or Discovery Planet type thing you know where you see the absolute phenomenal majesty and complexity and bewildering beauty of nature and you stare at it and then… and somebody next to you goes, “And how can you say there is no God?” “Look at that.” And then five minutes later you’re looking at the lifecycle of a parasitic worm whose job is to bury itself in the eyeball of a little lamb and eat the eyeball from inside while the lamb dies in horrible agony and then you turn to them and say, “Yeah, where is your God now?”

    Watch the full talk here: http://bigthink.com/ideas/17864

    Fry is going to burn in hell for being so reasonable, decent, honest and humane.

  4. Thomas

    What a nice way to look at life and death from Ed Plato:
    In the end of our lives, if atheist are right in saying there is no creator and that we all just cease to exist, then we christians have nothing to worry about when we die. But, if christians are right, then atheist have lost their souls for eternity.
    So, basically, Christian’s are acting out of superstitious fear of some kind of eternal hell. How lovely.

  5. timelady Post author

    I have often thought, (as i have a keen interest in history, especially the development of civilisation, with the additional context of religion), how interesting it was that the Roman empire went from bread & circuses – the earthy feeding & entertainment of the masses, which was increasingly expensive & unsustainable, to being able, through embracing Christianity, to using the hope of heaven and the fear of hell, which not only had the benefit of being unnecessary to fund through government efforts, but you could actually get the masses to TITHE, thus paying for the churches and the other trappings of religion.
    As the poorly misquoted Marx said :
    “Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people.
    The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition, which needs illusions.”

    (from Marx’s critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law).

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