Hey everyone, there's something I need to address here that I wish I didn't have to, but it keeps coming up. Sort of like people feeling free to (nearly) demand that I try this or that alternative therapy. Today's address has more to do with religious faith. The reason I'm adressing this is because I've had Christians say (about my cancer) "well, that's what you get", I've been told that I'm flat out wrong, I've been in productive "catch-up" e mail dialogues with old friends from my "church days" that just come to a screeching hault the instant the god question is asked. I don't like things being this way, and I'd like my beliefs to just be left alone.
I would consider myself to be an atheist. For clarification though, I should state that I see "atheist" as a stance with respect to faith, but "agnostic" is a stance with respect to knowledge. I can't say with 100% certainty that god (or gods) don't exist, just like a theist (or deist) can't say with 100% certainty that god (or gods) do exist. I think if we were all really being honest with ourselves (which we rarely are) we would all call ourselves agnostic with atheistic or theistic (or deistic) tendencies. I can't prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that god doesn't exist. Actually, it is logically impossible to prove a negative. For instance, I can't prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the tooth fairy isn't real, because there could always be some condition to contemplate. This is called "the moving goalpost". In this illustration I'd call myself an atoothfairiest.
Say you come up to me and say "a dragon is living in my garage" I might say "well, lets go in there and have a look" to which you might reply" oh, this dragon is invisible" and I might respond with "well, lets hang string from the ceiling or put flour on the floor to see the evidence of the dragon" and you say" oh, the dragon exists in a realm that can't interact with corporeal reality..." the goalpost for determining the existence of the dragon can be pushed and pushed ad nauseam. I could never prove there is no dragon because the means to determine the existence of the dragon keeps changing. The burden of proof in this situation falls on the person who is claiming that there is a dragon in their garage. It doesn't make any sense that we should place the burden of proof on the other person in the conversation to not prove the existence of the dragon. Everyone knows this. It's logical. I am the adragonist.
Sort of like the idea that there might be a teapot in orbit around Mars. We know that teapots exist, and so does Mars, so it's not outside the realm of possibility for there to actually be a teapot in orbit about Mars. I wouldn't necessarily put its existence as "on par" with it's non existence though. I'd say it is MUCH more likely that there is no teapot. I am the ateapotist.
Here are two examples of why I believe the way I do. There are many, many more. I don't feel like I should have to go through this, but I want people to know that I'm not a back slider. I didn't become lazy about my Christianity. I wanted VERY BADLY to be a man of god, and pursued it with all my heart. I can already hear people saying "well, you obviously didn't seek after god with your whole heart" or "you weren't saved in the first place", but whose to know? Is there a litmus test for salvation? I sure seemed saved. It seems like the definition for "saved" is as varied as there are denominations branching out of the same Bible.
One example is prayer. Prayer is about as effective as chance. I think the secret to prayer is ambiguity and coincidence. When we pray for things like "Lord help me find the keys" or "Lord make the car start" then the thing you just prayed for happens, that is categorically not a miracle, nor can we call it answered prayer. Even cancer goes into remission on its own, perhaps by the person's immune system, or from the drugs they are taking. But if one believer was praying for them, the persons remission is seen as answered prayer.
Remember, a miracle is something that can only happen by the hand of God. It is something beyond human understanding and capabilities. Truly miraculous. I know that I currently am on the receiving end of a lot of human generosity. This could be called by some to be a miracle, but I think that diminishes the hard work put into it all by Justin, my mother, family, friends. Its because of the pure milk of humanity, no one was arm twisted by a deity to give. I'd be extremely sad if someone contributed for that reason. It means so much more if the contributor actually wants to do so.
Now, Jesus himself promised us in Mark 11:24 that he will answer our prayers. He literally says (I'm typing this directly from my NIV study bible that's on my lap) "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." Pretty unambiguous there. Nowhere does he say "...but only if it's aligned with my will" or "...but sometimes my answer will be 'no'", instead he says "whatever you ask for in prayer". Do amputees ever get prayed for? How come we aren't seeing limbs getting regenerated all over the place. Jesus is pretty specific in this passage. If he meant something else, then why didn't he say something else? Why is there always dancing around these tough versus. People will constantly have some rebuttal, but at the end of the day, I have my bible, I read my bible, and it's up to me to decided how I feel about its contense. If Jesus actually says "whatever you ask for in prayer" and meant "whatever you ask for in prayer", this would be a different world. But it isn't. Children get raped and murdered daily. God, being omnipresent, is there watching, but doing nothing. In this country we call that being an accessory to murder. The argument that god's interaction in a situation like that would remove the freedom of choice of the murder/rapist makes me sick. What about the child? Also, if the murder/rapist dropped dead from a heart attack (or anything else) just before or during the attack, it would be called a miracle. Not one single believer would be decrying the violation of the freedom of choice of the murder/rapist.
The amputee question is a very important one. I want you to pause and think about that. An amputee is in a completely unambiguous situation. Prayer never works to regenerate a limb. If it did, there would be limbs regenerating all the time. But there isn't. We know God can do it, but why doesn't he? Doesn't he like amputees? Why don't we see limbs being regenerated? Because god is imaginary. What other way could there possibly be?
The second thing I have a bit of beef with is the fact that there were several "god-man" people running around at Jesus' time. Archeology tells us this. The study of ancient cultures tells us this. It's unhideable.
There are common attributes that all or most of these saviors had. Kind of a hero pattern. These attributes are things like: His mother is a royal virgin. His father is a king. Often a near relative of his mother. The circumstances of his conception are unusual. Reputed to be the son of a god. At birth an attempt was made by his father to kill him. He's spirited away. Raised by foster parents in a foreign country. We're told nothing of his childhood. On reaching manhood he returns, often on the back of a donkey. After the victory over a king or a dragon or a giant he marries a princess. He becomes king. He reigns unvenally. He prescribes laws. Later he looses favor with his subjects. He is driven from the city. He meets with a mysterious death, often at the top of a hill. His children, if any, do not succeed him. His body is not buried. Nevertheless he has one or more holy sepulchres.
Jesus doesn't match with every one of these common attributes, but many. In the top ten saviors matching these attributes around at the time of Jesus, they are (in this order): Oedipus, Theseus, Jesus, Romulus, Hercules, Perseus, Zeus, Jason, Robin Hood, Apollo.
This HAS to mean something. I absolutely cannot sweep these facts under the carpet. Imagine if you were on trial for murder (falsely accused) and you knew that a guilty verdict would mean life in prison, or even the death penalty. The only thing the persecuting attorney says is that he has a deep inner conviction that you are guilty. The proof doesn't add up, but (he says to the jury) it takes faith. The jury deliberates for one minute and returns with a guilty verdict because you "feel guilty". Wouldn't you be screaming? How could one strategy for truth seeking be so appropriate for things that really matter (like murder trials), but we completely fail to apply those same truth seeking techniques to the idea of god?
I'm not trying to convince anyone of anything. All I'm doing is informing everyone that this decision to abandon the faith of my heritage was very well thought out. If you truly knew me, you'd know that I'm not flippant about much. If I really truly felt that the Bible was accurate and the story of Jesus was as it is in the Bible, there isn't a doubt in my mind that I'd be a man after god's own heart. But instead, in my truest moments, when I'm really listening to myself, I know that I can't ignore the evidence.
Please, I beg you, keep believing in god if you wish. I encourage you to. Everyone has the right to believe however they wish to, including me. Please, I beg you, do not inform me how wrong I am. I'm perfectly willing to discuss these points, but I'm not willing to debate them. I don't really want a comment section full of rebuttals.
In my humble opinion, I feel that I ought to be commended for going with my heart, going with my gut, extensively researching what I've learned and what I didn't know, and not continuing down a path that brought me no peace. It takes incredible bravery and morale conviction to change your mind about something so big (it's so big that wars are started over it, families divided, people are killed, etc.) and rather than being encouraged to honor my truest instincts, I'm admonished for doing so. That seems more unhealthy to me than anything else - and it actually shocks me that people cannot see that.