What I think is foolish is to come to this conclusion after only having thought about it in a reactive fashion. What’s foolish is to not constantly develop one’s mental facilities by thinking about such things on an ongoing basis.
I have done a great many foolish things in my life, but because I have spent so much thoughtful time on this issue I am confident, fulfilled and ultimately happy in my realization about god.
Douglas Adams had something very profound to say on this matter when interviewed by the American Atheist:
AMERICAN ATHEIST: Mr. Adams, you have been described as a “radical Atheist.” Is this accurate?
Douglas Adams: Yes. I think I use the term radical rather loosely, just for emphasis. If you describe yourself as “Atheist,” some people will say, “Don’t you mean ‘Agnostic’?” I have to reply that I really do mean Atheist. I really do not believe that there is a god – in fact I am convinced that there is not a god (a subtle difference). I see not a shred of evidence to suggest that there is one. It’s easier to say that I am a radical Atheist, just to signal that I really mean it, have thought about it a great deal, and that it’s an opinion I hold seriously. It’s funny how many people are genuinely surprised to hear a view expressed so strongly. In England we seem to have drifted from vague wishy-washy Anglicanism to vague wishy-washy Agnosticism – both of which I think betoken a desire not to have to think about things too much.
Well put, Ryan – and Douglas. That’s one of my favorite quotes of his as well. (The author of “Life of Pi” expresses similar views of agnosticism – that it’s just people trying to get out of making a decision or sticking to a belief.)
I thought about including the whole story – meaning what it was that made me have the thought about foolish athiests – but I worried it would make me appear to be arguing that all athiests are foolish. Basically I was just reading a news article about a guy who was a devout something-or-another and prayed every day until one day something bad happened and he decided there must not be a God. In my mind what makes this person and others like him foolish is that at some point they say “I believe in God,” but then do nothing to build on that faith. If a simple thing like your auntie getting killed in a car accident can rob you of something so profound as your faith in God it seems to me that the faith was nothing more than an empty statement based on nothing. The same surely applies to agnostic and athiests who choose their beliefs in the same way they choose items from a menu at a chinese restaurant. They turn to their friend Mr. Adams or Mr. Watts who have been here before and ask, “Hey, what’s good here?” Douglas says “Well, I personally am a fan of starting with the egg rolls…” Then the disciple proceeds to eat nothing but egg rolls for the rest of eternity – totally missing out on the mu gu gai pan.
I think I must have drifted in my thought process to dinner.
I have some points to make on this subject in the vehicle of a long comment, and I think they are things that most people overlook. These are some realizations I’ve had recently related to the exigence of atheism and not necessarily the exigence of egg rolls, no matter how delicious they are with mustard sauce.
1. It cannot be proven that God doesn’t exist. There may be a variety of reasons that people claim he does not, ranging from ideas that re-explain roles traditionally filled by God–like biological and religious evolution–to ideas that claim nonexistence of God because of unwanted results–like war and suffering and so forth. Note: this evidence is not compelling; it revolves entirely around situational interpretation.
2. By the same token, it cannot be proven that God exists. Scriptures–The Torah, the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, and the Qur’an–are not so compelling that people have no choice but to believe. Even things termed miracles by one are explained away by another as flukes, coincidences, or natural phenomena.
Therefore, on some level, there must be a choice. Everybody chooses whether or not they will believe in God. The evidence CANNOT be decisive one way or the other. People may choose their sides after they choose their arguments or vice versa.
Now, there are some atheists who hide behind their reasons and explanations because they don’t want to admit the ugly truth that they do not want to believe in God. They won’t say they could believe if they chose lest they seem responsible for their choice. They would have everyone believe that their reasons are so compelling that they had no choice but to reject God.
Agnostics, by definition, are people who refuse to make the choice.
As a believer, I am not ashamed to admit that something as tenuous as choice binds me to my faith. I hope for things which are not seen. At this point certain scriptures begin to take on special significance:
“Choose you this day whom ye will serve;… as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” –Joshua 24:15
“Thomas, because thou has seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” –John 20:29
“Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.” –Alma 32:28
Even where both sides chose, the believer here has advantage over the atheist: the believer can begin to rely on spiritual evidence in addition to reason. The atheist relies on reason alone, which reason is constantly in flux.
Benski, I appreciated the well thought out points you made above, I’d just like to add a bit more.
1) I agree, it cannot be proven that god doesn’t exist. In fact, the only way that you can prove anything does not exist is by exhaustive analysis, that is to say to be literally objective. I’ve never met anyone that had that ability. Therefore the burden of proof never lies with the person that does not believe. The burden of proof always lies with the person making a claim, in this case, that god exists.
I can objectively conclude that the sentence “Bug Bladder Beast of Tral” does not occur more than once in this entire comment, but I cannot say that god does not exist in the entirety of everything. One of these I can be objective about, the other I cannot.
2) Can it be proven that god exists? I would agree with you to a point — no one has done it yet. In actuality, it’s impossible to prove that it’s impossible to prove that god exists (In order to do that you would have to make an exhaustive list of all the things (and all the combination of things) that don’t prove that god exists. Phew!)
“Agnostics, by definition, are people who refuse to make the choice.”
I would have to disagree with this statement and here’s why:
Theism is about belief in a personal deity. Gnosticism (apart from the religious movement of the same name) is about knowledge of deity. Therefore agnosticism is not “somewhere in between” atheism and theism, it’s actually a completely different dimension.
One could plot Theism and Gnosticism on an X,Y coordinate system like so:
Agnosticism is often thought of as being a lesser form of Atheism and while I won’t deny that it’s often related, it actually doesn’t need to be this way. One can believe that god exists, and yet have no personal knowledge of his existence (some would say a testimony). This type of person would logically be called an Agnostic Theist (or a person with faith but no testimony). Conversely, the Christian theo-mytho-logical Satan would have to be defined as a Gnostic Atheist — he knows that god exists but chooses not to believe in him.
Can one just choose to have knowledge or a testimony of god? I say no. A knowledge of god (or testimony) comes as a consequence of what one already chooses to believe in.
I have drafted and re-drafted this little thought. I’m not sure that I can adequately say what I’m wanting to say but I’m going to try.
I think people become aetheists for two or three main reasons.
I think the first reason that must first be addressed is Rebellion – Society, particularly our society, is based on religious views and tenants. “in God we trust”, “So help you God”, etc… Often parents try and instill religious views in their offspring. When people want to rebel and shock then the easiest way to do so is to claim no belief in God…or worship His counterpart. I feel most people grow out of this stage of rebellion. Or just stop seeing the need to rebel. I don’t believe these people are “true” aetheists.
Of the people that really don’t “believe” there is a God, I think there are probably two main reasons. I’m going to get a bit personal here rather than factual to illustrate my points. This is a subject that hits very close to home.
Of my two main classifications of aetheists I’m going to address I was the first…and probably the kind that this whole posts started about.
My life has not been an easy one compared to many people that I know. The horror in my life started when I was 4 with a male babysitter and continued up through about a year and half ago. It seemed as though I would go through a situation and say well that was as bad as it can be. And then something worse happened. I often wondered how much worse it could get..and then found out. I would banish thoughts of what else could happen because I would then find out. Throughout my life people told me to trust God and to lean on Him…they told me He loved me and that He would help me.
I would often proclaim my belief in God. I would say that I believed in Him. I would go through the motions that I thought would make Him happy with me. It didn’t work. And deep down I could not believe in God. People told me He loved me and that He was there for me and that eventually He would deliver me. When it didn’t happen I came to the conclusion that God did not exist. The only sense that I could make of my life falling apart was that there really was no greater power and that I was completely at the mercy of my fellow men. I decided that I had to take care of myself because no one else was going to. I hated the notion of God and thought that those that “believed” in God were foolish and brainwashed. I categorized myself as a Machievellian.
I have since been proven wrong in an undeniable way. I had to be ready for God to come to me though. I won’t go into the big details and long story of how God came to me. But I can say now that I do not “believe” in God, but know that God is there and truly is my redeemer and Lord.
There is a third type of aetheist that I have come into contact with in my life. Actually about 4 months after God made himself known to me we were thrust into a group of them. Lee (my husband) has been a Christian for almost 5 years now. Before that he was a Deist. Before he was Christian he was part of what we affectionately call “the group”. It is a group of friends that is quite extensive. These friends have been friends for at least 15 years and sometimes let new people in. :) When Lee converted to Christianity he felt he had to cut himself off. Not one of the group is Christian. Most are aetheists, but call themselves pagans. They are quite skeptical and derivitive of people that believe in God…especially Christians.
Through horrible tragedy we came back into contact with “the group”. Both of us having a solid knowledge of God, His love and His grace and mercy; we were often made fun of or treated with suspicion. Eventually the group figured out we weren’t going to try and “convert” them. It took several months and more than one discussion for people to understand that we were not going to try and convert them, but rather our goal was to show them what Christians should BE…not what we say.
In our conversation with them about religion, I have learned how detrimental Christians really are to the Lord’s cause. Each of our dozens of friends has at least a dozen stories of Christians that have made them not believe in God. The overarching theme that I hear in every single conversation is “People go to church and do what they’re supposed to there and the rest of the week do whatever they want and don’t follow what ‘god/the bible/the pastor/the church/the religion’ says you should do. The rest of the week they’re out there sleeping around, swearing, cheating..etc etc etc. But these people tell us we’re going to hell. At least I’m honest about it. I’m not a hypocrite”
I’ve often wondered how many “aetheists” got to God’s feet totally shocked and humbled that He was there. MOst of the time I think God scoops them into His arms and wipes their tears and tells them it’s ok. Really what more could He expect with the way His other children that claimed to know Him treated them.
I’m not sure I’m really making my point, (most of you have had pregnant wives so I think you understand my ramblings). Let me try and say it this way. I think people simply cannot believe in God based on many of our examples and treatment of them.
Shortly after I left the LDS church a year and a half ago, I was in talking to one of my pastors. I was quickly losing all my LDS friends and much of my family was threatening to disown me. I was saddened that a religion and not who I was, was all that mattered to these people that supposedly loved me. Pastor Bob listened and understood. I don’t remember much of the conversation or how I felt afterwards. I don’t remember if he gave me answers that day that help. But he did say something that has forever changed me. He told me that the greatest testimony of the Lord was a changed life. Truly I feel that if we are to help our fellow men find the Lord then we must truly have Him in every aspect of our lives, every particle of our body and every breath of our soul. How else will be able to reach out to our brothers and sisters that are hurting and need love. How else will the Lord be able to show His love if not through His other children that know Him?
As I’m ending my comments here something has struck me. I recently told my husband that I have never known someone that has tried to take their own life that was not saying “please help me! I have no other options and need a help” either consciously or not. In the same line of thought I also think that the majority of aetheists are saying the same thing. They need help and love and are probably long out of options. To decide that He is not there is a form of attempted spiritual suicide. Through my own tragedies I learned that I have no idea what is happening in each person’s life and the pain that is held behind their eyes. How can I possibly judge them when they do somthing I think is foolish or ill thought out or downright stupid? Those of us that know our Lord definately are held to a higher standard of love and service. We know what we should be and though we are not perfect we must do our best to be in communion with our Lord to know how we can best serve Him and His children.
Mat 22:36-39 Master, which [is] the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
I am what they call spiritually dead. I do believe in some form of God, but does he have to take the shape of a man? Who is to say that God is a man or a woman, and does that matter? You are all taking the bible what of other religions? I do know that the current bible is twisted for instance the idea of reincarnation did exist in the old ways. Therefore hell is not absolute there are more than one chance to redeem one’s soul. My favorite quote is of the serpent in genesis when eve was tempted to eat of the fruit. This is what satan had to say to the poor naive girl “ye shall be as Gods”
We are Gods, but we have taken that power we were bestowed upon and abused it. I do not blame God for what humanity has done, I blame humanity after all you are the ones who have torn my sweet dear mother to pieces.
While we are at it this gives me a chance to explain the name White Raven and it’s meaning. A Hopi legend, the Raven was once white and he was the guardian of the earth. Raven was very fond of man and spent his time watching man, of course in those days man lived peacefully with nature and nature in turn provided. One day a great beast swallowed the sun, the void opened up and creatures most foul came to earth, Raven being fond of man decided to be the sacrifice and flew up into the void to make a deal with it. The void would leave in exchange that raven take the burden of death with it. When the Raven agreed the mark of the void remained with the Raven and the once White raven was now black as the void.
I have always had a hard time in my life, and for a while I was alone in the wilderness while I was in the cold and starving a dream came to me in the dream the spirit of the land came to me and gave me a charge I will not mention that charge but I was bestowed the name of the white Raven and there you go.
A person who I thought loved me despite my faults came to me two years ago, I thought she wanted to begin anew I thought that because she was there alone with me that she cared about me, but she did not she was only there to find someone else someone I hate, she just wanted to use me she did not care about me, but that is not Gods fault that is her fault and she is taking the punishment for it to this day. The thing you may call God is going to allow me to punish her cause she is a sinful dirty person. Than we will clean the rest of humanity as it is foretold.
So the point I have if you lost faith in God that at one time you believed in that entity it is not God’s fault and I understand the cry for God to help you I understand only too well, I cry out why to him all the time. I am alone and I will forever be alone and the only people that I will be able to surround myself with are those that do not care and are petty and only crave power.
If you were to ask me the greatest loss I have experienced I would tell you her name was Tami
I turned on my religion but not God, the Mormons are bad evil people and there blood will be branded on my hands for an eternity it saddens me cause Tami is one of them and I loved her like no other we grew up together not many people get to experience that form of love most only know lust but nothing as pure as a childhood friend.
Well I am done for now to painful if you ever want to talk prophecy and the teachings of the old ways I love that kind of stuff. When you get bold enough to hear my crazy talk ask me about the seraphim angels that I have seen (they are scary)
You know what since we are on the subject I think I will tell you of my dreams. It is a subject that could go anyway and it is a subject of a persons perceptions and how you people perceive my dream would be interesting, it does have something to do with the seraphim angels I was talking about the other day. I have these dreams often and the more I have them the more vivd they become and the more I learn about the scene. So here we go.
The Black Dream
It starts out I am on an island of some sort and the island is made of just rock. It is dark like the kind of dark where there was just a rain storm but it is day time. At first it seems like I am alone there, quiet and peaceful and yet disturbing. As I climb up the rock I get to a place that looks most holy. That is when I see them and the tree. Four great angels standing guard, these angels are like non I have ever seen. They have six great wings upon there backs, and there features are not only features of man but of like a lion. Almost as if I woman mated with a giant lion, and give birth to these creatures. As I said Giant they are like 17 feet tall towering and muscular. Each angel carries with him a great blade glowing with light.
The great tree as I see now is also glowing but faintly and it is dying there were once leaves on this great tree I can tell cause some still hold on to the branches. The tree looks as if it is in the autumn years. Something calls to me inside me, telling me to go to the great tree. I slowly begin to walk towards the tree getting closer and closer. I start to see the angels more vividly and I see that they wear great gold breast plates upon there chests, they have no eyes there eyes are that of a stone statue white and cold and without feeling. But the most peculiar thing about them is I can hear music coming from them like they are constantly singing praise to God, it is like they are made of music.
The Angels sit there silent as I am silent as well, I can’t help but have fear for them, they are pretty but frightening to me as well. As I approach the tree and I hear it has a heart beat and it echoes in my mind beating loudly but slowly as if it is about to stop. Again a voice in my head tells me to pull the heart from the tree, for it suffers greatly. I look to the angels for guidance, after all they are protecting the tree might I try to kill it they may do me some serious harm. But the angels look at me with intent and nod there permission, somehow I get the feeling that if they wanted to do me harm they would have before I even was able to see the tree.
So I slowly reach my hand into the trunk of the tree and grasp the heart and pull it out and as I do the heart becomes a flame and the tree begins to bleed and as it bleeds the tree becomes as stone. Than the earth begins to tremble and quake and the angels begin to growl and screech and there wings tense and they howl a most fierce howl as if they were crying for war and they fly off into the horizon with steed. Than after that I wake up every time I have the dream I never get to see what happens after that.
So there you have it I welcome all to give me there take on my dream, a religious take or if you prefer the freudian way by all means I wont laugh at you I promise, I am not the person I am made out to be, I accept all as long as they accept me just as I do them. Hell if you want to take it and analyze it go right ahead perhaps you may even have the same dream as I and can figure it out. Lord Knows I would like to know what it means. I would like as many people as I can give me their opinion on it, tell me what you think. I am interested in all the different takes a person has on it. Kellie you too, your welcome to it as well if you can muster it. I have another dream just as scary I dream all the time too, I do not know if they are connected but we will do one at a time, for now that is all.