Dear Theist and Believer,
Last year you wrote me a letter pleading with me to not question my faith, or Faith itself. You told me that faith was enough, that this was as good as any truth, and that faith in Jesus and in God need not be questioned. In other words, you were asking me to take it all on blind faith that God is real, that he loves us, that Jesus died for our sins, and that the Bible is the reflection of this age old story.
I took a whole year to think about that letter, because as I have researched and read on the topic of faith thoroughly I feel I can explain why such a proposition is one I cannot honestly hold—at least not without being dishonest with myself.
First off, Faith is a statement of belief. You either believe in something, or you don’t. It’s not a statement of knowing or truth. For example, if I say, “The bus leaves at 7:00, I believe…” you are inevitably tipped off that I am uncertain. I believe it leaves at seven, but… I could be mistaken. A factual statement would be, “I’ve double checked the schedule, and the bus leaves at 7:00.”
In the first example my belief that the bus leaves at about seven o’clock is a statement of faith. I either heard from a second hand source, by word of mouth, or know from experience that this particular bus supposedly always leaves at around that time. Yet it is by faith that we hope it continues to act and function on time. It may indeed, be a different bus I was thinking of, or the person who told me may have been mistaken. I do not know for sure. You only have my word for it, and you can trust it or not, but there is a certain level of uncertainty.
The second example is much more certain. I checked the schedule, twice, and can pull it out of my pocket and show you it, you can bet on it being accurate (whereas a faith based bet would place you in danger or losing out—since it’s all in the roll of the dice). In other words, if I can produce the evidence, the paper itself, with the allotted departure and arrival times, and you can see for yourself and judge exactly (precisely) what time the bus leaves according to the evidence, then you don’t have any such uncertainty—you can know for certain. This is a statement of fact—of knowing—and is supported by evidence.
I feel that I have to distinguish the two distinctly, not because I think you don’t understand the concept, no, but rather, because it better details why I cannot continue to take things on faith.
Dan Barker, an ex-Evangelical Fundamentalist Pastor/ordained minister, and now leading Atheist and co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, has properly stated:
“I finally realized that faith is a cop-out, a defeat—an admission that the truths of religion are unknowable through evidence and reason. It is only indemonstrable assertions that require the suspension of reason, and weak ideas that require faith.”
More than this feeling, however, is the startling realization that having “faith” in something doesn’t explain if it exists, or even, why it is the way it is (supposedly). For example, having faith that God is real… doesn’t prove he is real. Having faith that God loves you, doesn’t prove that God (if he should exist) is capable of love. You might interject that we look toward the Bible, Holy Scriptures, and sacred writ for such insights. But I can tell you truthfully that the entirety of the Christian Bible (as well as other holy books) have been completely fabricated by men with limited prospects and a narrow minded worldview. This is what I call the “bad human touch,” because even if the Scriptures themselves were divinely influenced or compiled and assembled during moments of spiritual revelation—then they would not be ridden with errors, contradictions, negations, and all out fallacies which are all too often historically and scientifically inaccurate.
To paint an easy few examples, we might start by asking, why is the “word of God” always exclusively dictated by men in positions of power? Where are all the women prophets, Apostles, and holy visionaries? Oh that’s right, the Bible specifically tells man to dominate women, withhold her education, enslave her to the duties of the hearth, and become a baby making factory. Manmade religion puts limits on how she can depict her appearance, what her posture should be, how she should dress and with what amount of propriety, it decides on when she can and can’t be in church, how long her hair can be, how much of her face she can show publicly, and whether or not she can go to the market alone, and if she divorces her abusive husband she should be put to death [but if the husband is caught cheating—unjustly—she must be stoned along with him—since she wasn’t appealing enough so obviously wasn’t trying to please him enough and it’s partially her fault he strayed anyway—really, sadly, this is what religion teaches].
In the world today there are still women being decapitated in front of their children for the simple crime of wearing the wrong color of head scarf! Where are the women holy leaders? They’re mostly all dead. Gone the way of St. Joan of Arc. The patroness saint was framed by the Roman Catholic Priests, forcefully stripped naked, and forced to wear men’s clothes during her court trial—which was run by the Bishops and controlled entirely by Church authorities—and she was put to death for the absurd crime of wearing “boy’s clothing.” If she would have been a man… she would have been followed as the greatest Christian prophet of all time. But for the crime of her gender, sexist chauvinist pigs burned her alive at the steak. This is how God shows his affection for the female… always has, it starts in the book of Genesis and degrades the worth of women for 2,000 years—and how is this not sickening, unjust, putrefying nonsense? Because of a talking snake, and two teenagers playing “hide the snake” in the “garden patch” humanity is doomed for all eternity? What? You do realize, don’t you, that Jesus Christ is redeeming ‘original sin’ right? So—ask yourself quite seriously, do you believe with all your heart in talking snakes?
Or are you willing to consider that it is simply a coming of age fable and an archaic myth? If God was at all loving, omniscient, omnipresent, and benevolent he would have made provisions safeguarding the other half which was made in his image. The fact it is not so should beg the question—is God a male chauvinist pig? With all his almighty power, wisdom, compassion, grace, and knowledge God couldn’t demand for man to treat women fairly, equally, and respectfully? (This makes me wonder, can a God which has less empathy than I do seriously be a loving God? Not in the least. Good books which adequately address this issue include: David Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, Richard Carrier’s Sense and Goodness without God, Dan Barker’s godless, John W. Loftus’ Why I Became an Atheist, and Bart D. Ehrman’s God’s Problem.)
Another example of scriptural irregularity is as such: consider that the Bible tells of Judas Iscariot’s death in detail, three different ways, and three different times. Two of these deaths happen in the same book—which means, by default, they cannot be true. The same author would not write one correct scenario and contradict it with a totally different death sequence. But a third death exists in the canonical scriptures, while a fourth exists in classical Christian oral tradition. My brother Tyson once suggest that all of these death sequences occurred simultaneously, or over a brief period of time, so that Judas was stoned, hung, his guts burst asunder from the fall (sometimes into a well) and then was trampled by horse and chariot. Yet this is not what the Bible says precisely occurred. After all, this is not the “Problem of Harry” we’re talking about here.
The Bible clearly states that Judas hung himself and died. Then equivocates that he fell into a deep dry well/or/sometimes/a field (in a moment of grief) and his guts splattered all over. Being asphyxiated is clearly not the same as being disemboweled. Even so, the Bible quite specifically states that he hung himself in a gut wrenching agony of remorse for his betrayal in a final act of suicide. There is a Catholic oral tradition, which also shows up again in the Gnostic texts, which has a sequence where the Disciples stone Judas to death, yet in the Gnostic Gospel of Judas, he escapes the stoning.
So which of these grisly death scenes is it? Common sense reason dictates Judas can only have died one possible way but just one time. Tyson’s argument, although it fixes the theological conundrum, is blown out of the water by the scriptures authoritative statements which rigidly and precisely state that Judas met his demise one specific way, and is done for. But for the exception that it follows it with two entirely different accounts, each time stating he dies and that it is over with. One of these accounts of reckoning is mistaken, but it is more probable that all of them are incorrect (It’s three to one odds of any one of them being correct, so it is more likely that none of them are correct).
This consideration, which I call the Judas Enigma, is what caused C.S. Lewis to reiterate that the Bible cannot be viewed strictly as a historically reliable text, or even as historically accurate one, I might add (See Bart D. Ehrman’s Jesus Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know About Them); Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew; and Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the bible and Why.)
Indeed, some Christians simply brush aside the enigma of the multiple deaths of Judas and claim it is the stories metaphorical importance that is significant. The message of betrayal and just punishment is profound, as Thomas Aquinas suggest as the riding importance, since without Judas Iscariot then Jesus never would have been handed over to the Sanhedrin, the messianic prophecy would not have been fulfilled, and the atonement never could have taken place.
This all fits in tune with the Jesus legend theory originally proposed by philosopher and Christian theologian David Strauss’ assessment of the “historical Jesus” in Life of Jesus Critically Examined. Strauss was mainly concerned with little to no extrabiblical evidence to support the Christian claims about Christ. This lack of extrabiblical reference to Jesus Christ, as well as Paul‘s complete silence on any historical element related to Jesus’ life has lead some critics and scholars to conclude Jesus Christ may be completely made up. One of the most convincing arguments for this hypothesis can be found in The Jesus Puzzle by Earl Doherty. Christians have yet to address and refute the arguments convincingly. Also see the Jesus Seminar, a group of over 150 scholars with advanced degrees in religion and biblical criticism which all hold the view that Jesus was not divine and may be a legendary figure loosely veiled off of a historical one. (See: http://www.westarinstitute.org/ and Robert M. Price’s Incredible Shrinking Son of Man: How Reliable is the Gospel Tradition? and also http://www.jesuspuzzle.com/)
Of course, it may not have happened in just that way (historically speaking there is too much to cover in such a short space), but the important thing to log, the moral of the story if you will, is that God will punish evil while rewarding the faithful—everyone gets their just due in the end (retribution does not equate justice, however). But don’t be so certain that the argument from metaphor strengthens the Christian position any, because as recent research has shown… a metaphor may have been all it really was—and that Judas probably never existed to begin with. (By the way, this isn’t a theory, there is a lot of research which has come to light which shows that Judas Iscariot’s name is a play on words, and the character may have been invented just to serve the purpose of metaphor and to better link Christ to the planned out messianic role. See: The Masks of Christ by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, as well as Elaine Pagels and Karen L. King, Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity.)
Other problems go deeper still and are entrenched in the Bible. I’ve mentioned the virgin birth story several times, how parthenogenesis does not produce males, and if God did implant his divine seed then the only evidence we have of it is when Mary was alone and the angel revealed himself to her. But problems like this are all too common place. Jesus’ anguish in the garden of Gethsemane is another example of when somebody went off alone to pray. If each of these people were alone in such times, then who is telling the story? How do we know exactly what they said? Did they tell somebody after the fact? If so who? Is this person reliable? They would have been speaking Aramaic, so who wrote it down? Who took the Aramaic and translated it into the Coptic Greek? Was the translator accurate? Years later, the monks and priests who re-translated the Greek, did they all work and labor days on end in dark rooms in the corner of Monasteries transcribed with no errors whatsoever? What are the odds? (Unicorns end up in the Bible afterward) Or could it possibly be a bit more obvious still? Perhaps the stories are all made up? (Not just unicorns, but also leviathans, magic talking snakes, magic talking donkeys, internally combustible chatty shrubbery, red dragons, seven headed dragons, giants, magic assassin scorpions, mighty angels, demon possessed swine, men walking on water and parting seas, virgin births, power crazed kings and the forces of good clashing against evil, a hero to bring the peace and save the day, etc. etc. You do realize what you’re reading don’t you? All these things come from myth and fable… not the reality we live. They represent the reality we want. You’re not reading history–you’re reading fiction, legend, mythology of the highest order and most engrossing kind. You claim it happened, I claim it’s too incredible to believe without the necessary evidence. You claim to know it’s true, I claim that is not a statement you can reasonably make considering the evidence–or lack thereof. You claim it’s your own personal experience which reveals the truth of God, I say you need to reexamine your beliefs more critically.)
If the Gospel writers had heard the good news by word of mouth, they would have said such—especially in the case with Jesus Christ’s night in the garden of the olive press or the resurrection, then there would be quotes by those first hand witnesses Christians love to tote. Name them for me. Who were they? Why don’t the Gospels account for them? Who were all these chatty Christians running around keeping the word of Christ’s deeds alive for half a century? What variety of Christian were they? Why should we believe they knew Peter or Paul? Outside of the Bible, which is already proved unreliable, what is your evidence for believing so? I’m sorry to say, but the Jewish Historian Josephus Flavius just doesn’t count–and everyone else comes too late–you’d know this if you looked into matters with an objective mind and a desire to understand and learn the truth.
The early Synoptic Gospel authors could have made their point by saying, “Jesus came to me and said…” or “I heard from Peter that…” and so on. Paul could have included historical information about Jesus, he may have mentioned the miracles from the Gospels (accept the Gospels hadn’t been written yet so how could he?), Paul might have talked about Christ’s virgin birth as this is vital for Christians, right? But Paul’s silence on the important matters is as if they never happened–or more likely that it was all made up after he died and so there was no need to comment on any of it.
Yet we know, from comparing original Gospels in the Greek and Hebrew, higher criticism has revealed a wealth of evidence that all of this has been tinkered with considerably, and is evidence of not just tampering… but flat out works in fiction. The Pauline Epistiles, attributed to Paul, are mostly forgeries, called pseudepigrapha, and were not written by Paul (See The Journal of Higher Criticism on the Pauline writings: http://depts.drew.edu/jhc/vanpaul.html).
So what is to suggest the other elements of the “word of God” are not simply manmade-up as well? There is little to none. Other than loose (and often inaccurate if not entirely incorrect) historical references and events (such as the consensus debate in Luke, and incompatible genealogies which conflictingly portray the messiah figure as hailing from two entirely different blood lines; which is nonsensical since he assumedly had no biological father), most of them are dubious at best (such as David slaying Goliath which is historically inexact, Noah’s Flood which there is no geological evidence for, or the drowning of Pharaoh’s men in the Red Sea–since no bodies is good evidence that it never happened), we cannot take the Bible as entirely accurate on matters regarding what so many followers purport as the “God given” truth.
Although we don’t know how much augmentation truly has gone on with regards to the Bible and Holy Scripture–the truth is–we know it has. All this should make us highly skeptical of infallible God-penned holy books, these paper idols (for that’s what they have become), if not, at the very least it’s more than enough evidence to serve as a reason to look critically at what the Bible really says, not just what we wish it to say.
Faith in Biblical inerrancy and infallibility stems from the Protestant reformation, and was a political tactic used by Martin Luther to level the playing field by matching the Churches “God given” authority with the people’s Scripturally (and now divinely) backed authority. John Calvin pushed this divine inspiration notion even further giving most of Protestantism it’s theological basis. However, it’s highly unlikely that any of the Bible’s content was ever divinely inspired. I specifically say highly unlikely, because although not a complete impossibility, it is implausible. There is no evidence for it, so you cannot believe it is ‘divinely’ devised by some grand artificer. You can choose to have “faith” that it is, but then this is the choice to believe in something regardless, or even contrary, to what the evidence shows.
My exploration in religious matters has been a heuristic adventure. I cannot have “faith” that God is real simply for reasons of intellectual honesty and a sense of integrity. I feel that faith based arguments are a huge cop out. If the only way you can accept an assertion is by faith, then you are admitting that the assertion can’t be taken on its own merits. If something is true, we don’t invoke faith. Instead, we use reason and evidence to prove it. Show me the good reason for why something is, support it with trustworthy evidence, and then we can start a conversation about what it all means.
I find that in the pursuit of truth, asking questions is the most important aspect of learning. Faith as it is commonly practiced by the believer retards the process by allowing you to stop asking the difficult questions, you don’t have to put any work into proving your case, you need not overcome objections, you can simply choose to ignore the contradictions and never ending problems, all because you can take it on faith—you can “just believe” and be contented. This is a free choice, so I can’t tell you or anyone that it is the wrong choice, but I find it highly dishonest and intellectually bankrupt. It’s not the choice I would make for myself.
This doesn’t mean there aren’t things unseen, untenable, or beyond our sphere of comprehension. Things transcendental. But if such things exist in the outer limits and are beyond my capacity for comprehension, then assuredly they are beyond your capacity as well, and to claim you know more than me on the matter is a lie. You can tell me God loves me, or that he created the Universe and all things all you want, but without the evidence and proof, it sounds simply like an assertion you can’t honestly make without prefacing it with, “I believe…” and following it with, “…because I have faith.”
It’s not that I choose not to believe. I was a devout Christian for nearly thirty years, I believed for all that time religiously, if you haven’t forgotten. I once was an devout believing Christian–the same as you are now. The thing is, as I have matured intellectually as well as emotionally, I find atheism is perfectly reasonable, offers solidly grounded arguments based on reason, has evidence to support its claims about the universe, and is stable where superstitious religious belief and shaky theology are not.
Think of it another way: Atheism is vulnerable to disproof. Theism is not. This makes atheism the stronger argument! Atheism is easy to disprove—offer up the proper and appropriate evidence which definitively proves God’s existence—produce God even—and atheism is not. Yet I can’t disprove God’s existence—it’s seemingly impossible. And the belief that there is no evidence to possibly disprove God is proof enough that there isn’t likely any evidence which can prove it either.
Perhaps here is a good time for me to reiterate that atheism is not a type of belief system, but rather a position (or attitude) of unbelief in God and/or gods. Atheism is the cogent position that there is not enough available or reliable evidence to validate a belief in God. As such, it’s the opposite of Theism—it is non-Theism. Which is strange when you think about it, because it’s a redundant terminology, i.e. we don’t have a-fairiests or a-Santa Clausists. We know fairies and Santa Clause do not likely exist, so there is no reason to profess a disbelief in something which is non-existent. It’s a strange term indeed, we might be better called rationalists and leave it at that.
At any rate, I can’t disprove to you that God did or didn’t make the universe and everything in it. Even as there’s no evidence for it being the handiwork of an eternal deity, there’s a lot of evidence which suggests God isn’t real and never was, but there isn’t anything we can definitely point out that suggests (as an ideal) God is altogether impossible. My position as atheist, however, simply means that given what the evidence shows I cannot possibly claim to know there is a personal God (See Victor Stenger’s God: The Failed Hypothesis and the Impossibility of God by Michael Martin and Ricki Monnier). This relates to Albert Einstein’s quote in which he stated, “I cannot prove to you that there is no personal God, but if I were to speak of him I would be a liar.” I have come to feel that to make the claim that God is real (and more than this, to say you know what he wants for us) is to buy into a delusion which requires dogmatic faith based anomalies to go unchallenged.
If faith upon faith alone is a valid enough argument, then anything goes. Muslims believe in Allah by faith, so they must be right. The Hindus are right by the same quid pro quo. The Greeks and Romans were right. The Norse Vikings were right. Those who believe in UFOs or that Elvis Presley is alive and among us are equally as right. So don’t mistake me when I say, faith based reasoning is utter poppycock. There has to be definitive evidence first. We either have good reasons for believing what we do, or we don’t.
To believe or not believe? That is the question. Or rather, it is (and should be) up to the individual to freely decide what they believe. Religious indoctrination, I have come to consider, is a form of child abuse. (I’m not saying I was abused by being raised in a Christian family, this is absurd, but to forcefully manipulate a child and teach him to hate or fear anyone not of his particular denomination or strand of faith is to breed tribalism, intolerance, and anti-multiculturalism, and is a form of totalitarian abuse). Not only does such dogmatic programming hold children in a constant state of fear and confusion, by demanding they believe what “We do” we deny them an individual choice while talking down to their intellect. Furthermore, it retards intellectual growth by impeding a full scientific education by supplanting genuine science with superstition and pseudoscience.
For example, the Bible gives (grossly inaccurate) estimates that the earth is roughly 6,000 years old. We know this to be incorrect, no matter how many ad hoc revisions theologians like Hugh Ross may wish to attach after the fact. The general number of 6,000 years old comes from the estimation by the Archbishop Ussher of Ireland, between 1625 and 1656. Ussher calculated the Universe was created on the nightfall proceeding the 23rd of October 4004 B.C.E. by counting the Biblical Davidic genealogies back to Adam. Although this particular scientific reasoning of counting human generations, excluding the fact that the premise of the calculation was in fact not quite right, we know the universe is 13.5 Billion years old due to the cosmic background radiation which was discovered by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson and confirmed in 1964 and was measured by the COBE satellite in 1992. Moreover, besides Ussher’s math being faulty, his technique is highly outmoded (not to mention unscientific) as it neglects all the other bloodlines and genetic ties of humans which existed centuries before the Biblical King David–the finds of Lucy and Ardi (millions of years old) prove this, and so could not have been listed in the Bible, nor does Ussher’s method include estimated life expectancies based on health, diet, and disease for each generation according to their corresponding time periods and locations.
Teaching our children bunk and junk instead of real science only clogs their minds and confuses them further, not to mention, it also often puts them in dangerous situations, and/or sponsors particularly intolerant worldviews. Supernatural supposition is no replacement for genuine science. It’s like the physicist and atheist philosopher Victor Stenger has said:
“Theists also try to argue that science operates on faith no less than does religion by assuming science and reason apply to reality. This betrays an ignorance of science that is pervasive among theists and theologians. Faith is belief in the absence of evidence. Science is belief in the presence of evidence. When the evidence disagrees with a scientific proposition, the proposition is discarded. When the evidence disagrees with a religious proposition, the evidence is discarded.”
But the bigger question: does God exist, is he real, and does he love me cannot be answered by looking into faulty texts or trusting varying human emotions or experiences bound to our primate physiology. For example, traditionally religion has denied the theory of evolution, but Darwin’s theory of evolution is a fact the same as Einstein’s theory of relativity is a proven fact. Evolution and natural selection are the real deal. We’d all better get used to it. (See Jerry Cyone’s Why Evolution is True as well as Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin.)
When Creationists emphatically cite that we didn’t evolve from monkeys, they show how naïve they are on matters of evolution, genetics, and biology. Monkeys and humans are both Primates, we share a common genetic ancestor, just as a red fox, a grey wolf, a German Sheppard, a Chihuahua, a Dachshund, and a Welsh Corgi all share a common K-9 ancestor. Chimps are the most evolved monkey of the Chimp line, while a Bengal Tiger is the most evolved Tiger of the tiger line, and a Polar Bear is the most advanced of the Polar Bear line, while a Falcon is the most evolved Falcon it can be—all creatures are continuously evolving and adapting. Some recently discovered cave dwelling Salamanders, which you can view in the BBC series Planet Earth, show solid evidence of post-ocular blindness, a consequence of living underground. They had fully functioning eyes, but through natural selection, gradually lost their eyesight because in the dark they no longer needed them. These salamanders show exquisitely evolution by natural selection, and seems, when you think about it, so overwhelmingly probable as to constitute a near certainty.
Yet it’s clear that a Grizzly and a Polar bear, somewhere in their ancient past, had a common bear ancestor who shared both their genes and would leave the imprint for future genetic coding—they simply went their separate ways and adapted to their environments accordingly. An Eagle and a Sparrow have a common ancestor too; we knew them as the dinosaurs. Evidence of their existence surrounds us and is everywhere being dug up, excavated, or turned into fossil fuels. For instance, we now have evidence of transitional fossils such as the Archaeopteryx, which links birds directly to dinosaurs, and the pelvic boned whale Ambulocetus which links sea whales with their land dwelling ancestors. Whales used to be land creatures, but migrated into the oceans either for food or survival or both. We have all the transitory fossils to prove that those animals of the same species (same species!) underwent and entire transformation from terrestrial to aquatic (spoon, spork, fork—it’s all there! We have the evidence and more becomes available daily—the same cannot be said for religion. I suggest the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkin’s books The Ancestors Tale and the The Greatest Show on Earth to get a more accurate idea of evolution and natural selection. Both are highly informative!)
When the religious claim fails to offer a consistent and reliable theory, or worse, when the theology works against itself in such a way as to render the original point mute or to inject another hypothesis contrary to the premise, such as the prior example of St. Augustine and John Calvin’s idea of predestination being stubbornly irreconcilable, so more bad theories are concocted to smooth over the multiplying dilemmas, and then the can of worms is opened. Suddenly you have a whole myriad of problems concerning free-will, more over you get theories of double predestination, reprobation which is inimical to God’s agape love and Christ’s atonement (although sacrificial death, even for a good cause, is still unethical), and so on and so forth into infinity.
I don’t see how theology, such as this, in any way makes the theological premise any stronger, because it neither proves nor disproves its initial claims but simply runs them around in tireless circles or changes subject to get out of the self inflicted predicament. Theology is quite literally bad philosophy and untrustworthy at best. St. Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologica is a good example of this. Why? Because many of his worldviews are based off of supernatural beliefs and not based in reality–and so have been invalidated by our modern understanding of chemistry, physics, biology, medicine, etc.. (See: The Cosmic Landscape by eminent physicist Leonard Susskind for more on the nature of reality as we know it.)
As we’ve discussed, theology arises out of the doctrinal and scriptural conflicts contained within religion’s holiest of books and can never be relied upon as support for a religious claim. It’s simply a tool to try and smooth over the incompatible religious claims and make them gel—by force if necessary. Cherry picking plays the largest part in which bits of scripture are deemed to have value while others are diminished or disregarded altogether. This is the reason that you never hear of the Bible verses which okay fathers to sell their daughters into sexual slavery for money or it is overlooked when Christ (the Son of an all-loving God) condones slavery—these verses are all too controversial and are never taught in Sunday school (for good reason too). We as humans use a better moral judgment than what is contained in the Bible, and our natural innate morality picks out the bad, harmful, shameful, and corrupted bits of scripture and looks only toward the good. (Dan Dennett talks more about this choosing and picking self governing morality in his book Breaking the Spell.)
Theological assumptions on whole are merely unfounded theories without factual support. The Bible is proved to be imperfect; judging what bits are true from what parts are false is an elusive, perhaps futile, endeavor. Anybody can intemperate it to mean anything they want. Anyone can cherry pick the parts of their religious works as they see fit and use them for good or for bad. So at the end of the day—they could choose to either fly hijacked airplanes into buildings to smite the infidel in the name of God—as your God given duty—or you can choose to love your neighbors. But the religious text, the impenetrable word of God, puts no priority on either—both are commendable and even rewarded by Allah. So is the same within Christianity, one can show homosexuals compassion, a Christian virtue, or stone them to death—a God given right. Both are commendable by God’s decree. In other words, there is no convincing argument for there to be a God, not one, and certainly not one able to justify such a self contradictory entity.
No, I’m afraid I can find no good evidence to believe. Not anymore, because at the end of the day God reeks of the bad human touch, and I can’t force myself to submit or love such an evil idea as that which religion stands for.
As such, for the religious minded it comes down to a matter of faith. You believe because you choose to believe (and that is fine as long as your beliefs don’t impede anyone else’s or cause undue harm). For the rational minded, it comes down to a matter of reliable evidence and ultimately the validation of the claim. But it is not up to atheists to validate the religious claims. The religious people are the ones making the claim for the existence of God, and so the responsibility to prove God is real lies entirely in the hands of the faithful. (Just as the adorable “I has a Baseball” cartoon depicts below.)
This is my reply to you insistence that “faith” is the greatest attribute worth clinging to. Faith, I would argue, is the least admirable attribute when it comes to the pursuit of the truth. Staying curious, asking questions, and enjoying the wondrous nature of the world while continuing to learn about the how and why is a far better endeavor than just waiting around to die hoping the next life will be better. I don’t want another life… I want to make the best of this one. One life is precious enough.
Make hay while the sun shines, the adage goes, live life to its fullest, be kind to others, strive to become a better person, help to make the world a better place, all can be summed up in the phrase: carpe diem! Axiomatic wisdom, and none of it has ever come from God, but from thinking people who strive to do the best they can in such a scary and unpredictable universe.
I am not arguing specifics. I am simply making the counter-argument to your advice to me that blind “faith” is the best attribute. Obviously I disagree, but if you do have other religious concerns, or questions, feel free to address them. If I may, I wish to suggest reading a few good books: godless by Dan Barker, and Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris and The New Atheism by Victor Stegner. Both are short, quick, easy reads with a comprehensive introduction into the secular position. If you really want to challenge yourself, you might dare to try reading Darwin’s Dangerous Idea by Daniel C. Dennett or The Improbability of God by Michael Martin and Ricki Monnier.
This letter is not a full explanation for why I stopped believing, it is only meant as a rebuttal to your faith based claims, and at the most, could be considered a brief introduction into a few examples of why I came to understand what I have. I have a whole 400 page manuscript of a book, which is nearly complete, that details my thoughts more clearly.
Thanks for listening. I felt I needed to reply to your letter because it has been a whole year niggling in the back of my mind, and more importantly, I felt you might want some closure on the matter of my change of mind.