God…Or Not

I haven’t believed in God since I was 12 years old, which doesn’t mean I didn’t want to at one time.  I had this idea that it was my particular brand of religion that was at fault, and that if I just found the right religion, then God would make more sense to me. 

That completely explains why, when I started college, I majored in philosophy.  In my defense, keep in mind that I started college at 17.  I of course thought I was a fully-formed adult human, sprung from the head of Zeus or something.  Of course, I was in fact, lame.  My first college crush was on my philosophy professor Dr. Bowman, who taught Philosophy of Religion.  He once gave us a quote in class, by somebody famous, which said something to the effect that it’s sad that man loses his faith in religion without at the same time losing his need for it.  Yes!  Exactly!  I said. 

I’m pretty sure I wasn’t alone in this quest, since there has to be some explanation for the Hare Krishnas. 

However, the philosophy angle didn’t work for me.  I thought I had found the magic lamp when we studied Spinoza who logically “proved” the existence of God.  Except I had to write a paper on him and poked holes in his argument long before we got from A to C. 

Then I switched to anthropology, where I learned something very interesting.  As far as I can recall, there is no culture, no civilization without a concept of “God” or “gods” and a corresponding belief in an afterlife.  Which taught me this:  religion is a univeral human need.  But universal human need is not the same thing as universal truth.  That is the problem.  When you leap from “Everybody believes it” to “It must be true”, then I’ve abandoned you before we even got from A to B. 

In the end, the only people I really respect are the Pascal-ish people , who say, Yeah, I can’t prove it, but I choose to believe it and it makes me happier.  (That’s a bit of a perversion of Pascal, but like I said, Pascal-ish.)

If only I could find more of them who said, if you choose not to, that’s okay by me.  But somebody is always trying to convert me, and I have several pet peeves about the whole thing.

There must be something more than this life.  Really?  Why?  Maybe if more of us believed that this is all there is, we would try harder.  Maybe we wouldn’t just wait for a better life around the bend.  Maybe we wouldn’t be sucked in by the idea of the 72 virgins. 

I’m praying for you.  Grrr.  This one really gets me.  I don’t mind you praying for me to the God of your choice if I’m having a crisis, but I do mind you praying for me hoping I’ll “see the light”.  It insults me. 

Here’s what I think.  I think the universe is a miraculous place, and we are miraculous beings within it.  I don’t need a “watchmaker” to have made it all.  (And who was it who said that anyway?  St. Thomas Aquinas?)  The main thing you can get me to agree to in the Bible is this:  Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  There will never be another you or me.  I used to upset my grandmother endlessly by quizzing her about Heaven.  Will we have bodies?  What will we look like?  Will we be old or young, or the age we were when we died?  Can the dog go too? 

I think we are made of atoms, which will combine with other atoms at some future date to form a new entity.  That’s enough immortality and awe to suit me.

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15 responses to “God…Or Not

  1. I with you 100%…………………but here’s a fascinating story.

    http://www.amazon.com/Reluctant-Messenger-Science-Religion-Religions/dp/0595268218

  2. But universal human need is not the same thing as universal truth. That is the problem. When you leap from “Everybody believes it” to “It must be true”, then I’ve abandoned you before we even got from A to B.

    That is a VERY insightful statement. If more people could recognize this fallacy the world would be a better place. Then again, opinion pollsters would be out of business….

    • Hey hippieprof! Oh don’t worry, I’m not here to start trouble. I noticed the statement that you said was VERY insightful. I beg to differ with you. It sounds good, but it’s the farthest thing from any truth and your own beliefs prove it. Most of the folks I know, particularly those that lean towards the left have no need of religion at all. In fact I, myself have no need of religion, and you know I’m a believer. Thus the ‘insightful’ statement that religion is a universal human need, is nonsense.

      • Welcome, Not-Here-To-Start-Trouble Steve 🙂 Respectfully speaking of course, I believe there are some flaws in your logic and/or your interpretation of what I said. Not that I am sure “insightful” really applies to me 🙂
        But remember that magazine for kids you always used to see in the doctor’s office? Highlight, I think it was called? Let’s see if you can find the raccoon(s) in the tree here.

      • You cut me deep fakename2! I’d better go, you guys are way too clever for me.

      • Steve – the statement I highlighted really had nothing to do with religion, per se. I was just highlighting the fallacy “If a lot of people believe it then it must be true.” That fallacy applies to many aspects of life – including religion. Why, just the other day I saw a poll saying that the majority of Americans think Obama is a socialist. That doesn’t mean he is – it means that the majority of Americans are just plain wrong…

        (yeah – I am prodding you a bit)

        Believe me, I recognize the difference between organized religion and spirituality. The former I have pretty much given up on. The later I haven’t completely given up on – though I remain skeptical.

    • I understand my friend. Alot of it is in the wording. I wouldn’t necessarily call Obama a “socialist” but I think alot of his policies are socialistic in nature, but I couldn’t really care less at this point.
      Oh yeah, I’m with you on the ‘religion’ part … but I’m not skeptical at all on the other. No need to worry, I’m not praying for you though. 😉

      • Ah…if only I could leave well enough alone 🙂 But Fakename takes offense at being told something she said is nonsense. No argument has been advanced to support that. (Hint: What it would really take to refute Fakename is finding a society with no concept of God and an afterlife. )

      • Oh come on Fakename! If you’re desirous of a society without ‘god’ or an afterlife … please, that is readily available here in the U.S.
        Oh, sorry, I’m not sure where you are located. No matter! The U.S.A. offers complete tolerance no matter what you want: No god, no religion, many gods, many religions, love your man, love your woman, love yourself, your dog, cat, bird, “if you can’t be with the one you love … love the one you’re with”, blow yourself up, cut off a few heads, it’s all cool! I mean, this is America! Land of the freaking free … where good men and women gave their lives … and now we can spout off the most insane b.s. just to see who’s the “smartest”.

      • Steve, I am pretty sure Fakename was referring to pre-technological societies. As far as I know, all known races/ethnic groups have had a god concept somewhere in their history.

        where good men and women gave their lives … and now we can spout off the most insane b.s. just to see who’s the “smartest”.

        It almost seems like you are saying that the right to free speech for which good men and women gave their lives only actually protects some speech? Certainly you can’t mean that….

      • I wasn’t saying that at all. But now that you’ve mentioned it … free speech is being reined into control. You might find this somewhat interesting:

        http://www.littlemag.com/mar-apr01/cass.html

      • Steve – I haven’t had a chance to read the whole article yet – but even the first paragraph is intriguing. I have been interested in what Sunstein is calling “filtering” for some time. Our “news” media are now such that people can just choose to hear what they want to hear without ever hearing a dissenting viewpoint. In the end that becomes exceptionally dangerous.

        I suspect I will be back with more to say after I finish the whole article.

  3. pt–looks somewhat interesting. There is a school of thought that says that among human customs, religion and marriage, chiefly, are a taming influence.

  4. I do not “need” religion. I am not looking for “answers”, which in my opinion is why religion arose.

  5. HP—I am referring to all societies, both “primitive” and “advanced”. The fact that some individuals within them don’t subscribe does not negate the fact that it is an omnipresent feature of human society.
    Nowhere did I say that I was “desirous” of a society without God or religion. Despite the horrors commited in the name of religion…and I do mean in the name of…I think religion is a calming influence for the most part. It’s just that I can’t believe in it.
    This post was mostly the culmination of a series of posts about the death last week of a very close friend. It was a personal post that didn’t really have much to do with logic.

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