Why don't you believe in God?

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Why don't you believe in God?

Postby NH Baritone » Thu Jan 31, 2008 8:10 pm

First, an explanation: I'm asking this question for two reasons.

(1) I haven't seen this answered elsewhere in the forum, and I want to know how other people have achieved an atheistic viewpoint within a theistic society. For you, what have been the compelling reasons that have enabled your acceptance of atheism?

(2) I want to answer the question myself. So here's a little essay I wrote as a response to the same question on Yahoo! Answers' Religion & Spirituality page:


First, you have to define the term "God." The problem with most theists is that this term is a moving target.

In addition, because there is no evidence either for or against the existence of God, you cannot use deductive logic (a+b=c; therefore c-b=a). You can only reach a conclusion by inductive reasoning using the balance of evidence (90% of A is also B; C is B, so the chances are 90% that C is also A).

So to begin with, I will assert (and others may shoot this down) that the only RELEVANT definition of God states that GOD INTERVENES TO CIRCUMVENT NATURAL LAWS.

If God circumvents natural laws, then it becomes impossible to understand natural laws. All scientific findings would have to include the stipulation, "It is also possible that these results are an act of God, a miracle, thereby making our research meaningless."

However, we have been able to expand our knowledge of natural laws (evidenced by every appliance in your kitchen). Therefore, because the scientific method leads to applicable discoveries, and the likely conclusion is that God, at least the intervening kind, does not exist.

Additionally, if God is defined as all loving, all powerful, and all knowing, then it is impossible to explain suffering. Either God is not all loving (he acts sadistically), not all powerful (he cannot prevent suffering), or not all knowing (he created suffering by mistake because he didn't know the consequences of his actions). A God who is not all-loving, all-powerful or all-knowing is also not sufficient for the definition of God, because any God that fails to meet these criteria becomes bound by rules that are greater than God.

If God is bound by external rules and/or does not intervene in our existence, then God is either non-existent or irrelevant. The classic Bertrand Russell argument is that I cannot prove that a china teapot is orbiting the sun between the earth's orbit and Mars. But while I cannot prove this is not true, the evidence against it is compelling.

The evidence against God is equally compelling, and while it is not possible to prove beyond any doubt, it makes enormously more sense to live your life as if there were no God.

It is more compelling to me that humans have invented God (a) to help people deal with the pain and fear associated with mystery, death, and loss, and (b) to reflect the thoughts of the ruling powers in a particular time. Humans are always searching for explanations. When none were found, it was the natural inclination to declare that the cause of the unexplained was "God" (or gods). As the faith grew, miracles (coincidences) and laws were ascribed to this Divinity, and an orthodoxy grew up around it.

Now it seems unhelpful to believe in such superstition. The only matters that aid in our ongoing well-being are work, location, health, sustenance, and pure, blind luck.


So give your own answer, either composed anew or from writings you've composed elsewhere. I look forward to reading them.
Last edited by NH Baritone on Fri Feb 01, 2008 12:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Why don't you believe in God?

Postby Richard » Thu Jan 31, 2008 9:33 pm

I like understanding the world. There is this method that has given very good results by using evidence based scientific inquiry. The results are all the human knowledge.
When applied to the questions of: after-life, creator of the universe, soul, paranormal, ghosts, this method fails to produce any supporting evidence.
So I don't believe in God or anything supernatural.

With some reluctance, I find interesting some philosophical arguments too. Arguments regarding the inconsistency of terms like: supernatural, immaterial, God, nothing (from the Why is there something rather than nothing? question)
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Re: Why don't you believe in God?

Postby Rian » Fri Feb 01, 2008 9:05 am

How do you apply the scientific method to the question of "Is there an afterlife?"

edit - (whoops, sorry - didn't realize I was on the atheist forum! Well, plenty of atheists have posted on the Christian forum ...)
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Re: Why don't you believe in God?

Postby NH Baritone » Fri Feb 01, 2008 9:27 am

Rian wrote:How do you apply the scientific method to the question of "Is there an afterlife?"

edit - (whoops, sorry - didn't realize I was on the atheist forum! Well, plenty of atheists have posted on the Christian forum ...)


Your question contains an element of hubris, since it assumes that there is something about life that is beyond the observable. Since the scientific method has accurately described life (and is rapidly moving toward describing consciousness) via biological functioning, it's simply an irrational question. The same applies to questions like, "Are there ghosts?" "Are there leprechauns?" and "Can God make a rock so heavy even he couldn't lift it?"

Even within Christianity there are at least two versions of an afterlife: (1) a spiritual life available to believers immediately following death, and (2) a resurrection at which time human bodies will be restored (or alternatively, transformed into "spiritual" bodies). While these are not necessarily mutually exclusive, they represents two entirely different views of what constitutes life. The second would involve reanimation of the body, and runs counter to the evidence of physical decomposition. The first describes life in a way that has never been observed and sounds so entirely like wishful thinking that even making the assertion of such an immortal soul or spirit simply begs the question.
Last edited by NH Baritone on Fri Feb 01, 2008 12:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Why don't you believe in God?

Postby spongebob » Fri Feb 01, 2008 10:14 am

Rian wrote:How do you apply the scientific method to the question of "Is there an afterlife?"

edit - (whoops, sorry - didn't realize I was on the atheist forum! Well, plenty of atheists have posted on the Christian forum ...)


Why post a comment like this on this thread. The question was "why don't you believe in god?", not "Why do you think this is not a good reason to not believe in god?" Aren't there enough of those on this forum already? Cheese and crackers. :roll:
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Re: Why don't you believe in God?

Postby Rian » Fri Feb 01, 2008 12:59 pm

NH Baritone wrote: Your question contains an element of hubris, since it assumes that there is something about life that is beyond the observable.
No, there's no hubris there at all. I was reading Richard's post, and he talked about scientific inquiry, then said "When applied to the questions of: after-life ... ", and my reaction was one of confusion: 'Huh? How do you apply the scientific method to the question of "Is there an afterlife?" ' So I asked him about it.
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Re: Why don't you believe in God?

Postby nobody » Fri Feb 01, 2008 2:20 pm

Simply put, I was born an atheist and have yet to find any compelling reason to believe in a god. I find the characteristics that most Christians associate with their god to be contradictory and human-like, which is exactly what I would expect to see from a man-made god.
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Re: Why don't you believe in God?

Postby NH Baritone » Fri Feb 01, 2008 3:27 pm

nobody wrote:Simply put, I was born an atheist and have yet to find any compelling reason to believe in a god. I find the characteristics that most Christians associate with their god to be contradictory and human-like, which is exactly what I would expect to see from a man-made god.


I always wondered what it would be like to grow up without the concept of God interspersed into everything. I'm the son, grandson, nephew, & cousin of Methodist ministers; I majored in religion myself and spent a year in Methodist seminary before dropping out. Religion & God-talk so pervaded our lives, it was the organizing principle for our choices and relationships.
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Re: Why don't you believe in God?

Postby Richard » Fri Feb 01, 2008 3:39 pm

Rian,
I hope you don't mind that I don't answer you. I haven't posted on the Christian forum and don't intend to.
If you want, you can make a thread in general and I'll be happy to discuss there.

Cheers,
Richard
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Re: Why don't you believe in God?

Postby spongebob » Fri Feb 01, 2008 3:41 pm

NH Baritone wrote:
nobody wrote:Simply put, I was born an atheist and have yet to find any compelling reason to believe in a god. I find the characteristics that most Christians associate with their god to be contradictory and human-like, which is exactly what I would expect to see from a man-made god.


I always wondered what it would be like to grow up without the concept of God interspersed into everything. I'm the son, grandson, nephew, & cousin of Methodist ministers; I majored in religion myself and spent a year in Methodist seminary before dropping out. Religion & God-talk so pervaded our lives, it was the organizing principle for our choices and relationships.


Yep, that's pretty much how Christians want it. Inundate people with religion and they might just never even think about rejecting it. They "talk" about how disgusting the idea of forced religion is, but I don't remember being offered an option when I was a kid.
Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.
~Bertrand Russell

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Re: Why don't you believe in God?

Postby nobody » Fri Feb 01, 2008 3:53 pm

I always wondered what it would be like to grow up without the concept of God interspersed into everything. I'm the son, grandson, nephew, & cousin of Methodist ministers; I majored in religion myself and spent a year in Methodist seminary before dropping out. Religion & God-talk so pervaded our lives, it was the organizing principle for our choices and relationships.

I couldn't imagine what that would be like. I can't thank my parents enough for allowing me to draw my own conclusions.
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Re: Why don't you believe in God?

Postby Rian » Fri Feb 01, 2008 4:38 pm

That's ok, Richard - it's happened in both forums, and people just generally answer, but do what you think is good.

EDIT - actually, it would go well in the "last leg" thread - move it there if you want to, or I'll move it when I get some time next week :)
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Re: Why don't you believe in God?

Postby Deus Ex Noctis » Fri Feb 01, 2008 11:07 pm

NH Baritone wrote:Why don't you believe in God?

Interesting question... thanks for asking it.

I wrote an essay for myself a couple years ago, during a period of trying to figure out just what in the heck I exactly believed in. Raised in a Christian home, and very active with a Christian youth group in high school, I always took it for granted that God was there. I was intending to go into full-time mission work upon finishing college, as a matter of fact.

As I transitioned into adulthood, though, I began to look at things more critically, more analytically. For the first time, I was willing to ask myself, "Why do I believe what I believe?" I was more or less surprised to find out that the answer was usually, "Because someone [parents, friends, youth group leaders, church pastor] told me that was the way it is." This, for the first time, let me question the existence of a god and be honest with myself as to what I thought the answer might be. No longer was it, "What if there isn't a God? (But I know there really is. This is just a rhetorical question.)"

I'm not sure that I'd call myself an atheist, though others might. My unwillingness to do so is probably just a result of the perceived stigma that I, in my youth, would have attached to that word. I think I fit the profile now of what would be called an agnostic... I tend to think that the human experience cannot properly comprehend the idea of a higher/extra dimensional being/power/force and, thus, whether there exists one or not we are unable to prove.

Knowing that I probably can't ever "know" that there is or isn't a god, though, my gut reaction these days is just to think that there probably isn't. We exist here on a rock that goes flinging around our little sun in our little solar system... we do the best we can to have a happy, comfortable life... then we eventually die, get thrown in a hole in the ground, and get all but forgotten about within a few generations.

It was (and still is) a very disheartening, depressing, and terrifying thing for me to arrive at that conclusion... but for me it has become what my brain always returns to. What I have read and studied about the Christian God and, to a lesser extent, the deities of other religions, shows me that the personality quirks or characteristics that are given to a god tend to sound more like human traits. I think that we want to believe that we aren't all alone here in space, that there is someone watching over us and taking care of us. Because life could be very bleak if this is all there is.

But these days... I just think this is it. Kind of makes me sad, but at least I'm being honest with myself for the first time.

This essay, which I heard on NPR, also helped me put things into some kind of perspective: http://thisibelieve.org/dsp_ShowEssay.php?uid=34
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Re: Why don't you believe in God?

Postby spongebob » Wed Feb 06, 2008 1:07 pm

OK, I finally got around to this. I think one thing that many Christians struggle with are the lessons and ideas they are taught in church that don't seem consistent with reality. I know every Christian experiences this at least once. The problem is often solved by creative interpretations or explanations of scripture or even by moving to a new type of church, or maybe even by discounting what someone has taught you as false. I also struggled with these things. Often the lessons were not biblical, or at least I didn't agree with that interpretation of the bible. And one of the biggies for me was prayer. Why do Christians pray? Is it to get stuff, to help people, to learn, to commune with god? Why? I fought this early on, in my teens, but battled the doubts back for many years. I rationalized that there are many reasons to pray, all of them valid.

The oldest and most trite of reasons to pray is to get stuff. But of course people don't always receive the things or events they pray for. So, maybe in prayer we allow god to help us deal with what reality had delt us. But, god did say "ask, and ye shall receive". And I've known people who were in serious need. They must have been praying to have this need fulfilled, but it never was. Wasn't god listening? And why did that other guy, who has everything, get such a windfall last year? Is that what he prayed for? Why the inconsistency? Or was god answering the prayer in a way we didn't understand? But, if we didn't understand it, then how are we supposed to know that our prayers have been answered? All in all, this praying for stuff has such poor feeback that it encourages people to avoid it altogether and rely on their own devices to get stuff or make things happen. And I think that's the best course anyway. If you get a promotion, then it should be because you deserved it, worked hard for it and are qualified for it, not because you just wanted it and prayed to god for a promotion.

I struggled with the notion that god might heal someone if they were prayed for, but does that mean that he might not heal that person if no one prayed for them? And is there a minimum requirement in terms of prayers or people, depending on the illness? And why would all this prayer change his mind? And wasn't he supposed to know what events would occur before they occured? Wouldn't this scenario refute that very notion? At the very least, wouldn't god know that dozens, perhaps thousands of people desire that someone be healed of a dread disease. Can't he read our mind?

And what if I prayed for something that benefited me, but cost someone else? Like a prayer that a certain girl agree to marry me. What if she would be better off with some other guy? Any change results in good and bad things, no matter what you pray for. What if some bad thing I prayed to avoid would have eventually brought me some greater understanding of the world? Would god intervene and answer my prayer, knowing full well that I was passing up a better opportunity to learn and grow? All of this thinking about prayer hurt my head and lasted for years. But looking back on it now, it's clear that all of the conjecture and disjointed explanations add up to nearly nothing. Prayer is good only in the fact that it gives a person an opportunity to confront his fears, wishes, hopes and desperation as a human being. When we confront these things, we have the opportunity to gain a tiny bit of perspective on life. Beyond that, it's clear that it holds no magic and that it is a ritual that defies logic and has no definitive description.

For more interesting testimonials on atheists, check out this site:

http://www.religioustolerance.org/atheist11a.htm
Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.
~Bertrand Russell

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Re: Why don't you believe in God?

Postby Atheist37 » Sun Feb 10, 2008 4:01 am

As many on this board know, I grew up in a non-religious home. When I think about it, though, my childhood was populated with all kinds of supernatural beings. When I was small, I used to find the tiny doorways that led to the fairies houses, and follow the hidden trails made by wood elves. If I stayed out too late past dark, the ghosts had me running home for safety more than once. I defended the existence of the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus even when some of the big kids who didn't know any better laughed at me. This supernatural world wasn't my invention, it was all explained to me by others. The most convincing person is somebody who is a true believer, and no doubt most of the other kids imparting their knowledge of the supernatural were, at the time, fully on board.

Most of what we "know" are things we just accept, because they are part of the culture. We all somehow know that monogamy is good, nudity is bad, and good lighting reduces vandalism.

For most people there is very little reason to swim against the current. When it comes to the question of one's eternal fate, many people simply don't have enough confidence in their own judgment to seriously question their beliefs and upbringing. There is a lot to be admired in those of you with the courage to take a long, thoughful look at reality and accept the result in spite of everything.

(By the way, several studies have shown that public buildings such as schools suffer less vandalism when left completely blacked-out, than when they're lit up at night.)
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