To believe or not to believe

“The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a god or not.”
-Eric Hoffer

One of my closest friends does not believe in God, another one has completely separated himself from organized religion but both of them are very kind people that I believe can make it into the heaven that I believe in.

Recently XO has been posting about atheism in the sense that you should doubt faith, and I will put him in the bag with the fanatical atheist. I think anyone that is actually giving people information for one cause or another has taken a step towards that side and can quickly become fanatical. I am not offended by what he posts and I actually like that there are people out there challenging religion.

Part of having faith is being able to believe even when others don’t. Part of believing is knowing that it is your choice to have faith. I also don’t think spirituality should be confused with faith. While some people might not have faith in something like the thought of God, they might have faith in the goodness of people, in love or many other feelings.

Humans are capable of abstract thought, and what differentiate us from animals is that feelings can make part of our decision making progress on top of instinct. We choose to override our instincts with either morals or feelings. Society prevent us from for example taking food from one another even if we are hungry. The formation of society is what allows us to think in those terms, to believe that there is something out there bigger than us.

To actually promote that there is no god, to deny his existence is in some way an acknowledgment. I believe that Nietzsche saying “God is dead.” is a cry for help from someone that feels abandoned. To attack organized religion is one thing that I am not against, bloated institutions that take advantage of people are not good in my eyes. To attack the faith that people have on anything I believe is dangerous in the sense that you are not trying to open eyes but close them. Where once person sees beauty and comfort, someone else might see something unpleasant. I think it is important to respect what others believe, because that people that believe in nothing probably feel pretty empty inside.

11 Responses to To believe or not to believe

  1. It also takes a strong faith not to let what other people say shatter the bases of what we believe. My faith is great, and no one, ever, will be able to convince me there isn’t something bigger than me somewhere.

    While I have a little bit of trouble with organized religion, I am glad that I was raised with spiritual values and the belief that there is a higher being. It gives me hope, it takes me through the difficult moments of my life, and I will die with my heart put in God.

  2. logtar and bea – I (and my compatriots) are not waging a war against religion or spirituality.

    The definition of faith is “belief without evidence”. I can’t do that. I can’t believe in something just because someone else says it is true. The more outrageous the claim, the more evidence I need.

    The entire universe and everything in it created in just 6 days by an omnipotent being who existed before time yet needed a day of rest?

    I’m sorry. I just don’t buy it.

    I don’t really care what anyone else believes. As Thomas Jefferson once sais, “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my bones.”

    We are just trying to be a resource for people who are doubting their faith and want answers they won’t get from their priest or rabbi or local cult figure.

    If I am a devout Catholic and I express doubts to my priest, my priest is going to try and bring me back into the fold.

    Not exactly objective feedback.

    We, on the other hand, aren’t afraid to say, “Yeah, well…just think about it for a minute. Virgin birth? Would you buy that argument from your virgin bride if she turned up pregnant?

    Seriously.

    Turning water into wine?

    None of the disciples learned that trick? They would have been brazillionaires! Fuck a bunch of Middle East oil…the water-into-wine business would have been HUGE!”

    The last time I witnessed a miracle was when somebody actually allowed me to merge ahead of them when a lane was closed on I-70. They smiled and waved as they did it instead of laying on the horn, flipping me off and riding my ass for the next 25 miles.

    Had to be divine intervention.

  3. That’s not an argument for atheism, just a recitation of several of the more obvious, lazy attacks on fundamentalist/literalist Christian doctrine. As early as Genesis 1 and 2, with its literally contradictory descriptions of the creation process, it’s pretty obvious that taking those stories as objective truth in the modern sense is foolish. Which came first, plants or Adam? Genesis 1 has one answer, Genesis 2 has another. Without any intention of proselytizing (I’m not an Anglican), you may find http://www.askthepriest.org/askthepriest/2005/11/the_heresy_of_l.html to be an interesting read on the subject.

  4. Somewhat unrelated but I just wanted to say that I love Eric Hoffer. His book, The True Believer, is the best on the topic. Just thought it was cool that you started this post with one of his more famous quotes.

  5. “That’s not an argument for atheism, just a recitation of several of the more obvious, lazy attacks on fundamentalist/literalist Christian doctrine.”

    I’m not trying to argue “for atheism”. That would imply that I’m trying to change someone’s mind. I’m not. I don’t care what anyone else chooses to believe.

  6. Xavier, there are flaws in your explanation why the points of faith in the Bible are flawed and unworthy to be believed…

    Burrowowl already mentioned one: the “6 days” of Creation need not be 6 literary, 24 hour days – especially since the sun and moon weren’t created till the 4th day, and hence there wouldn’t be anything to measure a “day” before then. Each day is clearly an epoch of time, likely all different, representing the passing of time and evolution of life on earth. And if God chose after Creation was finished to stop and let some time pass, and things simmer for a while, there’s nothing wrong with the author of Genesis to interpret that as “resting”. It doesn’t mean God was tired, only waiting.

    You also have your definition of faith wrong. It’s not belief without evidence – there’s plenty of evidence of God and Jesus’ existence – it’s belief without proof. I’m not sure this isn’t actually what you meant, but it’s an important distinction.

    I don’t see the illogic of a Catholic priest guiding the doubting parishioner back to the fold. Sounds like he’s doing his job – helping those whose faith has slipped recall why they believed in the first place. You, who do not believe, would probably see that as intervening in a negative way. I see it as being responsible (as long as it’s done without coercion, threat or other dishonest methods like fearmongering). It’s entirely possible to do it honestly, regardless of what popular media would have one to believe.

    As for the virgin birth, both Mary and Joseph were visited by angels that explained things for them. Even though they were visited in dreams, I have no doubt an angelic visit even while sleeping would leave such an impression as not to doubt its authenticity. Joseph didn’t have to take Mary at her word – it was already told to him as well.

    Then you descend into profanity and hyperbole when expressing disbelief at turning water into wine, and I lost interest…

  7. Barry – “6 days” of Creation need not be 6 literary, 24 hour days…Each day is clearly an epoch of time, likely all different, representing the passing of time and evolution of life on earth”

    Well, that’s the crux of the problem, isn’t it? As soon as you start saying “I know thats what the Bible says, but that’s not what it means” then you throw the doors open. Anything in the Bible can mean whatever you want it to mean.

    “…there’s plenty of evidence of God and Jesus’ existence …”

    Umm, no, there isn’t actually. Unless you are referring to something nebulous like “the beauty all around us”. Not a compelling argument for me. But you believe whatever you want.

    “I don’t see the illogic of a Catholic priest guiding the doubting parishioner back to the fold. Sounds like he’s doing his job…”

    I completely agree. That is exactly what I would expect a priest to do. That IS his job. But what if the doubter wants another point of view. One that isn’t a sales pitch for the church? What if they want to hear what the secular voice of reason has to say?

    If you were considering buying a car, would you rely exclusively on the word of the salesman? Or would you check Consumer Reports and do some asking around?

    Would you put more effort into researching the purchase of an automobile than you would put into deciding how you want to live your llife?

    “As for the virgin birth, both Mary and Joseph were visited by angels that explained things for them.”

    Oh. Okay. Angels. In dreams.

    I’m convinced.

    I leave you with the Greek philosopher Epicurus:

    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.

    Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

    Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?

    Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

  8. Interesting thoughts XO but a few comments.

    As Barry states, “Mary and Joseph were visited by angels that explained things for them.” It may not convince you but as he said, it convinced them. As the rest of the story goes, Mary being pregnant went against all the rules of the time so Joseph intended to divorce her but the angels convinced them otherwise. Not sure how else Joseph could have been convinced. He must have thought that she had 1) cheated on him for sure and 2) slept with someone before marriage which would have been a big no no.

    As far as the Epicurus quote, I have an issue with the second line,
    “Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.” — No, I think this is where free will comes into play. Mankind chooses to do evil, not God. God is willing not to make us robots

  9. Whence cometh evil? I openly mock this Epicurus quote. The “Why do bad things happen to good people” argument against the existence of God has got to be one of the most butthurt, sad little expressions of intellectual wimpiness I’m aware of. I can picture the greek with his hair waxed, dressed all in black with his fingernails painted moping around Athens in long sleeves because he cuts himself in private.

    The hard-line black and white perception of an exclusively-benevolent omnipotent God is a horrible disservice to actual Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths, the holy texts of which do not present God in such a way. An omnipotent singular deity/creator would necessarily be the original creator of evil as well. To have evil come from something other than the creator would require a separate agent of creation, which is pretty strongly contrary to the notions of monotheism.

    This is one of the reasons why some scholars consider the Book of Job to be a counterargument against Zoroastrianism, which a lot of Fews were being exposed to around the time of its writing. Job clearly shows the Jewish God as complicit in and permitting undeserved misfortune after undeserved misfortune falling upon a righteous man. God letting evil happen is part of the Judeo-Christian tradition, not contrary to it.

    The underlying assumption to the Epicurus mental trap is the conceit that the motives and reasoning of an omnipotent God (real or theoretical) must be conceivable and rational to the mortal mind. So in short: “If God is infinite, can he not outsmart you who are finite?”

    Of course, that’s another brand of intellectual laziness unto itself. What tangled knots we twist for ourselves…

  10. “The underlying assumption to the Epicurus mental trap is the conceit that the motives and reasoning of an omnipotent God (real or theoretical) must be conceivable and rational to the mortal mind. So in short: “If God is infinite, can he not outsmart you who are finite?”

    So allowing terrorism, child molestation, mass murders, incest, necrophilia, rape as a weapon of war, ebola, AIDS, cancer, Altzheimers, all of this under the guise of “free will”, all of these things are part of God’s Divine Plan for us and we poor stupid humans are just to lowly to understand how they benefit us in the long run.

    Oh yeah. Sign me up for THAT belief system.

  11. faith is life.

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