As the Taliban take over Afghanistan and promise to revert that country even further back into the dark ages and subjucate women and punish even minor crimes with torture and violence, I feel moved to finally speak openly about my thoughts on organised religion and the belief in God.
TL/DR: I don’t believe there are any gods, and I believe that ancient scripture like the Bible, the Torah and the Qu’ran are basically clever lies written by medieval leaders to control their followers. If you’re a believer who asks questions like “Why don’t you believe in [my] God?” my answer is simply “For the same reason you don’t believe in Zeus, Thor or Osiris”. However, I don’t wish to exclude or marginalise any true believers. My wife is a Catholic who definitely believes in a personal God, and I do nothing to convince her otherwise (unless she tries to convince me). I have close friends and clients who are religious and not once have I held that against them or in any way restricted my love toward them. At worst, I’ll playfully tease them.
I’ve previously avoided going too far into this topic (beyond just being honest when people ask my opinion on it) because I’m here to build people’s confidence, not debunk religion. There are others who fight this battle far more effectively and intelligently than I ever could, guys like Sam Harris, Laurence Krauss, Christopher Hitchens, Neil de Grasse Tyson, and any number of popular atheist YouTubers.
I think it’s about time I said my piece. And perhaps it’s overdue, as honesty/truthfulness are the core ingrediants of confidence, and therefore anything promoting dishonesty and lies should probably be challenged.
Unfortunately, while these soldiers of reason and rationality have launched a strong attack on these medieval beliefs that clearly encourage harmful behaviour, they’ve nearly always done so without much expressed empathy or true compassion toward the faithful. I think this is because their goal is not to ‘convert’ believers over to science and atheism, but rather to give sanctuary, validity, encouragement and support to those who are already non-believers but too afraid to speak out or unaware that they are not alone.
In fact, the usual debate against religion seems only to further entrench believers, creating a common enemy in men like Harris for them to rally against together. While Church participation and expressed belief in religion is at an all-time low globally , this is likely to be about the rise of science and people coming to their own conclusions about what is true . Those debating against religion are usually just uniting already non-religious people, but in doing so alienating strong believers, including those who would agree to a more moderate and civil interpretation of the ancient texts.
They don’t seem to have much time for why people believe. I, on the other hand, do. I’m actually highly curious as to how someone as intelligent as my wife would come to the firm conclusion that an invisible man lives in the sky and listens to her prayers.
And I’ve learned that:
a) people take great peace in the belief of a God, because it means that the Universe – as vast and terrifying as it is – makes sense. People find it hard to give meaning to life without believing there is something “bigger than themselves” at play.
b) they have spent their whole lives attributing the good things that happen to God, so they think He’s a consistently good dude
c) They associate their religion with their God so closely that they cannot separate the two, e.g. for a Catholic, believing in God means being Catholic, and for a Muslim it means following Islam, and so on.
d) In most cases, their family and community of loved ones are closely connected to the Church as well, so to even question God or their faith/religion would mean risking ostracism and loss of loved ones, so it doesn’t even get a thought
e) people are ashamed of saying “I don’t know” so they find God is a suitable answer to replace it
f) many governments and legal laws are based almost directly on scripture morality, which gives validity that they’re believing in the “right” God, e.g. we still swear on a Bible in Court in Christian-dominated countries.
I myself have occasionally looked to the sky during particularly painful experiences and said “Why?” out loud, not even sure of to whom I’m speaking. So I get the impulse to believe as much as anyone, despite being raised in an atheist household. Yet, because I wasn’t forced to join a specific religion as a child (before my ability to think critically developed around age 10 or so), I never felt a pull toward any particular faith. To me, they all appear as fantastical as Harry Potter, and as believeable.
I fully believe that the most realistic and likely path to achieving religious peace – that is, to stop people doing harm in the name of God and scripture – is to support and encourage the rise to power within religious communities of the more moderate, sensible, and scientifically-inclined believers, eventually one day leading to us finding those who are bold enough to actually edit the ancient books to something more humane, modern, accurate and reasonable.
My challenge to believers
What I’d most like to express to believers in God/gods is that I think they’re missing out on a truly spiritual experience.
It doesn’t surprise me that nearly every religious person I know personally has never actually read much of the book that they derive their beliefs from, aside from secondhand readings (and interpretations) given by their priests or parents etc. If they did, they might find it difficult to swallow.
The claims made in the Bible and the Qu’ran are particularly fanciful, and anyone with even a high-school level understanding in science would struggle to digest some of them (e.g. Noah’s arc would need to have been a massively impossible size to fit two of every known animal ), not to mention the horrific moral guidance these books give, like to treat women as submissives (1 Timothy 2:11-14 / Qur’an 4.34), that being gay is a sin (Leviticus 18:22 / Qu’ran 7:80–84), and encouragement to own slaves (Ephesians 6:5-8 / Qu’ran 24:33).
I would challenge those of you who are true believers to at least read the book.
I think it’s actually pretty disgraceful to form a belief on what other people tell you the books say. Have you no respect for yourself? How can you believe in something with all your heart when it was just some other people who told you about it? You must know by now that even if God is real, his people aren’t exactly the most trustworthy. You should be eager to figure it out for yourself. You should be embarrassed if I’ve read more of them than you have!
If these beliefs form the foundation of your morality and understanding of the physical world, you should have read them cover to cover at least once, am I right? C’mon, you’re not just some gullible moron who believes whatever they’re told.
Would God approve of the Bible?
In my opinion, books like the Bible and Qu’ran are actually an insult to God, if He truly does exist. They make Him out to be vicious, whimsical, petty, cruel, jealous, and often powerless.
According to the Bible, the supposedly all-loving God will send a newborn baby to Hell simply because it was born into the wrong religion (Mark 16:16). He will punish you if you worship someone other than Him (Jonah 2:8). He encourages you to be violent toward women for minor misdeeds (Deuteronomy 25:11-1), and then punishes you for doing it (Psalm 11:5). He makes people gay because he makes all people (Genesis 2:7) and then labels them as sinners for following the impulses and needs He placed inside them (Leviticus 18:22), not to mention the guilt-trip he gives anyone for having any sexuality (Colossians 3:5)… which He forced upon you without a choice.
He causes floods and earthquakes. He allows people to be born into the wrong religion without making it clear they are mistaken and will go to Hell. He witnesses men raping babies and little children by the millions every year – some of them are priests who represent Him – and could stop it but chooses to just watch. (Similar behaviour can easily be found in the Qu’ran regarding Allah as well.)
Why on earth would you worship such a God?
If instead you realise these books were written by insecure, needy, corrupt, uneducated, pre-science men who wished to rule, they make way more sense. This is not God they’re writing about. Something so powerful as to create the entire Universe would never be so pathetic; only a human would deign to sink to such lows. Only humans would be so unkind to each other.
These books are tools of control, nothing more. A quick read should make that obvious.
I’m not testing your faith in God, it is about asking if your faith in religion is accurate. If you’re going to believe in God, should you not be sure it’s the right God you’re following, and that you’re hearing His words correctly?
Where is God?
Where is the true beauty and evidence of God?
Firstly, have a look at mathematics, the fundamental language of science. Here we have a code that can be used to perfectly explain things that are so complicated it blows your mind, like how planets orbit the sun, and how bees communicate with vibrations, and how having a stroke paralyzes half of your body, and how the curvature of a wing makes a huge steel plane fly like a bird. There are clearly underlying Laws that govern all of life and the universe, and are actually decipherable through mathematics.
Science always has one of two answers for any question:
- An accurate explanation for how something works, or
- “I don’t know… yet”.
Religions try to usurp both, either denying the explanation if there is one, or claiming God as the unknown quantity when there isn’t an explanation yet.
“God” used to be the answer for why volcanoes erupt and children are born deformed and why the moon occasionally eclipses the sun. Nowadays, God has been removed from these equations and many more.
Not once in the history of science has a discovery of how something works been made with the requirement of a God existing to explain it. Not once. Therefore, it’s only reasonable to assume that if there is a God, He/She/It is in fact the very Laws we’re exploring. He is not supernatural, He is Nature itself. (This is why I don’t believe there is a god, because Nature itself explains everything so why give it another name?).
You don’t need a Bible to understand God’s way; you need a science textbook… preferably more than one.
Do you really think that a God who created space-time and allowed an intelligent species to arise on Earth when the odds for this are infinitesimally small would really give a shit if you worshipped a false idol? Or would guilt-trip you if you got the hots for your married neighbour? Or would command you to beat your wife to death for being raped and bringing shame to your household? What kind of bizarre God would be both that powerful and that pathetic at the same time?
It doesn’t make any sense, and from what we know so far of the universe, making sense is definitely what God does well. Everything we understand so far makes complete sense. The only stuff we don’t understand is that which lies at the border of scientific investigation, e.g why quantum mechanics and general relativity struggle to co-exist, but we can rest assured that these things will also make sense once we’re smart enough to interpret them.
Everything else we’ve discovered so far does, why would that suddenly change? So if you believe in a religion because you need things to make sense, you’re missing out, because science makes way more sense of things, so is probably closer to God than any ancient, dusty, 30-time edited manuscript written by peasants.
God’s not the problem, religion is
While the cause of any large-scale phenomenon is complicated and nuanced, it’s pretty fair to say that religion has a heavy hand in a lot of the scarier stuff happening to and by the human species at the moment.
Climate change action is mostly delayed by religious politicians.
Human rights are most often violated in the name of God.
Population control – the most likely thing to save our species – is directly opposed by religious “go forth and procreate” messaging, including the suppression of birth control and sex education.
There has never been an atheist suicide bomber.
It’s religion that told us that animals and plants would never go extinct so we don’t need to moderate ourselves in killing or eating them.
The science needed to stop us destroying life on this planet (and ourselves) has only one serious opponent: organised religion.
The problem isn’t believing in God. The problem is believing that the so-called Books of God are accurate when they are so clearly not, and especially believing in these books without even fucking reading them yourself. There is no reason to believe they are the actual word of God, especially when mathematics is almost certainly God’s language if there is one. It makes much more sense that they were written by men pretending to be messengers of God.
God didn’t need to write a manual; he left us with the curiosity and intelligence to figure Him out through scientific method.
In a recent interview I saw, a Taliban leader confirmed that he will amputate someone’s arms (a sheep-thief) as per legal guidance in the Qu’ran. Do you really think any kind of loving God would starve someone to the point of needing to steal food and then encourage that he be tortured when caught?
In another recent news story, I saw that a Christian group in New Zealand is pushing for the re-introduction of “conversion therapy” to force (via brainwashing) gay people to be straight. Does it not seem likely that “It’s God’s will” is just an fictional excuse used by a savage and aggressive primate who wants to harm others for fun and control?
The tragic irony is that if people viewed the natural order of life as the proof and word of God, they would behave far more rationally, kindly, and successfully for the survival of our species. Funnily enough, they would act a lot more like Jesus supposedly did.
Why would you believe a two-thousand year old book written by men over the measurable word of God through science?