Why I Don’t Believe in God(s), Part 2

Thinking Back

I did some searching today because I knew I had read something similar to what I wrote in my previous post before and I found this related link as well as this one.  If you are interested in probing more into it then have at it.  You can find counter-arguments at both links.

We’re all different so it makes sense that everyone is going to be convinced by different reasoning (which really applies to most any subject).  When I became convinced of Christianity back in the day there were a bunch of arguments that just didn’t strike me as very convincing but were key proofs for some of my friends.  Same thing goes for when I “progressed” into atheism.  The argument from evil for some reason wasn’t even on my radar as I moved toward atheism (although as I’ve read more about that lately I have seen how it’s evidential form is actually quite convincing when it comes specifically to “classical” theism), but the argument from evil seems to be what a lot of atheists are convinced by.

Where is the Evidence?

John Zande posted this recently which struck me as a very good description of an important reason that I don’t believe in gods.  He wrote it in reference to the God of the Bible, but I believe it could be applied to many other gods as well:

The god of the Pentateuch (re-invented in the New Testament, then again revised in the Qur’an) is invisible and inaudible. It gives off no odour and has no perceptible taste. It generates no heat signature, produces no electromagnetic field and provokes no resonance at any frequency. It cannot be detected with any instrument and no measurement of any natural phenomena has ever indicated its presence. Its influence cannot be inferred from any secondary observation, no earthly geological record speaks of its intervention, and no examination of any biological or astronomical system has ever alluded to its agency. It is massless, it displaces neither liquids, solids, gas nor plasma and has no perceptible gravitational effect on anything.

I realize there are some who would argue with some of these points (e.g. argument from miracles and design) and I’ll address that in later posts.

But this really is a good description of an important aspect of why I don’t believe in gods.  It’s not just that I don’t sense any god’s presence (although that’s part of it, and that may be my next post), and it’s not just that I know a lot of people who also haven’t sensed him, but when objective investigations are done to find impacts from the existence of gods then they seem to fall short.  In fact some of them even seem to falsify their existence (at least for the gods that were prayed to).  It seems to me that the study described in that link would have been an absolutely awesome opportunity for a god to show itself to the world – and simple too – just heal everyone who was prayed to.  Ah yes, but that isn’t how the traditional God works of course.  Or so we are told.  That reasoning seems to me to build a wall around the belief and essentially declares it unfalsifiable.  So it is simply true by definition – end of story.  That is not enough for me to believe.  In fact results of investigations like these are enough for me not to believe.

Do Gods Like to Stay in Their Regions?

maya-vase-of-the-seven-gods-pleiades

John goes on in his post to point out another important thing about Jehovah –  belief in Him was isolated to a certain region of the world.  When I was a Christian I was always bothered by the fact that Jehovah and Jesus were not clearly known about by the communities that were found in South America about 500 years ago.  It seemed to me that we should expect that if Jehovah was the god of the universe.  Same goes for Allah and Krishna as well of course.  The fact that belief in these gods did not independently materialize in other regions of the world is what we would expect if they did not exist, and to me while I was a Christian it was always a conundrum for my belief in the God of the Bible.

 

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13 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Believe in God(s), Part 2

  1. “The fact that belief in these gods did not independently materialize in other regions of the world …”
    Wow, Howie! What a great point. Especially when one considers that the “Christian God” is declared to be omnipresent (present everywhere at once). It seems if this were truly true, the knowledge of this god would be everywhere. There would be no need to evangelize, as so many Christians feel the need to do.

    I also like John’s description. It exposes the bare facts about any god that is said to exist.

  2. Thanks for your comment Nan! I have a hard time ever seeing myself going back to believing in any regional or “exclusive” gods because of this issue. More generic versions of a higher power (e.g. in Universalism, pantheism, panentheism, etc.) seem to solve this problem but at this point they don’t overcome the other problems that I see with these kind of ideas. But I am at least much more open to those kinds of viewpoints. I myself enjoy attending Unitarian Universalist churches and feel right at home even though I’m more atheistic than a lot of the people there.

    I like your avatar Nan. Is that a Malti-Poo?

  3. “That reasoning seems to me to build a wall around the belief and essentially declares it unfalsifiable. So it is simply true by definition – end of story.”

    A very good observation, the classic burden-of-proof confusion. In my own winnowing process, I realized that to claim the “one true” path, as Jesus does for example, we must have a distinctive line of argument or evidence that cannot – by definition – be employed by the many false religions in the world. But the wall of unfalsifiability serves all ends – the Christian, Hindu, UFO believer, fairy believer, astrologer, etc. It was probably Sam Harris that drove this home. He always substitutes different nouns in the same line of reasoning to demonstrate how fallacious it is. This, above any other line of thinking, is what gave me a very pragmatic test for why the burden of proof does ultimately rest with the positive claimant.

  4. Thanks for stopping by Brisancian! Your blog has been an awesome resource that I am still just beginning to dig into – thanks for taking the time to offer the info in a format perfect for laypeople like myself.

    Your comment here is exactly how I see it. It reminds me a little bit of a previous post I wrote here (only in the sense that people of all different religions have the same assurance of their beliefs using the same type of “evidence”).

    And I have also noticed that UFO believers have very similar techniques as religious people (although I’m not saying it’s perfectly analogous) – mainly extensive use of anecdotal evidence, “pseudo-scientific” proofs, and frequently whining and complaining about non-believers being way too skeptical about their UFO beliefs.

  5. One funny observation about UFOs and Jesus: if we weigh the relative amount of “eyewitness testimony” for both, there is really no competition. UFOs win hands down – thousands of independent accounts, highly detailed, evidencing very ardent belief, etc. For Jesus, we have 4-5 non-independent accounts, with low confidence in eyewitness status, and written very long after the events reported. The entire eyewitness argument of our Christian apologists falls down on this kind of comparison. All of them – every one – should and must be a serious believer in UFOs if they are to be consistent in their respect for the weight of eyewitness testimony. 🙂

  6. This reminds me of my “epiphany .” I realized, in one flash of insight, that religious “truths” had more to do with happenstance of birth than with fact.

    At the time, I was a Christian and was in a debate with three Mormons, who told me that I must be baptized with water by a Mormon priest/preacher in order to achieve salvation. I asked them how do they know they were right. They answered, We know in our hearts we are right. I replied that so do the Hindu, the Jews, the Muslims–everyone of every religion knows in his heart he is right.

    The next morning I awoke with a sudden realization that my rebuttal to their heartfelt belief applied to me as well. I had no more reason to believe that I had the “truth” than did anyone else of any other religion. My “truth” was what I was TAUGHT to believe.

    I went through quite an evolution of thought after that. I went back to school and studied world religions, evolution, and philosophy. I tried to construct a new theology, from Deism to Pantheism, but my emerging knowledge and acceptance of the evidence for evolution sidelined all theologies. That is why I am no longer a believer of any religion, and I feel free!

  7. Absolutely. I’ve read that before and I totally agree that the argument you’ve described here is very persuasive – certainly pushes me further in the direction I lean.

    Of course I always try arguing with myself (yeah, I’m a bit crazy that way) – one response from Christians could be “the UFO eyewitnesses are actually witnessing something real happening but it is all caused by evil spirits”. Of course again this falls into the trap of being able to explain away any discrepancy with reference to spirits, thus making the belief unfalsifiable again. If we believe in spirits how do we know it’s not Jesus that is the evil spirit causing this?

    Another response would be to list things that are not analogous between the examples – e.g. seeing lights in the sky is not the same as saying you saw a human come alive. Perhaps some validity there, although in my mind the things you have listed call the actual details of the reports themselves much more into question, causing us to be unsure of exactly what it was that was experienced about 2000 years ago (i.e. was it just people “sensing” the presence of Jesus and then the stories grew from there?). I believe Dale Allison (a much more studied person than myself on the subject) states this quite fairly in his book “Resurrecting Jesus”.

  8. Thanks for your insight Max! Your story sounds very similar to mine, although sounds like your studies after your epiphany were more detailed and extensive than my own which is awesome. Maybe that is part of the reason why I’m not as confident in my non-theism as others. While I’ve read more than the average person for sure (from differing perspectives), I don’t feel I’m well read enough to come to a very solid conclusion, but as you’ve been reading along with my posts you can tell which way I lean. 🙂

  9. Yeah, you’re right about all that.

    What was it Hitchens said? Something like, that which can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence. It encapsulates the issue of things that aren’t falsifiable… They tend not to be verifiable either, and we need not be troubled by it all. There are so many claimants – and none with evidence to make a definitive difference.

    The vast and long lived history of false religious claims are reason to insist that further unprovable claims have a backdrop that demands dismissal. But folks don’t see it that way. We all want to live forever, and that makes all the difference. We invest our souls on evidence that wouldn’t be sufficient to go in on a high risk investment. It’s funny, all of us people.

  10. Good points Brisancian – especially the stuff about “history of false religious claims…” and “…high risk investment”. Worded very well – I may “lift” some of that in the future if it’s ok with you. 🙂

  11. Hi Ratamacue – how has your search been going? I remember how it was when I was questioning my Christian beliefs, especially in the last couple of years when the issues began to build for me until I just couldn’t handle teaching sunday school and going to church anymore because I felt it was too much of a double life for me. This period and the year or so after I informed my pastor was a very difficult time for me. But not everyone is like that, some people breeze through the process, and obviously people end up on many different sides of the “fences”. How is it going for you?

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