August 10 2016

Personal Journal Entry: August 10, 2016

Here are some quotes I read today from [Left Wing Evangelical Pastor] blog post. I generally like his tone, but man…I could hardly believe what I was reading when I read this one.

“Privileging empiricism above faith as the final arbiter of truth is a hallmark of modernity, but it is also antithetical to Christianity.”

Ok, I think I agree. I see this hallmark of modernity as a wonderful discovery we have made. How do we determine if something is true? Evaluate the evidence. Determining truth on faith gets you any “truth” you want, which isn’t truth at all. This is obvious. I think you’re right in crediting the achievement of evidence-based inquiry to modernity.

“God does not traffic in the empirically verifiable. God refuses to prove himself and perform circus tricks at our behest in order to obliterate doubt.”

At this point, I would have to ask an elementary and simple question: how do you know that? Since you have no evidence to support your assertion about what the all-powerful invisible being does or doesn’t do, we’ll just have to call it a bald assertion. Your insecurity is showing on this point, too. Using words like “traffic” (implying illegal substances) and “circus tricks” to describe step one of believing anything about reality (evidence) is a circus trick in itself–you’re attempting to turn people off to the idea of evidence at the onset, to keep people from even considering the idea of looking for it. You’re demonizing the search for truth.

You are warning people of the dangers of reason. Do you not see the profound stupidity in this project? Yes, yes, had you read this journal, you may even revel in it, quoting me 1 Cor 3:19 (The wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight). To me, that’s an exercise in futility, a silly smoke screen, a child’s game of covering your eyes and pretending no one can see you, an excuse to believe a lie because it makes you feel good. You’re literally telling people to stop asking questions. That’s always a manifestation of fear.

I guess I’m also asking: why this privileged position for faith? Of what use is faith (belief without evidence) outside the realm of maintaining belief in an invisible being for which there is no evidence? Faith is utterly useless outside of that. We don’t employ faith in relationships, at the bank, or on the highway. We have evidence that our spouses and friends exist. We have evidence for the precise amount of money in our bank accounts, and there is a specific set of rules we have to follow to legally access that money. There is physical and visual evidence of other cars on the road and potentially fatal consequences for not obeying the traffic laws.

You don’t have faith that your spouse isn’t going to leave you. You have a reasonable expectation based on the past evidence of shared life together. You don’t have faith that other cars are going to obey traffic laws. You have a reasonable expectation based on evidence from past experience that other drivers will obey traffic laws, and, if you’re a good driver, you drive defensively because you know the accident stats. You don’t have faith that the bank will handle your money legally. You have a reasonable expectation that they will, based on evidence from your past experience with them and the laws they have to obey.

Please ask yourself: if I have to admonish people to ignore or stay away from physical reality to keep a particular belief in tact, how likely is it that belief is actually true?

August 2 2016

Journal entry: August 2, 2016

I genuinely wonder why people don’t value evidence. Part of my confusion also includes people who hold to evidence that isn’t evidence, but they’re too stubborn and intellectually slimy to acknowledge it. From, “I just feel God is real,” to the Kalam Cosmological Argument, from the simple to the complex, these arguments have been debunked again and again by atheists and theists alike. These arguments fail, and they do not count as evidence. End of story.

“Sophisticated” theists slam the New Atheists as just regurgitating old atheistic arguments (Hume, Spinoza, Russell), which is true to a degree. These theists miss the whole point of the New Atheist’s project. The NA’s are responding to religious apologists who have tried to resurrect these tired, old, defeated arguments. In response, all the NA’s have to do is pull out a 19th/20th-century argument. The rules of reality haven’t changed, so the arguments hold, no matter how the new apologists try to squeeze around it. It’s beautiful. The truth is a beautiful thing.

William Lane Craig, Frank Turek, John Lennox, Lee Strobel, Ray Comfort, etc., all trying to resurrect arguments that were trounced by Hume/Russell/Spinoza. I guess the apologists were hoping people forgot about these atheists?

This time around, any intellectually honest person must admit that the NA’s full frontal and multifaceted response put these apologetic arguments back in the ground.

The burden of proof lies with the theists. Theist proposes evidence, atheist shows why it’s not evidence, theist looks for new evidence to propose. Problem is, theists: you’re running out of places to look. Give it up! Stop wasting your time. It really is ok, after all this time of finding absolutely nill, to say that a god doesn’t exist.

The funny thing now is that theists are having to retreat into the realm that they have traditionally hated in order to argue for the existence of a god–postmodernism. Well, have fun in there. The rules are certainly more fuzzy in that realm. But theists: when you emerge to rejoin reality and try to present your new arguments, please remember that reality still holds, and you’re going to have to present some real evidence if you expect anyone to be convinced.

Backlog Journal 6: July 27

Backlog journal entry 6 from a closeted atheist.

X has been begging me to watch Rob Bell’s “Everything is Spiritual 2” video. So I did.

Rob basically kicks the thing off by saying that the human race has been trying to find its story since the beginning of its existence, and that story is the most important element of human existence.

He then pulls a fast one that drove me bananas.

Rob does a review of different worldviews and approaches we’ve taken in telling this human story through the ages, and gives a passing nod to atheism/naturalism, but says the body count for those narratives is too high, so they should be rejected, essentially equating atheism and naturalism with Stalin…

Rob…you can’t be serious…

So Stalin means atheism is wrong? Or bad? Does that mean Hitler means Christianity is wrong? Bad? Rob…X…you’re both smarter than this…

Lets just forgive the fact that you seem to not understand that atheism is a LACK of belief, not a worldview, (humanism is a worldview, and not one Stalin had) let’s just hop on your body-count-logic train for a second, X and Rob.

If God is real, why not evaluate his body count? Forget that disease alone has wiped out more people than all wars combined. God, if he exists, has killed or will kill every living thing that has ever, or will ever, exist. Over 99% of all species that have ever existed have gone extinct. And the number was that high before we even showed up on the evolutionary timeline, so death isn’t due to our sin. God made everything with a death date. He built death into the system.

If that weren’t enough, God is also on his way to destroying every non-living thing with the heat death of the universe!

If body count and destruction is your measure of a narrative’s goodness and truthfulness, then God is an evil that couldn’t possibly exist.

X and Y (and apparently Rob) seem to think that narrative should determine the facts. That’s one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard anyone say. Hard to say, because they’re friends, but it’s just unbelievably moronic. Yet, somehow, X and Y think this a deep and wise approach to life.

Dammit, guys…

If evidence conflicts with your narrative, you must change your narrative

Holy shit, it doesn’t get more common sense than that. Their position is textbook cognitive dissonance:

Evidence conflicts with narrative = reject or distort the evidence.

I’ll leave myself with Sam Harris’ beautiful and unanswerable question:

“If someone doesn’t value evidence, what evidence could you possibly provide to convince them they should value it?”

Backlog Journal 5: July 11

Backlog journal 5 from a closeted atheist, July 11. 

It’s been years of radio silence from the divine. It’s odd that silence comes in direct proportion to doubts. Actually, it’s not odd at all. It makes perfect sense. If God is in your imagination, then losing communication with him is directly correlated with losing belief in him.

The following may seem like a cheap shot, but it’s an almost perfect comparison: losing belief in God is just like losing belief in an imaginary friend. The process is exactly the same.

  1. Convinced the imaginary friend is real = 2 way communication between the person and their friend
  2. Not convinced imaginary friend is real = 1 way communication, outgoing from the person to the now-silent friend.
  3. Convinced friend is not real = no communication.

I guess I’m a solid number 2. (Insert childish poop joke.)

I ask God every day to convince me he’s real…nothing but silence. It’s pure 1 way communication.

One thing I do know and am comforted by is that, in all of this, I am blameless. If God is real, then the only reason I’m an unbeliever is because he deems it so. (If the Christian God exists, the Calvinists may be right on the point of predestination.) If he is real, he has the ability, and permission from me by my free will, to convince me. (I don’t think free will exists, but to the extent that I have any control of my will, I’ve given God an invitation to convince me.)

All I’ve experienced is one way communication; outgoing, me to God. If he’s real, why so silent? If he wants a relationship with me, and I want one with him, why not have me? The simplest explanation that accounts for all the facts: he doesn’t exist. Other possible explanations that are infinitely (literally) more complex, due to a god being infinitely complex by definition:

  • He exists and wants nothing to do with me
  • He exists and is testing me.

Both explanations make him a petty asshole. 

I have incredible parents, and have always had good friends, so feeling rejected by a god doesn’t have an effect on my self-worth. But it’s painfully obvious how someone who struggles with abandonment issues or depression could feel downright worthless when they realize that the creator doesn’t care about them. If God exists, Divine hiddenness is the ultimate rejection.

Backlog Journal 4: July 8

July 8, backlog journal of a closet atheist.

I started listening to Dan Barker’s book, “Godless,” today. He reads so slowly. But the timing is perfect. An encouraging read when evaluating the prospect of coming out.

I also had a very open and honest conversation with Q the other night. His kid confessed his atheism to him! The balls! Having a pastor as a father, and coming out atheist to him takes nerve! But it’s Q we’re talking about; the most honest, kind, empathetic pastor I know. And a good friend.

All this to say, I’m seriously considering coming out atheist, albeit slowly. Conversation by conversation. Here is a list of people who know enough to connect the dots already (names omitted):

  • Wife (knows the most, if not all)
  • Best friend
  • Friend
  • Q
  • Bro in law (atheist)
  • Sister (almost atheist)

And a list of people who know I’m “struggling with doubt” but have no idea how far down that trail I’ve gone (names omitted)

  • Friend
  • Friend
  • Friend
  • Pastor

Did I tell them because I trust them? Or do I trust them because I told them?…hm, stupid question. Definitely the former.

Later that day:

I still sometimes wonder how I could have been so credulous, so blind. I’ve always loved knowledge, wisdom, figuring out truth. How did the obvious completely escape my attention for so long? So much time wasted…

Backlog Journal 3: June 27

Closet atheist / backlog journal entry 3

June 27

I am convinced now, more than ever, that we don’t choose what we believe. What I mean is, we don’t get to choose what is convincing to us. We can choose to expose ourselves to new information and experiences, which may impact or alter belief, but belief itself (being convinced of a proposition) is not chosen. We’re either convinced, or we’re not.

Belief entails both knowledge and faith. Knowledge is a belief strongly supported by evidence. Faith is a belief supported by no evidence.

There are two different kinds of faith. Convinced faith (being convinced a god exists without evidence and living your life as if he does) and unconvinced faith (not being convinced a god exists, but living your life as if he does). The latter is a very cognitively dissonant position.

In my case, I want a god to exist. I’m not convinced, even a little, that he does. If we don’t choose our belief, then there is nothing I can do about this, save staying open to new convincing information and experiences. But in the meantime, I could employ the second kind of faith– unconvinced faith–and live as if a god exists without believing it.

But why? Why would I do such a thing? That’s something I can’t fully answer, but I can come close to an answer.

Family. Desire for it to be true. Mortality. Friends. Convenience.

I’ll take these in reverse order.

On convenience: It would be highly inconvenient, even in our own secular democracy, to live a declared atheist. Socially, especially in this town, you’re automatically suspect by the community. Atheists are among the most distrusted demographics in America, just above rapists and pedophiles.

On friends: I don’t want to lose them. Friendships are more important to me than declaring belief, or lack thereof, in a deity. I don’t, however, believe that my friends place the importance of belief in a god as low on the pole as I do. That puts me in the curious situation of pretending to believe something I don’t in order to avoid the possibility of a terminated friendship over something neither party has a choice over: belief. It boils down to not trusting their judgement.

I don’t see this as avoiding a problem or necessary conversation or confrontation. I see it as counting the cost of friendship (silence on belief) with these people and paying up.

On mortality: this is obvious. I don’t want to die. But I have accepted the reality that I will in fact die, and have come to preliminary terms with it, hence its being in the number three spot on my list instead of holding the number one slot. No, number one, my primary concern, is much more important to me than death.

On the desire for God to exist: I am not like Hitchens in this regard (or in respect to the elegance of my prose). I want an all-loving god to exist. Hitchen’s “celestial dictator” is not all loving, though it is far from a caricature of the Christian/Jewish/Muslim God put forward for thousands of years: it’s the orthodox view. Hitch is right about this god. (RIP to you both.)

But what I want doesn’t matter when it comes to reality. It’s what X and Y can’t seem to get through their heads. Human experience is highly important, yes! But human experience doesn’t always equal reality. Story and narrative are important, yes! But story is not always–in fact, story is often not–reality.

X and Y seem to want to simultaneously hold God in the realm of story when he’s called to task by science, and pay mere lip service to the importance of reality and how we know what’s real (science). When reality conflicts with their idea of God, they evade by using this one word: mystery.

And X and Y are arrogant about this. They think appealing to mystery is somehow a mature thing to do. They fail to see that appealing to mystery is only mature when you resolve to solve the mystery. Mystery is the adolescence of an idea. Knowledge is the idea fully grown. Exalting mystery and looking down on those who pursue an answer is exactly in opposition to any kind of progress. And I will confess that X’s combined ignorance and arrogance on this point (with his sneers and chuckles aimed at those “silly atheists”) is starting to get to me.

Obviously, some things are best talked about and taught in story. Shakespeare is arguably one of the best sources for learning about the human condition. Love. Hate. Power. Depression. Desire. No one would argue that the best place to learn about these things is in a lab. But the point is, these things can be observed in the lab. These things are supported by empirical evidence. The very base and testable assumption before writing a story about love is that love exists in the first place.

Theists want to put God in the realm of untestable human experience, but fail to realize that place doesn’t exist (much like the god they consign to it).

On family: my wife and child mean more to me than anything. I remember the guilt driven impulse to qualify that statement with “well, after god, of course.” How revolting that anyone would impose such a guilt. Over and over in the church, it’s “if you love your family more than you love God, then you’re not loving your family in the right way.” Such a petty and disgusting way to prey on a man’s instincts. “Want to be the best man possible for your family, do you? Well, that requires loving Jesus enough to leave them (Luke 14:26) or YHWH enough to put the knife to your son’s neck (Abraham).”

“FOUL! FOUL! METAPHORS!” cry the theists.

Yes, I’ll take my metaphors without the divine injunction to leave or kill my family, thank you.

My church, at least, tries to mend this obvious piece of drivel by saying “the way to love God is to love your family more than anything.” Though you won’t find this idea in scripture, it’s at least a step better. But why not just stop at “love your family”? Why the need tack on God as a carrot on a stick? Anyone needing God as a justification or reason to love is either emotionally damaged, or unaware of their own capacity to love because they’ve been told by the church that they’re inately evil (original sin).

This is why I’ve decided I’m going to be open with my wife about this. First, because I love her and we’re honest with each other. Second, because she’s been told the same lie I have: “keep God at the center or you won’t make it.” I think she understands that statement is vacuous, but I have to be clear. After a few conversations about this, the smile on her face was uplifting and comforting!

I said, “if God doesn’t exist, you’re all I have! Isn’t that more of a reason to love you with all I have?” She smiled and whispered a relieved, hushed, “yeah…yeah, it is.” We proceeded to make out, and hot damn it was amazing.

God as a carrot on a stick trivializes love. He doesn’t make it more meaningful.

But to come out as an atheist would be an earth shifting move for her. I’ve seen firsthand the pitied looks on people’s faces when a woman tells her church that her husband is an atheist, and I refuse to place my wife in those crosshairs. “You poor woman, raising a child as a spiritual single mom.” It’s actually quite a brilliant strategy to protect the herd. Drive a wedge between a woman and her husband. Sow discord in a marriage to break it up, getting the atheist out of the group. Better to sacrifice a member’s marriage than to have the atheist infect us with intellectual poison. This is what those looks and statements are subconsciously conveying. It’s a brilliant defense mechanism of religion, disguised as pity and love.

That’s why I stay quiet in her account.

Maybe one day I’ll come out about my lack of belief. I guess I’m aware that beliefs change, and the lack of a god believe isn’t necessarily exempt. Why cause damage now when I may be convinced of a god’s existence in the future?