Friday, November 23, 2012

God doesn't; we do -- The original concept doesn't care if you believe

I wrote a book called God Doesn't; We Do: Only Humans Can Solve Human Challenges. I wrote the book in response to what can only be fairly summarized as the complete insanity that my overly religious culture presents me with on a regular basis, the vast majority of it either directly inspired by or intimately connected with a belief in a particular kind of god. It isn't necessarily that it is the God of the Bible, more generally the Abrahamic God (I call this character the God of the One True Faiths throughout God Doesn't; We Do), but rather that it is widely believed that this god does things in this world. As I titled my book: God doesn't; we do.

My original conception for the book turns out to have been entirely different from the end product. Indeed, I wouldn't have self-identified as an "atheist" (I prefer the term "infidel") when I started writing it, although I was essentially one by that time. What happened to change my position and thus the entire premise of my book? Research.

It's really pretty amazing what happens to a person when they spend a lot of time researching a particular topic, seeking only to gain information on it without being attached to any particular point of view. I sought out books about religion from many different perspectives and read them voraciously (perhaps as many as 60-70 books in about 11 months), taking notes and trying to compile my thoughts and have my facts straight. I also read perhaps a thousand or more websites, like the books ranging in authorship from vehement anti-theists to disinterested (in the religious discussion) scientists and historians to Christian apologists and theologians of a variety of sorts (including non-Christian ones).

I did have a theme that I wanted to write around, and that theme was captured by the title--that it is human beings that are responsible for human challenges and that God doesn't do any of the ridiculous things people think he does. Besides the obvious, like that he doesn't send hurricanes, droughts, tornadoes, hail, earthquakes, tsunamis, comets, solar flares, etc., to punish us for homosexuality, giving women rights, racial equality, liberal society, "sinning," voting for Democrats, teaching science, etc., I wanted to address other common topics like that God doesn't answer prayers, perform miracles, send us callings, provide opportunities, provide for our needs, have plans for us, or have anything to do with our salvation, forgiveness, or well-being. I also wanted to point out that God doesn't reward us for "righteous" behavior, etc. What's the difference between that and what I wrote? I wasn't going to even come close to making any kind of atheistic case whatsoever, much less the strongly antitheistic case that I ended up making.

My original vision for "God doesn't; we do" is still the primary theme, which is bigger and more important than whether or not people choose to believe in an imaginary god or gods. The original vision was to break the spell on the idea that God is a doer in this (or any) world, and it was meant to include the possibility of believing in many definitions of God. As I researched, I realized that most definitions of God are completely incompatible with this idea (e.g. the God of the One True Faiths), and the God I wanted to allow for retreated to softer definitions like that of the god-concept underlying pantheism (that vague higher power idea).

The central issue is that the God of the One True Faiths is in essentially every way possible--doctrinally, scripturally, dogmatically, popularly--a doer. He is defined as an entity that does things. My central premise was and still is that the world would be a vastly better place if no one accepted that ridiculous notion, but at the time, I would have argued "yeah, it's fine if you want to believe in some kind of higher power, but it makes no sense and is dangerously stupid to believe in a God that does things." I rapidly realized, as I sought to wheedle my way to a soft-option on the matter, that harmonizing belief in the God of the One True Faiths with a God that doesn't do anything was directly contradictory.

The house of cards fell.

I couldn't continue to try to leave room for the God of the One True Faiths and simultaneously make my point that the key to improving the entire religion question is to come to grips with the reality that we have absolutely no evidence that supports (and thus no reason to believe and no justification for faith in) the claim that God is a doer. I went from accommodationist to antitheist in a matter of a month or two once I had enough information to clearly understand the "God question."

Now that I've made my strong case that God doesn't exist (almost surely) and firmly taken a stand on the matter, I find myself facing the question of "do I really care if people believe in this God stuff?" pretty frequently. It's a harder question than I want to admit.

Yes, I care. People shouldn't want or need to believe in untrue nonsense for any purpose, be that to paper over fears, as a matter of tradition, out of group loyalty, or as a need for some kind of false comfort. What people believe motivates how they think, and that's a problem. Religious beliefs and other ideologies are easily warped to downright evil political purposes, and that's a problem. Belief in a bad metaphor, like God, lends ill-deserved and unintentional support to some really abysmally bad ideas, and that's a problem. I definitely care that so many people believe in God.

But really, no, I don't care. I'm not the least bit moved by anyone's beliefs at this point unless those beliefs have solid backing in sound logical argumentation, credible and verifiable evidence, or, preferably, both. So, if someone wants to believe in an imaginary God in the sky, I don't particularly care--so long as they get rid of the belief that God does anything and get on with their already otherwise completely secular lives.

So, my honest position is that I don't think anyone should believe in God, and that rests on good, solid reasoning (including the reasoning that I present in God Doesn't that the probability that God exists is zero). But, if someone must, then I don't really care too much about belief in God--except if that God is believed to be a doer.

Secular theists, then, are encouraged to join in my argument: God doesn't; we do: only humans can solve human challenges. It's up to us, not whatever imaginations we have standing behind the metaphor we name God. It's all up to us, and it always has been.

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If you enjoy my writing, you can read more of it in my first book, God Doesn't; We Do: Only Humans Can Solve Human Challenges. If you choose to pick it up, I thank you for your support of myself, my family, and indie authors in general.

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