I believe in God

I believe in God. Ultimately, this belief is a choice, but I have also had too much experience of God in my life, too many synchronicities, too many times I have had answers given dramatically and at just the right time and place to be able to effectively deny it. I believe in God because I feel him when I pray. It is not like talking to an “imaginary friend” as some have characterized prayer. It isn’t a feeling of talking to myself, or the ceiling or the sky. I have felt the presence of God. I know a lot of people who put their faith in humans (humanism), or “science,” who seem to think that if you can’t prove the existence of God, then God doesn’t exist. Well, better minds than mine have put forth ontological, cosmological, teleological, and other logical and moral arguments for God’s existence. There are those who assume an intellectual superiority for their atheism, but I don’t think you can accuse Plato, Aristotle, Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Kant, and the many others of being ninnies. Many intellectual giants have argued for the existence of God.

Now I can honestly understand why people don’t believe in God, but I think it’s a point of view that is very limited. God’s existence can’t be proven by science? There is so much that can’t be proven by science, so much that IS that can’t be explained by science. You tell me, when did time begin, and when will it end? When you get to the end of the universe, what is there? To me, these questions are just completely mind boggling. You want to believe in the Big Bang and evolution? Well, that’s fine, but it certainly doesn’t preclude the existence of God, because the question still remains where did all that stuff come from in the first place? All the matter and energy in the universe just popped into existence from NOWHERE? Personally, I don’t need any philosopher’s elaborate argument to see this. The existence of the universe, of life, of anything is something that no scientist can adequately explain. I understand that this does not in any way prove the existence of God. What it does do, though, is knock “science” off its pedestal. In fact, much what is explained by “science” has to be taken on faith. So many things in science are preceded by the term “theory of.” Whenever you see that term, it means that this is an explanation that somebody came up with for how or why things are the way they are based on their interpretation of events, but it cannot be proven. Science is great as science, but as a god it has clay feet.

I would not laugh at anyone who chooses to be an atheist. That is their choice. But it must be recognized as a choice, as a faith in itself, rather than a foregone conclusion, and there is nothing that makes it an intellectually superior choice.

I think that one problem atheists have is mixing up the existence of God with religion. The two are really quite separate, as is proven by the existence of so many religions in the history of man’s existence. You want to argue with religion, I can understand that. That is a subject that is full of mud pits and thorns. I have honestly encountered God in many ways in the course of my life. I feel called to Christianity, but not without a million questions. For some reason, even though I have allowed the questions to drive me away from it, I keep getting called back to it. I am not going to say I have it all figured out. I am not going to say that my doubts and questions have all been stilled. Far from it. But since I was a very young child, living in a completely non-religious household, Christianity has called to me, and it has never stopped, so I have to honor that call. When I find all the answers to all the questions, I will write a book on it, but in the meantime, decades into the journey, I am still seeking to learn everything I can about this faith that calls me. I have said before that perhaps it is impossible for we mere humans to know The Truth, and I will not argue against anyone who takes this position. Honestly, I cannot tell you exactly where I will end up on the spectrum of belief. But I will end up on the spectrum itself. It is, to me, completely logical. It potentially holds answers to the unanswerable questions, and even if it doesn’t, it is certainly no more fantastic than the Questions Which Must Exist. It is no more difficult to believe in a source from which everything came into existence, than it is to believe that everything just appeared from nowhere.

And in the meantime, although I know harm has been done in the name of religion, I personally am not doing harm. Well, perhaps I am. If the harshest tenets of the Christian faith are true, I may be doing harm by not shaking you by the shoulders and warning you about them. But I have a great, huge faith in God. I think God is entirely capable of communicating to you what he wants you to know. I am here to tell you that there was not ever in my entire life anyone who “shared the gospel” with me. Never. God called me all on his own. And although I will admit to having gone through a judgmental phase on my Christian journey, in the end I find in the teachings of Jesus a call to love, and to do so without fear, without counting the cost of that love. Lord knows I have learned the emotional cost of love, in the loss of my daughter, in all the sorrows of my children that pierce my own heart, as well as the material cost in the lifestyle I chose from the beginning, which was to do with less in order to be able to give more to those I love. God always has more to give than we do, whether money or love.

If you want to be intellectually honest about your faith, or lack of it, I think you have to be willing to give up your assumptions. I will agree that I cannot prove the existence of God, and hey, you might be right. One day I might die and drift into nothingness, but if so, I am not going to care. Maybe you should be willing to give up the notion that you can possibly “know” that God does not exist. Just logically, it is impossible to prove a negative. Personally, I think the highest intelligence exists in the humility of knowing the limitations of our knowledge. So open it up. Just be willing to say, “God if you are real, show me.” Who knows? You might be surprised.

November 21, 2014

13 thoughts on “I believe in God

  1. “I would not laugh at anyone who chooses to be an atheist. That is their choice. But it must be recognized as a choice, as a faith in itself, rather than a foregone conclusion, and there is nothing that makes it an intellectually superior choice.”

    You know, I didn’t actually choose to become an atheist. I just one day realized, during a period of questioning, that I didn’t believe any more. I don’t really understand how belief can be a choice, actually. I hear so many people say that they chose to believe, so I suppose that must be something that some people can choose, but it doesn’t make sense to me. That hasn’t been my experience at all.

    My atheism isn’t a faith, either. It’s a tentative conclusion based on the information available to me. All it would take to change my mind is new information which invalidates my previous conclusion.

    I do agree that there is nothing that makes atheism an inherently intellectually superior stance. There are plenty of atheists who have never really put much thought into their atheism or seriously looked into other possibilities, and there are many highly intelligent theists who have put a great deal of thought into their theism (I’m related to some of them). I think some atheists tend to get arrogant about their atheism because they have put a lot of thought into their atheism and start to think that atheists become atheists because they are smart. I find this quite annoying, honestly.

    “You want to believe in the Big Bang and evolution? Well, that’s fine, but it certainly doesn’t preclude the existence of God, because the question still remains where did all that stuff come from in the first place? All the matter and energy in the universe just popped into existence from NOWHERE?”

    I don’t think the universe came into existence out of nowhere. I have no idea how the universe came to exist. I agree that the big bang theory and evolution don’t preclude the existence of a god or gods (though it does poke a number of holes in the Young Earth creationist position), but, similarly, not knowing how the universe came into existence does not mean that atheism is wrong.

    “I think that one problem atheists have is mixing up the existence of God with religion.”

    I agree with this. As a religious atheist, I find it annoying when other atheists conflate theism with religion. And, while certain conceptions of a god or gods can be disproven (e.g. the Young Earth creationist god), it certainly cannot be proven that no gods exist. However, I would want to see credible evidence, or have some other solid reason to believe, before I would actively believe in any god. The same thing goes for any other supernatural phenomenon as well, from ghosts to alien abductions.

    “If you want to be intellectually honest about your faith, or lack of it, I think you have to be willing to give up your assumptions.”

    I definitely agree with this. I wish more people would be willing to critically examine their assumptions and consider that they might be wrong.

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    • Interesting. What does it mean to be a religious atheist? I actually had the opposite in mind when I said atheists confuse the existence of God with religion, with religion being man’s attempts to define God and sometimes using that to do wrong to their fellow humans.

      I would also mention that it is not necessary to believe in a young earth in order to believe in God, or to be a Christian. Let’s face it, the Bible is a messy, difficult book. I am very much aware of this, because I am one of those people who actually reads it, and rereads it. I know that this is supposed to be something that strengthens and grounds my faith, but in fact it is probably the thing that most truly challenges my faith. I love it, and at the same time I am horrified by it. (Forgive me, but my reading path right now is winding again through Leviticus, so I am currently being horrified.) But even the most evangelical study Bibles point out in their notes that there is nothing to say that the seven days of creation are literal days. Again, this is what I mean by religion as opposed to faith. Certain religious organizations believe and teach young earth, but don’t confuse the beliefs of a religious organization with belief in God. I bring up the theory of evolution not because I believe it precludes the belief in God, because I don’t. Perhaps I am not educated enough in the theory, but I don’t think it is well proven in that while evolution within a species is easy to document, the evolution from one species into another is not. I chalk all this up to things that I don’t and can’t know, like so much of existence.

      My faith has ebbed and flowed throughout my life. I am not ignorant of or immune to the questions. I have concluded that there is a lot we don’t know, and can’t know. Personally, there has never been a time that I have not felt that there is a spiritual dimension to our existence.

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      • There is a lot more to religion than just believing in a god or gods: philosophy, community, rites/rituals, religious holidays, values, symbolism, mythology. All of these things are important components of my religion, though I don’t believe in any gods or even anything supernatural.

        I’m one of those who reads the Bible, too. I enjoy studying religions. Personally, I’m horrified by those who aren’t horrified by certain parts of the Bible (e.g. genocides in the Old Testament), because if you believe that murdering people is okay if your god wants you to do it, that can lead to some scary stuff, like religious terrorism.

        When I say that science refutes the young earth creationist god, I mean that it refutes the existence of a god with that specific property of having created the earth 6000 years ago. It says nothing about a god without that property. In other words, it refutes only that specific property, and says nothing about any other conception of God.

        As for evolution, I don’t think most people understand the theory very well. I recently took a biology course that focused on evolution, and I found that learning the specifics of what the theory actually says as well as the sort of evidence that supports the theory has made it much more convincing. For one thing, the difference between one species and another is not at all clear or distinct. There isn’t even consensus on what a species is. The biological species concept defines a species as a group which can produce viable, fertile offspring with each other. As an example of the fuzziness of this species concept, suppose you have three different populations of lizards, called A, B, and C. If individuals of population A can mate successfully with members of population B, and B’s can mate successfully with C’s, but A’s and C’s cannot mate successfully, then where do you draw the lines between species?

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      • Thanks for the illumination on evolution, Alex. Does this happen within a species? I know that there are breeds of dogs, but they can all interbreed. You don’t see many mixed breed lizards, or birds for that matter, and yet I would assume that all lizards and all birds are considered to be within one species? Not something I know a lot about.

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  2. “So many things in science are preceded by the term “theory of.” Whenever you see that term, it means that this is an explanation that somebody came up with for how or why things are the way they are based on their interpretation of events, but it cannot be proven.”

    No that’s not correct. A scientific theory is an explanation that has been repeatedly tested and proven correct and also makes falsifiable predictions that we can experiment against. A theory is the most certain form of scientific knowledge. I know this is pretty much opposite to the casual usage of the word “theory” and that causes far too much confusion. Also why I felt it was important to bring that to your attention.

    Anyway, glad to read your thoughts, good luck in your journey. 🙂

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    • But a theory is still not Truth. The National Center for Science Education delineates levels of surety and truth as follows:

      Fact: In science, an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and for all practical purposes is accepted as “true.” Truth in science, however, is never final and what is accepted as a fact today may be modified or even discarded tomorrow.
      Hypothesis: A tentative statement about the natural world leading to deductions that can be tested. If the deductions are verified, the hypothesis is provisionally corroborated. If the deductions are incorrect, the original hypothesis is proved false and must be abandoned or modified. Hypotheses can be used to build more complex inferences and explanations.
      Law: A descriptive generalization about how some aspect of the natural world behaves under stated circumstances.
      Theory: In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.
      http://ncse.com/evolution/education/definitions-fact-theory-law-scientific-work

      “Even truth in science is never final,” and theory lies beneath that level. Therefore, these things that people accept as “gospel,” so to speak, are fallible. But in all of it, I am not aware of a scientifically strong theory of the absolute original cause. Where did everything come from? If there was a Big Bang, where did the stuff come from to bang? How long ago did time begin and where does it end? How big is the universe, and what is at the other end of it? These are completely mind boggling questions to which nobody has an answer. I am not saying this proves God as an original cause. I am just saying that the concept of God is no more ridiculous than the fact of the existence of these unanswerable questions. I think that any person who believes in God, if they are honest, will admit that from time to time they are struck with the ridiculousness of the whole notion of a Supreme Being. I just think that the non-believers should be aware that the nature of existence is itself inherently ridiculous, if that makes sense, and because of that be willing to leave it an open question. Or let me rephrase that, the atheists, rather than the non-believers. Non belief is sensible. It is just saying that you don’t know the answers enough to believe. Atheism applies a certainty that you know the truth. Otherwise, you would be an agnostic.

      Thanks for taking time to read and reply, Ben.

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  3. “If you want to be intellectually honest about your faith, or lack of it, I think you have to be willing to give up your assumptions. I will agree that I cannot prove the existence of God, and hey, you might be right. One day I might die and drift into nothingness, but if so, I am not going to care. Maybe you should be willing to give up the notion that you can possibly “know” that God does not exist. Just logically, it is impossible to prove a negative. Personally, I think the highest intelligence exists in the humility of knowing the limitations of our knowledge. So open it up. Just be willing to say, “God if you are real, show me.” Who knows? You might be surprised.”

    I’ve done his and there is no god answering. I would ask you why your claim doesn’t work.

    I’m also curious if you can explain why I should not take the world of someone who uses your exact claims to say that their particular god exists, but only accept that your god is the “real’ one.

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    • Because you haven’t seen it work yet doesn’t mean it hasn’t. God doesn’t appear in a burning bush in your front yard. For me, it has been a stirring, barely recognizable at first, or has come in circumstances that arise in my life, sometimes months later. God does not seem to be in the hurry that we are. And this is a pretty open ended challenge, you know. It is not a challenge to study a particular doctrine or way or life and then come to a conclusion about God. It is a challenge that is based in faith, that God is real, and that he cares enough to come and meet someone who is genuinely asking.

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      • The fact that I haven’t seen it work yet and it’s been decades, is very strong evidence that it doesn’t work at all. I’ve seen the failures of the same promises of other religions too.

        You try to excuse your god, who did supposedly appear as a burning bush, for doing nothing. What you have done is assigned anything you could to the action of this god, with no evidence that this is accurate. This is noting more than assigning meaning to coincidence and selection bias. For example, praying real hard for one’s son to survive cancer. He dies, but you’re sure that the answer to your prayer was something else entirely.

        God is whatever is invented for him by you or other theists. You make claims that prayers will be answered, but when they aren’t, you use an old charlatan trick, you tell people that they must wait or you tell them that they didn’t do something “right” so the magic you promise won’t work.

        It’s not an open ended challenge at all, Sharon. You promised that if I do something you claim will work, I’ll find your god. When I say it doesn’t, you try to say I need to do it more, which is not your promise in the first place. This is called moving the goalposts. I do see you setting your next excuse, that anyone who doesn’t hear your god aren’t “genuinely asking”, when that would be a deliberately told falsehood on your part.

        I’m still curious if you can explain why I should not take the world of someone who uses your exact claims to say that their particular god exists, but only accept that your god is the “real’ one.

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      • I never said you should do it more. Don’t confuse my words with what you may have heard before from others. If you didn’t get an answer, you didn’t get an answer. Maybe you didn’t want one? I could tell you my personal experiences, and I can tell you that it has come as a persistent tap on the shoulder that I tried really hard to ignore. And I probably could have, if that had been my decision.

        As for why God answers/doesn’t answer certain prayers, as my pastor said once, everybody wants free will until something goes wrong, and then they say, God, why didn’t you take control of that situation?

        I kind of win the championship for unanswered prayer, though. My nine-year old daughter was kidnapped, the victim of a witnessed stranger abduction. That was in 1988. She has still not been found. If you want to wander through my thoughts on that, you can find them in the blog I keep for her, http://www.DearMichaela.com. Funny, but I have had a lot of stumbling blocks to faith in my life, but that just has not been one of them. I have always had a sense of this thing, even before she was actually kidnapped, and I’m pretty sure she did as well. In addition to believing in God, I believe in destiny (which is not the same as fate, by the way).

        There are unpleasant things that happen in life, and sometimes there is a reason. Let’s put it this way, if God answered ALL prayer, nobody would ever be sick, nobody would ever die, nothing bad would ever happen. And there is a lot we would never know, never learn. Things are what they are.

        As for your unanswered question, I am not sure I understand it. You should not take the world of someone? You mean word, I assume. I didn’t tell you to take the word of anyone. I told you to approach God directly. Perhaps if you get a tap on the shoulder, you need to look and see. It is completely and totally open ended. And by the way, I don’t believe it is guaranteed that everyone will “find my God.” The challenge is, as I said, completely and totally open ended. You just need to limit yourself to the words I say, rather than reading into them what you think or what someone else has said.

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      • “Maybe you didn’t want one?” Yep, right there is the Christian trying to claim that the reason that people who pray and don’t hear from their god is that it’s their fault, not that the god doesn’t answer and has no evidence that it exists. Sorry, Sharon, I do want one. What is your next excuse?

        Your personal experiences are no more impressive than the personal experience of anyone who claims that Allah, the Wiccan Goddess, Ahura-Mazda, etc. Again, you have nothing that shows your claims are anything more than wishful thinking. I don’t believe in your claims just like you don’t believe in the claims of others who make the same claims you do, just with another god. You claim that you could have ignored this “tap on the shoulder” by an omnipotent, omniscient being. How does that work?

        So, is there free will or not, Sharon? Your pastor is wrong, and no, everybody doesn’t want your god to take control of anything (this is just a variant of the false claim that there are no atheists in foxholes).

        You don’t win any award for unanswered prayer. Plenty of people have lost their children in various ways and have not had their prayers answered. I am sorry you have experienced such a horrible loss but unfortunately, it isn’t unique or uncommon. Everyone who has lost a loved one and who has prayed for succor from your god is in the same boat. There was no answer, despite the promises in the bible that all prayer will be answered positively, quickly and be what was asked for, not something else. The mountain moves when ask, it doesn’t erode a million years later. The father gives the son a fish, not a snake. Jesus himself says that anything asked in his name will happen, no exceptions. This doesn’t happen in reality.

        You, like many many millions of people, have lots of reason not to believe, and yet you do. That’s very human. It’s very hard to leave behind something you have invested much of your self-worth in, and to leave behind the belief that some magical powerful being is concerned about you and only you. Humans are very good at inventing reasons why their magical savior would ignore its promises and not help them, if it allows them to keep that belief that they and they alone are important. You have convinced yourself that your god planned to have your daughter kidnapped, that you somehow “knew” this would happen, your daughter knew this and that makes it okay for it to have happened. Destiny and fate are synonyms. Perhaps you can explain what you mean by claiming destiny isn’t the same as fate. I am curious to see if you believe in free will, since destiny doesn’t work well with that (not to mention your bible contradicts that idea too.)

        Yep, if your god did what it said it would, people would never be sick, or die, and nothing bad would happen. Isn’t that heaven? It’s amazing that you have offered the excuse that we need horrible things to learn and know things. I’ve heard a lot of Christians claim that their god somehow must use horrible things to teach them something, and it’s often horrible things done to others. That is quite selfish, thinking that someone else has to suffer so you can somehow benefit.

        “Things are what they are.”?? That’s quite a claim too. Sorry, I don’t buy into declaring no one can do anything against “destiny”. That is a good way to excuse your god and yourself.

        Yes, Sharon, I did mean “word” not “world”. You have claimed that what you say is true. I have approached your god directly and what you claimed would happen has not. No tap on the shoulder from your god or the god of the Muslims, or the Hindus, or Jews or Zoroasterians, etc. I also don’t believe that it is guaranteed that anyone will find your god, since there is no evidence for it, and, if one reads the bible, it says that this god guarantees that some people will be damned since it will not allow them to believe in it. There is no open-ended challenge at all, but you do wish it was since you can claim that your god really does contact people, just pushing “when” down the road to accommodate your beliefs. I only responded to what you have said. Nothing “read into it” at all.

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  4. Okay, I have got it now. I don’t know whether you just like to argue, or whether you have some anger you need to express, but apparently you just want to disagree with anything I say. It is bad enough that you read things into my words in order to do that, but I was really tipped off by your comment about my daughter and my unanswered prayer, because I’m going to tell you, it IS different from most kinds of grief. It isn’t that I lost my daughter and I don’t have her anymore. It is that something terrible happened to her. If I had known she was no longer alive for 27 years, that would be one thing entirely. But I don’t know that. In recent years I have received a number of leads indicating that she is still alive, one of which described the miserable way she would have been living. Because I don’t know whether or not she is still alive, I have had to keep up the grueling, soul destroying task of looking for her, reaching out for her, of never being able to complete a grieving process and putting it to rest, because IF she is still alive then she is most likely in a bad situation and suffering and she needs me to not give up on her.

    Sorry, but I was unable to even process the rest of your arguments, for that is all they were, after I saw this one. But I honestly have no desire to engage in arguing for the sake of arguing, and in this conversation that is all it is. You have a great life, clubschadenfreude, but have it elsewhere please.

    One parting observation, I’m pretty sure if God tapped you on the shoulder you’d argue with him. Bye now.

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