Every so often in theists vs atheists debate groups, theists ask us to “prove there is no god”. Well, I can’t do that. That’s not how it works as I make no claim, and the burden of proof lies on the ones making the claim that their god is real. But I don’t want to write about that today. How about instead of that, I present my thoughts on why I don’t believe?
When I first heard of god, I was a child. My parents taught me about God and Jesus, and like every child, I believed what they said. But I never saw this god. I just accepted what I was taught, up to a point. And then, when I grew older, I had my doubts. I had my questions and there were no answers for them.
The first time I realized something wasn’t quite right was at the age of six. I went to Sunday school in our local Roman Catholic church, and everybody there was singing a song about Jesus that I didn’t know. “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so…” And right off the bat, I didn’t fit in. I looked for Jesus in the church. I looked for god and the holy spirit, but they were nowhere to be found. But then I realized something, something important, that perhaps those of us who aren’t as socially awkward never stumble upon . It was never about Jesus, or god, or the holy spirit. It was about the participation. Fitting in, everybody together singing their little song about Jesus. Everybody singing together. It’s social; it’s a sense of belonging, a fellowship. It doesn’t matter that the subject is Jesus. It could be the Holy Hamster or the Pious Potato of Power (Cheese and bacon be upon Him). As long as you believe, as long as they suck you in when you’re young and you get indoctrinated, it doesn’t matter at all what the subject of your belief is, because you’re conditioned to accept it without question.
Once you reach that point, you impose meaning on the subject of your belief, meaning that doesn’t belong there. You accept without question that this thing you believe in is the source of your morals and values, even though you picked them up from those around you socially. You also accept that this thing created the world and everything in it, and you put this belief somewhere in the back of your mind, somewhere locked away as a child, such that you think you know it to be true, while in reality you know no such thing.
God is a placeholder for “I don’t know”. How did the world come to be? I don’t know. Therefore God. And if you assume this to be true, if it is set in stone in the deepest recess of your mind, set in your early childhood and you don’t even recognize that you don’t really know it, that is what makes you a Christian. Or a Jew or Muslim or whatever. You never notice that this placeholder, this little black box is empty, because you are conditioned not to open the box, not to look inside. You are conditioned to accept dogma without question, which brings me to the next point, the way our minds work, and the difference between the scientific method and dogma, and why we are so easily fooled by our false knowledge…
The brain is a strange organ. It drives us. We depend on it, but it is prone to certain biases and problems. We love a narrative. A story. We need a cohesive narrative for the world to make sense. So much so that our very memories are faulty. We remember only fragments, and then, when we recollect those fragments, we put them back together into a cohesive story. A story however that’s changed over time. This is why false memory is an issue. That’s just on a personal level, but then expand on that… people make up societies, and societies evolve shared rules and regional beliefs. And religions. Every culture has a creation myth, a god or gods. I see no reason to believe in any of them. Some people seem to assume that since there are certain things in common between all such religions, there must be some sort of universal truth. But again, this just comes down to the frailty of the human mind. It’s easier to continue to believe what you already believe than to realize the common thread between all religions is that the human brain created them, created a convenient placeholder to answer “I don’t know” with a simple and universal narrative, and one that conveniently takes away our fear of death, but that can’t be proven until after we’re dead.
And that brings us to the difference between science and dogma. Both have at their root the same source: the same human brain that likes a story. And guess what happens if we don’t have an explanation? We make it up. That’s what we do. That’s how science works. Don’t know how something works… then just make it up. And then, other scientists try to reproduce the hypothesis. Prove it wrong outright, or find that the hypothesis seems to be true. Then it becomes a theory. The theory represents our most detailed understanding of something, and is usually mostly right… or at least it’s not wrong. It gets refined, improved over time, and as the years go by, it gets better and better. (I’m not a scientist and I’m simply trying to convey what the scientific method achieves in the most broad sense. Any scientists reading, please excuse me.) Religious doctrine started out the same, but it doesn’t work the same way. It is dogmatic, meaning that by definition we are not allowed to question it.
In the case of Christianity, we have beliefs that were cast in stone about two thousand years ago. But instead of two thousand years of questioning and refining the doctrines, we have two thousand years of them being handed down unchanged, with the rule that one is not allowed to question them. Instead of a search for truth, we have fields like theology which is nothing more than made up reasons to continue believing what is already believed. Theology is, among other things, a system where we look at the things we assume god created and see signs of god in those things. In other words, all of theology is nothing more than extended circular reasoning.
If I were to draw a straight line across the page, assuming the starting point on the left is the beginning of time of the entire universe as far as we can trace back, and the rightmost point is this very moment, on that scale, a dot to indicate when our gods showed up for the first time would be pretty much on the right had side. Now. And yet we are told to believe that this god was there from the beginning. He is a little black box on the far left that explains everything. I’m sorry. I don’t buy it. It’s absolute bullshit.
While I do understand how indoctrination works, and know all too well how tough it is to change my mind when something I think I know is proven false, I struggle to understand why everybody doesn’t grow up and grow out of religious belief exactly as I did. To me that seems the most natural thing to do and why most people don’t do so will always be a mystery to me, a mystery that drives me to write about this subject over and over again.
Anyway, that’s the short version of why I don’t believe in any god. There’s a lot more to it, but that’s the nicest narrative I can shape it into that hopefully even people who disagree with me can follow.