People, lots of people, believe in God.
Who’s God, you say? Maybe you’ve seen his followers on the corner of Main St and EVERYWHERE. Religion is a fact of life, a fact that some don’t mind and others despise. Like with any issue, opinions abound. Atheism has become more of a force in the world. Even those who believe in God may ridicule various interpretations or religious philosophies. Nevertheless, religion isn’t going anywhere, at least not for a very long time.
I’m not here to suggest we should all agree on the issue, but over the years I have discovered some less-than-rational reasons to believe in “The Man Upstairs”. I don’t mean to imply there is no God (since I’m not personally an “atheist” in any traditional sense), but a bad idea is a bad idea. Here are a few I’ve come across.
Everything is like Soooo Pretty… There like, MUST be a God.
I’ll be the first to admit, I used this logic a lot growing up. There are still moments where I’m so in awe of nature that I am tempted to fall back on this one, but its entire basis is subjective. Beauty is interpreted by the observer. I mean, what if the very waterfall I gaze upon with astonishment also makes someone else want to vomit? My view is no more “accurate” than theirs. The same principle is true for my bewilderment by the complexities of the universe. I can look up at the night sky and be utterly convinced it was set up by an intelligent force, but that only reveals the limits of my own capacity to comprehend the unknown.
But then the Bible has to go and guilt us with shit like this…
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. -Romans 1:20. NIV.
So naturally it’s normal for many believers to take this verse to mean “It’s obvious there is a God… because look at all this cool stuff! Oh, and there’s no excuse for questioning that.” Really? So, a book written by and for people with no knowledge of the scientific method, quantum physics, heliocentrism… is giving us the easy way out: You don’t need faith after all! Just look at that double rainbow. Oh my God! It’s so bright and vivid!
There has to be a God. It would like, totally suck if there wasn’t one.
This is by far the most prominent reason I’ve heard for a belief in God. People cannot handle the alternative. They cannot imagine their children don’t have immortal souls, or that humanity came about by evolution, or that morality isn’t set in stone (i.e. the Ten Commandments). Death can’t be the end. There is too much pain and suffering in the world. There has to be ultimate justice, vindication, punishment. eradication of evil. This is indicative of a very common theme in Christianity. Answers are often formed based on what Christians refuse to believe. Hell, I once sat through a SENIOR LEVEL THEOLOGY CLASS and heard the following words come out of my professor’s face…
Our text is called “Theology” of the New Testament, not Theologies of the New Testament. There is only one. We know the Bible doesn’t have contradictions or competing theologies. That would mean none of it is trustworthy and we would have no basis to believe in God at all.
The lack of academic integrity was so shocking that it has stuck with me to this day. We have to go where the evidence takes us, not take only the filtered evidence where we are willing to go with it. Similar statements like “I didn’t come from a monkey!” or “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” are just a few more examples of this tendency to pick our own reality.
Why is evolution false? Because it would suck if I came from primates. Those guys are lame.
Why is homosexuality wrong? Because God wouldn’t want guys to make out. That’s disgusting!
Why is it obvious that God exists? I couldn’t imagine dying and that being the end of me!
Sure, the idea of not existing beyond death is a pretty heavy one to cope with. As much as we’d like to live forever, or at least anything slightly more generous than YOLO has to offer, fear of death or yearning for heaven isn’t evidence for God.
Your life will be so much better!
This one is less about evidence and more about a perceived incentive for believing in God. There is this weird logic going around that following God will make your life easier, or better, or… something like that. If you have problems in your marriage, or your job, or if you have addictions or vices… something must not be quite right with your relationship with God. If you serve him though, good stuff is heading your way. Also, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard Christianity used as the measuring stick for a person’s character. “Oh, she’s dating a nice Christian man. I’m glad her life is turning around.” Or “If he’d just put God first then God would bless him.”
But then there’s all the talk about sacrifice, and suffering, and… martyrdom. Jesus said that stuff. Bad shit is heading your way simply for believing in him. Where do I sign up!?
Frustratingly, this other side of the coin is also used to foster a sense of moral superiority and victimization in the believer. If you suffer, that’s a good thing because Jesus suffered. It’s like… an honor. You are suddenly part of the long lineage of saints and preachers and prophets and Republicans who endure the perils of this fallen world.
So, when good things happen to Christians, it’s proof of God’s blessings and favor (which is evidence God exists).
And when bad things happen to Christians, it’s proof of the validity of their message (or more evidence God exists).
Conclusions and stuff.
You or someone else may have deep, personal, intriguing, thought-provoking reasons to believe in something more. It’s not inherently irrational or primitive to live a path of spirituality, of seeking a divine purpose or design of the cosmos. The examples I have mentioned are simply examples, not an exhaustive record of how Christians or theists interpret reality. However, fear and ego and attachment to prejudices and ideologies will inevitably cloud our judgment. Never believe something because you’re unwilling to entertain the alternative. Never be scared to find out the truth.
Well, unless the truth is that we’re asleep in an elaborate computer program while our robot overlords harvest our bodies for energy.
Feel free to take the blue pill.