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Steps to belief

By ExPenty ~

I've been out of the closet as an atheist for a comparatively short time - a matter of a few months - though it's been a long time coming and the signs of which way I was headed have been there for a while.

Steps PodolskImage via Wikipedia
Even in such a short time, I have received lots of comments and questions from well-meaning Christians, some of them friends, that only make sense if you take their worldview as true.

As an example, I've had people tell me "God still loves you and wants you to come back to him." That one's pretty innocuous, but then there are the more unpleasant ones such as "You'd better stop rebelling against God or you'll burn for eternity." There have been plenty of other comments that are in between the two. Whatever the message and whatever the motivation, though, the one thing all these comments have in common is that they only make sense from within a Christian worldview.

Once I believed everything about Christianity, but as I have explained many times to many people, examining my former beliefs in the light of reason and logic was what forced me to do what I had never intended to do, namely abandon my Christian faith as irrational superstition.

The thing is, before I can take any Christian beliefs seriously, or any of the comments mentioned above, there are several steps the commenter has to climb first. Christians tend to take it for granted that these steps have already been climbed, but as a rationally-minded atheist I can make no such assumption. For me, these steps have to be examined and then climbed one at a time before I can take seriously the claims of Christianity, or any other religion.

STEP 1: Prove that God exists.

This is the biggest step. Unless this step is climbed first, the others are already irrelevant. Show, using actual objective evidence, that there are good grounds for believing in a deity. Actually, you don't even need to prove it conclusively; just show that there are reasonable grounds for believing in a god as opposed to not believing, and I'll be happy to progress to the next step on the grounds of probability rather than proof.

STEP 2: Prove that there is only one God.

This is often taken for granted by those who have convinced themselves of God's existence. "God exists, therefore what I was taught about him in my childhood must be true." Whoa, hold on there! This is by no means a given. Even if you could satisfy me that a god probably exists, you then have to show that there is, in fact, only one God and not many gods.

STEP 3: Prove that your one God is still alive.

Even if I were to be persuaded that a single, solitary God created the universe, who is to say that the creator is still in existence?

STEP 4: Demonstrate that God is interested in us humans.

Supposing that all the other steps so far have been climbed, you would then need to demonstrate that your God is actually concerned about us. Again, this can certainly not be assumed with any degree of certainty even if it is taken for granted that God exists and is still alive.

STEP 5: Show that God is in fact the Christian God.

OK, so even if you did somehow manage to get up all the other steps, how do you know that your religion is the right one? How can you be sure that Christianity is right about God and not Islam, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, classical Roman paganism or any of the thousands of other religions that have ever existed? In fact, how do you know that any of them are right, including yours? Appeals to a holy book cannot be allowed as evidence because it has not yet been established that your holy book is accurate. Neither can appeals to an "inner witness" because people of all religions can make claims based on that same basis. So can atheists, in fact.

STEP 6: Show that the Christian God is worthy of worship.

Let us assume for the sake of argument that the existence of God can be proven and that he can be shown conclusively to be the God of the Bible, the triune God of Christianity. Even then, why should I worship him? Even if he were real (which I do not believe, but just supposing), how is a God who would create humans knowing that the vast majority of them would burn in hell for all eternity be worthy of worship? That would make him directly responsible for the eternal suffering of billions of people. And why would a God who ordered the deaths of innocent men, women and children (read your Old Testament) be worthy of worship? Or how about a supposedly loving, caring God who makes his existence so difficult to believe - why should we worship him if his very hiddenness leads millions to hell? Even if the God of the Bible exists, he is a sadistic monster and unworthy of worship and devotion.