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Atheist Perspectives, Volume 1

By Ben Love ~

Osiris Rising from His Bier
Osiris Rising from His Bier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
You want to believe in God. You really do. After all, it would certainly make things so much easier, or so you think. I mean, if there were some sort of omnipotent moral manager with “the whole world in his hands,” it would mean that maybe everything actually does happen for a reason. And there is comfort in this prospect, since the cold, insensible implications of a random Universe don’t sit well with you. Besides, all that stuff out there, and the nearly infinite assemblage of cells and atoms within you make it seem quite ridiculous to entertain the thought that this all happened by accident. Someone had to have started it all, right? Nothing else makes sense, after all. How does nothing spawn something? How do time and space and energy and matter all usher forth from nonexistence into existence with enough precision to account for the presence of extremely intricate forms of biological life? Only a Creator could explain this, or so you’ve been told. And, on the surface, this idea has some merit, you conclude. Indeed, whether or not you’re prepared to concede the existence of a Creator, you can still concede that the Universe seems to have been designed by something, or someone. And since you have no other alternative than to assume it all happened randomly and without the engineering of a higher intelligence, taking the easy way out (the way of the Creator) poses far fewer problems for your intellect.

But, of course, this leaves you with a bit of a conundrum. It leaves you with questions that might be just as unanswerable as the origins of the Universe: who, exactly, is this Creator? What is he/she/it like? Can you know this Creator? Is this Creator involved in the intricacies of your personal life, or distant and removed, preferring not to mingle with you and your messiness?

You’re aware of the world’s religions, and so you know that many civilizations over the course of history have proposed to answer these questions. Some did it by concluding that there must be a whole host of gods out there, one for every little thing you could think of. Others chose to view this Creator as some kind of impersonal force, a sort of energy field, if you will. Still others decided that, no, there is only one God, and it happens to be the very God our tribe believes in. And still others decided that this one God is divided into three equal parts, one of which is defined in a person you've heard about: Jesus Christ.

And while you know that some of these varying ideas are quite interesting, and others are beyond absurd, you sense that none of them quite has a handle on the truth, because none of their answers satisfies all the questions. True, some of them address a portion of the questions, some religions more than others, but you can’t help but notice that not a single one covers all the bases. And, when you honest with yourself, you are also very aware that many times the answers proposed by these religions create even more questions, many of which are more disturbing than the original ones.

Still, you want to believe in God. You really do. But you’re just not sure which god is the real God. You’re educated enough to know that science, reason, time, history, and common sense have disproved 99.99% of the other gods that human civilizations have believed in over the centuries. After all, to the best of your knowledge, no one in enlightened, educated circles routinely prays to Ra, Thor, Zeus, Marduk, Osiris, Mithra, Ahura Mazda, or any of the other countless varying deities that show up in the historical record. And yet, the guy on the street corner today pushed a pamphlet into your hand alleging that the last remaining god, the God the Bible, Yahweh, the .01% of the human pantheon of deities is indeed the one true God.

You’re not trying to be a douchebag on the subject. You’re not trying to be an arrogant prick who dismisses deities out of hand. What you are trying to be, however, is responsible. You are trying to be a man of character, a man of reason, a man of integrity, and a man of intelligence. You desire, in your integrity, to have an answer for what you believe, for what your stance is, for what you hold to be truth in this reality, and you want that answer to be above reproach, because that is important to you. Moreover, you prize wisdom and value education, because you have seen their net positive effects over the course of history. So, in your desire to be responsible and wise and all the rest, you submit and subject this last remaining god to the exact same criteria you used to dismiss Zeus and Ra and the rest of them. You cannot give this Yahweh special treatment, because that would be bias, that would be unfair, and that would be irresponsible. You conclude that if Yahweh can’t prove himself without your special treatment, he neither deserves nor warrants your belief.

In your endeavor to subject Yahweh to the same criteria you used to dismiss the others, one of your Christian friends whispers something into your ear. He says that you have to question the way you can know things. “How can you know what you know?” he asks. He says that only God can reveal knowledge, and, of course, when he says God he means Yahweh. But it’s great for him that he has Yahweh to provide him with the means of knowing things. You, however, don’t have that luxury. After all, your very aim here is to see for yourself if Yahweh is the one true God. You therefore cannot very well allow the possibility that it is Yahweh who will tell you whether or not he is real. Otherwise, you would have no alternative but to assume that you made it up in your mind. And since you cannot invite a conclusion into an argument, you maintain that there must be a means of knowing something other than the one asserted by your friend. If you cannot get to Yahweh without Yahweh’s special help, you conclude that he isn’t God. A true God, after all, would be discernible to more than one means of perception, or so you reason. This makes sense to you, because if truth is truth, then all unbiased roads must lead the genuine searcher to the right place. So you dismiss your friend’s statement and resolve to pursue the matter through thoroughly logical avenues.

But therein lays a problem. Logic and science calls for obtainable data which can then be subjected to observation and experimentation, and yet you can't very well physically "get your hands on" Yahweh. Since this was also a problem when it came time to either embrace or dismiss the other gods, you know what you have to do. You must ask how human beings who claim to believe in Yahweh derive their knowledge of him. That leads you to one place and one place only: the Bible.

And so, being as unbiased as you can, you then examine the Bible. You pay special attention to the Old Testament, because it is here that Yahweh is discussed openly. The rhetoric of the New Testament is different, and rests solely upon the words of Yahweh’s purported son, Jesus Christ. But you know through the theology that without a father (Yahweh), there can be no son (Jesus). So you concentrate on the doings of the deity of the Old Testament, and what you find there shocks you.

You note that Yahweh grows tired of his creations and wipes them out in a flood in the first book of the Bible. You wonder about this because it seems…wanton …and erratic …and vengeful. You reason, and rightly so, that if Yahweh was God, he would have known ahead of time that he would be displeased with these creations, and therefore would have known at the moment of their creation that he would mass murder them. Your Christian friend tells you that it’s okay because the Creator can take life where and when he wants, but this is a problem for you because your friend also says that Yahweh is the standard for what “good” is. You wonder how Yahweh can be the standard of good if he is not also the example of good. Is it a "do as I say, not as I do" type thing? Is it okay for Yahweh, the alleged standard of good, to command us not to commit murder when it is perfectly fine for him to do so? You know in your heart that this is wrong. You know in your heart that if Yahweh says murder is "sin," he can't very well commit it himself. 

It gets worse. You also note that Yahweh seems a bit too political, vindictive, petty, and bloodthristy to qualify as a deity. He is, according to those who believe in him, the Creator of all those intricacies of life we mentioned earlier, the engineer of time and space and energy and matter and the end-all-be-all of everything, and so you wonder why in the world he is so obsessively concerned with the tribes of people inhabiting a sliver of land on this planet, concerned enough, in fact, to order their genocide by another tribe, his “chosen” one. It makes no sense to you. You’re not trying to be a hardhead here; it’s just that you genuinely had a higher standard in mind for a deity. And since you yourself can mentally conceive of a higher moral standard than the one who allegedly is that standard, you begin to read the writing on the wall. 

But the pièce de résistance comes when you read the book of Job. Here you see two supernatural beings making bets over the life of a certain human being named Job. The lesser being, Satan, says Job is only faithful to Yahweh because Yahweh writes him pretty big checks. Yahweh is then goaded into proving something to the lesser being (which, you note, displays a level of insecurity; a trait supposedly impossible for a perfect deity). Yahweh then proceeds to allow all of Job’s livestock to die, all of ten his children to die, and for Job himself to be subjected to a terrible disease. You can’t help but feel that human life seems rather cheap to Yahweh. He kills casually, indiscriminately, and carelessly. The lives of ten human beings mattered less to Yahweh than the goading of Satan, you conclude. And then, when it’s all over, Yahweh gives Job ten new children, as though this somehow makes up for the loss of the others, as though somehow reparations can erase the murdering that took place.

At this point, you close the Bible. You have no need to examine any further. You know what you need to know. Yahweh is not God. He cannot be. You conclude that he is no more the one true God than Zeus is, or Ra, or Marduk. Your Christian friend disagrees and says that if you look at all of those incidents through the correct lens, you will see that they all line up with Yahweh’s apparent love and kindness. You ask what the correct lens is, and he replies, “Faith.”

You’ve heard of faith before. You don’t necessarily hate the concept, but you feel it deserves care in its employ. You therefore deduce that you must first have a legitimate reason to put your faith in one thing over another, and you cannot very well have “faith” that all of this evil stuff can be exonerated through “faith,” because this evil stuff prevents you from putting your faith in Yahweh in the first place.

Your friend then says that Jesus righted the wrongs of the Old Testament. You consider that for a moment, but you know that it is errant. If Jesus and Yahweh are one, two parts of a trinity, then you know that they cannot go against each other. One cannot do wrong, and the other cannot “right” it. When Yahweh fails the test, Jesus does too, and that, to you, is the end of the matter. You value life much too much to associate yourself with the mongering of the evil bastard portrayed in the Bible.

You are still left with wondering who or what made the Universe, but since you admit that you don’t know everything there is to know, you conclude that there is still the possibility of a new answer out there, one that adequately explains the mystery, perhaps one that sufficiently accounts for how a godless Cosmos comes to be on its own. One thing you are sure of, however, is that if there is indeed a Creator, it is not, and never was, the God of the Bible.

Thus, your journey continues, and therein lays the adventure…