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Atheist Perspectives, Volume 5

By Ben Love ~

You want to believe in God. You really do. Death is, after all, somewhat frightening. It’s disheartening to think that everything you are and think and feel and know will cease at death, that there is no afterlife, no beyond. If there was a God, the afterlife is automatically implied, and that is a nice thought. Something deep inside you longs to know that you will last for eternity, that the “here and now” matters and will echo on in infinity. But, as nice as that sounds and feels, your logic tells you that consciousness requires a physical brain, and there is no physical brain after death.

6391844361_5ac2e23092_oStill, you’d love to believe. But this is not to say that your life doesn’t have meaning on its own. It does. Your Christian friends are somewhat doubtful about that, and they ask you repeatedly how in the world you could possibly have meaning in life without a belief in God to instill that meaning. You reply by paraphrasing Richard Dawkins, that it’s foolish and childish to presume that someone else has a responsibility to give meaning to your life. Indeed, you contend that it is incumbent upon the individual himself to give whatever meaning to his life he wants to give it, that the responsibility is the individual’s and his alone. Your friends disagree and walk away snickering at your “ignorance.”

So you go home and ponder words like “meaning” and “purpose.” You contemplate the implication that only through a belief in God can you have any real meaning in life, that only through a relationship with this God can you derive a sense of purpose. And as nice and romantic and even somewhat titillating as the prospect sounds, you can’t help but notice a major problem. The fact is, you’ve been searching for clues to God for years now. You’ve been turning over stones, pursuing dead ends, asking the right questions, investigating the possible answers, and trying to reach some sort of conclusion. The best you can say right now is that no one really seems to know any more than you do; and those who think they do are merely adhering tightly to a certain belief, nothing else. Sure, they have their reasons for their beliefs, but so do millions of other people, people who cling just as tightly to other, opposing beliefs. Belief, you determine, is therefore shaky, unsound, and inadequate. Inconclusive, in short. You’re interested in facts, in truths, in certainties. How, you then wonder, can anyone derive meaning from God when no one even knows for a certainty that God exists? And if they are deriving a sense of meaning, it obviously isn’t coming from God but rather from their belief in God. In order for it to actually come from God, they have to know for a certainty who this God is, what he wants, and what he says about life. But no one does. If they did, no one would be having conversations about “faith.” And since this meaning isn’t coming from any actual God but rather from the believer’s personal belief in God, the most logical conclusion to make is that an individual’s personal choice is the origin of meaning, not some human manifestation of God, which may change with the age, the culture, or the individual.
This is what you have been suspecting, and saying, from the beginning: that it is incumbent upon the individual to decide for himself what his life means, what his purpose is, what his destiny is, and what makes his life worth living.

Moreover, you note that if a person is deriving meaning from their belief in God, this meaning, whatever it is, must be just as uncertain and unsound as the existence of this God is. Who wants meaning based on instability?

Thus, it becomes apparent to you that your Christian friends who believe that God has given them a sense of meaning are merely projecting their own personal choice back onto their perception of God. In turn, they believe this “meaning” is actually coming from God when, in actual fact, it is coming from them. You take this to be evidence not in favor of God but evidence against God. You take this as yet another piece of confirmation that when these believers speak of “God” they are speaking about a perception that exists in their minds, a perception that is fed through their ongoing willingness to mentally submit to their belief and to the doctrines included in this belief. You reckon, and rightly so, that if God exists outside of the minds of these believers, there would be uniformity among their perceptions of him. Since there is not, you can only surmise that the God they refer to does not exist outside of their minds but rather is to be found in each believer’s individual psychological manifestations. If this were true (and the evidence seems to suggest that it is), there would be discord rather than harmony among the believers. And, of course, this is exactly what you have seen in your observations. The one mind of a true God is not being reflected here. What is being reflected here are the millions of human minds that have reached independent conclusions about a common perception of God—the biblical God, in this case.

You try explaining this to one of your Christian friends and he just laughs at what he perceives to be your stunning naivety. With his usual condescension, he regurgitates a concept he’s famous for: “God is the standard,” he says. “All things come from him.”

You can’t help but feel that he didn’t quite hear what you said, or, if he did, he simply refused to consider it, or even acknowledge it. You sigh and politely ask him to suspend his patented answers for a moment and actually hear you out. How, you ask, can any “standard” flow from an entity who is unverified? Does not the idea of a “standard” imply that the author is solid, sound, fixed, certain, valid, and thoroughly verifiable? How can a figment of the imagination be a standard for anything?
“God is not a figment of the imagination,” he says.

“Isn’t he?” you reply. “You can’t see him, can’t hear him, can’t touch him, can’t feel him, and can’t know for a certainty beyond the parameters of your own faith that he exists at all. He is therefore unproven. Any ‘standard’ attributed to this God must, by default, be just as unproven. Such a standard is therefore unsound. And an unsound standard is a paradoxical impossibility. A standard is a standard precisely because it is fixed, set in stone, erected with certainty for everyone to see.” You then point out that faith isn’t enough to recognize a standard, because the differing faiths of different believers can account for differing standards. This makes perfect sense to you. Why and how it is lost on him you cannot fathom. Or maybe you can.

“I’m content to remain in faith,” he says, “regardless of what I cannot logically explain.”
You concede that he is most welcome to do so. However, he has lost any credibility he had in this discussion. You don’t tell him that, though. It would be rude. You, on the other hand, are not content to remain in faith, or even to take up faith at all. You will content yourself only with answers, not speculations; certainties, not assumptions; evidence, not gut feelings; and truth, not religious dogma.
Your Christian friend seems to pity you. You remind him that pity is often a two-way street.
Thus, your journey continues, and therein lays the adventure…