Most atheists I’ve talked to, when sharing the reasons they have for not believing in god, refer to god in Christian terms. The basic breakdown is that, since Christian explanations for god make no sense, god makes no sense. The Christian concepts of Heaven and Hell, Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, the Rapture, etc. don’t hold logical or scientific water, and are easy to disbelieve for the analytical mind.
More specifically, many atheists will say something to the effect that a loving god wouldn’t let all the terrible things that go on in the world happen. He wouldn’t let babies die and people get raped, or for genocide to be committed or for dictators to rule, etc. Therefore, god can’t exist.
One almost never hears of the atheist that states their disbelief in god in a way that is completely separate from the realm of Christian thought. Christian concepts about god and about morality and life in general are so thoroughly interwoven into our social and cultural psyche that they are embedded into our minds from birth, simply by being completely surrounded by such thought. It’s the old analogy of the fish that does not recognize the water because it has always been immersed in it. We simply don’t think objectively about it.
Most people, if you ask them to describe what they think god thinks and is, they describe a judgmental, jealous, insecure overlord that is ready to punish us if we do, say, believe in, or disbelieve in any number of things. He’ll send us to Hell for these infractions, even though he loves us.
On the other hand is the New Age front. It’s a kaleidoscope of beliefs, most of which come across as blatantly ludicrous. When one hears people talking about reptile people, alien DNA reconstruction, people ascending, faeries, crystals, Atlantis, and the cornucopia of other stuff, it’s easy to see why many would balk. When your options for explanations of god are reduced to either rigid traditional beliefs or wacky New Age ones, it’s not unreasonable to want to just say “Screw it, it’s all too ridiculous. None of it is real.”
Not to mention the con artists and shysters that come along in the form of televangelists, faith healers, and every kind of therapy imaginable. It seems that the realm of spiritual belief has been hijacked by scheming moneygrubbers.
What you don’t hear much of is the idea that there may simply be a nonphysical consciousness that exists, yet does not interfere, judge, or otherwise generally involve itself in our lives. The possibility that it exists simply as an observer and possibly a creator. Many of the quantum sciences seem to point in this direction, where our own thoughts and emotions affect everything around us and that there is an overall interconnectedness, but there’s no dogma in it. No judgment, no sin, nothing we have to say, do or believe in. No punishment. Simply cause and effect, but with an observer.
Many mathematicians come upon the idea that everything was created by some kind of intelligence, simply by mathematically deducing that the odds for it all to be chance are almost impossibly slim. Mix this with the discoveries of string theory, quantum mechanics, chaos theory, holographic theory, etc., and picture forms of something formless, yet aware. Some kind of all-permeating energy and consciousness seems to be the energetic glue that holds everything together.
However, the realms of traditional science and traditional religion are like quarrelsome lovers who argue opposite sides of irrelevant arguments. They both have their limited views of how things are, and they find it extremely difficult to extricate themselves from their own self-imposed dogma to take a few steps back and look at the whole.
Maybe there is some kind of consciousness. Maybe it even loves us. However, it is up to us to figure out how to deal with life and each other, even if it means destroying ourselves. It’s all up to us.
The band Rush, who paraphrased Shakespeare, put it well:
“All the world’s indeed a stage and we are merely players,
performers and portrayers.
Each, another’s audience outside the gilded cage.”
If there is such an all-permeating consciousness, there would be no need for it to judge or set rules about what we say, do, think, feel, or believe. How could it possibly be affected or threatened by anything we do? It would be ridiculous for it to judge, punish, or even praise what we do. Perhaps it’s just watching, waiting to see what we’ll come up with next. Maybe one day we’ll grow up enough to even communicate with it somehow. And wouldn’t that be interesting?
© 2015 William Suphan
- From Christian to Atheist
- How I Lost My Spirit and Gained My Self