Filling holes with god

I’ve oscillated between deism and atheism for a while now, not sure which way to swing on the god issue. My main reason for leaning towards deism is the whole “how did the universe begin” question. Being just recently out of Christianity, the idea of a deity starting it all is very familiar to me. I no longer believe there is any kind of deity that directs, affects, or intervenes in the affairs of the universe, but I COULD accept that one got things started before walking away and letting things go.

I was reading Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion recently in which he talks about the bad habit some people have of shoving god into any question or problem they don’t have an answer to. Just because the answer is currently unknown doesn’t mean we won’t one day find one. Even to “how did the universe begin?”

“There is another form of temptation, even more fraught with danger. This is the disease of curiosity. It is this which drives us to try and discover the secrets of nature, those secrets which are beyond our understanding, which can avail us nothing and which man should not wish to learn.”  -“quote” from St. Augustine’s “Confessions”*

This quote from Augustine really bothered me when I first read it in The God Delusion. It’s that kind of thinking that holds us back from understanding our world. Fortunately I can’t think of anyone of my religious friends, family or acquaintances who would agree with him, but it sounds to me like “the god of the gaps” taken to the extreme. I realize it is extreme and that your average religious person would disagree with his sentiments, but now I see how stunting it is to use “god” as a gap-filler instead of acknowledging there is currently no known answer and searching for one.

I am now an atheist. Not because I “know” there is no god (because I don’t), but because I do not see how a deity fits in my life aside from filling gaps.

*I wanted to read St. Augustine’s quote in its original context to see if its meaning changed, but I discovered it’s less of a quote and more of a summary of the chapter.  Having read the chapter here, I think the “quote” still sums up the general idea.

“I’ve been where you are…..”

I was ranting to my brother tonight about religious people who say “Oh yes, I had questions like yours a few years ago, but I finally came to the point where I just had to say “God, I’m believing in you.  I know you’ll show me the truth.” and ever since then I’ve just KNOWN he’s real.”  Or something similar to that.  The other night I was chatting with an acquaintance and my unbelief came up.  He had wanted me to pray about playing violin on a worship team he was organizing for some event.  I said I wasn’t the kind of person he’d want on the team, so naturally he wanted to know why and I told him.  After sharing a few of the questions that lead me to where I am today in my current state of uncertainty and unbelief, he said something like the above-mentioned annoying anecdote.  To be fair, he was very nice about everything and the conversation remained congenial.

On Facebook, a friend posted a status about his recent deconversion, and I noticed a comment someone left that ran along the same lines as that of my acquaintance.  Again, the comment was far from harsh or condemning, just an “I’ve been where you are, but I still believe.”

I am not going to argue that the believers who say they’ve been where I am and have questioned the things I question are lying or mistaken.  I cannot say that they haven’t questioned things like I am.  It offends me when Christians claim I never really believed, because I know for almost my entire life I DID believe completely and passionately and based my identity in my belief in God and my faith in the Bible.  I have no intention of doing that in return.  The thing that bothers me is the suggestion or implication that I should stifle my questions, turn to this god I am not sure even exists and say “God, I have these questions, but I’m going to put them aside now and believe that you are real.”

Perhaps I am just too far gone now.

For twenty-odd years I believed whole-heartedly that the God of Abraham was real and good and that the Bible was absolute truth and infallible.  I believed Christianity was the one true religion.  That therein lay truth and any who seek for truth would eventually find their way there and to God.  I believed it unquestioningly.  But no more.

I owe it to myself to find answers to my questions.

Your tragedy. My blessing.

I woke up early this morning and wasn’t ready to get out of bed yet, so I lay there listening to a podcast from A Christian and an Atheist (podcast #101 for any who are interested in checking it out).  The title to the podcast is The Problem of Suffering.  For all those who are not interested in listening to it, it’s safe for you to assume the question under discussion is “how can an all-loving and all-powerful god allow so much suffering?”

Only half listening, my mind meandered through different “happy” stories I’ve heard in which God gets the credit for making everything work out.  But what if you don’t know the whole story?

A Christian couple has tried for years to have a baby.  You know the story.  Prayer, tests, more prayer, more tests, and no baby.  It’s just not going to happen.  Finally, having given up all hope of having their own biological child, they decide to adopt.  At the same time, a pregnant woman has decided she doesn’t want her child but she’s too far along to abort it, so she decides to give the child up for adoption.  The Christian couple are the happy recipients of this baby, and obviously God worked it all out.  Right?  Right?

What the Christian couple doesn’t know is that while they’re praising God for being so good to them and blessing them with this “unwanted” little girl, the “unwanted” child’s father (a Christian and a good friend of mine) had very much wanted her.  His girlfriend left him because he didn’t want the abortion.  When she found she was too far along to have the abortion, she never told him.  Never gave him the chance to keep his baby and raise her himself like he’d always wanted to.  Instead, she let him believe she went ahead with the abortion, and then adopted the little girl out to the Christian couple.

Two and a half years after his daughter was born, my friend’s ex emailed him to say she’d had the baby and given her up for adoption.  Attached were a couple of pictures of a smiling blonde little girl.

If God really did bless that Christian couple with the daughter they have been loving and raising all these years, then how does my friend’s loss and heartbreak fit in?  He loved God too, after all.  Did God just not love him as much as the other couple?  Was he not deemed worthy enough to raise his own daughter?  And how many other “blessings from God” do people receive without looking deeper to see whose tragedy they are being blessed by?

(Note: This story was told with my friend’s permission)