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.

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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)

Who get’s the credit?

A couple of weeks ago the café I was working at closed shop, so my boss and I have been job hunting.  Yesterday morning she had an interview at a local coffee shop but found the shifts won’t work for her, so she mentioned me to the shop owner and gave me a glowing reference, and after leaving the interview she called me and said I needed to get my résumé in ASAP.  Around noon yesterday I was able to go in and talk to the owner who gave me an interview and I got hired right away!  And it was all thanks to my former boss.

Sounds pretty straight-forward, right?

I was thinking last night about how I would have viewed the above-mentioned events a couple of years ago.  When the café closed, “obviously God has something else in mind for me.”  And when I got the job after my boss sent me up with my résumé, “God just works things out so well!”  My boss’s kindness in suggesting me for the job would be overshadowed by whatever I thought God was planning for me, even though my boss is OBVIOUSLY a part of the event and God has to be fit in there somewhere…wherever I can make him fit….

It’s just nice now to be able to give credit where credit is due.  God, if you want some credit too, you have to do more than try to piggyback on my boss’s kindness.

God said it. I believe it. That settles it.

I am a rabbit-trail kind of person both in the literal and figurative sense of the term.  Give me the choice between a well-worn path in the woods and some narrow little animal trail that juts off into the brush, and I will go for the little one every time.

Mental and conversational rabbit-trails are also a lot of fun to follow.  Like many other students I’m sure, I had Facebook open while trying to study math today and I saw someone posted a very long devotional thingy on the wall of a group I’m a part of.  Yes, a Christian group…mostly for teens I think.  The guy who runs it was in youth group a few years ago when I was one of the youth leaders which is why he added me to the group.  Anyway, the guy who posted on the group’s wall this afternoon was obviously not one of the younger teens I usually noticed leaving messages.  So I snooped his profile.  I DO love open profiles!  LOL!  Reading through his favourite quotes, I found one that stood out to me as being incongruent with Christianity in general.

“What can’t be tested can’t be trusted.” -John Burns

I’m not an expert on…well…anything, let alone religion and testing and proof and stuff…but I really can’t see how one can like or believe a quote like that and still have faith.  Like my big brother continually tells me every time I look for proof that God is real or Christianity is right or hell exists as a place of eternal torment, “It’s belief because there is no proof.  If there was proof, it wouldn’t be belief.  It’d be fact.”  Not to say that belief or faith are bad, they just seem incompatible with only trusting what can be tested.  Especially in regards to Christianity’s version of God, I remember being told that while God tolerated being tested and people’s requests/demands of proof, he didn’t like it.  Sure God proved himself to Gideon and Thomas,  but Jesus himself told Thomas (after giving him the proof he asked for) “Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.”  Therefore it was always better to just accept the things of God unquestioningly.

When “God said it.  I believe it.  That settles it.” seems to be the general mentality of Christians, how can anything be tested?

I guess that’s why this quote on the profile of a person who appears to be a very devout Christian confuses me.

“Isn’t it a little suspicious……..”

I started reading Evolving in Monkey Town the other day and was excited this afternoon to discover that Evans asks many of the same questions as I do.  I’m not quite half-way through the book so I don’t know if she gives any answers, but there is something affirming about finding someone else who wonders/wondered about the same things.

“Isn’t it a little suspicious that the only true religion is the one with which we happen to grow up?” -Rachel Held Evans

One of the first questions I began asking over a year ago when I finally allowed myself TO question things was “How can we Christians be so sure that we are right and everyone else is wrong?  How can we be absolutely positive that all the people around the world who don’t believe the same as us will spend eternity in hell for their mistakenness?”  I’ve wondered this for the last 10 years or so but, because I blindly accepted the things I grew up hearing from my parents and sunday school teachers and pastors, I kept shoving that question to the back of my mind hoping it would eventually go away.  But it hasn’t.

Why was I a Christian?  Really, I almost didn’t have a choice.  I was born in Canada in the 80’s to a young Christian couple whose parents and grandparents were also Christians.  I was raised in the church and grew up hearing all the Bible stories both at home and at Sunday School.  When I was about 3 I remember waking up in the middle of the night.  It was dark and I was alone and a little scared.  I don’t remember WHY I thought to do this (perhaps the bits about “Jesus is always with you and will protect you” popped into my mind.  I don’t know.) but I remember sitting up in bed and asking Jesus into my heart.

Evans talks in her book about how a person’s religion is at least influenced if not determined by when they are born and where they are raised.  Of course anyone can change their beliefs at any time, but many if not most people don’t.  And for the majority of the world past, present, and future who do not believe or have not heard that the creator of the universe came to earth in a human body, died on our behalf to save us from sin, rose from the dead three days later and now demands that we “believe in” him or else spend eternity in torment, the “gospel” (aka “good news”) is about the worst news they could ever receive.

I honestly find it incredibly difficult to believe that God can both love every human he has created AND condemn the majority of those loved creations to an eternity of torture.  I can’t think of any situation in which I could send someone I love to a place of torture for a month, let alone eternity.  And I can’t think of anyone I could in good conscience sentence to an eternity in hell.  Does that make me more loving than the God of the Bible?  Because seriously, if the Bible is telling the truth about who goes to heaven and who goes to hell, most of the world’s people are going to hell simply because they were born in the wrong part of the world at the wrong time.  If he really truly loves them, he could do something about that.  He SHOULD do something about it.

The Almighty Schizophrenic?

When I was a kid, I loved reading the Old Testament.  It had more stories.  More action.  The book of Judges in particular was one of my favourites because of its collection of short stories about bloody battles, daring escapes, and intrigue.  As much as I loved my Bible and loved my god–that is, to the point of constantly trying to change myself into someone more “pleasing” to both–some of the things God commanded (particularly in the Old Testament) never sat well with me.  For example, he told the Jews, who were in the process of invading their “promised land” according to God’s instructions, to kill all the men, women, and children of a particular nation.  When giving Moses the law, many infractions were punishable by death.  Somehow this same violent God inspires the prophet Jonah to describe him as being “slow to anger and abounding in love.”

King David spent many many hours studying God’s laws and commands, and frequently went into raptures about God’s love and compassion and kindness.

Can this truly be the same God?  Is he schizophrenic?  Undecided?  Experimenting?  Misrepresented?

Darin Hufford suggests he is misunderstood.  I suppose with the vast number of denominations and religions that are out there, one really must assume that if God DOES exist, he is grossly misunderstood.  But who is right about him?  Or the closest to right?  I imagine each religious group out there would raise their hand and claim THEY are the closest to the truth.  Surprise surprise.  After all, that’s why they believe what they believe, is it not?  I doubt anyone goes searching for a lie to believe in.

How can we find out if God exists?  And if he does, how can we go about finding the real him/her instead of the version on display in the windows of all the world’s religions?  How can we find out what he says about himself?  “Maybe the actual God…doesn’t endorse The God-Of-The-Bible.” –Frank Schaeffer