August 28, 2004

The whole "God" thing.

Before I get started in earnest on this post, I need to put a few caveats out there. As many of you know, I am an atheist. This entry will go into a lot of the reasons why I'm an atheist. These are merely my opinions and observations in regards to religion in general. I'm not putting them out here in order to try to make someone doubt their own belief's, or to try to convert anyone to atheism. Some of the statement's that I make will no doubt cause some people to become incensed or offended, but is not my intention to do so deliberately. I'm merely attempting to provide a context for some irreverance that I have displayed in the past, and will likely display in the future.

Religion is a very touchy subject with most people, so I'll place my thoughts in the extended entry. If you feel like you might be offended, please feel free to check out the links over on the sidebar. Good stuff over there.

A Little Backstory.

I wasn't born a athiest, as you might have guessed. I have progressed into my point of view over the first 25 years or so of my life. In my early years, I was a Baptist. Sunday school, the whole bit. I didn't have a problem with going to church, and generally enjoyed the company of the other kids. The lessons that they taught were also good ones. The Ten Commandment's, The Golden Rule, not bad things at all. Then we moved.

After we finally got settled in Chattanooga, TN, (Moved from Murfreesboro, TN) my family found another church to go to. The new place decided that I needed to be baptised, despite the fact that the church in my previous town had already done that. This was my first indicator that something about this whole "religion" thing wasn't quite right. I went through with the second baptism without any complaint though, what can I say? I was seven or eight at the time. (My memory is a little fuzzy about my exact age, but I was pretty young.) As far as I recall, the reasoning for my second "dunking" was something on the order of "the first one didn't count". Pretty specious if you ask me.

I know that we didn't go to that church for very long, and my parent's never decided on another place for us to go worship. The subject never really came up around the house as to why, but it didn't matter to me at the time. I had my Sunday morning's and my Wednesday night's to play. Happy kid, I was.

Skip forward to my teen years. I was invited to go to service by one of my friends at school. It must've been my Junior year, as I recall that I was going through my "rebellious phase". (Torn jeans, Biker boots, and generally being a surly teenager.) My friend reassured me that I would be accepted there withoput a problem. I went to the service, and I can honestly admit that I felt "something". That place was just full of energy, but it didn't last. That experience scared me a bit. I'd never felt that effect before, but shortly after that I went to my first Rock concert, and recognized the feeling immediately. I never went back to that church.

For years I described myself as an Agnostic. defines agnostic as:
1. One who believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a God.
2. One who is skeptical about the existence of God but does not profess true atheism.

Number 2 suited me the best. I was skeptical, but not ready to "take the plunge". I researched around. Reread the Bible. Read the Necronomicon. Hung out with Wiccans. Looked at history. Just generally looked into the whole aspect of religion's in general. I found that everything pointed to a decided non-existence of a supreme diety. I decided that I should go ahead and describe myself as an Athiest. For a short time, I described myself as a Secular Humanist, but that didn't ring true for me. It seemed way too pretentious, so I went back to just calling myself an atheist.

My Understanding of the Nature of God.

It is my belief that God is a creation of man. I came to this conclusion after looking at the historic progression of religion's in general. Hearken back to the Greeks/Romans, if you will. The differing God's outlined in their mythology have something decidely pointed about their stories. Each either provides an explanation for something that they didn't understand (Zues throwing lightning, Aphrodite guiding Love), or supported them in some endeavor that they deemed important (Ares presiding over War, Hermes over athletic ability). Hmmn, I see a pattern forming here.

It's arguable that Judaism was the first major religioun to posit that there was only One God. Theirs was a particularly Harsh God, but there it was anyway. They were also one of the first to eschew "Graven Images". There were symbols that were holy to them (The Swastika, the Star of David), but there was no particular Image of their God. He was everywhere and nowhere. He was always watching. What a good way to control your citizen's congregation. Do this, or God will strike you down. The best example of this that springs to mind is the whole concept of not eating pork. We now know that eating undercooked meat can cause Trichinosis. The heads of the church opbserved the symptoms of eating this animal, (especially if it wasn't prepared right) and took steps to ensure that their people did not succomb to the effects that it has. So they declared that swine was unclean in the eyes of God, thereby forbidding anyone from eating it. The populace saw that after this declaration was made, the instances of people getting sick dropped. Therefore God was right. Nothing better than a real result to get your congregation to truly "believe". Also there is the fact that if you broke a Jewish law (and got caught at it), you would be excommunicated at best, or stoned to death at worst. These people weren't playing around.

Next up, there was this "groovy Jew" called Jesus that decided that all this killing and banishing wasn't good for folks, decided to tell people about it, and he made a big impact on people. He was killed by the people that didn't think that his idea's were allright, and just a few short centuries later, the Catholic church came to power. The people that started the church decided that Jesus' story would make a fine parable. Thus began the idea of "absolution". Jesus died for your sins, so that you could be forgiven. But you've got to talk to apriest about what you've done, and atone for your sins. Catholicism caught on in a big way.

NJext came the Protestants, who thought that the mere act of allowing Jesus into your life to atone for your sins, was a lot better than actually having to tell other people what you'd done and then do a penance. Much simpler process. Not to mention the fact that they are focused more on the "son" and the "Holy Ghost", than they are on the "Mother of Christ" Mary. This eventually became a big point of contention between the two septs, and eventually led to out and out war in Ireland.

Muhammed, thaought that Jesus had the right idea with his whole "Be excellent to each other" theology, and spun off his own idea's. They were roughly an amalgam of the extremes of the "Harsh God" of Judaism, and the "Groovy God" of "Christianity". Unfortunately, the basic idea's of the original religion did the same thing as what happenned with Christian's. They came to blows over the difference in interpretations of the original writing. Thus we have Shiite's killing Sunni's, in our modern arena.

It is my opinion that God is an abstract. A way to control your populace. Merely an idea.

The Bible

to be continued...

Posted by Johnny - Oh at August 28, 2004 10:21 PM

Oh, well-put. Who said, "I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"? Ben Franklin?

My personal favourite when fencing questions from kids at a Catholic school was to say that some people think God is like electricity. You can see it only through the things it does.

BTW, I'm truly stunned that there are treatment programs for homosexuals. I'd never heard of such a thing!

Posted by: Sally at August 29, 2004 10:17 AM

I'm not saying anything yet... just waiting to see where you're going with it. Mostly I'm curious to see how you went from "probably not a god" to "definitely not a god".

That was a particularly tough leap for me.

Posted by: Harvey at August 29, 2004 03:43 PM

Correction. That quote was attributed to Voltaire. Apparently. If you can believe a Frenchman defending even a concept...

Posted by: Sally at August 29, 2004 04:01 PM

I certainly don't have a problem with the analysis i see so far, and look forward to the rest. As tempting as it is to chime in on some of the specifics, i'll leave part I with this:

Re: greeks&romans Each either provides an explanation for something that they didn't understand, or supported them in some endeavor that they deemed important. Hmmn, I see a pattern forming here.

It occurs to me that you're writing this post is following the very same pattern... in other words, our notions of God - or Not-god, are born out of a very human need to understand and impact the world around us.

Posted by: Marty at August 29, 2004 04:25 PM

Yeah Sally! What you -erm- Volataire said. :^) Make sure you read Marty's site, as he keeps an excellent track of what's going on in the whole homosexual arena. Good stuff.

Cool Harvey. You may have to wait awhile, because I'm not sure how many more posts this is going to take. I'll certainly cover the area requested.

Marty. "Understand and impact the world around us" is a very good way of saying it. Thanks for hanging back on your point to point analysis. I'm interested in hearing it, but I haven't gotten all this out of me yet, and I'd hate to go off on a debate about specifics when the whole picture hasn't been painted.

BTW, I linked through to your Dad's site, and I must say that if his services and ministry are anything like how he writes his site, he must be one heck of a preacher.

More to come, when I get it typed.

Posted by: Johnny - Oh at August 29, 2004 08:46 PM

Phil F Jackson is a comment spammer.

Just sayin'

Posted by: Harvey at August 30, 2004 11:48 AM

I am probably, by your definition, agnostic. I never had a religious upbringing and find it difficult to believe in God as anything more than a concept (I dislike organised religion as a whole as I detest hypocracy, and no I am not prepared to debate this with a "believer" as I have tried this before - please bear in mind this is a personal opinion and not likely to be swayed with anything short of a gun). I think that there is always a point in your life where you question any kind of faith and the whole "Is there a God?" thing and how you come through it defines how you look at religion as a whole. Fairly simple I would have thought. You have to prove to me God exists in the same way as I would have to prove he doesn't and at this point we're at an impass because neither thing can be shown absolutely.

The other thing is, does religion necessarily equal God and vice versa?

Posted by: Alex at August 31, 2004 04:49 PM

Well, if you read my site, you pretty well know where I fall in the categories, but I LOVE what you're doing here.

I really enjoy reading and listening to other's points of view regarding God, religion and such. I have a few friends that are Wicin (sorry about the spelling) one is even a high priestess. I have friends that are athiests and agnostics. We have some of the best conversations.

I hate when people close their minds to ideals different than theirs. I'm not saying you'll change my mind on this subject, but I do so love reading and learning how you came to you belief (or disbelief as it were).

Thanks for putting this out there. I really look forward to seeing where it takes you.

Posted by: Tammi at September 1, 2004 10:42 AM
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