Tuesday, January 30, 2007

If You Seek Out God, You Will Find Him

Anon, in one of his comments, has made a request that theists, Christians in my experience, often make, that being that I should, in essence, 'Give [his] God a chance.' Spend some time in church, read the Bible, see where it leads. I have noted that he is wrong in his assumption that I haven't read the Bible, the Gnostic Gospels, or Aquinas, but I haven't gone into what spiritual journey or lack thereof led to my atheism.

Because I deny that it necessary or wise to seek out and "try on" irrational beliefs. I don't think it is necessary to learn in depth about Christianity or any other religion in order to reject them, nor do I think it is necessary to go through any kind of spiritual journey before rejecting spiritualism and religion. It is not necessary to entertain irrational beliefs in order to reject them, plain and simple.

When one makes a claim, it is not the responsibility of others to disprove that claim, but rather the responsibility of the one making it to provide evidence in support of his or her claim. If the claim is irrational, unlikely, or extraordinary and sufficient evidence supporting the claim is not forthcoming, we can safely dismiss the claim without further examination. As such, when the theist makes the truth claim, "A God or god(s) exist," we can simply ask for evidence of such. When evidence is not forthcoming, no further investigation is necessary. We do not need to falsify every unfounded assertion made to us; we can simply discount the ones lacking sufficient evidence.

I don't need to read the Bible "cover to cover" in order to reject the claims of Christianity. The lack of support for those claims is enough. I don't need to seek God out before rejecting His existence any more than I need to seek out Bigfoot, leprechauns, or magic fairies before rejecting their existence. I don't need to read the works of eminent Bigfootologists or leprechaunologists or fairyologists before I reject them, nor do I need to attend a meeting of believers in those things and talk to them before I reject them either. The evidence stands on its own, and it is lacking and does not warrant further investigation. And I certainly don't need to be "open" to the idea of Bigfoot, leprechauns, and fairies before rejecting their existence. I only need be open to claims that have sufficient supporting evidence to warrant further examination.

That is not to say that there is no value in studying religion and religious people. While the supernatural bases of religions do not exist, the religions themselves and believers of those religions do, and there is value in understanding the beliefs of others in order to better understand the world -- the real world -- in which we live. But it is not necessary to be open to the claims of these religions in order to study them.

I once had a girlfriend who was a Norse neo-Pagan, meaning she believed in the Norse gods. (She apparently believed that all gods exist but the Norse ones were the ones she chose to worship). I, of course, found her religion no more or less likely than any other, which is to say not likely at all. But, when I got interested in studying Christianity in research for a writing project I was working on, she got upset. She'd had a bad experience with Christianity both during her upbringing and also suffering discrimination of her pagan beliefs from Christians in her adult life, and was profoundly worried that, by studying Christianity, I might become a Christian. I, of course, did not. My extensive studies of Christianity did not turn me into a Christian any more than learning about neo-paganism from her made me into a neo-Pagan.

Why not? Because neither one was likely to be true. Neither one had sufficient evidence of the truth of its claims for me to seriously consider accepting it. By hanging out in Church I might get an enjoyable sense of community and belonging, and by reading the Bible I may get a sense of wonder at the stories that have survived down all these centuries, but I don't accept truth claims on the basis of whether the claim makes me feel good or not. I accept truth claims on the basis of whether the evidence supporting them is sufficient to demonstrate that the claim is likely true. And all supernatural claims fail that test.


At 6:25 PM, Blogger R. Paul Wiegand said...

You may not believe in neo-pagan Norse Gods or leprechauns, Mark ... but they believe in you.

Bigfoot doesn't know applebutter from crap, though.

That's what I heard, anyway (I don't have my Bartlett's Bigfootology commentary handy.)

At 8:23 AM, Blogger mooglar said...

I told you to make sure you always have your Bartlett's Bigfootology Commentary on you! Jeesh.

Did you know it's because Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) don't know apple butter from crap that they're endangered? Apparently, eating crap can make you sick. Who knew?

At 11:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it harder to believe that you had a girlfriend than it is to believe that she was a Norse Pagan.


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