HOW AN ATHEIST FOUND GOD: My Response

I just finished an interesting post: How an Atheist Found God. You can read the full post by following the link. It’s well-written and while I was reading it I was constructing a comment but after it reached the 400 word mark or so, I realized that it was too darn big and needed to be a separate post.

Ta da! Here it is.

I had a few questions when reading the article. The first one that popped into my head was how this person figured out which God was real? There are literally thousands. Did they naturally choose the one most prominent in their culture?

“And I would methodically review five objective reasons why I believed God existed. So my “faith” in God did not rest on feelings, but on facts, on reasons.”

Up to this point I didn’t see any objective reasons in your post to believe. You talked about feeling love and how you wanted to believe because of your friend, but there was nothing objective about those reasons. The only thing remotely objective was the ‘chemical properties of water and the earth’s position to the sun’ thing, although I don’t understand why it couldn’t be. There are billions of dead planets out there that aren’t close enough to the sun or are too far away to have life. Did this deity really create a universe that is 99% hostile to life? I mean space itself which is the largest chunk of real estate in the universe is a cold, irradiated vacuum.

One day, my schedule, deadlines, and obligations were crawling up my neck and tightening their hold. You know that feeling when you’re so overwhelmed, you don’t know what to do first?

So I got out a piece of paper and pen, and asked God: “Just tell me what you want me to do, and I’ll do it.” I was fully prepared for shouldering 100% responsibility, and was basically asking God to just set the priorities, tell me how to approach it all, and I would.

I then opened my Bible and immediately read where Jesus was talking with a man who was blind. Jesus was asking him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

I read it again. Jesus asked: “What do you want me to do for you?” Rather amazed, I picked up my pen and began writing an entirely different list…to God. This, I have found, is characteristic of God. Reminding us that he is there. That he cares, and he’s capable.

So your evidence consists of opening a book and randomly picking out a passage and then reading it and concluding that in some way, that passage was meant to be read by you. That God directed you to read it so that you’d have an easier day.

I think we should drop off a million more bibles to the starving people of the world who have distended stomachs. Maybe they could find a passage that will feed them.

Honestly, I could do this with nearly any book. For example, I have a slight headache right now so I opened the book ‘Revival’ by Stephen King, which just happens to be sitting on my desk. I flipped to a random page and it reads:

“In the early-morning hours of October third, shortly before the Tulsa State fair shut up shop for another year, I suffered another aftereffect of the brain-blast Jacobs had given me’. Page 170.

No kidding. That’s the passage I read. The great Stephen King knew I was suffering a headache (which he lovingly referred to as a ‘brain-blast’) and I knew it was something I was just going to have to cope with on my own. But I wasn’t alone. I could draw strength from the great and powerful King. He clearly understood what I was going through.

It was Christmas break, and I was now visiting my parents. One evening, I was alone and thinking through a long list of friends. I was wondering who I could talk into moving to California with me to be roommates. One person named Christy, came to mind, who had already graduated and settled in a job in Iowa. I thought she’d be the perfect roommate, but I hadn’t talked to her in several months. Just 30 minutes later, at my parents home, Christy calls me on the phone.

Her first sentence was, “I heard you are taking a job with this Christian organization.” I was floored because I had only told one friend, in Ohio.

Not sure what is so ‘flooring’ about this experience. The person you told, told someone else and they told Christy, who just happened to be in your list of friends you had been thinking about.

In terms of explanations about life–why we’re here, what the purpose is, what is important in life, what to value or strive for–God has better answers than anything I’ve ever read anywhere. I have studied multiple philosophies and religions and other life approaches. What I read in the Bible, what I see from God’s perspective, all the pieces of the puzzle fit.

I find it strange when people say that ‘we were magically popped into existence’ is the best explanation. I’m glad that you found a philosophy that makes you happy though.

The intimacy with God is deeper than intimacy with any human being. I say that married, with two children, and tons of very close friends. His love is perfect. He’s incredibly gracious.

Well yes…because you’re being intimate with yourself. You’re exploring your own thoughts and emotions through the lens of faith.

I hope your wife is religious as well. I know if I read that my wife had me pegged as second to an invisible being, I’d be a tad upset.

Just a tad, mind you.

I’m not sure any of it is believable to you, but I’ve been as honest as I know how to be.

You’re right. I don’t find it convincing and I want to note once again that the rest of your post did not contain any more objective evidence than the first part. But your honesty was appreciated and I hope the religion thing keeps working for you and that you continue to lead a happy, healthy and fulfilling life.

Best wishes and thank you for writing your blog post. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Answering an Interesting Comment

Odin: As fictional as other Gods

Odin: As fictional as other Gods

On my last post (Religion: Historical Failure?) I had an interesting exchange with a reader. You can read the full exchange in the comment section, but I wanted to address a few points in a separate blog post because I feel as though these are commonly held beliefs and I’ve heard them enough to know that many people use these particular ideas as ‘proof’ that Jesus existed and was the Son of God.

He/she (from this point forward I will address the reader as ‘he’ for the sake of ease) initially said:

Take a look at Jesus- He came to this earth and revealed Himself as the Son of God to mankind. Not everyone believed, as a matter of fact, most sought to kill Him.

Let’s say that Jesus did live and was a real person. If he claimed to be the son of God, that isn’t nearly enough evidence to conclude he was the son of God. Hell, I could claim to be the son of God. I’m fairly certain people aren’t going to believe me. Jesus also lived in a time when there were multiple Messiah’s – why not believe them all since it seems you’re only requirement to believe is for someone to claim they’re the son of God?

Who are these ‘most people’? Jesus supposedly lived in a small corner of the world. Only a very small percentage of people living at that time would have even been aware of his existence.

You’d think an all-powerful deity would come up with a better plan, especially since its main requirement is to believe in Jesus, wouldn’t you?

God is a spirit, He’s immaterial. You have a spirit, you also have a mind – neither of which you can see, but you know you possess.

I’m not sure I have a spirit and I certainly don’t know I do. People can’t even seem to give me a concrete description or definition for what a spirit is and what it’s function would be. I also have a brain, which I very much could see using modern technology. Science is very well acquainted with the brain.

You are 100% correct, I am certain & have concluded that Christ Jesus existed, and is who He claims to be, which is why I have chosen to make Him my Lord & Savior. notice – that excludes everyone /everything else.

Okay. There are probably times in my life I wish I could be so gullible and just believe people like Jesus who say they are deities.

Okay, honestly I don’t wish that.

I’m not entirely sure how you came up with this conclusion, but I doubt it had to do with looking at the evidence. I understand believing might bring you peace of mind, but that doesn’t make your God any more believable than the thousands of other Gods that bring people peace of mind every day.

A God who declares the end from the beginning absolutely knows which is why the provision for redemption and restoration were already done. Long before I knew I needed a savior/redeemer, I was provided with one.

In the original post I pointed out how Native Americans would have known nothing about Jesus. In fact, most of the world would have never heard of the man, even if he had existed. Also, where was this God for the billions of years previous to humanity and the majority of the time humanity existed pre-Jesus?

Was He just waiting for his moment to arrive? Was he admiring His work, as most people died of curable diseases or were eaten by predators?

Mind controls matter. Your brain is a material structure that is changed by your thoughts, whether in a positive or negative way. your brain does not control your thoughts, your thoughts control your brain, impacting your very spirit, soul, and body. – see: epigenetics.

Yes, my brain is a material structure, which is why I know it exists. It is where my thoughts come from. Epigenetics is the study of how environmental factors can turn on or off certain genes and affects the way cells read genes. I’m not a scientist, but that sounds like they’re studying real and material substances. They’re not talking about an invisible, indefinable substance called a spirit.

Every single person knows that God exists. He has given each and every one of us an intuitive knowledge of Himself. His creation, His Word- both the written word and Jesus the living Word.

No matter how many times believers insist that I know their God exists, it doesn’t make it true. I know no such thing and I think it doesn’t exist and has never existed.

Besides, if we have this intuitive knowledge, it sure doesn’t show. I mean, there are thousands of different Gods so that means most people came to a different conclusion than you did. Also, even within Christianity, they can’t agree on what their God wants, how it functions or how to interpret it’s book correctly.

You have chosen to depart from what God has laid in your heart and given yourself over to a reprobate mind. You have hardened yourself and denied what’s in your heart, just going by the world and the incoherence of your own logic.

You’re trying to convince yourself and others apart from the truth you know at a heart level, and you will go so far in the other direction that God will give you up to the desires of your heart [which is where you’re currently at].

God won’t force things on you and if you continue to harden yourself to the point of no return, you cannot blame God for not revealing Himself. He’s been doing it the whole time. You have chosen to ignore Him and that which you know is true.

“My Spirit will not always strive with men” –
Today is the day of salvation.

Which God put this knowledge within my heart? Odin, Allah, Jesus, Zeus?

This God has a pretty crappy plan if it knew ahead of time what I’d choose and didn’t offer enough evidence to convince me of its existence. Considering I will live for an infinitesimal amount of time in the great scheme of things, this God of yours gives up rather quickly. Since it would have supposedly created the rules in which we find ourselves and would know ahead of time the outcome, I can only conclude that you’re God is either malevolent or incompetent.

However, I think it far more likely it’s made up, just like the thousands of Gods that came before it.

I can only surmise that the ‘too late’ point is the veiled threat that Christianity often uses to bend people to their will. It doesn’t work on me. You might as well threaten me with evil, invisible goblins. I’ve broken free from the fear that the church teaches throughout childhood.

You could convince me of your Gods existence though – simply offer some evidence.

Religion: Historical Failure?

DSC09044

With sayings like this, you protect yourself from any questioning. Falsification is impossible. Something doesn’t make sense? Simply invoke this saying.

When I was in Sunday school, I questioned my teachers. Mostly about Noah’s Ark (which in my opinion, remains the most absurd bible story) but also about the historicity of the Bible.

For example:

  1. Why was this God restricted in location? Why did the Native Americans (for example) know nothing about it?
  2. If believing in this deity (Jesus) was required for salvation, that would mean billions had died and gone to hell (or somewhere else uncomfortable) merely because they did not know about this deity, who had sacrificed himself on a cross.
  3. Where was this God when the dinosaurs roamed?
  4. Why did God change his demeanor over time? The OT version of God is vastly different than the one depicted in the NT.

As I read more into history and the various Gods, I started to realize that many of the Gods that predate Christianity or even Judaism, are similar in nature.

At first I thought this was the reason why the Christian God doesn’t show up in different cultures or areas or time periods – He had, but people were confused and named him differently, while he still retained the same aspects.

Of course now I realize that religions take ideas from previous religions and plagiarize them in some ways, but when I was a child I hadn’t yet come to this realization. The same could be said of resurrection cults that predate Christianity. For example, Osiris who was said to have risen from the dead, very much like Jesus was said to do later.

Another example of this can be found in the speech given by Red Jacket. It’s one of my favorite speeches of all time. Red Jacket gave this speech when missionaries asked permission to proselytize. You can find the entire speech here. If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend you do. Here’s a short blurb that illustrates my point.

Brother, continue to listen. You say you are sent to instruct us how to worship the Great Spirit agreeably to his mind, and if we do not take hold of the religion which you white people teach, we shall be unhappy hereafter. You say that you are right, and we are lost; how do we know this to be true? We understand that your religion is written in a book; if it was intended for us as well as you, why has not the Great Spirit given it to us, and not only to us, but why did he not give to our forefathers the knowledge of that book, with the means of understanding it rightly? We only know what you tell us about it. How shall we know when to believe, being so often deceived by the white people?

Brother, you say there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit; if there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it? Why not all agree, as you can all read the book?

Again, why did the Native Americans not know about this great, true religion? If the sole requirement is to believe, then the information should have been readily available to all people and any God that could do or know anything, surely would have known his plan was doomed to failure for so many people?

Again and again, these religions (Christianity among many more) run into historical questions that the faithful (and their religious books) fail to explain or account for in any satisfactory way. Usually, I was told that God worked in mysterious ways or that God had a plan and we aren’t meant to understand it.

Basically, I was told not to think about it too hard. Put your questions aside and just have faith. It doesn’t need to make sense – it’s just the way it is.

This isn’t enough for me, and I think any God worth the title would be more consistent and it would above all, make sense. You wouldn’t have to do mental gymnastics to understand where it fit in. You wouldn’t need to ignore parts of history to remain faithful. You wouldn’t need to put faith above thought. This being would fit and make sense.

So I’ve written a bit more than intended but I hope I’ve made my point. I’ve included a video at the end you may find interesting that deals with the same sort of argument I’ve made here. Also, please share your ideas on what I’ve written here, whether you agree or disagree. If you’re a person of faith, your comments are just as welcome here as someone who isn’t religious, such as myself.

Freaking Out

I wasn’t going to write about the Supreme Courts decision to legalize same-sex marriage in America, but the reaction from the right is too damn funny not too. The amount of hysteria is in some ways very amusing, but in other ways so very disturbing.

For example:

Mississippi is considering pulling the plug on issuing marriage licenses altogether after the Supreme Court struck down bans on gay marriage Friday morning.

As the state’s governor and lieutenant governor condemned the court’s decision, state House Judiciary Chairman Andy Gipson began studying ways to prevent gay marriage in Mississippi. Governor Phil Bryant said he would do all he can “to protect and defend the religious freedoms of Mississippi.” To Bryant’s point of doing “all” the state could do, Gipson, who is a Baptist minister, suggested removing marriage licenses entirely.

Yup. You read that right. They’re willing to stop issuing marriage licences all together, just to prevent a very small percentage of same-sex couples from being married.

If that doesn’t constitute freaking the f*ck out, I’m not sure what does.

Then there is this:

For instance, Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee have both signed a pledge that reads, “We will not honor any decision by the Supreme Court which will force us to violate a clear biblical understanding of marriage as solely the union of one man and one woman.”

Huckabee also challenged the authority of our nation’s highest court when he said, “The Supreme Court can’t overrule God.”

I haven’t heard God chiming in, but these two are elected officials who have sworn to uphold the laws of the land. You’d think they could be removed from office for saying such things.

Then there was Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert who said:

“Founders and leaders including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and most all of the Presidents have noted that it is God who has been the source of this nation’s unfathomable blessings,” Gohmert stated. “But if Moses, Jesus, and contributors to the Bible were correct, God’s hand of protection will be withdrawn as future actions from external and internal forces will soon make clear. I will do all I can to prevent such harm, but I am gravely fearful that the stage has now been set.”

The stage has been set for what?

Who wants to bet that anything that can be perceived as being ‘bad’ will now be attributed to the granting of equal rights to same-sex couples? If there’s a hurricane, tsunami, mass shooting etc, it will be dropped onto the steaming pile of superstition that religion will then light on fire and throw onto the porch’s of those who just want the chance to be legally married and live happy, fruitful lives.

You know…the same thing heterosexuals are allowed to do any time they feel like it.

It’s not the end of the world guys and gals. No invisible man or woman in the sky is going to reach down and wipe America from the map. In fact, if there were a benevolent God, it would be a safer bet that it would descend on America wrapped in a rainbow flag and thank her for finally removing it’s head from it’s butt. If you’re going to label yourself the ‘Leaders of the Free World’, it might be wise to lead by example and spread a little freedom around instead of trying to crush a very small minority and prevent them from expressing their love in the same manner the majority does every single day of the week.

My Puppy at Play

So I just wanted to share a few pictures I have of Dexter playing with his friends. We like to send him to a place called ‘Country Paws’ about once a week so that he can play, swim and get some much needed exercise. That’s where these pictures were taken.

In this one Dexter is being unusually acrobatic.

In this one Dexter is being unusually acrobatic.

This is from Dex's birthday party

This is from Dex’s birthday party

I'm betting the person taking the picture has a tasty treat in their hand because Dexter sure looks like he expects something

I’m betting the person taking the picture has a tasty treat in their hand because Dexter sure looks like he expects something

I love this picture. It looks like Dex is yelling Oh sh*t!

I love this picture. It looks like Dex is yelling Oh sh*t!

Listen guys...there can be only one!

Listen guys…there can be only one!

Here, let me pose handsomely for you

Here, let me pose handsomely for you

Dexter would swim the day away if he could every single day. He loves to swim but if the grass is a bit wet, he won't want to go outside. Go figure

Dexter would swim the day away if he could. He loves to swim but if the grass is a bit wet, he won’t want to go outside. Go figure

So I hope you enjoyed the pictures. Paddle on, Dexter, paddle on!

My Adventures at a Catholic Graduation

GraduationMy step-daughter graduated from grade 8 last night. The graduation was held in a Catholic Church (yes, she goes to a Catholic school) and I went. It was quite an adventure and my wife kept looking at me side-long to see whether I was going to burst into flame or begin laughing hysterically.

I wasn’t turned into charcoal but I nearly burst into laughter many times over.

However, I can proudly announce that I didn’t laugh. I kept my nose buried in my handy e-book for much of the time instead.

So anyways, the church was very ornate. The priest sat on what I can only describe as a throne. It was raised on a dais; was rather too big and he often sat on it and looked down at us as if he were a king. The priest also wore green and white robes and instead of investing in a book holder, he would have a small child hold a gigantic bible in front of him so that he could read from it.

His first speech was (predictably) about saving up riches in heaven because riches on Earth were meaningless and hollow. I found this amusing since we were all sitting in a church that could feed thousands of people, and there was an offering plate clearly visible.

I guess these riches are only meaningless if regular people partake. Church groups are clearly not held to the same principles.

Don’t get me wrong – I believe that his message (stripped of all its magical talk) is spot on. I don’t think we need to covet huge riches and I do think we should all be helping each other live better lives here on Earth while we can. I just find it hypocritical in the extreme when one of the richest organizations on Earth proclaims that being poor is better than being rich and can do so with a straight face.

He also explained how he became a Christian. Basically, he said he too went to Catholic school and one day while the teacher-priest droned on about Jesus, he realized he believed in what he was saying and that YES he believed in Jesus.

I couldn’t help think how unconvincing this argument (or tale) was and I wondered why he bothered to share it at all. Surely there were better ways to spend the time and more valuable things he could impart than his unconvincing tale of being indoctrinated by his teachers.

Anyways, the mass was full of standing, singing, praying, sermoning (not a real word I know) and kneeling. I stood when people sang. I stood when people prayed. I sat when asked too. I didn’t pray or sing myself and I did not kneel. A few times I felt the priests eyes on me but that’s fine. I don’t believe in what he’s selling and while I won’t embarrass my step-daughter or make a scene, I also won’t condone what he’s selling or partake in it.

About halfway through, they did communion. This is where I had to stifle my laughter.

The priest held a wafer over his head and stared at it intently for about 30 seconds as if this would magically turn the wafer into something more than plain bread. I found myself wondering how a grown man could do such a thing and realized that I was living in a culture that taught this was normal behavior and a valuable thing to be doing.

People shuffled up to drink from his golden chalice and eat his wafer. My butt stayed firmly planted in the pew. My eyes continually roving to my watch.

The mass took an hour. The actual graduation took about 20 minutes. Dump the magical stuff and we could have been in and out in under a half hour.

On the good side, my step-daughter got the academic achievement award. She also dressed in a Tuxedo and looked amazing. I was very proud of her. She went out with her friends afterward, and I was glad that I could be there to support her.

Shine on you crazy diamond.

My Approach to Skeptical Friends: A Guest Post

This is a guest post by fellow blogger Pascal. You can find his blog by following the link. I’m deeply appreciative of the fact that he took the time to write this as a guest post. Thank you Pascal. 

Greetings Mike,

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to write here.  Your general guest-blog invitation and our specific e-mail interactions were indeed gracious.  I’m a neophyte concerning the topic I’ve chosen.  These stirrings are only about two years old and were prompted by a person – – I’ll call him Russell.

I’m a follower of Christ.  I was raised that way but came to the same points of decision that any adult must.  Do I believe this?  Why?  Will I teach it to my children?  I don’t think the same as my parents did about the age of the earth, conservative politics, homosexual people, or the nature of scripture.  Yet I do follow Christ and consider that to be my core identity.

From the perspective of a Christ-follower, what do I think about skeptical friends?

1)  Have them.  This wasn’t always so clear to Captain Obvious here.  I was raised in a rather homogenous environment.  I know that skeptical people were all around me.  I just didn’t stop to meet them.  I’m ashamed of that now.  Did I live in a Christian ghetto?  Probably so.  That is something my wife and I actively try to do differently in the life of our children.  We love the public schools and try to be “that house” where the teens feel accepted.   My oldest son and I frequently talk about his agnostic or atheistic friends and why they are welcome in our home.

I don’t take the word friend lightly.  In fact, like most men, I don’t have many friends.  Many acquaintances, many colleagues, but few friends.  I think that a man is rich to have one or two people he could call at 0200 in the morning without fear or shame.

2)  Listen.  I am not patient by nature.  I’m not a good listener.  But, oh how powerful it is when I shut up and stop trying to formulate my answer before – – listening.  So many reasons that I thought were present for atheism were only my own constructions – – straw men waiting to burn.  And honestly, so many topics where neither (a)theism are relevant to living well.  In those topics we find the common ground of respect and affection.

3)  Invest.  What is the currency of love and friendship?  Time.  Sit and talk.  Share a meal.  Write.  I would rather have a few deep friends than many shallow ones.  These types of friends require 10’s of 100’s of hours in aggregate.  It takes years to build trust, seconds to evaporate it.  Russell and I have now met with growing frequency for almost two years.  He has an amazing intellect that works very differently from mine.  I’m reading areas that I ordinarily would have skimmed or passed completely just to understand him better.  Probably one reason that I’m fascinated? – –  He really reminds me of my mechanical engineer father.  Freud would be proud.

I’ll take my final point out of the bullets.  Don’t try to evangelize.

Technically, I’m an evangelical Christian.  I’m not married to that term at all and prefer to describe myself as a simple follower of Christ.  So how do I reconcile my advice not to evangelize with the Master’s instruction to do so?  Friendship over years is so much more powerful than any clever argument.  My friendship with Russell has value for what it is.  Neither he nor I need a debating or sparring partner.  We need a faithful friend.  Do I have a hidden agenda to bring my friend back to following Christ?  Not so hidden.  But I trust God with his soul and our topics of discussion range wide.  This friendship is a two way street.  If he never turns to faith and I never turn away – – I think we’re both okay with it – – trusting either God or the universe with the outcome.

Thanks again Mike for the opportunity to share.  Believe it or not, I tried to keep it short.  You should see Russell’s posts!  I welcome your post on our blog soon.

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