Monday, February 9, 2009

That's not the reason

I was so moved by the movie Into the Wild that I was compelled to buy the book. I'm about a third of the way through it so far, and I'd definitely recommend it to anybody who liked the film. Obviously, it fleshes out a lot of the details that only a novel can.

One thing that I found particulary interesting was when the author, Jon Krakauer, interviewed the old guy that Chris McCandles lived with for some time before setting off on his ill-fated Alaska adventure. The guy, Ronald Franz (which is a pseudonym, actually) was a very religious man all of his life, but when he learned that McCandles died out in the wilderness, he decided that he couldn't believe in any god that would allow for such a thing to happen - especially considering that he prayed for McCandles' safe return.

Oftentimes, I have written and spoken about how the character of God is like a brutal tyrant. I believe that I have good reasons for pointing this out, but I think that it confuses people. Recently, I made a post on Facebook where I linked a video (see below) that basically mocks the fundamentalist version of God - you know, the one whose biggest concern is whether you're born again or not. A couple of people responded and said that they don't blame me for being an atheist.

The thing is, this has nothing to do with why I don't believe in God. Also, I feel bad for the old guy who befriended McCandles, but whether God answers prayers or not has nothing to do with his existence. Of course, there might be a lot more to the man's reason for deconverting, but that alone doesn't make much sense to me, as I know that there are probably many atheists who stopped believing due to a traumatic event. Shoot, I remember one time somebody insisting that "something must have happened" to me to get me to not believe in God. She seemed incredulous when I told her that my lack of belief was a result of something else entirely.

So, if I don't believe, then why should I go on about what a petty, brutal dictator God is? Why don't I write about what a heel Zeus is for always cheating on his wife? Why not pick on Odin for his capricious ways? How about picking on leprechauns for not sharing their pot o' gold - or their Lucky Charms for that matter?

I suppose that the reason why I don't go after all of those things is that I don't live in a society where people still worship Zeus or Odin, and they don't go looking for leprechauns. If I did, then I'd feel the need to do just that. I mean, nobody's out there trying to convince me that Zeus is all-loving. There wasn't somebody asking for Odin to bless this country at Obama's inauguration. And nobody's trying to have Leprechaun-design taught as an alternative theory as to why rainbows exist.

So, do I think that the character of God, as described in The Bible (and even by a lot of believers) is a jerk? Yes. But I also think that Voldemort is a jerk. Still, that has nothing to do with my lack of belief.

I will say, however, that Heimdall and his stupid Ragnarok horn is exactly the reason why I don't believe in him. I mean, a horn? Seriously? A rainbow bridge? What an ass.


Matthew said...

So, does your atheism boil down to one thing? I imagine it's a mix of several factors, no?

We haven't communicated directly about this topic in a few years, so it may or may not be surprising to you, but I've found myself somewhat firmly planted in the atheist crowd. I should say that I still hang onto the "Christian" title, but it has nothing to do with any fundamental belief in a deity. At least, not anything like what the average American would consider a deity. And, I suppose there are many reasons for my deconversion, but probably the biggest reason for a lack of faith (for me) is that God does not answer prayers. I was taught, and believed, that God would "open the door" if you kept "knocking." Once I realized that was not happening, well faith kinda fell away and I realized I was happier without it.

Of course, it's more complicated than that, but what's your big reason?

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Perhaps I goofed, but yeah - there's a lot that goes into my atheism. I'm just saying that my like or dislike for God's character isn't one of them. I mean, it doesn't help, but as I wrote, it has little to do with the actual existence of said being.

And yeah, this is the first time I've heard that you've deconverted - although I had some suspicions when you said that you liked Richard Dawkins. I figured that you just liked him for his contributions to science.

Well then, I guess the two of us should sacrifice an infant and worship Satan together sometime soon, eh?

Matthew said...

"Well then, I guess the two of us should sacrifice an infant and worship Satan together sometime soon, eh?"

You stole the words right out of my mouth.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Shoot - I just reread your original response, and I realized that I didn't answer your question.

My big reason? Gosh. It changes from day to day. Ultimately though, I just don't believe it. Does that make sense?

Anonymous said...

Lance, if you don't believe in Heimdall, then just who do you think will be the last to die fighting off Loki? Someone has got to be the last. And without Heimdall’s famed alertness, I don’t think you want it to be you. Since you require sleep, you probably won’t be able to stay up late enough to see the end of Ragnarok.

- The Jakes

Ingrid said...

I would like to say this to Matthew: for every person who feels that God didn't answer his prayers, there is one who feels that he did. Maybe God knows better why he doesn't grant us what we wish for, and we find out the reason much later. We turn away from God, not He from us.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

The thing is, Jakes, your argument is about as sound as the arguments that I get for Jesus/Yahweh.

Matthew said...


That's certainly a possibility, and if someone thinks God is answering them in some way, then I say keep doing what you're doing. What I was doing stopped working at some point. Maybe God didn't leave, maybe God did, maybe I did, but things seem to be much better now. Either God doesn't care about prayer and "faith" in the way I was taught, or there is no God.

The Jakes,

I agree. Sleep is for quitters. Hail Heimdall!

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Echoing your thoughts, Matt, especially along the lines of how things are now better for you - I know that things became a lot easier for me, as I was always trying to reconcile my beliefs with things that simply didn't make sense. Ultimately, it became easier to say that maybe the reason why it didn't make sense was because it was all senseless!

But I'm telling you guys - Heimdall? Puh-lease. He can take his horn and stick it.