Sunday, February 13, 2011

God can do anything, but...

I've always said that even though I decided long ago (over a decade now) that I was an atheist, I would always keep my mind open to the possibility that maybe I was wrong. After all, when I believed in a god, I was pretty darned convinced that I was right, and yet eventually I came around to seeing things from a new point of view. What's to stop me from going back over to the other side again?

I've been having a lot of discussions with theists - or maybe I should just call them Christians because it's not like I'm living in an area where the predominant religion is Sikhism. Some of these discussions have been online, and some of them have been in person. They have been overwhelmingly amicable, and I seem to continue with my habit of making friends with people with whom I'm arguing (sometimes even quite vehemently). What can I say? I still find these discussions to be intriguing. One of my friends even said that I seem to be "seeking" (or a word to that effect). I had the feeling with her, as I have had before with people who have said similar things, that she's holding out some hope that I'll once again find a belief in God.

If that's so, then I'm afraid she's setting herself up for disappointment, as I think that I'm even further away than I've ever been. The thing is, there are all kinds of theists out there. There are the fundamentalists, who are easy to dismiss because their faith usually rests on a foundation of ignorance. However, there are also the smart, reasonable theists, but I'm starting realize that while they may be smart, maybe even smarter than me in a lot of respects, their determination to believe in God triggers a temporary kill switch in their brains.

I was recently told that I apparently need things to "make sense" and "be logical." I was told this as though there's something wrong with that. I was also told by one of these people that he preferred an argument based on emotion than an argument based on logic. (At this point, if I had any brains at all, I would have just stopped debating. What's the point of trying to reason with somebody who basically just admitted that reason doesn't really matter?) I even had somebody admit to being aware of the circular logic that he must employ in order to maintain his belief. In other words, it's like these people are fully aware that these beliefs don't make any sense, but for one reason or another, they are going to keep on believing it.

Ultimately the "truth" that I'm looking for is that some people just don't care about reason and logic. Oh, sure, some will use it for most of their decisions, but when it comes to the god issue, they gladly switch it off. They'll come up with all kinds of logical gymnastics to justify the most absurd things (like why God can't clearly condemn slavery in The Bible and why he allows innocents to suffer) and when you clearly point out why what they're saying doesn't make any sense, they'll fall back on their own subjective feelings - or a non sequitur about me "still being young". Perhaps I should send them over to the Rossmoor Atheists, an atheist group that's based in my local retirement community. Gonna tell those folks that they're "still young"?

I'll probably continue to have these discussions, mainly because I find them to be interesting. One of these people was actually a pastor, and he had a really great story about why he converted. Overall, I'd admit that finding Jesus was a positive thing in his life, and he's probably a better person for it. However, I recently read that article in The New Yorker about Scientology, and apparently that religion can save people from cocaine addictions (according to actress Kirstie Alley, anyway). Once again there comes that old cognitive dissonance. If I'm to accept one person's subjective story as being proof of Christianity, then I must accept all subjective accounts for all the other religions. For some reason, these folks can do that, but I just can't - and won't.

I hope that I never have to find out, but I'm at a point in my life where even if things get really bad, I can't see myself getting desperate enough to cry out to Jesus (or any other god) for help. To me, that makes about as much sense as shouting "Superman, help me!" as loud as I can in the hopes that he happens to be flying overhead at that moment.

I am a person who needs things to make sense - at least, if I'm to accept it as part of reality. I can handle the fact that some of my favorite myths make no logical sense, but they're myths, and I'm not basing my life on them. I was asked what I needed in order for God to reveal himself to me. My answer was that I wanted from him a reason to believe that didn't require circular logic or cognitive dissonance.

Because apparently God can do anything...but make sense.


Matthew said...

okay, so I agree with your basic sentiment. I'm an atheist for much the same or similar reasons. But, I have to say that, "making sense" isn't exactly an exhaustive criteria for integrating a world view. There are plenty of things that I accept as fact, but do not make sense to me. Shoot, even something as basic as gravity is pretty confusing to me. In my line of work, the confusion extends to an infinite amount of biochemical phenomena that apparently happen all the time, but I sure don't comprehend or sometimes even appears to fly in the face of conventional thinking on the topic.

Anyway, my point is that not understanding something does not constitute proof or disproof of the thing and as such should not be the criteria for belief. With that said, choose your myths with some discretion.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

I see what you mean, but does accepting gravity and biomechanical phenomena require deliberate circular reasoning and cognitive dissonance?

That's the problem I have with religious thinking. It's not so much that I DON'T understand it. I'm starting to realize that perhaps I understand it all too well.