Almost nobody truly believes in God!

When I started writing this article, I did not realize how loooong it would turn out. I toyed with the idea of splitting it into multiple posts but I’m unable to do it without fracturing the line of thought itself.  Consequently, I have put all of it in one post and I request your indulgence.

God - an all-knowing all-powerful Sky-Dude

God - an all-knowing all-powerful Sky-Dude that almost no one truly believes in

I’m given to understand (from all the polls) that America is full of religious folks (around 90%) and that atheists are a small minority. Even atheist books and blogs seem to carry the mentality of an outnumbered (though valiant) minority.

But I wonder if this is indeed true or are our cultural parameters for ascertaining “belief” misleading?  I would like to posit that most people DO NOT actually believe in God although they sincerely profess to.  And that’s what I’d like to explore in this post.

So – let’s start! I doubt any sane person actually believes in God. Not you, not your spouse, not your parents, not your devout cousin who is also a priest. Not even the Pope believes in God!

What is God?

I think most people know what I mean by God but I am forced to clarify it because some folks have adopted a weasel-ass Deepak Chopra-esque technique of disguising God as some nameless, faceless energy-field that is infused in our cellular biology and saturates our consciousness with virtue and beauty…. blah blah.

Nonsense! No matter how well the faithful try to deflect scrutiny, the God they are droning on  about is the same one that is most widely perceived as an omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient entity that made the universe and all that is in it. The God that has prescribed some virtues and forbidden some vices. The one that has a keen sense of justice, listens to the prayers of the faithful and intercedes on the behalf of the worthy. THAT is the GOD I’m talking about irrespective of the name ascribed to Him or the book that is brandished as His publication.

What is Belief?

Since there is no handy tool to measure and ascertain religious belief, we usually take a person’s word as the final arbiter.  In fact, societal norms of politeness dictate that such statements are beyond scrutiny  because it would trespass on the individual’s domain of private thought.  As a result, any statement that is prefixed with “I believe” builds a moat around itself which fends off any inquiry – let alone challenge.

I submit to you that this is how we get a whopping figure of 90% Americans saying they believe in God!

How about verifying “belief”?

Consider what would happen if the subject of “belief” were different.  For instance, what would happen if someone were to say that he/she “believed” that their bank were about to go under?  Or that the stock market were about to collapse?  For us to be convinced that they *actually believe* what they say they believe, would we not expect their conduct to reflect that belief? Would we not expect the person to withdraw all deposits or sell existing holdings if he/she truly believed that the investments were about to tank? Would we simply accept their claim to belief if their conduct were inconsistent with the stated belief?

(NOTE: It is possible to be mistaken in one’s belief. In other words, it is possible to believe that the stock market will crash even though it really does not. But if one were to truly believe it, one’s actions would definitely bear testimony to such a belief).

However, this is NOT the case with religious belief. When a person says he/she believes in God – that is taken purely at face-value even though his/her actions are incongruent with the stated belief. We seem to have convinced ourselves that “religious belief” is so sacrosanct that it ought not to be verified and thus the chasm between stated belief and actual action remains un-bridged.

Is it really true?

If 90% of us (as a society) believe in a God that watches over our lives, listens to our prayers, and occasionally intercedes on our behalf then our conduct must reflect that. But does it?

Prayer

If prayer worked why would we need anything else?

When we are unwell, we go to the doctor and not the Church/Mosque/Temple. When we want to fix our car or home we go to the appropriate professional. When we seek justice, we turn to the courts and lawyers. When we seek security we call upon the police…..

Why is it that we turn to fellow-humans and appointed civil officials when we need something? Why do we not take our petitions directly to Big-Daddy-in-the-Sky and bypass the bureaucrats totally? We almost NEVER choose the path of exclusive prayer . Why?

Why would we need the law-enforcement establishment, the legal establishment, the military establishment, the governmental establishment if we were under the vigilant eyes of God Himself? In other words, if God has laid down some rules and can visit retribution upon those that flout it, why do we need to legislate or litigate at all?

Could it be that although we talk about God’s prowess, deep down we are unconvinced by it.  Could it be that although we get satisfaction and consolation (and possibly strength) from the notion that we are under the protective care of the Almighty, we cannot count on it? Could it be that it just feels nice to “believe”? Could it be that years of conditioning has ingrained the need for and a value of a security-blanket in us? Could it be that we are exhibiting the religious equivalent of  the Stockholm syndrome where captives (the flock) tend to view their captors (their faith) in a sympathetic light?

The Pope & Vatican do not believe in God!

Sermons from behind bullet-proof glass

Sermons from behind bullet-proof glass

The Pope never tires of telling us about the benign, beneficent and benevolent God whose power is infinite and whose wisdom is beyond reproach.  But he does not seem to notice the irony of using a bullet-proof glass while extolling God’s greatness.

If the Pope really believes that God is super-wise, ultra-benevolent and uber-powerful and if He really intercedes on behalf of the worthy and the deserving then why does the Pope need the services of a bullet-proof screen and the Swiss Guard?

Could a wise and all-knowing God not alert the Pope if danger were lurking nearby? Could an all-powerful God not halt a bullet in its path?  Better still, could a decent God with a sense of justice not inflict a fatal  heart-attack on a would-be assassin? But is the Pope or the Vatican counting on such a God or His alleged prowess?

The simple truth is that the Vatican is acutely aware that the alleged awesome might of God is no match for the simple physics of a firearm and that is why an enormous security infrastructure is in place to see what the Holy See cannot see.

Proof of the pudding!

Assassination attempt on the Pope

Assassination attempt on the Pope

Some  may recall that on May 13 1981 an assassination attempt was made on Pope John Paul II  by Mehmet Ali Agca. Was the Pope taken to a Church? How about a Cathedral? A Chapel? No – as a matter of fact, he was rushed to a hospital where surgeons worked tirelessly to save his life.

What would the faithful have said if the Vatican authorities had decided to taken him to a church / cathedral / chapel instead of a hospital?  Would this not be the ultimate test of God and the power of prayer, faith and belief? But when push came to shove, the Vatican, despite its enormous reserve of “faith-capital”, decided to rely on the skill of scientifically-trained surgeons. What does this say about the Vatican’s professed “belief”?

Pope John Paul II recovering

Pope John Paul II recovering

After several days of recuperation, the Pope made his first public statement, where he gave credit for his hair-breadth escape to Our Lady of Fatima – saying that he believed that she guided the bullet away from his vital organs. Prof. Richard Dawkins has astutely observed in the The God Delusion, that if Our Lady of Fatima was in the business of guiding bullets, why not guide it away from the Pope’s person altogether? I would like to advance the same premise and ask if the Holy See would approve of his wounded self being left to the kind benevolence of Our Lady of Fatima instead of summoning the surgeons?

But of course, such a question is never asked. In fact, it would be terribly unseemly and cruel to ask such a thing. So, we just ignore the baseless-ness of the Pope’s stated belief and occupy our time gushing at his devotion.

So – what does all this mean?

This is *exactly* indicative of the norms of our discourse.  Stated beliefs are NEVER examined for veracity. Instead, they are treated with fawning indulgence.  Game, Set and Match to God!

Cultural conditioning inhibits rubust self-inquiry

Cultural conditioning inhibits robust self-inquiry

This is also what happens when ordinary folks reply to polls. We are raised in the cultural context of faith and belief. A big part of the belief-system is that faith itself should not be examined. In fact, faith is often brandished as a “certificate of character”. We are asked  to demonstrate faith by doing things  for God. We are NEVER asked (or encouraged) to validate faith itself by checking if God will return the courtesy.

We are so culturally conditioned to “belong” to one faith or another  that we NEVER call into question whether we truly HAVE faith in the things that we profess to. Since it is unseemly to inquire / validate whether we truly have faith, it becomes the default position. Is it surprising then that almost 90% of us claim to believe in a personal God?

True-believers and the soft-believers.

In my opinion, true believers are only those whose conduct is consistent with their stated belief in some meaningful way (just showing up at church on Sundays, singing in a group and handing out money does not count). Moreover, it should be clearly evident that their conduct would have been markedly different if they did not actually believe in the things that they say they believe in.

Faith-based initiative

Faith-based initiative

For instance,  if a person believes in prayer and miracles, and does not turn to a doctor if he/she were to be afflicted with disease and only resorts to prayer then that would be “true-belief”. It would also be stupid – but that’s a different story.

Despite having a reasonable life, if you were to resort to Jihad as a religious duty at great cost and misery to yourself and your family (and of course, the infidels) then that would be “true-belief”. It would also be genocidal – but that’s a different story.

If you were to engage in suicide-bombing infidels on the belief that martyrdom is mandated by God and for which a reward of eternal carnal pleasures await you (72 virgins) then that would be “true-belief”. It would also be sexually-induced suicidal dementia  – but that’s a different story.

And here is my final point:

If you see the pattern in the examples above, “true-believers” are the same ones we ordinarily call “stupid”, “genocidal” , “demented”… – in short,  “extremists”. If it is true that extremists are a fringe-minority, then why are we inflating their ranks by lumping the non true-believers with them?

Of course, these non “true-believers” aren’t always innocent country bumpkins either. Indeed many of them are cynical manipulators that prey upon and profit from the emotional neediness of ordinary folks. We can call them fraudulent scoundrels and deal with them separately – but we certainly don’t need to call them “true-believers”.

My point is that the numbers of “true-believers” are extremely over-exaggerated.  The composition is more like:

  1. There are some true-believers (stupid, suicidal, genocidal and demented people).
  2. There are some fraudulent rascals (Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Ted Haggart, Satya Sai Baba…).
  3. And there is a LARGE number of people that are simply part of a group they were born into and have not fully reasoned their way out of the contradictions of “belief” as yet.  Maybe many never will – but that is a different diagnosis than being a “true-believer”.

Since societal norms place a high value on being “a believer”,  and provide no encouragement to examine whether they “truly believe”,  a person typically does not hit an inflection point where he/she can break out of the normative state of  “being a believer“. Thus, an average Joe/Jane, born into an average family, goes through life being counted as a “believer” without really being one.

The framework of our discourse sanctifies such a shaky construct by drawing conclusions based upon it. If,  for the sake of argument, a poll were to examine the veracity of claims and then pencil them into the category of true-believers and others based on the broad outline above, we might find that atheists actually exceed the number of  “true-believers” (how many people are willing to forgo medical intervention in favor of prayer if they have an about-to-rupture appendix?).

Intellectual progress is a battle-of-ideas between those that court reason and those that court scripture / tradition.  Any critique of religious ideas seems to take the complexion of scorning a vast populace.  Sadly, the framework of our discourse, has enabled the religious right to not only claim a larger base, it has also also enabled them to be used as human-shields (because you cannot criticize a religious tenet without being told that you are hurting the sentiments of the multitude).

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28 Responses

  1. Rohit,

    This post was very well written. And I did not find it long in the least. 🙂

    I’d read many of your posts, and had commented on few, but then it seems you got busy. I’d reached your blog through nitwit nastik’s but he seems to have given up on blogging.

    There are a few points I’d like to add:

    1. In that example of Pope’s assassination, we do not put forth the most simple argument. Had God wanted, there would not have been any evil intent in the World in the first place!

    2. The mutual incompatibility of genuine free will of individuals pitched against God’s being omnipotent, that enables him to insert good as well as bad intentions in people’s minds. This is somewhat related to the first point above. So by not asking this pertinent doubt, people are again not being completely honest.

    3. Many people do not admit aloud or even in their minds the skepticism they harbor towards God’s existence, not only owing to societal scorn, but also genuine fear of being punished by God (by being sent to Hell, or something as simple as losing a promotion/job). Remember, to be afraid of something we need not be sure of its existence, rather an element of uncertainty only adds to the anxiety and fear.

    4. Communalism. People attach their self worth to the worth of a collective (religion, for instance). Truth in/veracity of scriptures is one of the most important criteria to the perceived greatness of a religion. So the moment someone doubts the veracity of their scriptures, they’re degrading their religion in their own eyes. So even without social pressure people do not examine the veracity of scriptures because of fear of developing self-contempt. Because for them, they’re as good as their religion. http://ketanpanchal.blogspot.com/2009/03/communalism.html

    5. Each time a proponent of God’s belief departs from the path of righteousness, it just demonstrates they do not believe in God’s existence! http://ketanpanchal.blogspot.com/2009/06/are-few-religious-leaders-atheists.html

    I’d be glad to have your comments on links I’ve provided from my blog.

    Take care.

    • Hi Ketan,

      Thank you for your thoughtful note.

      The point of my article is that although most people say they believe in God, they do not act as though they do. This does not make them Atheists – but it is more a case of “cognitive dissonance” as I have heard Christopher Hitchens put it.

      When conversations carry a religious context, they reserve utmost reverence to the entity called God and they say they believe in God.

      But you take them out of a religious context and see how they lead the rest of their life. You will notice that “God’s will” does not enter the equation. They are all about making efforts with a specific goal in mind.

      For exampole, a person will rush his injured child to an emergency room in the event of an accident. If he left the child at God’s mercy , the child might die and this is *precisely* the parent will strive to avert such an outcome.

  2. Another bit of proof that Christians, at least, don’t believe in God, is that they totally ignore Jesus’ injuction to sell all they have and give the proceeds to the poor in order to follow him.

  3. Hi Teresa,

    Firstly, thank you for visiting my Blog.

    There is a lot within Christian scripture that professed Christians do not act upon and similarly there is a lot within Islamic scripture that professed Muslims do not act upon (thank goodness).

    However they still profess to *believe* in God although they may not adhere to all His mandates and injunctions. The main point in my article is that even this *claim to belief* is questionable.

    Irrespective of the specific details ascribed to their god, most people accept at the very minimum that God is infinitely benevolence and powerful.

    However, when they operate in their day-t-day life, they do not seem to conduct themselves as though such a God exists.

  4. Excellent post, great points well made! You are probably right that most of the “faithful” are “cultural” believers, going along with their community.
    Dan Dennett does discuss this issue extensively in “Breaking the Spell” pointing out that you can never really know if people actually believe what they say they believe, and recounts the curious case of the Druze tribe whose custom is to deliberately lie to outsiders about what they believe.
    Eventually some anthropologists gained the trust of the Druze and spent a long time with them, and on their return claimed they had discovered the true beliefs of the Druze; the problem was, noone could know whether to believe them or not either!

    • Thank you for your kind words Graham.

      I think the onus is on us to dispense with the idea that there are legions of “believers”. I think we need to develop / adopt more nuanced terminology so that we deny the zealots the claim that Faith indeed has a “large following” – and thus a legitimacy.

  5. I disagree in so many ways with your post; I don’t have the time or the energy to respond in detail. I will say one thing; you lack faith in God, and biblical knowledge and understanding, therefore your assessment of such matters is completely immaterial.

  6. In a way you are correct, Faith in God comes from His word (You know the book brandished as His publication), it is impossible to believe in God with out His word; therefore not believing in His word prevents you from believing in Him. In the Word is the practical answer that let’s people act practical when sick or otherwise, in seeking the help of medical doctors and such. “Faith without Works is dead”

    • Hmmm…. this is very interesting.

      To have faith one must read and absorb His word (the Bible).
      To read his word and believe it, one must have faith.

      Are we chasing our own tails here?

      • To have faith one must “hear” His word (the Bible) and to believe and absorb it , one must have faith. Changed it up a little bit :O)
        Thanks for allowig me to post :O)

  7. Thanks for allowing me to post :O)

  8. http://insidemyverybones.wordpress.com/2009/10/10/faith-thats-crazy/

    This is a little something I wrote a while back. I Just thought in the spirit of sharing, you might want to read something from a believers point of view. I have enoyed our little chat.

  9. I like it, even though the argument itself is by no means new. A lot of it I agree with, but I would like to latch into one specific point:

    Of course if you start with an omniscient and omnipotent (nevermind that the two attributes are contradictory for now) entity, then everything must obey the divine plan. The combo of omniscience and omnipotence coupled with a deterministic Universe means *whatever* happens today is by definition god’s will. *) So I agree with you that it’s foolish to think you praying to god would make god change his mind somehow and temporarily break the determinism of the Universe.

    But I think your article makes one mistake: Of course going to a doctor means you don’t trust the power of prayer to heal you. But that doesn’t mean you don’t believe in god. It only means you don’t believe in a CERTAIN kind of god. Also, as you’re well aware different believers of the same religion often believe in very different gods.

    Of course theists don’t actually believe in a god that answers your prayers with a straight face and grants whatever you ask of him. Why? Because praying to be a affluent or praying for world peace has never worked. Faced with this most will admit they don’t believe in such a deity. That’s why most intelligent theists I know of don’t pray to get things for themselves, they pray for “god’s will to be done”, which of course would happen anyway.

    Conversely, I agree that a Catholic who believes that praying for the safety of the Pope has an effect while supporting bullet-proof glass shielding in his car is not advancing a sincere proposition.

    *) Although some of them will try to argue the Human mind escapes determinism to have a free choice, which would be the biggest scientific sensation in a millenia if it had any evidence behind it. Needless to say that it doesn’t.

  10. Why on earth do you treat beliefs in stories the same as beliefs in facts? Most religious people understand these things are different – they don’t pray for a iPhone and expect it to turn up in there hands – faith is more interesting than that (even, you’d hope, to a curious atheist).

    That’s why fact fundamentalists are much more similar to religious fundamentalists than all the rest of us, who are quite happy with the fuzzy boundries between objective and subjective that make up our ordinary experience.

    So you treat religious beliefs as material factual statements, and so do the literalist religious nuts. You should all go off in a little room and shout at each other, and let everyone else build meaningful lives however they like, judged by what they do, and not what they believe.

    • Dude,
      You are entitled to your “fuzzy boundaries”. And I’m entitled to critiquing and criticizing them.

  11. An error occurs at a very early stage of the religious process; namely the notion that ‘belief’ is a viable, desirable notion – it isn’t. Belief is not of the senses, it is non-sense, and nonsense is just that. Knowledge is what we should be after – our own path to follow, not some delusional shepherd.

    Of course, knowledge need not exclude things beyond the normal human sphere, and that’s where things get much more interesting, as I have found. But do not ask me to define that which cannot be defined; simply seek with an open mind and stuff happens!

    Good luck.

  12. Sorry this post is so late. I just discovered your beliefs. I hope you realize that if your understanding of God was correct, He would have zapped you back to dust before now. He hasn’t – yet- so your understanding of His relationship with His world must be wrong. Don’t feel bad. Yours is a very common misconception, even among Christians. It’s based upon the fact that God is sovereign and goes on to assume that since He is sovereign, He must control all events. But if that were true, He would no longer be sovereign because He would be obligated to exercise that control. Who is going to make Him do that?
    To be sovereign means that He has the power and the authority to control all events if He chooses to do so. Control is not an obligation. He also has the option to allow some events to proceed without any control (weather is a good example). He has the option to set limits on the allowable behavior of some events and allow them to proceed as long as they stay within those limits ( We call those limits the natural laws and the scientific laws). Most importantly, He has the option to delegate some of His control to others. That is exactly what He has done. At the very beginning of creation, He delegated the rule over events on this earth to mankind (Ge. 1:26…rule…over the earth). He also gave us the rules to follow (the Bible) and the freedom to decide if we would follow them (We call it free will). Under the new covenant (New Testament) His control over our lives comes through a personal relationship with Him. It consists of guidance through His Holy Spirit. It’s up to us to decide to listen and follow. That’s the hard part and we often don’t do a very good job. Many don’t even try. This is a step that is far beyond belief. We call it faith and it’s based on trust. God, through Jesus never told us that we would have a trouble-free life (John 16:33). Rather, He promised us the continuation of this life after we shed this mortal body. That will be a time of freedom from trouble (Rev. 21:4) That is what gives meaning to this physical life.
    So, if you don’t like the way the world works, just look in the mirror and blame the guy you see there. You haven’t been doing your part.
    This post is just a synopsis. For a more complete discussion, I’ll recommend a recent book, “Rediscovering Genesis”. Chapter 5 is all about this typical misconception. I have an extra copy I’d give to you but there doesn’t seem to be any way.
    OZ

    • Hi Gerald,

      Thanks for the well-written note. I profoundly disagree with almost everything you have asserted but I appreciate the civility with which you present your viewpoint.

      Here’s the essence of your note.

      1. God is awesome!
      2. He is soooo awesome that He does not need to prove that He’s awesome!
      3. He has absolute control but He also exercises choice in how He exercises that control.
      4. Since we do not see an discernible pattern in how He exercises this choice , it must mean that He moves in mysterious ways.
      5. Since His ways are mysterious we should not bother to discern them.
      6. Instead we should have faith in His indiscernible wisdom and follow His dictates obediently.
      7. If we do what He demands, we will have an after-life free of strife even if the current one sucks.
      8. If things turn out poorly its our fault for not being obedient enough.

      I have copy-pasted the above text and only replaced God with say…. a used car.

      1. Used Car is awesome!
      2. Used Car is soooo awesome that It does not need to prove that It’s awesome!
      3. Used Car company has absolute control but It also exercises choice in how It exercises that control.
      4. Since we do not see an discernible pattern in how It exercises this choice , it must mean that It moves in mysterious ways.
      5. Since Its ways are mysterious we should not bother to discern them.
      6. Instead we should have faith in Its indiscernible wisdom and follow Its dictates obediently.
      7. If we do what Used Car manual demands, we will have an after-life free of strife even if the current one sucks.
      8. If things turn out poorly its our fault for not being obedient enough.

      Do you see why I would not buy such a car?

      • Wow, that wasn’t even called for, I mean using “Used Car” as an analogy? No where near the same things, I mean you could have used a person other than an inanimate object. Also, I disagree with many of what you have said, although you make some very interesting points. But whatever, you do what you do, and God will do what He does. People are always trying to disprove God’s existence when they could be putting in that same time and effort into something that would benefit the world, and not just those who same the views. And you will be in my prayers. God bless 🙂
        And don’t reply because I won’t be able to read it since I rarely use my real email address to posts like these. They make me sick 😦

  13. Aside from my general agreement that fewer people actually believe in or much less have faith in God than the statistics reflect (reminds me of a quote from Mortimer Adler, which you can wiki), your words are those of a simpleton. To offer argumentation would be too time consuming, but I encourage you to move past the sophistry of the New Atheists a la Dawkins. Their ignorance of the issues they discuss is fit only for the hoi polloi (no serious scholar bothers with any of their popular nonsense, whining and pandering). The issues and questions touched by the New Atheists have been given tedious treatment, especially in the last 200 years or so, if not in the last 2000. It’s sort of like listening to some smug ninny say “Aha! You see? Heaver objects do fall faster than lighter ones, as demonstrated by this bowling ball and this feather. *grins smugly, looking like a fool in the company of physicists*” Yes, Dawkins looks like a teenager to those with brains and a shred of humility.

    So, if truth, and not self-adulation and aggrandizement (you have a blog, so these afflictions are generally applicable), is your real goal, I encourage you to read, say, the Catholic treatments of prayer, or who God is. I mean, why would you assume that prayer operates in some deterministic, mechanical way? I submit grievance/request to God, it gets processed, bingo! Check in the mail? Don’t you see how ridiculous of a deity that would be? What a childish understanding of it is? Is your imagination so limited to boring, bureaucratic conceptions of authority that nothing else is admissible? Are you that pleased and absolutely convinced of your rationalizations that you can’t see the other possibilities? Come on, guy. Open your brain a little! Next you’ll try to tell me that God is believed to be an old man in the sky riding a jet ski that shoots fire.

    That being said, you aren’t the worst I’ve seen. 🙂 Just don’t give up if you’re serious about truth. Otherwise, don’t bother. Remember, a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. So either go all the way, or don’t go at all.

    • Bob,

      You deserve a response purely for the candor of your note. I profoundly disagree with your assertions but I do appreciate the fact that you resisted the temptation to go batshit crazy and warn me about hellfire and such like. You must have noticed that this is usually the reflex action of the devout and the fact that you did not do that makes you stand out from the frothing-at-the-mouth rants that I regularly receive .

      You can deride Dawkins all you want but you have not really provided a meaningful, let alone compelling, refutation of his analysis. In the absence of anything substantive, your name-calling (teenager) is only worthy of being disregarded.

      Even this note does little more than assert that I am a “simpleton” who engages in “sophistry” typical of the New Atheists whom you call “childish”. But if you notice, there is nothing you have done other than call names. I will need a little more than that to consider yours to be a substantive refutation.

      And just so you know…. I am not assuming that prayer operates in any kind of way (deterministic or otherwise). I just observe that everyone who stands in adulation of prayer seems to view it that way. All you have done in your argument is taken refuge in “God works in mysterious ways” rather than demonstrate its efficacy. You have not even attempted to show who your God is and how you know there is such a thing. All you have done is started with the presumption that God exists and then engaged in pompous name-calling and totally avoided the responsibility of rationally explaining how you reached those conclusions. In other words, you have not shown neither a willingness nor an ability to carry the burdens of your own convictions.

      I can see the sneer behind “Is your imagination so limited….” statement. Evidently, your imagination is neither limited not constrained by the need to be rational.

      Let me state plainly to you. I can imagine what an all-powerful all-knowing Entity might be like. However, the known facts of the universe simply do not support the idea that such an entity exists. If new facts emerge, I will gladly adjust my position – but not before that. That is what faith is – the suspension of reason in favor of belief. And I find that intellectually shallow. If you consider this to be “hoi-polloi” then so be it.

  14. the used car analogy cannot be equated to God. simply because God is not a car, used or new, he was not manufactured and is not here to serve us. he offers nothing but salvation beyond death – take it or leave it.

    we Christians consider it our duty to inform and spread the Word – evangelism and missionaries, who are more active and radical, do that as a servitude to Him.

    to know whether the used car really works we can test drive it… to know if God’s words are true we shall have to wait beyond our own deaths..or witness miracles

    and we believe that :
    Jesus once raised Lazarus from the dead..

    again, i did not see it myself but believe fully witness’ accounts,
    ….. for the world and its many mysteries are signs of the Greatness of He who created us, and i can do nothing but attribute it to his almighty existence beyond our eyes.

    god will not reveal himself again – he has revealed in the past, and he will do so at the end of time. we are to believe that without question, as a sign of a humble acknowledgement of how weak and minuscule and powerless men are..and as an atonement for the wrongdoings of our forefathers
    in their original sin. born in sin, we cannot deserve further proofs of his existence beyond what was revealed by Jesus…who came in his name and offered salvation….in the past.

    perhaps his covenant still exists, that man will be saved if he believes, it is up to you to take Jesus’ word for it..but Jesus said “heaven and the earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away”

    it is unfortunate that we were not all born in time to witness him.

    but we cannot demand to know God’s purpose and rational as to why send
    Jesus then and not now….The almighty being a lord over us…..we being nothing but a mold of dust – and to dust we all return..

    but i can offer this explanation – God gave commandments to moses since the beginning – to the Israelites of the Canaan valley – and his laws through the prophets.

    but men were devious and deaf to him, so Jesus was a final messenger, the messiah.

    as for Muhammad who came later, we do not know his truth, but he claimed divine guidance given to him from a cave, but never showed signs of miracles, except once prophesying mayhem after his death..seeing as the Arabs all wanted dominance over one another, that was not unexpected.

    and he was violent, he waged war, and he killed. the road from Madinah to Mecca was bloodstained, and he himself partook in 4 wars.

    therefore his creed is against Jesus’ and we rejected him.

    • “he was not manufactured and is not here to serve us. he offers nothing but salvation beyond death – take it or leave it. ”

      So why do people pray to God to help them get that new job, or win a football match?

      “and we believe that :Jesus once raised Lazarus from the dead.”

      If Lazarus was, indeed, raised, it’s proof positive that he wasn’t actually dead. There have been plenty other cases of people who were believed to be dead, and who have walked out of the morgue. My sister went out with one of them for a year or so.

      I guess you also believe that Mary was a virgin – a young girl facing a stoning for being pregnant before marriage. Who examined her? The Bible doesn’t say, but it would most likely have been a woman. Can to imagine a scenario where the examiner would corroborate her story to save her life? I certainly can.

      The fact that these things were written in a book doesn’t make them true. The gospel of Judas, which was found in the last 20 years in Egypt, directly contradicts a lot of the other gospels, yet it was written in the same period. None of the gospels were written at the time these things happened (or didn’t), or by the people they were attributed to – they were written 100-200 years later, when the stories had been handed down a few times, with lots of possibilities of “Chinese whispers”

      At the time of Bishop Irenaeus in the second century, there were lots of gospels in circulation – about twenty, if I recall correctly – many of them contradictory – so Christians had a pretty mixed-up set of beliefs, yet they were being persecuted and put to death for their religion, so Irenaeus decided that people had better know what they were dying for, and have a banner to fight under. He declared most of the gospels to be Gnostic, and kept the four we know now because they all agreed with each other – and Christianity went with those four from that point – but before that, hence closer to the times of Christ, they were not the mainline beliefs.

      Just for the exercise, try reading the Bible as a book, without preconceptions, but with the understanding and, I suppose, cynicism of our modern age, and make your own interpretation of it as you would any other book – though I realise that once you are indoctrinated, it’s difficult to do that.

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  16. Just reading through these responses, it strikes me that God is a mechanism. Everybody seems to know exactly how he would react to any given situation, and things that react in a predictable way are mechanisms, following strict rules of cause and effect.

    From Dictionary.com : Mechanism : the agency or means by which an effect is produced or a purpose is accomplished.

    I spent five formative years at a Catholic boarding school, being brought up by the priests and lay Brothers of the Salesian order, so I know something about their teachings. Ask them about God, and they will say that he is all-powerful, an infinite intellect, and that serving, and pleasing God is the most important aspect to anybody’s life. God is always present, and sees everything you do, and even knows your thoughts. You only exist as an entity of God’s mind, and if he forgot about you, only for a moment, you would simply disappear. We didn’t have a bishop at the school, of course, but the office of bishop was held in great reverence as somebody who was even closer to God than a priest – a truly holy man.

    Some years ago, there was a bit of a scandal in the press about an Irish bishop, who was found to have had an illegitimate child. When we swear on the Bible to tell the truth in a law court, the church holds that you are bringing Almighty God to bear witness to the veracity of what you say, so if you tell a lie, you’ll have quite some explaining to do at the pearly gates! Similarly, when a priest violates a vow that he has made before God – well, that’s a pretty serious offence to God – all the worse if you’re an ordained priest – and in the Catholic church, they take a vow of chastity. As I said, this was not just a priest, but a bishop, and it occurred to me that he would not have conceived a child if his own, flesh-and-blood father had been in the room – you can be pretty sure about that! So what’s the difference between having your biological father in the room, and having God watching your every move? The only reasonable explanation that I can find is that he did not, in fact, believe that God was there. He believed that he was alone – or for some reason, he cared a great deal less about it than he would have if his own parent had been in the room.

    Following this logic, there should be no difficulty in excommunicating any priest found guilty of kiddie-fiddling, because he has shown that he didn’t believe that God was present when he was doing it – and that’s a contradiction with what he professes. Taking it a step further, though, the same applies every time any religious person does something that they have been told would offend God – i9n the moment they do it, they know in the depths of their psyche that it won’t offend God – because he’s no0t there – they are alone.

    Here’s another case – http://www.democraticunderground.com/1014216074
    A Muslim Imam in Pakistan is accused of putting burned pages from the Quran into the shopping bag of a young Christian girl. The case hasn’t been tried yet, but it seems likely that he did it so that this young girl (who has Downs syndrome, with a mental age of eleven, yet is still in prison) would be accused of a crime for which she could lose her life. Now it turns out that the one who actually burned the Quran was the Imam himself – a religious leader who would tell everybody that this is the worst sin/crime that anybody could commit. Clearly, he didn’t believe what he preached! Did he think Allah was watching him as he did it? I don’t think it likely!

    The reason is that we all play cards. A couple of years ago, I had an altercation with a neighbour because I was slamming the front door when I went out of the house. I was not aware of the pressure wave that went through the house because I was always outside when I did it. The interesting thing is that she didn’t say “This is a nuisance to me and I’m sick of it” – she said “Every time you do that, it wakes the baby” (who was three years old, by the way). She was playing the Baby card – because a baby is inviolable. Once it was brought to my attention, I stopped doing it, but if she had said it was a personal matter, she would have risked a retort of “You’re a big girl – deal with it” – but babies, in our culture, are sacrosanct. You can’t argue against a baby – so she presented her complaint in the name of the “baby”.

    How many people have you heard to use the colour card – because interpersonal matters can no longer be argued if there is a risk of offending the sensibilities of a person of colour. Come to think of it, I haven’t heard anything similar happening in China, where there is racism against “white devils”.

    When Al Queda indoctrinates young people, that if they die in the name of Allah, they will reap their reward in the next life, being surrounded by virgins, etc – it is noticeable that none of them love their own sons enough to strap bombs to them and send them into the land of glory. They’re convincing guillable people by playing the Allah card, as are nations that are at war – they both expect God to help them to defeat the other side. Allahu Akbar !

    When the IRA was setting bombs in England in the name of religion, were they doing it out of deep reverence? Did they think that God would be pleased by their actions – or were they simply playing the Religion card?

    Playing the God card is rife throughout the Bible, too. I read it some years ago, and the thing that I just didn’t “get” was how anybody could base a religion on it. Try reading Samuel, book 1, chapter 15. The Israelites had had a spat with the Amelekites, and Samuel was riven through with hatred and a lust for revenge, so he made Saul a leader of his army (which was considerable), and told him ….

    1Sm15:3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

    Nice guy! Saul went out, and killed pretty well everybody, but he brought back the leader of the Amalekites, Agag, to see Samuel, and Samuel wasn’t pleased, but he didn’t say to Saul “You pissed me off because you didn’t obey my orders” – he played the God card. “It wasn’t me – it was the LORD!”

    1Sm15:17 And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel? [ In fact, Samuel had anointed him]
    1Sm15:18 And the LORD sent thee on a journey [Samuel had], and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed. [By the way, who made the Amalekites? Who was their God?]
    1Sm15:19 Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the LORD, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the LORD?

    So he called Agag before him, and Agag came in delicately and pleaded for his life, but Samuel, in his great benevolence, said

    1Sm15:33 […}] As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal.

    Moses did it too – he promoted genocide and mass rape. He also sent his army out to lay waste to the Midianites, but they only killed all the men. They brought back a huge throng of women and children onto the Plains of Moab, and Moses went out to meet them…

    Num31:15 And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?
    Num31:16 Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.
    Num31:17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.
    Num31:18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

    When Moses came down the mountain with the commandments on stone tablets, he didn’t say “I’ve just spent the last 40 days carving these, and these are the laws I want you to follow” No, he had the charisma to convince people that he had been in communication with God, and if there’s a God that sees what you are doing and knows your thoughts – and he talks to ME – that’s street-cred of a high order!

    It seems to me that life is a game of poker – bluff and double bluff, and if you can play your cards in the name of someone who nobody dares to contradict, you’re on a winner – but it doesn’t show you believe in God – quite the contrary in my opinion.

  17. I propose another simple test of a professed believer. Tell them a guy on the street was talking to God today. If they say that this man must be crazy then they do not believe in God. If they did, why would their first assumption be that he is crazy? You touched on this already in your article but I like how this simple test exposes their doubt so easily.

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