In the comments of this post, the question has come up of whether nonbelievers hope that there is no god. Essentially, are nonbelievers truly just unconvinced by the evidence or are they avoiding or even rejecting him for some reason?
Here’s the comment by UnkleE that got me reflecting:
I seriously question this [that most people are looking for god].
I once had a long (about 18 months) email discussion with a friend who was an atheist and determinist, and at one point I suggested he didn’t want christianity to be true. He replied that he started to write back disagreeing, then he stopped and thought, and realised he really didn’t want a God interfering with his settled and aesthetically pleasing view that the universe had no origin or plan but itself.
Atheist philosopher Thomas Nagle wrote: “I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. …. I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”
Do you really think that Christopher Hitchens wanted to believe? That Richard Dawkins wants to believe?
I think it is more likely that most unbelievers are avoiding God, but a few are looking. There is no way either of us can prove our viewpopint of course, but that is what I think.
I can only speak for myself and I’m going to hash it out as I’m writing.
There is a good-sized part of me that still wishes there was a god. I now see it as a carry-over from years of religious belief that wired my brain to assume there must be a god, but it’s there nonetheless. But do I somehow now want there to be no god because I prefer it that way? No, it doesn’t please me to think that the universe is indifferent to my existence. It doesn’t please me to think that there is no all-knowing and all-loving daddy to comfort me when I’m troubled by the things life throws at me. It doesn’t please me to think that there is no ultimate plan to it all. So I truly don’t think I’m choosing the path of atheism because I prefer the universe this way.
I don’t know if UnkleE is hinting at the idea that nonbelievers are rebelling in some way or not [UnkleE has since clarified that he was not hinting at this], but let me address that idea anyway because I know from my days as a Christian that atheists are often seen as rebelling against the restrictions that such a belief would bring into their lives. Do I want there to be no god so that I am not accountable to him for my actions? Do I prefer a universe where I answer to no one? Part of me chuckles at that. The internet doesn’t allow us to get to know people on the same level as in person, so I wish I could let you have a conversation with those who are close to me. The idea that I don’t want to be accountable for my actions would have them laughing – not a ’ha ha’ funny – but a ‘that’s absurd’ funny. I have many weaknesses and I could write entire posts about those – but not wanting to be accountable is not one of them. In fact I’m pretty sure my family and friends would love for me to feel much less accountable! It would make all of our lives much less stressful!
But let’s be more specific here. Do I want the Christian God to be real? It’s hard for me to address this because immediately my mind just goes to all the things about the Christian story that just don’t make sense to me anymore. I’d have to somehow believe those now made sense in order to accept this god. I’d have to believe that a god created faulty humans, then decided he had to punish them for being faulty. Then he decided that the only way to ever spend any direct time with them would be to come down in human form and have himself murdered in order to appease himself. Then the only way any of these people could reap the benefits of this murder would be to believe all sorts of things about him even though he’s chosen to remain hidden, and if they didn’t then they’d be punished (either in a literal hell or by being annihilated) … sigh – I just can’t do it. No – I can’t want the god who is apparently the architect of this story to be real. Not because I want to rebel or because I prefer the universe without any god, but because if I were to believe in a god I would want it to be in one who put forth a story that made much more sense than this one.
I’m looking forward to reading any comments people have on this topic, but I’m particularly interested to hear from other exChristians who are now non-theists. Do you feel you want there to be no god now, and why?