Do I want there to be no god?

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?

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36 thoughts on “Do I want there to be no god?

  1. I don’t know to be honest. It’s mixed feelings. The thing is that the moment you say god you open up so many possible gods it’s hard to say. And even if we could choose one are we really equipped for the job ? I’d rather just die sober than to bathe myself in self-loathing solipsistic claims. Just my 2 cents.

  2. Cant write much now, and I can elaborate more later if you want. But I admit that I am happy and relieved that there is no god. When I first left Christianity, I desperately wanted my god, my Jesus, to really exist. I wanted him to love me, and I was scared of being alone. But that was a few years ago. As I get further from Christianity, my perspective widens and my opinions change. Not only do I not want there to be a god, I am happy that there is no god. I may be wrong, there might be a god, but I am relieved that there is not one. I also think that there is nothing wrong with thinking that way. The Christian will look at that as proof of my immoral and selfish behavior. So be it.

  3. “I don’t know if UnkleE is hinting at the idea that nonbelievers are rebelling in some way or not,”

    Just to clear this up. I wasn’t hinting this. I think it is almost certainly true for some people, but I have no insight into other people’s motives, so I don’t think I ever make that accusation. I simply meant that I don’t think many unbelievers are looking for God or want God to exist.

    • I should clarify UnkleE that I’m not trying to be critical of the thoughts you expressed. They just got me thinking about the topic in general and your thoughts were a good starting point for the discussion. Writing posts was a lot simpler when only my MIL was reading them – lol. I have to really think about how my thoughts are coming across to people and I apologize if I fail at this sometimes.

      • No problems Brenda. I think you are being critical of mu thoughts, in that you disagree with them But that’s fine because that’s part of the deal when discussing someone’s blog. I disagree with you just as much! : ) But disagreeing isn’t the same as disrespecting, and I don’t think either of us is doing that.

  4. I think there’s an assumption in unklee’s comment that the majority of atheists didn’t believe in God at some point in their lives. We could guess at that, but we know there are atheists who were born into atheist homes, and those who were religious and left their faith because of lack of evidence (not because they weren’t looking for God).
    Unless it can be proven that most atheists were always atheists, then I don’t think it’s a valid question.
    On the note of wanting there to be a God, I would like for there to be a God, but I don’t know if I could stand the thought of any God who’s watching what’s going on in our world and not intervene.
    However, I in no way would want the Christian god to be god. The Christian God created flawed creatures, allowed a talking snake to cause man to do wrong, brought a curse upon the world, slaughtered so many people (including children), demanded animal sacrifices, blames us for being born flawed, allowing another invisible creature to interfere in our lives negatively, and can’t stand our presence unless he has his own son tortured to death. And we were supposedly created in his image? No thanks. I’ll take a god who understands who we are and tries to make our world a better place. I’ll take a god who actually communicates with us in a way we can all understand. Add to that at least show itself to us once in our lifetime. So far, I haven’t seen that nor do I know anyone who has. I think a more interesting question would be for those who don’t want a god to exist, is it because they’d be angry at this god for not giving us a better world to live in?

    • Good points Speed! I especially liked:

      “I would like for there to be a God, but I don’t know if I could stand the thought of any God who’s watching what’s going on in our world and not intervene.”

      And also:

      “The Christian God created flawed creatures, allowed a talking snake to cause man to do wrong, brought a curse upon the world, slaughtered so many people (including children), demanded animal sacrifices, blames us for being born flawed, allowing another invisible creature to interfere in our lives negatively, and can’t stand our presence unless he has his own son tortured to death. And we were supposedly created in his image? No thanks.”

      I thought this was a great summary of my issues with the Christian story and the Christian God. And you touched on one of my big issues with believing in any god:

      “I’ll take a god who actually communicates with us in a way we can all understand.”

      I think I just quoted your entire comment – lol!

    • Speed, no I didn’t make that assumption. I live in Australia where christianity is a minority, but atheism is an even smaller minority. Most people are either agnostic or very vaguely theistic. I don’t make any assumptions about other people’s upbringing.

      • You said:
        “I think it is more likely that most unbelievers are avoiding God, but a few are looking.”
        If you didn’t make that assumption, then why do you believe that? This opinion must be based off of some assumption because you just accused the majority of unbelievers of willingly avoiding God, yet I could just as easily say that I assume most atheist were once religious and left because they looked but never found.

  5. Really interesting thread and something that resonates with me quite a bit. I’ll try to be brief. I think I would prefer a God for a multitude of different reasons – not least of which would be ultimate justice. Ok, so maybe I am a little vengeful but I really fall for the whole story-line of comeuppance. Where the hero (think: “Count of Monte Christo”) gets his revenge on all the horrible things done to him. I look at the global markets and other current events and think, ‘they’re just going to get away with it’. People get murdered senselessly and the killers are never caught. The ‘protagonists’ in our lives get treated like a baby treats a diaper and noone ever defends them, fixes the wrong. So, in that sense it would be nice to see some kind of ultimate justice meted out.
    Still, I think roasting someone eternally to be a bit much. Don’t you?

  6. With no disrespect intended to the person who originally posed this, but in my ever so humble opinion, this is a stupid question.

    To my mind, it isn’t a matter about whether I want there to be a god or not, it’s about what ::appears:: to be true. And I’m sorry, the evidence doesn’t favour the view that god exists. Christians seems to have a hard time grasping the fact that non-believers are unconvinced that their biblegod is real. Additionally, Christians ASSUME, as always that their way is the only way; whose to say, for instance that if there is a god that he has to be the Christian god. Do Christians want there to not be an Allah, for instance? Are they rejecting him out of pride and insolence?

    Again, what I personally want to be true is neither here or there.

    Christians have a tendency of recycling the same old arguments over and over again, and this just seems like a fancy way of rebranding the old cliche that non-believers are wilfully rejecting their god out of rebelliousness or spite. Yes, I know the author of the question states otherwise, but it’s hard for me not to conclude this is what’s really behind this.

    As I said above, it’s not about what I want. If biblegod is real, all he has to do is make himself known in a way that is convincing and believable. After all, the bible is full of miracles, signs and wonders but for some reason, he felt a need to completely stop making himself known and now expects us to rely on tall tales from an old book and the weak arguments of Christians, under the threat of eternal torture, no less.

    In essence we are talking of a being who claims to love us all intimately but purposefully decides to make himself invisible and remain perpetually silent and hide his intentions in ambiguous, arcane texts that have been retranslated and mistranslated for centuries and is full of errors, contradictions and inhumane horrors which we are then not supposed to question in any way under the aforementioned eternal threats. So perhaps in a way I ::don’t:: want this being to exist, for if he did, he would be a monstrous tyrant capable of making Hitler look like Mother Theresa.

    If anything, I charge that Christians only want this nonsense to be true because they are convinced it benefits them. That is all.

  7. G’day Unoder. I think we all agree that the important question is truth rather than wish. But that means we each have to consider our own motives to see if we are allowing our wishes to influence us. And that is what we are talking about.

    I don’t want to take up too much space, but may I just point out that you have made a number of statements about christians that I believe are not true of me. I’ll simply list them so you can hopefully think again:

    “Christians seems to have a hard time grasping the fact that non-believers are unconvinced that their biblegod is real.” I understand that.

    “Additionally, Christians ASSUME, as always that their way is the only way” I don’t assume that, I conclude it from the evidence.

    “he felt a need to completely stop making himself known and now expects us to rely on tall tales from an old book and the weak arguments of Christians” He still makes himself known directly to some people, but now, as then, it isn’t everyone.

    “under the threat of eternal torture” Jesus didn’t mention torture and ‘eternal’ doesn’t mean what you think it does.

    “remain perpetually silent” I think you don’t understand christian belief about the Holy Spirit, nor have you apparently searched to find examples of where he isn’t silent.

    “retranslated and mistranslated for centuries “ Virtually nothing of the NT is uncertain, and nothing of importance, because of textual issues.

    “Christians only want this nonsense to be true because they are convinced it benefits them” It would be of no benefit unless it is true!

    Best wishes.

    • Hi, thanks for getting back to me. I appreciate you saying I may have made statements that do not apply to you, but you’ve also done the same about me. I’m also interested in this “evidence” you follow the One True Religion and everyone who doesn’t think like you is wrong.

      Now to address your points:

      “He still makes himself known directly to some people, but now, as then, it isn’t everyone.”

      In the bible, god speaks with a booming voice and performs earth-changing miracles and feats in front of thousands. NOTHING like this happens today. At all. Unless you can provide some evidence of something akin to plagues of Egypt, a speaking, burning bush or a pillar of fire happening today, then I remain unconvinced that god “makes himself known” to people. I do not consider voices in someone’s head or warm and fuzzy feelings to be evidence, BTW. People from other faiths have that, too.

      “Jesus didn’t mention torture and ‘eternal’ doesn’t mean what you think it does.”

      Revelation makes it quite clear that unbelievers will be burned forever in a lake of fire, after its apocalyptic Jesus is done reaping them. Could you also elaborate on why “eternal” means something other than what it usually does in this context?

      “I think you don’t understand christian belief about the Holy Spirit, nor have you apparently searched to find examples of where he isn’t silent.”

      Now that is a bold assumption. Listen, I used to be a Christian and was so for many, many years so you are quite wrong. I understand the Christian belief about the holy spirit perfectly well, and unless you’re telling me the holy spirit speaks audibly and directly to you (which would make you the first person ever this applies to), then I do not buy that there is this ethereal spirit that “speaks” to anyone. And to be clear, I am talking about a real, audible voice here, not someone one hears in their own mind.

      ” Virtually nothing of the NT is uncertain, and nothing of importance, because of textual issues.”

      Do you REALLY think this. I mean, really!?

  8. Hi Brenda!

    I’m a little late to the party, but I’ll give my thoughts anyway. As usual, they’re very similar to yours. 🙂

    I was very close to my grandfather on my mother’s side. I was lucky enough to be with him the day he died, and I’ll never forget that. This was just a few days before my 30th birthday, and I was still a Christian. My brother was en route when my grandfather passed away, and I really regretted that he wasn’t able to see him one last time. But my brother said, “That’s okay. I’ll see him again.” That really touched me then, and it still does now. I want that part of it to be true. Like you said, I want there to be a loving being who is above all this and wants to take care of us: heal the wounded, comfort the grieving, fix the broken. I want to believe that a better life awaits us after this one.

    However, I think the evidence shows that such a being doesn’t exist. If he did, why weren’t children given better immune systems so that so many of them wouldn’t die young? Why does cancer exist? Why do natural disasters occur? If such a being exists, then he must be what the deists imagine — a god who created everything, but does not interfere in any meaningful way. I’d be okay with that idea; I actually find it preferable. But there’s no evidence to make me think it’s so.

    When it comes to the god of the Bible, I have no wish for him to be real. This wouldn’t stop me from believing in him, if I felt the evidence was good enough. I was a Christian for over 20 years, and I believed it all then even though I was often bothered by the theology. If it’s true, I would want to know. But the god of the Bible is so often cruel and petty that I have no desire for him to exist. Thank goodness he doesn’t! 🙂

    I’m glad you posted this. In some ways, I agree with unoder that this question is irrelevant. But at the same time, I think many Christians wonder this about us, and it’s only fair to address it, regardless of what they might think about how we feel.

    • Nate – thanks for joining in the discussion.

      I think evil and suffering are the reasons I didn’t hang around very long in the deist type of thinking. If there is such a god then he’s a jerk! It comes up a lot as I’m reading Paine’s ‘The Age of Reason.’ He talks as though this deist god is all rainbows and sunshine …. but that will come up in another post 🙂

      Yeah – I think some of us would like to have the positive aspects of having a god exist – but there are so many negatives that go along with that.

      • If I may join in. I always found it weird that I was a deist for so long (years, this is long for a 20 year old :P). It took hitchen’s to face the facts. Read the age of reason as well, pretty awesome indeed.

    • Nate,
      I recently told my wife about me not believing in Christianity any more. My wife trusts me and loves me unconditionally and had doubts of her own, so it should have been extremely easy for me to talk to her about it. However, it wasn’t easy to bring up the conversation for one of the reasons you brought up. We’ve suffered loss in our family, and if there was one thing I knew she held on to, it was that she would see everyone in heaven again. I didn’t want to spoil that for her, but I couldn’t hold what I believed from her either. When we finally discussed it, I told her even if there is an afterlife, she really wouldn’t want it to be based on Christianity. After I explained to her what I discovered about the bible, she agreed with me. She was bummed about the thought of not seeing them again, but I told her I can’t prove there is no afterlife, though I can prove Christianity is false. I think that helped ease the blow but it just goes to show how feelings like that can cause people to cling to these religions even though they have as much (if not more) negativity as they do positivity.

  9. G’day Unoder,

    “I’m also interested in this “evidence” you follow the One True Religion and everyone who doesn’t think like you is wrong.”

    I don’t think I ever actually said this, and I don’t believe it as you have stated it here. I think you may have again assumed something about me.

    As for evidence, this isn’t the place to go into detail. I have outlined my ideas here, and I’ll just give a quick summary:

    1. Logic says the universe couldn’t just cause itself and science says that it couldn’t have been so suited to life by chance. I can’t think of any sensible alternative to it being the creation of God.

    2. To live as human beings means having ethics and rationality, consciousness and choice. Without God we struggle to explain these things, and in fact many would now deny them. Only belief in God allows us to believe in these things and remain fully human.

    3. Millions of people claim to have been in communication with God, to have been healed by him or guided by him. Many of these cases have been documented and investigated and naturalistic explanations appear to be unlikely. I find it impossible to believe that every last one of these are false, particularly as I have experienced a few small communications from God.

    4. Secular historians tell us that the gospels are good historical documents (by the standards of ancient history), that we can be confident that Jesus lived and did and said many of the things described in them. There is enough here to enable us to form a good picture of him, and to decide if we believe he was telling the truth. I think that is the best explanation of the historical evidence, and I believe him.

    So that’s a summary. All of it is based on good objective evidence which I could share if you wished.

    “I remain unconvinced that god “makes himself known” to people. I do not consider voices in someone’s head or warm and fuzzy feelings to be evidence, BTW. People from other faiths have that, too.”
    Have you investigated what proper studies of these things shows? I have. And why do you think the evidence from people from other faiths works against what I am saying? It actually adds more evidence.

    “Revelation makes it quite clear that unbelievers will be burned forever in a lake of fire, after its apocalyptic Jesus is done reaping them. Could you also elaborate on why “eternal” means something other than what it usually does in this context?”

    Revelation is a vision and there are many things in it that are clearly non literal (is Jesus a person, a lion, a lamb???). Death is thrown into the lake of fire, so how can that be literal?? Eternal means in the age to come, not everlasting. For more info on this, read Hell – what does the Bible say?.

    “Do you REALLY think this. I mean, really!?”

    Of course, because it is what the experts say. Why are you so incredulous, don’t you believe them?

    Thanks for your questions. I’m sorry I have to answer them so briefly, but already this is a long comment. Best wishes.

    • “I don’t think I ever actually said this, and I don’t believe it as you have stated it here.”

      OK, so then what is your position since you don’t believe Christianity is the only true religion?

      Anyway, I’ll check out your website later, but I’ll first address your other points here.

      1. I take the position that we don’t yet know where the universe came from, or indeed if this is the only universe. Even so, to my mind it is a huge leap in logic to assume that just because we can’t be sure of the origin of the universe that the god of Christianity exists and created everything. The “god” described in the bible sounds all too human and not like a supreme being that created a universe. Also, there is still so much we don’t know about the universe, and the bible, which purports to be the infallible word of the god you believe created said universe tells us absolutely nothing about it. He’s more concerned with whether we eat shellfish, wear mixed fabrics or cook goats in their mother’s milk.

      2. Every time Christians bring up the Objective Morality argument, I want to strangle a kitten. For one, morality didn’t originate with a small Hebrew tribe in the bronze age and neither did it begin with the spread of Christianity. I actually think it’s rather disingenuous the way Christians latch on to our moral inclinations as a race and then try to credit it to their god in order to validate their beliefs. What’s more, if our morality comes from your god, then one has to wonder why he commands things that most reasonable people would consider immoral (e.g. slavery, genocide, child abuse, incest etc). It makes far more sense to me to view our moral imperatives as being an emergent property of us all having to live together. What’s more, I know that, for instance murder is wrong not because “the bible tells me so”, but because I know I would not like it to be done to me. I view much of what we consider morality (I prefer the word “ethics” personally) in that framework.

      3. Millions have claimed lots of seemingly implausible things, so that in itself is not answer. And of course, I’ve read testimonies and heard some of these stories, but personally never came across anything that could not be explained naturally on some level – I’ve certainly never read of any miracles of biblical proportions that have been documented and investigated (and not later proved to be hoaxes). Also, when I was a Christian I had experiences that I felt attested to the existence of god, but now, on the outside looking in, I think I just wanted to believe those things. Ultimately, if signs and wonders were really as abundant as you make out, then it would not be possible for ::anyone:: to be skeptical; it would be self-evident that god is real (when was the last time you heard someone say they didn’t “believe” in wind?), but it isn’t, and herein lies the problem, and this is also why Christianity is so reliant on faith.

      4. This is something I’ve looked into quite a bit, and my findings have lead me to the opposite conclusion. That is, secular historians have not found any evidence that the biblical Jesus was a real, historical figure. In reality, no historian (save the famous redacted Josephus text) ever wrote about him, historical records from the time he was meant to be alive don’t mention him or his many miracles. I personally think that Jesus was a legend, a gestalt entity if you will made up of several real people of the time period all rolled into one. Kind of like Robin Hood.

      But by all means, share your “good objective evidence”. I’m interested in your sources.

      “why do you think the evidence from people from other faiths works against what I am saying? It actually adds more evidence.”

      Hardly. If your faith is the one and only correct faith, then how does one explain spiritual experiences from other faiths? Unless of course you take the position that all religions lead to god, which may indeed be your stance, but you haven’t made that clear.

      As for the rest, there are many passages in the bible that appear figurative, which begs the question of how is one suppose to know what is literal and what is metaphorical. It would also appear that you are an annihilationist – fair enough, but many, many Christians would disagree with you on that and probably not consider you a true believer because of it. Ever wonder why there never seems to be a general consensus amongst Christians about what the bible actually says, and how two believers can read opposing things from the same set of texts?

  10. Hello all ~ good discussion:) I hope it’s not overbearing that I weigh in, in light of the numerous similar opinions already expressed. Also, I apologize in advance Unklee; while it’s never easy being a ‘lone voice’, I hope I can add a little to that side you oppose.
    Briefly, regarding 1. Cosmological argument, it seems to me for Theists, to rest on “Special Pleading” where an exemption is cited with no justification for the exemption. Logically, God himself requires a first cause. Interested in your answer:)
    2. The Moral argument, here appealing to majority “Many would now deny them” (which I don’t say unkindly, is a fallacy); does not advance the position in my opinion. It would be asking you to reinvent the wheel, I think, to ask for justification on that last statement – suffice that morality can be arrived at by defining ‘moral right’ as what promotes well-being, happiness and health, and/or minimizes unnecessary harm or suffering. (“Treatise on Morality” youtube ‘Theoreticalbullshit’). Again, would love to hear form you on this:)
    3. Very interesting. For me, these were always 3rd person reports. Forgive my skepticism, but from my own vantage point that lacks such experience, I have to wonder if there could not be other explanations, even to the extent of reported cases that might lend evidence to something else of ‘human nature’ outside of a true third-party entity. I don’t want to challenge this point any further as somehow it feels uncharitable to do so.
    4. I think here our own readings vary wildly. (Battle of the ‘experts’ if you will) I would think it presumptive to make a claim one way or the other, but confidence is confidence and I’ll admire you for that. Also, I think I would have to read up on this further to offer any more substantive response.
    Cheers all and thanks again Brenda for another scintillating OP.

    @Nate – thanks for your thoughts.

  11. G’day Unoder, I’ll try to answer your questions as long as you want to ask them,

    “OK, so then what is your position since you don’t believe Christianity is the only true religion?”

    I didn’t say that either. Let me explain. There are not all that many religions really, and most of them agree about a good many things – ethical behaviour for example – and many agree there is a creator God. So while I believe christianity is true, I must also believe that the other religions are at least partly true, because they agree about many things.

    More importantly, I don’t think everyone who doesn’t think like me is wrong. That would be amazingly arrogant, and I may be arrogant, but I’m not amazing!! : )

    “Even so, to my mind it is a huge leap in logic to assume that just because we can’t be sure of the origin of the universe that the god of Christianity exists and created everything.”

    There’s no assumption involved. Follow the Cosmological argument and you’ll find the conclusion is that the universe has a cause external to itself, and this cause must have certain characteristics which are compatible with the christian God, and not so many other things. The second version of the argument also concludes there is a God who explains the universe, and we can again draw some conclusions about that God that are compatible with the christian God.

    You really need to interact with the argument and its logic. And the only real way to criticise an argument like this is to state clearly which premises you disagree with and why.

    “What’s more, if our morality comes from your god”

    You have made another assumption here which is incorrect for me. I don’t think morality comes from “my” God. Rather, my statement was that we can’t know true ethics without God. Knowing is different to being or causing.

    But I question your explanation for morality. Morality is about what we “ought” to do. Your explanation explains why we might think that we should or shouldn’t do something, but it doesn’t explain if we it is really moral to do that.

    “I’ve read testimonies and heard some of these stories, but personally never came across anything that could not be explained naturally on some level “

    Well I have seen such verified stories. Are you interested to investigate them?

    “But by all means, share your “good objective evidence”. I’m interested in your sources.”

    The four gospels are all historical sources and Luke wrote according to ancient historical methods, Josephus and Tacitus both mention him. You can read more in <a href="http://www.is-there-a-god.info/belief/jesusinhistory.shtml&quot;Jesus in history and other pages you can link from there. You will see my sources include some of the most respected names in NT scholarship – Michael Grant, Bart Ehrman, EP Sanders, NT Wright, James Charlesworth. Here are a few expert quotes:

    “I don’t think there’s any serious historian who doubts the existence of Jesus …. We have more evidence for Jesus than we have for almost anybody from his time period.”
    Prof Bart Ehrman, University of North Carolina

    “Jesus did exist; and we know more about him than about almost any Palestinian Jew before 70 C.E.”
    Prof James Charlesworth, Princeton Theological Seminary

    “Historical reconstruction is never absolutely certain, and in the case of Jesus it is sometimes highly uncertain. Despite this, we have a good idea of the main lines of his ministry and his message. We know who he was, what he did, what he taught, and why he died. ….. the dominant view [among scholars] today seems to be that we can know pretty well what Jesus was out to accomplish, that we can know a lot about what he said, and that those two things make sense within the world of first-century Judaism.”
    EP Sanders

    “If your faith is the one and only correct faith, then how does one explain spiritual experiences from other faiths?”

    I have explained how I feel about other religions above. But even if christianity was the one and only true religion, what prevents God from healing or appearing in visions to non-believers?

    “how is one suppose to know what is literal and what is metaphorical”

    Why do you think that we have to “know” everything? And why should a lack of certainty mean it cannot be true? There is lack of certainty in most science, but does that make it untrue?

    I don’t want to be rude, but can you see that many of your points are based on very questionable assumptions? But thanks for asking – I hope my answers help in some way.

    • Unklee,

      I am aware of the Kalam Cosmological Argument and remain unconvinced by it. Though you may consider it a “trivial riposte” (as you refer to it on your page), the argument completely fails for me in its insistence that the universe had to be created by a being that was not created. It’s something of a double standard in that god can be timeless, but the universe can’t be. Chiefly though, the argument still does not offer any solid proof that Yahweh is the creator of the universe as we know it. A universe, I might add that we are STILL learning about.

      You go on to say that we can’t know true ethics without knowing god, yet still have offered not a scrap of proof said god even exists!

      Beyond that, were this rationale even true, it would mean that god is somehow capable of imbuing everyone with an innate sense of morality as derived from himself, but somehow can’t make it at all clear that he even exists. That to me makes no sense, and makes even less sense when one considers that some of the most atheistic nations (Japan and many Scandinavian countries for instance) have significantly lower crime rates than “Christianised” countries. One then has to wonder how god is able to inject his morality into the minds of people who don’t believe in him more so than those who do.

      I notice how you also completely skipped over my points about many of the IMMORAL acts in the bible as commanded by this same god…

      Anyway, I suggest you watch the following video, which touches on some of your wider points. It concerns William Lane Craig primarily, but your arguments aren’t too far off his, so i think it’s relevant:

      “Why do you think that we have to “know” everything? And why should a lack of certainty mean it cannot be true?”

      I’m not saying we necessarily have to know everything (clearly we don’t), but it helps to at least try to know or understand, and this certainly makes more sense than just falling back on totally unproven assumptions and conjecture. Then you go on to say:

      “I don’t want to be rude, but can you see that many of your points are based on very questionable assumptions?”

      Yet your original assertions were just that. Point #1 from you was an argument from ignorance (i.e. we don’t know where the universe came from therefore god did it) and point #3 was the argument from popularity, where you postulate that just because millions of people believe something to be true that automatically makes it true.

      As before, nothing you’ve presented thus far has proven Yahweh of the christian bible to be the creator of the known universe.

      Anyway, this has gone way OT. The original question was whether one wants to believe there is a god or not, which has already been addressed. We’ve now veered off into topics which have been debated (and debunked, IMO) over and over again elsewhere and I really don’t want to reinvent the wheel by going over them any more, particularly as I raised other points which you completely skipped over. I also don’t want to say much more at the risk of you telling me “that’s not what I meant”; as it is, I know more about what you don’t mean than what you do actually mean!

      I’ve explained my position on “do you not want to believe in god?” and understand why you believe there is one, but I’m not convinced by your assertions, which I hear constantly being recycled by Christian apologists time and time again.

      Until a Christian is able to offer some substantial, concrete evidence of Yahweh, we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

  12. Imbrocata,

    “God himself requires a first cause”

    This is Philosophy 1.001, and doesn’t originate with me. There are two ways to look at it.

    1. When I was a teen, the favourite theory for the universe was “steady state” in which the universe has always existed. As such, it didn’t require an explanation for its origin. But now we know the universe originated with the big bang, so it requires a cause or explanation for its origin. Even if the universe originated from another universe, eventually we need an explanation. But God is defined as always existing, so, like the old steady state universe, he doesn’t require a cause.

    2. The universe is clearly contingent. God is defined as a necessary being (this doesn’t mean he must exist, but that if he does exist his existence is not contingent). A contingent thing requires a cause, a necessary thing doesn’t.

    Either way, God if he exists doesn’t require a cause.

    “morality can be arrived at by defining ‘moral right’ as what promotes well-being, happiness and health, and/or minimizes unnecessary harm or suffering”

    I beg to differ. Behaviour can be arrived at that way, but what tells us whether we ethically should behave that way? What if I don’t want to promote well-being, happiness and health, or minimize unnecessary harm or suffering?

    “I have to wonder if there could not be other explanations”

    Of course you would, and should wonder that. But that implies you also should investigate the cases. Are you willing to do that?

    ” I think here our own readings vary wildly. (Battle of the ‘experts’ if you will)”

    I have listed a few of my experts above, and I could list more. What experts would you call on?

    Thanks for the questions.

  13. Ok, I have written – my goodness how I’ve written a response. (Still working on the 4th one lol). I have to say, it feels as though I’ve been given a lot of ‘home-work’ or even ‘busy-work’ to do and while I have no issue with the idea of backing up what I believe to be true, I think you would agree that volumes have already been written on the “Cosmological Argument”, “Objective Morality”, “Personal Experience” and “Historicity of Biblical Claims”. Furthermore, the OP was about whether we ‘want there to be no god?’. Surely everything that has been written has been related, I grant easily, it still seems somewhat out of place to be tackling these huge issues, all at once, in this kind of forum. Out of place, even to the point of the original OP specifically, when it is not asking for evidence for/against God’s existence specifically, but whether one ‘wishes’ there to be such a being. And again, the “Why or Why not?” will still lead us to these very places and arguments we have been advancing.
    Perhaps too, Unklee, you feel I have given you homework to do as well. If I have, I apologize. I’m not trying to make you ‘busy’ for the sake of busy-ness anymore than you are doing the same to me. We both feel convicted, if you will, by our own arguments and feel we are justified beyond points of bias to make them. I think too we feel justified in perceiving bias on the other side.
    Still, I have written a response and while I don’t feel this is the place for “Puking in Technicolor” all over the opposing view, I wonder what suggestions you might make for a suitable forum to do just that. Or perhaps piece-meal? I include all participants to weigh in here.
    In short, my responses (and I dare-say, your own) are too long.
    Thanks much.. now back to studying ‘Ancient Historical Standards’. 🙂

  14. Imbrocata, I’m quite happy to postpone further discussion. I was mostly just answering questions.

    My aims in these discussions are modest. I try to avoid making statements of what other people should think, but rather explain my viewpoint which I think is based on evidence. Some christians and some unbelievers tend to make strong statements about how right they are and how clearly wrong other people are. So when someone seems to be doing that and dismissing a christian viewpoint as if it had no merit, I challenge them on it, not to prove them wrong in their own view so much as to try to show their strong statements are over-statements.

    So I think you have made over-statements, and I have challenged them. If you don’t want to defend them, or don’t have the time, or can’t defend them, that’s OK. Whichever is true, I have achieved my aim of pointing out that your statements require some justification, and some of them I think cannot be so justified. But I have nothing to prove beyond that, and I agree that it is hard to avoid long replies, and this isn’t the best place for them.

    Let’s call it a day. Thanks, and best wishes.

  15. Thank you Unklee, and at least in one point you are correct. But if you are willing to take a ‘victory lap’ despite my request for a better and more suitable forum for the answers I’ve already put down. Then Bravo, Sir. I will leave you to it=D

  16. Speed said (way back):

    “You said: “I think it is more likely that most unbelievers are avoiding God, but a few are looking.”
    If you didn’t make that assumption, then why do you believe that?

    I believe it (not strongly – after all I said ‘more likely’) because that is what I observe. The unbelievers I observe on the internet tend to avoid the arguments that don’t work in their favour and accept answers that are contrary to the best fact & opinions (think Lawrence Krauss and creation from nothing, think conflict thesis, think the Jesus myth, think Richard Dawkins in ‘God Delusion’, etc), they say they believe in evidence then make assumptions that prevent some evidence being referenced and they never seem to want to investigate this evidence when I offer them the opportunity. This is only a small sample, but it is very common when these issues come up. So they may think they want to know the truth, and they say this, but their behaviour says otherwise to me. But of course I know there are others who are not like this, so I make a cautious statement (‘more likely’) and I never accuse any individual.

    “This opinion must be based off of some assumption because you just accused the majority of unbelievers of willingly avoiding God, yet I could just as easily say that I assume most atheist were once religious and left because they looked but never found.”

    These statements aren’t mutually exclusive. You are talking about what happened in the past, I am talking about the present.

    • Unklee, you seem to have it backwards from what I observe. It’s the “Christians” who avoid the arguments that don’t work in their favor and accept answers that are contrary to the best fact & opinions. No matter how much science proves (and even common sense) that the earth is old, you still have young earth creationists. No matter how ridiculous Noah’s ark is (and impossible) Christians still believe it. No matter how many contradictions you point out in the Bible, Christians will make an excuse for it and continue to call their book inerrant. I could go on and on and on. On the flip side, from the videos I’ve watched there are a lot of atheists and people of other religions that don’t deny that Jesus may have in fact existed, though not as God as he claimed. I’ll admit I haven’t read a lot of books by atheists, but what you are saying is exactly what apologists do.

      And you once again dodged the question (something you are good at) by saying we’re talking about past vs. present? If most atheists were once religious and left their religion because they were searching for God and found he doesn’t exist, how does that make our arguments different because some of them, at this second, aren’t looking for God? I could say the same about you. You are religious so you found God so therefore most religious people aren’t looking for God either because they believe they found him. Stop playing semantics with everyone and answer their questions and be honest about what you believe. Dancing around questions is obvious and doesn’t make your arguments true because nobody can pinpoint what you believe or what you’re saying.

      • Speed, I’m not sure if this discussion is going anywhere. I am happy to answer any questions, but you seem to be trying to find fault, whether it applies or not. let me answer these questions and then perhaps we should call it a day, do you agree.

        “Unklee, you seem to have it backwards from what I observe. It’s the “Christians” who avoid the arguments that don’t work in their favor and accept answers that are contrary to the best fact & opinions.”
        I know that occurs and I don’t agree with it – I am not a young earth creationist, I don’t believe the Bible is inerrant, and I think the Noah’s Ark is a legend or an exaggeration of a smaller event. But that is irrelevant to the topic under discussion, which is whether atheists want there to be a God or not.

        “And you once again dodged the question (something you are good at) by saying we’re talking about past vs. present? …. how does that make our arguments different because some of them, at this second, aren’t looking for God?”
        Speed, we weren’t discussing whether it makes any arguments different, we were discussing whether atheists want there to be a God. You questioned how I could know that many atheists once believed but also think they are no longer looking for God. I explained they may once have believed and they may once have been looking for God, but they clearly no longer believe, and (I think) many no longer want there to be a God. That is a sensible viewpoint. If you don’t agree, then by all means say so, but it is pointless accusing me of dodging when I am simply addressing the topic and answering your questions.

        “Stop playing semantics with everyone and answer their questions and be honest about what you believe. Dancing around questions is obvious and doesn’t make your arguments true because nobody can pinpoint what you believe or what you’re saying.”
        And this just shows that there;s no point in our discussing further. I have tried to answer every question honestly, I have pointed out when people assumed I believed differently than I do, I have referred people to places where I’ve written what I believe in more detail than what I can explain here. If you can’t pinpoint, then ask.

        Why make such unjustified accusations? It’s much better just to discuss and learn what each other thinks. Unless you wish to do that without the accusations, let’s wish each other the best and say farewell.

      • unklee,
        Don’t worry. I’m done discussing anything with you. I’ve read your responses to everyone and I’m not alone in trying to figure out what you believe. I see the assumptions in your questions, and I see how you wiggle your way around the questions with your blame and deflect tactics. Just like when I challenged you that it’s Christians who are guilty of doing what you said, you say it’s irrelevant to the topic. No, it’s completely relevant and the fact that you don’t acknowledge that proves you’re just trying to discredit what I’m saying because you can’t defend your position.
        Plus, I’m not going to debate anything with any Christian who believes the Old Testament should be ignored and that the bible is errant. It’s amazing that you would continue to stay a Christian with beliefs like that. Jesus himself said that all of the law is to be upheld, so you must think he’s a liar. How can you ever trust what you believe when you have to decide which parts are true and which parts aren’t? Don’t bother answering that because I’m sure I won’t get an honest answer or I’ll be blamed for asking the question.

      • I think ending the discussion is a good idea. We may not all agree on these things, but at least we all take them very seriously — in that, we have much in common.

        Personally, I haven’t been bothered by unklee’s comments. He’s actually one of my favorite Christians to discuss things with. His beliefs are different than the ones I held when I was a Christian, but I kind of like that about him. It tends to make him a “kinder, gentler” Christian, in my opinion. I think he offers an interesting perspective, and he’s always so polite! 🙂

        Speed, I’ve also enjoyed many of your comments. I think you and I tend to look at things very similarly, which is probably why we’re both atheists.

        But it does seem like this particular comment thread has probably run its course. I’m sure we’ll all convene on another topic down the road. 🙂

        Take care, everyone…

  17. Unoder,

    “I am aware of the Kalam Cosmological Argument”
    You need to interact with the argument. The formal argument doesn’t say anything about God – its conclusion is that the universe had an (external) cause. I don’t think any of your comments address that, and therefore don’t really address the argument.

    “an argument from ignorance (i.e. we don’t know where the universe came from therefore god did it)”
    Again, you need to interact with the argument, for what you say here isn’t what it says.

    “You go on to say that we can’t know true ethics without knowing god, yet still have offered not a scrap of proof said god even exists!”
    I’ve never suggested we have ‘proof’, only good reasons. And the difficulty, perhaps impossibility, of explain what we all instinctively know about ethics without God is one of the many reasons.

    “god is somehow capable of imbuing everyone with an innate sense of morality as derived from himself, but somehow can’t make it at all clear that he even exists. That to me makes no sense”
    I’m sorry, but something not being understandable is not an argument – otherwise we’d have no quantum physics, no big bang, no relativity, no mind, etc.

    “I notice how you also completely skipped over my points about many of the IMMORAL acts in the bible as commanded by this same god…

    I have discussed this before. I believe in Jesus and the God of Jesus, and I believe Jesus gives us the correct picture of God – after all he said “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father”. So anything that contradicts that mustn’t be correct. So I am troubled by those stories, I have no explanation for them, but I can only assume that they somehow don’t reflect who God is. I don’t believe the Bible is inerrant and I believe the NT has replaced the OT, so the stories aren’t central to my belief.

    “you postulate that just because millions of people believe something to be true that automatically makes it true”
    I’m sorry Unoder, but how many times do I have to say it? If you want to have a discussion, you have to interact with what I say, not with what I don’t say. What you say here is (again) not what I said. I said: “Many of these cases have been documented and investigated and naturalistic explanations appear to be unlikely. I find it impossible to believe that every last one of these are false, particularly as I have experienced a few small communications from God.”

    “nothing you’ve presented thus far has proven Yahweh of the christian bible to be the creator of the known universe”
    But I have not tried to do that, I have merely answered questions.

    “Until a Christian is able to offer some substantial, concrete evidence of Yahweh, we’ll just have to agree to disagree”
    I think that’s best. But remember, this isn’t an argument I have to try to convince you of, its your choice and responsibility to find the truth for yourself, just as it is mine.

    See you later and best wishes.

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