Bad Religion? Part II. Why I am not an Atheist.

First off, let me begin by stating what I believe or do not believe means as much to the universe as, well, let’s just say it means next to nothing…check that, if means completely nothing. Other than the interest of one having a different take on things, who really cares what I believe? What difference does it make? Your take may be right, I may be crazy (but it just might be a lunatic you’re looking for?) ultimately, I am just some dude with a skewed perception of reality just like all the rest of us. I am imagesnot a scientist, I am just some guy who has lived 50 years and has seen and experienced quite a bit, particularly in terms of dealing with people at a spiritual level. You can argue with me on this stuff if you want, though I will not argue back as these are just my personal beliefs and I am quite open to the idea they may be flat out wrong. I have never been about being “right” in regards to such issues. In addition, I attempt to write this as an honest blog and I mean absolutely no disrespect to anyone of any religion. I may not respect certain things you may believe, though I respect you and your right to believe them. My hope is that you all can sense the humility and honesty sandwiched in my thoughts. I have far more questions than answers….more on that later.

To begin, I am not an atheist. Not even close. Now if you are a believer of some sort, you may welcome this news as most of us really like it when others believe what we believe. Yet before the celebration of my non-atheism commences, please do not get your spiritual panties in a bunch when I tell you I am not an atheist though I also do NOT believe in God. Semantics? Paradoxical? Perhaps. Read on.

I earnestly believe that many atheists are atheists because of the strong connotation we have collectively hoisted upon the word “God.” I am not a fan of the word God. I am not a fan of the concept of God, either. As a society, we have applied many bullshit connotations (there goes my humility and respectful tone again, sorry) to the word God that most cannot understand the concept of God outside of the hang ups of our connotations. We have corporately and ecumenically butchered the concept of a force, creator, being, energy, (the list goes on) etc…with religious agenda; as a result, it scares the hell out of me to believe in God. (For the latest group speaking for God, check out the Westboro Baptist Church, there’s some real intellect for ya). So many groups have spoken out on behalf of God with so many crazy declarations that it leads me to believe either, a. God is crazy, b. God is mean and unfair or, c. God has been the victim of some very poor and insane spokespersons. Perhaps God needs a new publicist and PR firm.

TodaEpicurus winy, mark the date, I give the “force,” “creator,” “being,” “energy” (don’t like these? Choose whatever works for you) a new name as to not promote connotations…to be announced at the end of this blog series. For now, let’s go with force, creator, being, energy, or FCBE.

Why do I believe in a F.C.B.E.? For three general reasons.

The basic reason I am not an atheist is the same reason many give for being atheist -it intuitively makes the most sense and is the most rational…to me. How can we humans be self aware- knowing of our own imminent demise- question everything, while being cognizant of our life-death milieu while this self-awareness just happen to be the product of chance as the result of evolution? I cannot buy that. How did self-awareness evolve? Why is a blog with this subject matter created? Why do we discuss the nature of existence, purpose and philosophy? We are soulful creatures. In my economy it takes more faith to believe in chance than to believe in a sort of FCBE.

Secondly, it seems that as science evolves it is continually pointing to a type of FCBE. Wait, that is overstated. Rather, science has drastically evolved yet many questions remain unanswered as science cannot prove there is no FCBE. In other words, science has proven so much in the fields of biomedical engineering, chemistry, astronomy, etc…both in terms of what exists and what does not exist, why has it not nixed the myth of an FCBE? Science disproves things all the time -yet, science has not disproven an FCBE. One day, science may prove there is no FCBE, though until that day, I’m waiting. Perhaps it is impossible to prove something does not exist and the burden of proof should be placed on those claiming something does exist. Ok. I cannot provide proof, only internally consistent arguments based on my own subjective rationale and empirical observation. That’s what makes it interesting discussion.

Thirdly, it is very difficult for me to deny some sort of spiritual realm -hence a driving force behind it- when you consider so much happens in life that defies a physical explanation. Case in point, the person who experiences near death and sees the great white light (yes it could be sputtering brain waves and misfiring neurons, I know), or the motivation behind a Mother Theresa or even the explanation of DMT, a natural occurring molecule in our own bodies known as the “Spirit Molecule” that give us spiritual experiences (check out the documentary on Netflix).  To contend there is only the physical world does not provide sufficient insight into the above occurrences. I liken this idea to the concept of love. Why do DMT-The-Spirit-Molecule-M-D-Rick-EB2370002753142we love? Is there a biological, evolutionary need to love? Maybe, though I think mating, not love, makes more sense in terms of our necessary evolution. Breathing may make life possible, though love makes life worth living while spiritual experiences take our existence to an extraordinary new level.

My most profound spiritual experiences these days come to me via the Grand Canyon. I know full well what awaits me as I approach the South Rim in my vehicle as I have seen the canyon many times before. Yet when I see it again, I gasp. I shake. I feel so big yet so small. I feel like the Grand Canyon was placed on earth by FCBE to put us people in our place. The feeling I get cannot be described at a physical level…it is something more.

To summarize some final thoughts I contend that to believe in only the physical seems truly superficial and unrealistic yet it does make sense and is certainly a valid and palatable observation for many. I respect the position. For example, no one can sufficiently answer the question: If there is a God why is there be so much senseless suffering on earth? This question only makes sense if you believe in God, which is why I do not. The assumption is God has a plan with an even playing field and all things happen for a reason according to religious principles. This FCBE of which I speak is only that…a Force Creator Being Energy, with no other characteristics attributed. To make declarative statements or ascribe motivation to said FCBE, is the ultimate form of hubris and arrogance. If this FCBE is infinite and eternal, which many claim a God to be and really must be so if you believe in the concept, how in THE HELL can we even wrap our minds around these concepts? I cannot speak for anyone who is infinite and eternal, I can barely speak for me. I want to embrace the idea of mystery and the unknown. Holy books today are filled with mystery, yet so many have attempted to quantify and provide pat answers for ultimately mysterious and unknowable issues of life, the mystery of the holy book is robbed. The mystery of an FCBE is robbed. I believe this to be sad.

Our contemporary concept of God is basically built on post-printing press, patriarchal notions that angry-god-12support multi-billion dollar religious institutions. For said institutions to gain adherents and power they must evoke fear in people and provide all the said pat answers, thus speaking out for God and usually telling us he (yes he) is pissed about something. I did state earlier  that I do not necessarily think this is a bad thing for society as it may keep many in check, yet, still, I will personally take my FCBE thank you very much….more on that in the next and final blog.

I, for one, am more interested in questions, not answers. It seems to me that both the atheist and believer alike prefer to think they have it all figured out as both are dogmatic and narrow-minded in their own agendas. How boring. I want to keep asking, searching and learning…never knowing what tomorrow’s personal cognitions and insights will look or feel like.

Though what does it matter what I think? I’m just some guy with a thing for the Grand Canyon.

I hope I was respectful.

Coming up next: Bad Religion, Part III. Thy new name for FCBE and thy role of tradition in contemporary life.


Bad Religion? Part I

Religion –it is a subject you are not supposed to discuss in polite company –which is precisely why it religionneeds to be addressed in this blog. Surprisingly, it turns out, I have quite a bit to say about religion as when I began to write I could not stop….thus in keeping with my commitment to keeping blogs around a 1000 words or less, I give you part I of III – though perhaps an entire book is more in order.

The dictionary defines religion as a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

In other words, it arguably answers all of life’s most important questions, informs us what to think and tells us how to act and live. Yes Christians, you do have a religion, NOT a relationship.

Now, if you are like most people and engage in various levels of stereotyping, you might likely assume that this left leaning, guitar playing, surfing, and pot smoking professor would set out to undermine the validity of religious belief.

Not at all. Not even close. You are right now reading the words of a man who was an evangelical pastor for over a decade and attended seminary for a Master’s Degree in Practical Theology. In other words, I know my religious shit -really well. And boy do I have some stories kids…I think if we lived in a different time and some stakes were conveniently available outside the church I tried to minister (read: fucked over) I might have 3913261557_d45576e582been burned right then and there.

Turns out critical thinking and religious thought are not exactly a match made in heaven. When attenders are looking for answers and security but leave the service with more questions and a great deal more insecurity, it is a telltale sign I was in the wrong profession. It only took me 13 years of professional ministry to figure that out. Perhaps I am a slow learner. Yet, that is a different blog for a thinkingpersondifferent day.

In spite of my personal experiences, I still basically defend the concept of religion, flaws and all.

In fact, through my debate courses I teach, the subject has come up many times over the last several years concerning whether or not religion has done more harm, or good, throughout human history. I do believe strong arguments can be made for both sides of this issue and certainly there is no way to prove or disprove this one way or the other. This being said, I do believe religion has done more good than harm and the thought of a world without religion troubles me.

Now, let’s get critical.  Before I reach any conclusions, here are my five general presuppositions to my thought process concerning human nature and religion to complete blog part I of III:

First off, people are generally unwise. I did not say stupid, dumb or lack intellect. Rather most people lack strong discretion and wisdom. I certainly place myself in this category as one who has certainly behaved in ways that clearly lacked wisdom and good discretion. “Unwise” decisions are usually fueled by attempting to meet our personal emotional needs at the expense of grounded and rational decision-making -it has been called getting a case of the “fuck-its” -a condition very common among most human beings. According to William Schutz, we all have various needs for inclusion, affection and control…and we will go to great irrational lengths to get these needs meets.

science-vs-religionSecondly, there are very, very few faithful adherents to any religion. The great majority of people who subscribe to a particular faith cherry pick what they like or don’t like, agree or disagree with, while managing to conveniently choose the dogmas, theologies and practices of their liking while discarding what they do not like. Author Daniele Bolelli recently wrote a book entitled, “Create your own Religion” in which he suggests that since most people pick and choose at the buffet of faith, why not just create your own religion based on the preferred aspects that each religion may offer? In fact, it has been my experience within religion that this is what most people do instinctively. Renowned atheist Sam Harris, in his book “The End of Faith,” contends this “buffet” reality is at the heart of the problem of religion -as the vast majority of lukewarm adherents support the dangerous fundamentalist wings of the same religion. For example, if the Koran instructs to kill the infidel, a good Muslim adherent would try to kill this blogging hedonistic infidel. If the bible tells us to stone the homosexual, a good adherent to the bible would be trying to stone homosexuals. Thank goodness the great majority of people do not adhere to all aspects of their faith and we have separation of church and state or the country may be a much more dangerous place with people actually literally performing what their holy book instructs.

Next, religion can never be successfully argued because the concept of “faith” is like religious caulking –whenever there are holes, cracks or problematic modes of thinking within a particular religion, it is instantly “spiritually spackled” with the caulking of faith…conveniently avoiding any cognitive dissonance and filling the gaps or spaces in logic with the putty of faith. CaulkingUltimately religion cannot be argued because faith is not a rational (nor necessarily irrational) activity.

Fourth, most people lack the ability to honestly and critically evaluate their faith because it is their lifeline to existence. It’s like a diabetic playing around with her insulin shots or the dialysis patient questioning whether treatment is really worth it. Certainly faith adherents can learn more about faith and bolster their apologetic abilities, though most are not honestly open to the potential of accepting the idea that their faith is complete, or in part, bullshit. It is my experience that the more “fringe” forms of faith are the ones lacking the most in critical, open and honest inquiry…and it would seem self-evident as to why as the unconventional and more unorthodox doctrines are the ones most vulnerable to intellectual attack. Sociologist Ernest Becker has a interesting theory concerning religion and death as he contends that all of culture, at the heart of which is religion, is designed of symbols and customs created to help people cope with their anxiety over death. Human beings are perhaps the only the-denial-of-deathcreatures on the planet who are quite aware of their own demise…and deal with it we must. His studies conclude that when people are reminded of their own mortality while under the influence of their denial of death, they tend to react harshly and aggressively. Religion works really well in this sense to ward off the anxiety of one day becoming fertilizer.

Fifth and finally, any proselytizing or missionary type zeal is a misguided attempt on behalf of the individual to convince oneself that what they believe is indeed true.  There is no greater validation to one’s thinking than to get another to subscribe to it as well.  When we attempt to get others to think or behave in a particular way, we are engaging in what we call compliance gaining strategies. Frequently we may do this to achieve personal reward and a sense of power. Remember, if I believe in gravity and you do not, I am not threatened by your belief. We rarely argue or attempt to convert others over issues we know to be true. It is when we are unsure we feel the need to defend and convert.

All of these five presuppositions, coupled with the fact that human beings love a person to look up to and worship…only to fail them at some point because all human beings are all ultimately screw ups…are the grounds for my take human nature and religion.

Coming up next: Why I Am Not an Atheist. Until then, may Allah, God, Buddha, Jesus, Moses and Tom Cruise bless you.