13 November 2011


In my previous post, I reviewed the book Divinity of Doubt by Vincent Bugliosi who made his case for agnosticism by giving arguments for and against those who are certain about the existence or non-existence of god.

Although he made some good points, I found most of his book to be based on his own opinions which he calls "common sense" and that Bugliosi expressed many opinions about things he admitted he knows little about.

In other words, he is doing what he accuses both theists and atheists of doing, making arguments without irrefutable or convincing evidence.

But perhaps that is the point.  Much of what everyone believes is opinion and therefore he may be correct in that agnosticism is the only way to be honest with oneself.

Bugliosi had me thinking about the labels I have given myself. I usually call myself an atheist, but also refer to myself as an agnostic, skeptic, humanist, and/or freethinker.

I do not believe in any of the gods, past or present, that I know about. There have been thousands of gods worshipped around the world throughout history. I don't know all of them, so I admit there may be one or more that would be credible to me.

I have rejected (as has almost everyone else) Isis, Thor, Zeus, Juno and other such gods. We consider these god stories to be myths and I have never found a god story that I believe any more than the stories I know about the gods of ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome or Scandinavia.

Because I was brought up in a Christian home and surrounded by (mostly) Christians everywhere I have lived, I know the most about the god that Judeo/Christians worship. I do not and cannot believe in that god. Among other attributes, that god is supposed to be all-knowing, all-good, and all-powerful. I cannot justify an all-good and all-powerful god who allows thousands of people to suffer and/or die from diseases, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, and droughts and even kills 2,476,633 himself (according to Steve Wells who counted each person killed by god in the Old Testament) ---for he is neither good nor powerful if he either will not or cannot stop such suffering from happening. (Epicurus, 341-270 BCE, pointed this out over 2000 years ago and Bugliosi discusses the argument in his book, as well.)

I do not believe in the divinity of Jesus because I cannot suspend belief in the laws of nature to believe that a star led wise men to his birthplace, that his mother was a virgin, that he walked on water, fed a multitude with only a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish, made the blind see, rose from the dead or raised others from the dead, or turned water into wine.

That does not preclude the existence of another god somewhere, but certainly not the one I was taught I should worship.

In conclusion, I am an atheist because I don't believe in any god as s/he has been presented to me by any major or minor religion.

I could become a deist if I were presented with irrefutable evidence that god exists.

However, I doubt that I would ever join any organized religion for, in my studies of religious history, I have learned that nearly all organized religions, despite their claims that their particular religion teaches good morals, will do just about anything to keep their religions going, whether it be distorting the teachings of their founders, torturing or killing adherents of other religious beliefs, hiding sexual abuse, demanding members tithe or pay indulgences, demonizing non-believers, shunning or excommunicating those who have left their congregations, isolating their followers from other belief systems, trying to keep or grab political power, making outrageous claims of miraculous healings, keeping their followers dependent and/or ignorant, brainwashing children, blaming others' "sins" for the ills of the world (are you paying attention Pat Robertson?) or instilling fear and guilt in followers ---to list only a few.

I am an agnostic in that I don't know with absolute certainty if a god does or even could exist; however, I lean very strongly toward the opinion that s/he does not nor could not.


Snowbrush said...

Wouldn't it be fair to say that you don't believe in ANY supernatural entity, including the ones you haven't heard about?

Yes, I would be honored for you to use something from my blog. I think about you rather often, but you don't post a lot, and sometimes I miss it when you do (as I have lately I see). I always wish you the best, and I also worry a little about you since it seems that you live in an area that is much more religious than the one I am in. When it comes time to move, you really should check out Eugene, Corvallis, and Portland.

C Woods said...

Snowbrush ---you are correct, of course.
"Supernatural" ---going beyond the bounds of the laws of nature ---just doesn't do it for me.

I started to doubt the religious teachings of the church as a pre-teen because, in reading the Bible cover-to-cover, I just couldn't believe the stories I was told were true ---the ones that defied the laws of nature or went beyond what I thought could be reasonably true. I was told many of them were miracles. Naively, at first, I simply wondered why those kinds of miracles stopped happening after Biblical days. But then I started to question everything in the scriptures. How could Noah fit two of each animal on a small ark ---and wouldn't he need additional animals to feed the carnivores? I didn't believe snakes or donkeys talked, blindness was cured with spittle, or that anyone spontaneously ascended into the sky. I didn't believe the Red Sea could be parted. I have since learned that what has been translated as Red Sea was probably a shallow reed-filled lake that slaves (with only the clothes on their backs) could traverse but into which armored Egyptians in iron chariots sank. If it happened at all ---which it probably didn't ---was nothing like the Cecil B DeMille version.

But even if I had thought those stories were just allegories, god's behavior was more like a mass murderer's than an all-loving father figure ---and not worthy of worship. I realized that by the time I was 12.

Like George Carlin, if I absolutely had to choose something to worship, it would be the sun. I can see the sun. It is real. And without it there would be no light and no life. But, I don't believe the sun is a god or has supernatural powers or cares one iota about anyone's behavior.

I think about you, too. I don't know how you have been able to bear the pain of your physical problems.

Oh, yes, I am in a very conservative, super-Christian area. My husband refers to our neighbor's property as "God's Little Acre." Those Super-Christians will not do any work on Sundays, home school their children, read only Christian literature, love Sarah Palin, and, of course ---despite the command to "Love Thy Neighbor" ---hate anyone who doesn't believe as they do. We are polite, say "hello" or wave to them, but keep our distance. We don't want to involve ourselves in political nor religious discussions with them. Frankly, some of the "good Christians" around here scare us.

We are considering the northwest for our retirement. As soon as we have enough air-miles, we will probably take a trip there to check it out. Besides you, Snowbrush, I have 2 friends in Portland. The three places you mentioned are areas we have considered, plus a few more.

Thanks for your permission. I will post that shortly and let you know when.

Arnab Majumdar said...

Insightful arguments, much of it in line with what I feel as well. In any case, I think that religion is supposed to be something more intrinsic than to be waved around like a flag. If it's about faith, how can you pound that into someone?

Arnab Majumdar

Snowbrush said...

"If it's about faith, how can you pound that into someone?"

Darn good point. I think the real interest isn't so much in converting the opposition as in intimidating them into silence.

"I just couldn't believe the stories I was told were true"

My own doubts started when I was around eleven, but it wasn't the miracles that put me off, but god's atrocities.

"I don't know how you have been able to bear the pain of your physical problems."

The pain still wakes me up all through the night, but it does appear to be lessening. I'm not sure why, although I recently started Cymbalta, got a TENS unit, and began seeing a new physical therapist. In any event, I've been able to cut my drugs down considerably. Right now, the only ones I use daily are Cymbalta and marijuana, which is down several drugs from just six weeks ago.

Snowbrush said...

P.S. The one thing you need to ponder about whether you can tolerate about the Northwest is that it's gray and drizzly for months in the fall, winter, and spring. It's really bad that way for five months out of the year, and less troublesome for a couple of more. Then the rain stops, completely, and the grass turns brown, and the trees start dropping their leaves.

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