I know this is a difficult topic for some people to discuss or listen to with an open mind. I keep trying to explain why I am not a believer. My purpose is not to convince believers to abandon their beliefs but to try to help them understand why I believe what I do just as I try to understand their views. And, obviously, those who think the way I do know where I'm coming from. I think I do understand why those who embrace one religion or another do so. Humans over history have shown a need to believe in a higher power to get them through the tough times and to explain the inexplicable. Something happened when we grew this big brain we have, and part of that was a need to hold someone else responsible for events we seem unable to control. As we have learned to control certain circumstances in life, such as some diseases, we no longer thank God for a cure; we thank modern medicine.
For me, I would pose this question to others, "Why should I believe in this God, the modern God of many religions, any more than all the gods who proceeded him or her?" The ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, and people all over the planet back then all had a belief in multiple gods whose existence was as provable as the modern-day God of the major monotheistic religions. I think the Egyptians had eleven gods, the Greeks had twelve gods and goddesses, and the Romans had twelve though it seems they may have added a few others later.
It seems to me that all the gods throughout history were written about and explained to a frightened populace, typically by the elders. The elders were viewed as wise and all-knowing. Their explanations went a long way to explaining the many events, both natural and phenomenal, that affected the lives of the average human. Many elders claimed a kinship with one god or another or, at a minimum, clamimed a direct line to the god. We were, in no small part, a frightened species that, with a tendency to cower in fear when threatened. Being able to talk to someone closely connected to a god gave us confidence that everything would be alright.
Today's God, and his or her predecessors required a couple of things from their adherents. One was the suspending of logic or critical thinking, and to exercise their imaginations so that they might believe in the proclaimed miracles and powers of the gods that ruled their lives. There was no proof of any of this. There were legends about the gods told by those privileged individuals who claimed to have a direct line to the gods. They served as the interpreters of the god's wishes and desires and thus became the religious leaders.
The second requirement of the followers was an unquestioning devotion to the gods, often under the threat of expulsion, or in earlier times, denouncement and physical torture or death for questioning the teachings of the leaders of the dominating religion. Religion requires that you accept as fact whatever tales are in the religious texts. Regardless of the degree of improbability or incredulity such events may give rise to in the human mind, they are doctrine.
In their time, many of the people of Rome, Greece, and Egypt were just as devout and certain of their beliefs as any modern Jew, Catholic, Muslim, or Hindu. I see absolutely no difference in the rantings of Pat Roberts today and his claims of speaking with Jesus than those of a Roman Emperor or Egyptian Pharaoh who claimed to be in touch with the gods.
At any point in history, with any religious or spiritual cult, you might find, they have several things in common. They were all based on mythology about the deities and the founders of the religion. They have or had their sacred texts as "proof" that all of this had indeed happened. That same holds with modern-day faiths like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. They all have their tales that have been duly recorded by various authors down through the ages in the Bible, the Torah, and the Koran, and since it is written down, it must be true, right? Would that also be true of everything written down in the Inquirer? Or at Breitbart? The Drudge Report? Or the New York Post?
The fact that something was written down and sworn to be accurate, and supposedly witnessed means little these days. Until you have hard evidence and all the facts, along with both numerous witnesses, you are going out on a limb by declaring something to be unquestionably true. The fact that most religious texts were written down a thousand or two thousand years ago by people who believed in witches calls the credibility of such accounts into question, in my opinion.
I believe in what I can see and what can be demonstrated to be true. I deal in fact-based proposals, not dream interpretations or other types of mysticism. I can accept a well-formed theory that is backed by several fact-based deductions. The definition of the word theory is: "a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena."
The keyword in that definition is "plausible," meaning that it is likely to be true or believed, as opposed to implausible, which can mean far-fetched, fanciful, or to stretch the imagination.
For instance, the theory of evolution first proposed by Darwin 150 years ago was plausible. His theory was based on direct observations and logical deduction. Darwin stated, "Therefore I should infer from analogy that probably all the organic beings which have ever lived on this earth have descended from some one primordial form, into which life was first breathed." (On the Origin of Species, ch. 14) Darwin's theory of evolution stated that:
The notion of gods or God remains unproven by any scientific proof. There is no evidence that God exists. But, that doesn't mean that religion isn't real, or that individual beliefs in a God are not both actual in their minds and a significant part of their lives. Faith is a belief, and that belief relies on the existence of God. To be devout, one has to believe that God exists, and if you think it to be true, then in your mind, it is true. That is not proof of a God, merely evidence that your beliefs are real.
As for me, as I think I've stated before, I believe that I will live on in the lives that come after me. It won't be anything I'm aware of, and I won't see my grandmother or my first pet dog or any of the rest of that. At this point, I intend to be cremated. My wife will decide what to do with my ashes, and whatever that choice, it will release those elements of my existence back into our world to be absorbed in some manner by other living things. The gasses from my pyre will be absorbed into the atmosphere. Blending with the surrounding air, all will be breathed in by living organisms. I will, in a sense, live on but without any knowledge of an afterlife.
For now, that is the best explanation I can offer of my beliefs. If I find another, more 'plausible' explanation, I'll either revisit this post or write a new one.
Discussing life, politics, and philosophy in the language of the bar.