We Are All Atheists When It Comes to All of the Other Gods That Have Ever Existed
Some of us just go one God further. I think I have tracked this quote to the original source, Stephen F Roberts, and here is the original version:
Brief history of The Quote…
“I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” …Stephen F Roberts
Last fall, I wrote a brief review of Hector Avalos’ Fighting Words and on the topic of inscripturation Alden complained that Avalos was quote-mining The Bible to come to his conclusion. In fairness, I had only highlighted some of Avalos’ quotes to emphasize problems with relying on scripture for proof of God. I didn’t replicate the entire book in my blog post, and my desire was for my readers to read Hector’s book. I had not intended to make the entire case in the blog post. Hector is the scholar, I am the reader and reviewer.
Avalos also uses passages from other Scriptures such as the Koran to emphasize his point that understanding of the scriptures is a scarce resource because readers need help interpreting what it says and usually rely on pastors, priests, rabbis and imams to provide that help. The teachers have the scarce resource, because they have “access” to the true insight.
At some point, those of us that have tried to access religion through the writings of theologians and scholars are simply going to throw our hands up in the air and say “None of these writers has any more access to the Truth than I do.” We reach the conclusion that no matter how deep and esoteric the arguments of apologists are, it all comes back to whether or not one can achieve Faith through study. Either we are going to have it or we aren’t.
Declaring myself to be an atheist was based on the realization that I could never be “reasoned” into the faith that I was unable to find through prayer and serious attempts to actually connect with the God that I was raised to believe in. Honestly, I tried to connect through the Catholic Sacraments and I ate the crackers and drank the wine. I ventured into a more evangelical and less structured course of independent religion, one less formal but still based on the same Scriptures. (Some of the Catholic scriptures were excised in this new religion I tried, but the basic source was the same.) I went so far as to get “baptized in the Holy Spirit.”
Through all of this, I realized that in all of my own teaching and preaching, I was faking it. In prayer, I never could get the Faith I needed to be religious and I finally accepted that I am an atheist. From that time on, I have not only read theology, but I have read criticism of theology.
I went back to religion and tried Wicca and Asatru. I read the writings of respected witches. I read both the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda, and studied the writings of Asatru. I was present at a Drawing Down of both the Moon and the Sun. It felt wonderful and magical and I could understand how a person could think that it was real; but the emotional high that I gained in that experience was very similar to what I experienced while “speaking in tongues.”
I had to finally reject even the pagan religions. Honestly, I have tried religion because I want to be a good person and the religious claim that I have to have some spiritual base in order to be a good person. (Even that is not enough to get to Heaven.) “Something, anything, is better than nothing.”
When Dawkins released the hardcover version of The God Delusion one of the sharpest criticisms of him was that a biologist has no business writing about religion and rejecting it. “He’s not a theologian,” they said, “How can he possibly reject religion or call it a delusion?” Of course, that many of his critics were people who reject evolution yet are not biologists was an irony that they didn’t recognize.
PZ Myers responded to such ridiculous criticism with “The Courtier’s Reply,” a piece that Dawkins included in the paperback version of The God Delusion. The conclusion that we come to is that no matter how fine our examinations of the description of the emperor’s clothes, the Emperor is still naked. Naked is naked when you don’t have faith.
Tangled Up in Blue Guy is often used to explain to the world (at least a very small portion of it) the reasons that I am an atheist. It would be easy for me to just say “I am an atheist” and get on with my life. Many of us spend a great deal of time examining just how atheist we are or have a right to be (weak v strong, agnostic or merely anti-Christian, anti-Muslim, anti-Hindu.)
The problem comes when we announce our lack of faith. Along with the ridiculous claims that we are atheist because we are angry at God, or something traumatic happened, or we just want to be hedonistic and reject that we will have to answer for our actions come Judgment Day; we are also challenged by people who tell us that we just haven’t looked closely enough at their religion to be able to categorically reject it.
“Come to our church, it’s not like any of the other churches. We are truly Bible-based. We aren’t like the religious right. We aren’t hypocrites. We aren’t always shaming you into tithing. We study evolution and it doesn’t conflict with our faith. We arent…..”
Greta Christina expresses her frustration, too. We have many aspects of our lives that we wish to explore and experience. We shouldn’t have to examine all religions before we completely reject the idea. The world is too fascinating and frustrating and hard to understand without spending the rest of our lives digging into all the religious teachings. We don’t have faith, and can’t be reasoned into it.
I’ll use an analogy to clarify what I am trying to say:
I like the taste of beer, but I recognize that some people don’t. They may have gotten sick when they first tried beer, and every time they think of beer it reminds them of throwing up. They may have thought it too bitter. There are many reasons that people don’t like the taste of beer. I am not going to list all possible reasons. Suffice it to say that they just don’t want to drink beer.
So, I argue with them and say “But you haven’t tried Summit Great Northern Porter. All of the other beers you may have tasted might be crap, but Great Northern Porter is made from better hops, it is smooth-brewed. It is the perfect culmination of malt and color, that will finally convince you that beer is a good thing. If you don’t believe me, read this:
Firm, round, full-bodied mouthfeel is what immediately strikes me about this beer — it’s fundamentally a remarkably soft beer. I find it equally remarkable that the coffee smells that enticed me in the aroma are far more subdued in the flavor than I’d expected, giving way to more sweetness with a little bit of a toffee character to it. Yet for a flavor profile that screams “all malt”, the brew finishes with a nice dryness that bears testament to the use of black malt rather than the softer chocolate malt that some brewers use (but that yields a less satisfactory finish). The malt can’t claim all the credit though since this beer does have a fairly substantial dose of hops, and those hops make their presence known in the flavor with a deep earthiness spiced with a peppery edge. Quite nice overall, and very well balanced.
How can someone not love beer after reading this? (As a side note, for anyone who is planning to buy me a beer someday soon, Summit Great Northern Porter really is my favorite beer of all time. I was at a bar in St. Paul and ordered a pint. The beertender accidendally poured me a Guiness Stout, and I nearly spit out the swill. She offered it to me for free and was shocked that I didn’t want it.)
A person can reject beer without having tasted Great Northern Porter. I am not comparing religious faith to beer in order to demean people who have deeply-rooted faith. I am only trying to point out that it makes no sense to continually come at an atheist with a parade of religions and theologies in order to try to get us to have faith in a God or Gods or Goddesses. We don’t have faith, and there I times I just wonder why I have to deny the specific tenets of every religion in order to have my atheism taken seriously.
Cross-posting from Tangled Up in Blue Guy.