When a member of one religion observes that a member of a different religion has committed some atrocity in the name of their different god, and they point out how terrible this act is, and how misled the person must have been to commit such a heinous act, and how dangerous it is to worship such a false god, does this person, I wonder, ponder whether or not the same act, committed in the name of their own true god, could be justified? Just a thought.
Dear Supposed God of Abraham,
In the sincerely regretful absence of any direct and personal message or revelation from you, I’ve been undaunted in actively looking for you. For evidence and for signs of anything that could only be you. Alas, this proves to be a challenge of high degree. I must ask you, God, why have you concealed yourself from me so perfectly and so consistently, so as to make yourself or signs of yourself indistinguishable from the natural world? Why, when one of your followers explains to me where to look for you and exactly how to look for you, my search and my methods for doing so reveal nothing that is unmistakably, unequivocally you? Even when these methods are stated, explicitly, by people who claim to see you and know you, and when I replicate their methods, your presence eludes me. How dumbfounded they must be, your followers, who are so absolutely doubtless of your existence, when I attempt to explain to them my difficulties in separating you from all things that appear to me to have nothing more than natural explanations. In jest, I do say that perhaps, if you’ve indeed ever made anything at all, you’ve made not man in your own image, but squids and chameleons. It would seem apparent to me, that your ability to so flawlessly blend into the universe which you yourself are credited for creating is why it would appear, simultaneously, as though you do not desire to have a personal relationship with me at all. I will continue to search. However, because I believe that your existence is an extraordinary claim of major importance, I will not lessen my requirements nor lower my expectations for what is convincing to me. In fact I do increase my requirements, and raise my expectations. For when it happens that I do experience what other people have only been able to describe to me, but not to share with me, when I experience my personal piece of convincing evidence, my personal transition to belief, I want it to be of such a quality of evidence, the facts of which are so irrefutable and of such monumental worldly impact, the realization of which is so all-encompassing, that when I share it, not a single member of the entirety of the human species will be able to even imagine denying your existence. You can call that a prayer. Did you hear it, God? — Jason
Dear Supposed God of Abraham,
It has been four days since my first letter to you. However, it’s been over thirty-two years since my birth. While nothing has yet convinced me that you do not exist, it’s apparent that you have little interest in actively convincing me that you do in fact exist. I ask you, why should this be? Why do I remain unconvinced? Out of many possible explanations, three, in particular, ring louder and clearer than the rest. One: You are, at least in part, impotent. Is it true that you lack the power to convince me of your existence? Two: You are, at least in part, unknowing. Is it true that you, while possessing sufficient powers, lack the knowledge of what it would take to convince me? Three: You are at least in part, evil. Is it true that you, while possessing enough of the power and knowledge required to convince me, and knowing the punishment that you choose to inflict on those who are unconvinced, remain illusive and ambiguous? This is concerning, indeed, god. How privileged your devotees must be to have received such evidence as to be certain of your existence. Why leave out those who are so open to being convinced? I would be simply elated in a self-discovery so monumental as that of a god-like being. — Jason
Dear Supposed God of Abraham,
I’ve been thinking lately. Thinking with my brain. And it seems quite strange to me, this act of thinking, considering. When my thoughts occur, I don’t feel as if anything particularly vital goes ‘unthought of’, or that any thoughts are purposefully left out. I often think about you and what you could possibly be, and I think about what it would mean for your existence to be a reality. As a matter of truth (but I admit that it could be an illusion), I feel as if I have the freedom to think anything that I want to think. Alas, this would seem to spell disaster for myself and other humans, who’s brains possess enough of this consideration of thought to allow for what we have been referring to as skepticism. So my questions are these: Why, god, would you want a relationship with your creation (and make the mutual desire a requirement), and then give your creation a means to consider this relationship, and eventually, to question it? To question even your existence? Why, god, while claiming omnibenevolence alongside omniscience as two facets of your character, do you imbue your creation with the means to consider thoughts, and then harshly punish your creation for coming to a given conclusion based on their considerations? I do believe, god, that good evidence to support your existence, evidence that I would find necessarily convincing, would be a creation that could think of all other things imaginable, but not ever think of denying its one true creator. Just a thought. –Jason
Dear Supposed God of Abraham,
I’m writing again, this time to ask you about the nature of your decisions. I mean, if you do exist, how do you decide what’s good and what’s not? How do you come to decide what is just, and what is unjust? Are your decisions about goodness and justice intrinsically correct due to your making them? If so, how did your prescriptions on the keeping of slaves and the killing of homosexuals (to name just a couple of the things that you apparently know are good and just) become so misconstrued? If your decisions are good just because you make them, well then it seems as if we humans are dropping the ball every time we tolerate homosexual behavior and don’t at least make an attempt to end that person’s life, as instructed in Leviticus. If it’s good for you, god, is it not good for the rest of us? Is that not why you would bother going through any trouble to have those words transcribed in the first? Pardon my confusion, but the goodness of owning of another human being as property does seem…counterintuitive, at least from my perspective.
So ok then. Perhaps it’s not good just because you say so. Perhaps those words you supposedly spoke were mis-transcribed, or mis-translated, or mis-retranslated, or misread and then mis-retold and mis-rewritten. Well, what then of what’s good and what’s just. Is it true, maybe, that there is some set of rules that exists on the nature of what is good and just? And that this objective set of rules is not your word, but exists alongside you, say within the universe, or within life? Perhaps you simply dictate these rules that exist alongside you, but apart from you? Well now if this is true, then it would appear to not bode so well for you, because if these rules do exist apart from you, then they can eventually be discovered apart from you, and you are no longer required as dictator, at least once the rules are found out. So which is it? Is something good because you say it is? Or do you say something because it is good? If it’s not good just because you said it, and it’s also not good apart from you, then why did you say it? Did you get it wrong? Assuming that it’s not good to kill homosexuals, and now that humans are figuring these types of moral questions out without your assistance, do you feel as if maybe you are becoming less necessary as a dictator? Just wondering, god. And I’m still waiting for that convincing revelation. — Jason
Dear Supposed God of Abraham,
I’m writing to inform you that I am concerned. Concerned, and selfishly so, because I have not yet been convinced of your existence. This comes, assumedly, as no surprise to you, as it’s been suggested to me that one of your qualities is omniscience. In any case, throughout my walk of life I have been propositioned with many items that have been unconvincing, this is true. But many of these items have appeared benign in nature, or at least of much lesser importance than what would be at stake if your existence were to be a fact. It is apparent within your prescribed literature, that being convinced of your existence is a rather important part of avoiding the ever so harsh penalty that you reserve for humans like myself, the ‘unconvinced’ ones. This is especially troubling when taking into consideration the many ways there are to die, suddenly and without warning, which at this point would leave me in the category of those who will be victim to your eternal damnation judgement, hence the selfishness. So to close, being as it is that an agreeable claim about you is your omniscience, and that your omniscience would necessitate that you know exactly what it would take to convince me (because there is nothing you don’t know, right?), and assuming that it would be laughably easy for you, a god, to impart to me this knowledge that you know would convince me, well, I’m open to this and I’m waiting for this revelation. And it’s not as if it’s at all difficult to convince me of anything that is a true fact, anyway. This should be a cakewalk for you, god. — Jason
p.s. — did this letter reach you? i figured that because of your omniscience you would have already known what i was about to write, and would have already transmitted to me the evidence and knowledge i require to be convinced of your existence.
p.p.s. — still have not received any convincing info.
Why do we sometimes choose to avoid open dialogue with people who believe that God is necessary to be good? Does this position deserve enough respect to go unquestioned? I argue that it most certainly does not. So the reason might be cordiality, I presume. Personally, I find this position rather insulting, and see much value in questioning any person who believes that their position, and only their position, is necessary for goodness. I’ll explain why. Keep in mind, I do not assume that every single Christian has come to rest in this position. However, for the Christian individuals that do not reside in this position, I argue that this is because they have not given it much thought at all. I do not claim to know why they haven’t thought about it. Perhaps they have, and have become conflicted enough to avoid further inward probing. Perhaps they simply enjoy the idea of being a Christian, without question, and the privileged aura that comes with it. Either way, because of this, I must recognize that this exact notion is implied in the book of rules to which their religion adheres. It would seem to be an unavoidable conundrum, when given any more than a fleeting thought, that any person claiming christianity must, at once, realize that their God is in some way connected with goodness, and that without that particular God, others, perhaps even close friends and family who don’t share the same beliefs, remain in a void. Why else would the religion even be necessary? To be evil? To be benign, simply holding the middle ground? Well, no, these just do not bode well for popularity, and in order for Christianity to thrive, we all realize that it must, at the very least, gain the popular vote. It must be that any thinking Christian needs to hold to the fact, even if they can not openly admit their self-righteousness, that belief in their God is necessary to be good.
In addition, I do not assume that each and every person knows someone who does not believe in their particular God, but I can safely assume that each adult, with some exposure to advanced society, does know that there exist on this earth people who do not believe in any God at all. Do these believers have any right whatsoever to assert that there is no good to be found in these admittedly godless people? By what avenue of thinking are we arriving at the conclusion that there is not even any reason for these atheistic people to do good? Is it not the epitome of arrogance to suggest that these are necessary conclusions to come to?
Alas, how critical it must be for the believer to maintain this position. For what feat of mental gymnastics must be accomplished in order to cling to the notion of the necessity of God for goodness, once a believer accepts that any of their godless friends and family may in fact be able to be good without one? Short of sheer denial, believers observe and know full well, that objective goodness (a thing that we can all, as humans, agree is beneficial to all other humans) is attained on each and every side of this multi-dimensional coin of religious belief (or lack thereof), and is not always credited to their particular version of God. I think that at least part of the reason for this compartmentalization is that, at the moment that any do-goodery by believers becomes detached from the idea that God is necessary to be capable of these actions, all good deeds, in the context of Christianity, are rendered selfish acts. They become, simply, a means of attaining a personal ticket to eternal bliss, in lieu of eternal torture. In short: Do good, or burn. I would assume that believers do not wish to refer to themselves or be referred to as fearful pawns, obeyers of commands (for what atrocities have been committed under those conditions!), but rather as clear-minded soldiers, strongly inspired to action by their righteous commander. Here’s the rub, if I’m not mistaken: If your commander is the righteous one, then what of the other peoples’ commanders? What of the people who claim to have no commander? Is the opposition just as right to claim that they are doing good by operating under their commander’s rule? And the people who claim to operate under no commander, are they just as right to claim goodness, or are they not?
Some final thinking points: If you are a Christian reading this, do you believe that God is necessary to be good? Do you think that believers in God lead better lives than that of others? If not, why do you advocate for this religion that relies on it’s God to inspire goodness if you realize that God is not necessary to be good, or at least better? And if you do not hold this position, or advocate for it, why are you a Christian?