MY SORT OF TRUTH is
founded upon fact, supported by evidence provided my senses and approved by my intellect. That means I don't believe what I can't in one way or another see, hear, feel, smell, taste or read when somebody else provides a credible, evidential explanation - and then work out with my brain, to my satisfaction and, hopefully, the benefit and respect of others.
I have that in common with everyone else, except that a significant proportion of our the world's population, in a single case, diverts from this perfectly sensible behaviour. When they would not believe in anything else for which there is no reasonably balanced truth, they believe in the supernatural, for which there definitely is not. They believe in made-up things such as astrology, ectoplasm, the energy of crystals, homeopathy, tarot, reincarnation, pseudo-science & quack medicine, ghosts & angels, UFOs & aliens, gods, messiahs, devils and nice/nasty places to go when you're dead. (If it were not another step further into absurdity, they might even believe in Father Christmas and fairies.) Such beliefs are dependent upon on a weird sort of logic and constitute a serious departure from real truth.If you want to cross the road
, you take evidence into account when assessing safety. If not, you might get run over by a bus. When you cook, you make sure not to burn the food, or the house down; your precautions are based on incontrovertible facts about heat, electricity, food quality and predictable consequences. When you travel in an aeroplane you might be scared, because of what you learnt in the past about heights, high speed and air accidents. Your experienced generated apprehension is understandable. When you go shopping, you make sure you have cash or can raise the credit to pay for your goods by checking in your pockets, purse or bank account. It would be irrational to ignore such evidence because it is real. To ignore any such evidence would be stupid because of predictable dangerous or costly consequences.What do we do if there is no evidence?
I expect most of us would seek some, rather than get run over, burnt to a frazzle, overcome by terror of flying or have to leave a shop embarrassed by lack of funds. In the 21st century we are privileged to have knowledge (evidence) our ancestors lacked. In their ignorance, they knew real fear: fear of the unknown, fear of geological upheaval, fear of severe weather, fear of darkness (regularly each night or rarely, an eclipse), fear of each other, fear of sickness, pain, and death. They had limited knowledge about such things, so they could not be expected to understand them. In the absence of a knowledge-based alternative, their 'rational' approach had to be superstition. Even if we can do nothing to avoid terrible natural disasters, we have logical, non supernatural reasons to explain why they happen.So the ancients devised some explanations.
They made up stories to explain and comfort them when confronted by horrors they could not understand. They invented gods to take responsibility for things that frightened them and what they did to each other (the gods/God told me to), and they invented a cosy afterlife so they need no longer fear death. Here was a practical solution to their burden of fear, albeit via
fiction.Then their leaders saw they had an opportunity to take control.
They took charge of the people's gods (or elected themselves into the pantheon) and, in their pursuit of power, elaborated their subjects' myths and promoted new, additional fear in the people. Fear of reality, which had been lessened by comforting invention, was replaced with fear of that very invention - fear of God. Rulers and priests gained a hold over the masses, a hold they largely maintain to this day, for it is hard to break free of 3,000+ years of dogma, deeply embedded in your culture and protected by the threat of agony in this life or in the hereafter. Wielding threats, mythical (Hell) and real in the form of the most ingenious torture (link factual, but not for the faint of heart
) and agonising executions
, leaders could command obedience. Nowadays the faithful tend to be voluntarily obedient to their God and reverential to their priests no matter how irrational that might seem, perhaps just for safety. Whilst lots of people still believe in the medieval (n.b. non-biblical) prospect of Hell
others make do with a diluted version based on the premise 'well, you never know...'. Extraordinary.
Richard Dawkins's book The God Delusion
Gore Vidal: "The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three antihuman religions have evolved - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These are sky-god religions. They are, literally, patriarchal - God is the Omnipotent Father - hence the loathing of women for 2000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates. The sky-god is a jealous god, of course. He requires total obedience from everyone on earth, as he is not just in place for one tribe, but for all creation. Those who would reject him must be converted or killed for their own good."
Bertrand Russell: "Religion, since it has its source in terror, has dignified certain kinds of fear and made people think them not disgraceful. In this it has done mankind a great disservice: all fear is bad..."
Much of the formerly unknown is now known.
"Once you know something, you can't un-know it. You can deny it, but you can't un-know it." (Australian novelist Kate Grenville on Woman's Hour
. BBC Radio 4, 09-07-07). We have knowledge that contradicts the existence of the supernatural and reasoning that enables us to reject it, yet people deny the gift of truth, content to waste precious life on worship and fear of the non-existent. They could know better (or could easily find out, for we now have the relevant information in books
, the internet and in many of the best informed and organised brains) but illogically prefer to cling to outmoded beliefs based on ancient self-contradictory mythology. Many continue to hang on to primitive ideals not unlike that of our unfortunate, ignorant, frightened forebears.There is no such thing as 'God' or any god.
There need not be - not any more. Gods have outlived their usefulness - we need them no more. There is not a shred of evidence, not a single fact to support an assumption that gods of any sort exist. We can dispense with them. Rather than accept or reject gods, look for reasons to expect their existence. I've looked. Lots of people have looked. There are none. "… a God with no observable effect is indistinguishable from one who does not exist."
Victor Stenger, 2007 (in God: The failed hypothesis
). No thank you, no gods. There really is no point in them any more. Truth is facts and one fact is that gods are nonsense."But the truth is in my Holy Book"
, I hear you say. I could spend a lot of time and energy - as have many other authors - refuting this preposterous assertion, but will satisfy myself (and save myself a lot of unnecessary effort) by simply saying: "Oh, come on! Wake up! Join us in the 21st century!" Reliance on a rag-bag of ancient scriptures from the very origins of religious fear is absurd in the extreme. You will have to come up with a much more convincing argument in favour of your infantile, frankly silly, superstition.Since there is no evidence that God exists
, God is vanishingly improbable. Therefore, to all intents and purposes, there is no God so, therefore, there is no God not to believe in. Others might call me an atheist, but I'm not an atheist unless somebody labels me as such. Those of us whose lives include no religion become atheists only when and, indeed, because
theophiles oblige us to confront their
beliefs: we become labelled. René Magritte's picture of a pipe sums it up:
Ceci n'est pas une pipe
(Ça n'existe pas. C'est une peinture
d'une pipe.). Because we don't waste time and energy on religion we have room in our lives that the faithful herds clutter with unwarranted fear of the afterlife, time during which we may celebrate the wonders of nature and humanity in the here and now. We do not thank a supernatural being for 'his gifts' nor do we expect him to perform the impossible on demand (which, demonstrably, he does not do). Despite having no external assistance we are complete, as content as reality permits and (importantly, since this aspect of the atheistic condition is often challenged) we can be perfectly moral people.Much of what I could write has already been written.
The best thinkers in diverse fields of expertise have ably tackled the question of God, gods and religion. In stark contrast with theological and fundamentalist treatises, they make sound good sense. For instance, in God: the failed hypothesis
Victor Stenger methodically selects every aspect of the god/religion controversy and looks for evidence. At the end of each section, he presents his conclusion. Each time it is the same - negative - but based upon evidence and painstakingly fair discussion. What we need now is the viewpoint of a rational archaeologist who is not, like so many bible diggers, driven by an ardently subjective quest to prove the Bible (or Kur'an or Hadith) as infallible history.
Of course, we must take steps to understand the other side of the argument.
Among many excursions we should make into the world of religion, we must click here
. It is easy to own a Bible or two (King James and perhaps one modern version) but the internet has a very useful tool to use in parallel with printed editions, online searchable Bibles. The one I use routinely is
and one I have yet to try, but it looks as though it could be useful, is the Online Parallel Bible
. As were explore this subject in greater depth, the Torah
(life of The Prophet) may be consulted.
has, of course, generated a lot of retaliatory (reactionary) hot air. We should embrace it with gratitude for the confirmation it gives us of our sanity and clear thinking. Several critics have 'cleverly' turned the Dawkins title round, and The Dawkins Delusion
by Alister McGrath with Joanna Collicutt McGrath (SPCK, 2007) is a must for the well-read sceptic, though like the following, it is just a petulant outburst desperately attacking Dawkins's well measured arguments in order to defend an infantile, anthropogenic myth. In Prof. Terry Eagleton's review Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching
Dawkins is berated for not referring to (presumed not having read) a wide range of theological treatises which are only relevant in the discussion if you have made a priori
the assumption that God exists; and Dawkins's thesis is, of course, that he doesn't.
The Indian-American (n.b. not American Indian) quack ayurdevic and 'quantum' healer Deepak Chopra has also put in his two-part four penn'orth in my favourite magazine
1. Deconstructing Dawkins
(242) and 2. Evolution of Wisdom
(243) which are worth reading if only to get an idea of how a deranged (or dishonest) guru can confuse a perfectly intelligent reader by writing total tosh masquerading as logic. Here's my appraisal
of Chopra (you can find a lot more (!) elsewhere on the internet). Here's a collection of sensible critiques of The God Delusion