Conversations With christians - Beth 1 - First Question

I got an email from another christian last week! We'll call her Beth. Like the other christians who have wanted to talk to me about god, she doesn't want to argue.
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Here's what she said in her opening email:
Upon reading your "12 Steps to Enlightenment" I saw a comment from someone much like myself who was genuinely curious as to why you believe what you believe and how you came to such conclusions. I too would like to know, if you do not mind.
I'd like to make it clear I am not here to prove to you a deity exists or that I'm right or wrong. I just want to talk in depth with someone about it without it turning into an argument.

I am not interested in proving there is a God, but rather figuring out the absolute truth behind the origin of life. Although I admit I am a Christian, I still am open to learning about other possibilities.

I had to reply to this second statement:

You say you want to figure out the absolute truth behind the origin of life. I might just say that I will freely admit, and I think all atheists would agree, we have no idea what the “absolute truth” is of the origin of life. That’s what science is about. Trying to figure that out. But no one knows. Not christians, not muslims, and not atheists or scientists. All we can do is guess and ask questions and test and explore. Anyone who says they know the origins of life is lying to you and to themselves.

She hasn't responded yet.

After making sure I could use our conversations as inspiration on HDC, here's what she asked me:
Do you equate religion with deities or do you view them as separate? In other words, do you think man created God or Gods, or do you think that despite religion's obvious flaws, God is not defined by them?

In my opinion, based on my studies, man created gods as soon as he started experiencing unpredictability in nature, and as soon as he started thinking and questioning. (He meaning he/she.. all people, of course). So it seems that the god came first and the ritual came directly after as a way to try to get the good result to repeat itself (superstition). The bargaining with the god was wrapped up in that same experience.

I wrote about a study awhile ago. It’s about how if you feel you don’t have control, you tend to see more patterns in things. You get more superstitious. So if you feel like you have no control over the weather, predators, life or death, natural disasters, etc etc, you tend to see meaning where there is none.

And once you start getting superstitious, it’s easy to assign a supreme being as being in charge of that. Otherwise you can’t understand why things happen the way they do, seemingly randomly. It’s frightening. With superstition and a belief in a god or gods, you have answers to all kinds of questions.

Now, of course, we have science, which answers those questions for us. Not all the questions have been answered. In fact, new answers lead to new and exciting questions. But certainly enough evidence has been examined over the millennia to notice that there is none when it comes to anything supernatural, be it gods, fairies or magical energies. The real world is amazing enough. The answers are there, we just have to figure out how to understand the world around us. Then superstitions and gods tend to fall away.

If you look at scientists, you’ll find that the more educated you get the less likely you are to believe in gods. There was a poll done of scientists a year or more ago. I can’t find it offhand, but the results were as I just stated.    *Does anyone know where to find the study I'm referring to? Please let me know so I can link to it!

{EDIT: See Johnny's comment below for info on the surveys. Here is a link to a reprint.}

So I heard from Beth again after I emailed my thoughts which I just shared with you. She asked for clarification:
I will be honest with you, and do not think I group together all atheists, but that is often the answer I receive. However, part of what I asked you did not respond to, which I blame myself for. I did not articulate well, evidently. When I asked you if you separated religion from God I meant, do you personally think that God was invented by man, merely an idea, or can you see the possibility of an omnipotent being existing even with religion being around that defines them incorrectly?

According to what you said in the last email, your answer sounds like you think God is not real, but a figment of human imagination.

I’m sorry if I was not clear in my first reply. Based on everything I’ve studied, it is clear to me that man created gods, and gods are just a figment of man’s imagination.

I don’t think there are gods at all. I don’t believe in any kind of supernatural. So gods are just a way for man to make sense of the world when everything seems chaotic and out of control. It’s man’s way of hopefully gaining some kind of control, through subjugation to a supreme being who seemingly controls the forces of nature at his whim. Gain favor with the supreme being and you gain control over the chaotic forces that cause you problems in your life.

Then I asked her some questions:

Have you always believed in god? What type of christian do you define yourself as? Why are you interested in talking to an atheist about the nature of god and religion? What do you hope to get out of these conversations?

I really wonder about those last questions I asked. It seems strange to me, but also gives me hope. Let's see if she answers them!

20 comments:

  1. Well yes, I thought so. But then I thought, maybe I was being vague. Thanks. :)

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  2. I think the answer Beth was looking for was, "Yes, it is possible that something like a god exists but that religions have so far failed to describe it accurately," rather than what you said, which for most skeptics/atheists would immediately follow such an admission, "But as far as all religions' descriptions of God are concerned, they're descriptions people came up with to explain (away) things they didn't understand, and not likely based on any real divine being."

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  3. This article entitled Making a Religion, provides a great (but very simple) imagination exercise, easily illustrating how a god, a religion, and the ritual can be created.

    I agree... Mankind created gods, then created the ritual; then spread his belief through indoctrination, coercion, or force.

    That survey/study you're talking about was one Dawkins mentions in God Delusion. I think it's actually older than a year. I'll try to dig around and see if I can find it.

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  4. anti-supernaturalistJune 16, 2009 at 8:12 AM

    ** sin and neurosis

    Religion and psychology are one in creating fictitious "illnesses" for which each offers sham cures at premium prices.

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  5. "When I asked you if you separated religion from God I meant, do you personally think that God was invented by man, merely an idea, or can you see the possibility of an omnipotent being existing even with religion being around that defines them incorrectly?"
    Now I think Beth is trying to say, are you an atheist or not? It just kind of seems that way. It's much like asking would you support Panentheism in an abstract way I guess.

    For omnipotent beings, I like to refer to my post here:
    http://www.heavingdeadcats.com/2008/12/04/your-god-is-not-omnipotent/

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  6. Thanks Mark. I can't guess what her thoughts and hopes were, but I imagine she didn't want to hear that I agree with most atheists that gods are all made up by man, like you said, to explain things man didn't understand or was afraid of.

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  7. I've read that article, thanks for the link, Johnny. It's pretty good.
    I like your concise summation: "Mankind created gods, then created the ritual; then spread his belief through indoctrination, coercion, or force."
    That explains it exactly.

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  8. Um, not sure what you mean here. I don't think I want to open the can of worms. I agree that religion creates fictitious problems for which only they can provide the cure at premium prices. That's well said.

    But I disagree about psychology. But that would be another topic for another blog, I think.

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  9. Hmm. Well, I hope I made it clear that I am an atheist, through and through. There are no gods, there is no supernatural. Period.

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  10. You are the MAN.. wait, no, you're a SUPERHERO! Thank you so much. I was really struggling to find that information. I have no idea why. I'm going to append the article so that it's up there, and send it to Beth.
    THANK YOU, JOHNNY! You're SUPER! :D

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  11. Correlated with political liberalism? I guess that explains why most atheists I know are very liberal. I wonder how I escaped that one?

    Thanks for the link to the other study, too. This is quite helpful. :)

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  12. That's actually just a link to the Royal Society; I was not able to find any online publication of that survey. I don't know the name they titled it by, so that makes for a tough start. The only reason I was able to search out what I did was because I remembered the mention in TGD, so went searching there.

    As for the liberalism... I'm not sure what to say. I wonder sometimes if the term has been watered down in our society. Until the late 1800s Republicans were generally considered the more liberal party; then in the McCarthy era liberalism was associated with socialism; and since at least the Reagan era Democrats are generally viewed as the more liberal. Technically today both side support liberalism in its truer definition - Republicans support free-market (and therefore economic liberalism) and Democrats support civil-rights (and therefore social liberalism).

    I was fairly conservative in my younger years, but during the course of deconversion over the years, I've become more liberal on quite a few things. But some of what I view as liberal might actually be just more intelligent, or without prejudice from a religious angle. And some of my views still align with the conservative side.

    So I don't know what to classify myself as anymore... When given the option to write-in my political affiliation (instead of a check box), I write "skeptic."

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  13. Yes, I noticed the link went to the Royal Society. I commented before I looked closely. LOL
    I did some searching through their site and found nothing, which is frustrating.

    I want to be clear, I'm NOT a conservative. But I'm also not a liberal. I don't like the idea of being extreme either way. I think of myself as a moderate, but like you, I prefer "freethinker" as opposed to any classic term for my political ideas. Freethinking skeptic would probably be most accurate.

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  14. Thanks, Johnny.

    search just right.. LOL.. I have no idea what you mean, of course. ROFL!

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  15. If you search for "the god delusion" you can see the book listed, and read reviews about it, and a few other things; but you can't "open" it and look inside.

    But if you search "richard dawkins witham" it jumps to the page within The God Delusion where Dawkins talks about the Laron and Witham study; then you can scroll through the book at your leasure.

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  16. Wow, I really didn't know what you meant. That's a cool trick! Thank you once again, Superman Johnny. :)

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  17. The accusation of the creation of fictitious illnesses leveled at psychology is true, though the motivation is speculative and the accusation is specious. And of course the simplistic conflation of religion and psychology ignores the fact that psychology, as with all science, continually updates its understanding and revises its position on a scale measured in years, not centuries.

    [edit: oops, this is supposed to be a reply to anti-supernaturalist, not you Neece!]

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  18. As I said, it's not for this blog to get into the realm of psychology. But yes, psychology is self policing, like all real science. Religion is forever trying to live in the Dark Ages and the Bronze and Iron Ages.

    Oh.. this isn't to me? Oh, I see. Yes, well, I agree with you when I read it over and anti-supernaturalist... well, I already addressed it. LOL!

    (I really shouldn't comment when I should have been in bed hours ago... LOL)

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  19. Science has NO facility, whatsoever, to find the absolute truth of the origin of life. If, as I believe with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, the Almighty God of the Holy Bible exists, then He and He alone knows the origin of life. He has told us in His Word that He spoke all that is (Universe – single spoken sentence) into existence. Do you now dare to reject this possibility out of hand? Neece, realy, do you?

    In the love of Christ,

    -Mel

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  20. Science has the greatest facility, to find the absolute truth of the origin of life. Since, it's actually trying to find out.

    If, as I believe with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, the god of the Bible does NOT exist, your religion knows squat on anything. How dare you attempt to reject this possibility!

    Yeah, your argument is worthless. Nothing but an opinion speech, a pretty poor one at that. You didn't even give any backing to your statement. The possibility doesn't exist, for multiple reasons highlighting the Bible's failings itself along with the notion of almighty gods. Even in your sentence, an almighty being wouldn't have need to speak, the time spent to utter the words shows his imperfection and lack of omnipotence...

    And to answer your question, yes, we do.

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