At the mature age of eleven, I had figured it all out: because you cannot feel, hear, see, touch, or smell God, it is highly unlikely that He exists. My brother and I had some debate over this. He insisted that God exists and refused to acknowledge my arguments, but I always pressed on with him. Here’s the argument:
God is only a social safety net, which makes us feel secure, given that we live in a cold, nasty universe. Evolution demonstrates that things developed randomly, and we slowly mutated over millions and billions of years to be the intelligent species we are today.
God is a primitive notion. From the days of the cavemen, we humans have sought solace in the stars and nature, desperately hoping that someone was out there, directing our lives. This gave those lives a sense of structure, purpose, and hope. In such times, we understandably needed that hope just to survive. In fact, when we did not understand something, we simply assigned a “god” to it. For example, although we certainly understood the sun’s power to provide heat, to grow plants, and otherwise to sustain our lives, we didn’t understand the sun itself. So we created a “god of the sun.” We did likewise for the oceans, the sky, the air, and so forth. We even assigned gods later on (through the Greeks and Romans) for more abstract concepts such as war, love, and just about everything else we could not readily explain.
We moved forward in our civilization and slowly began to understand the true nature of things: the earth revolves around the sun, not vice versa; hurricanes are the product of wind patterns and temperature fluctuations as opposed to the wrath of any god. So we started abandoning those gods. Of course, that did not mean we evolved to the point where we could explain everything. On the contrary, we still have a vast amount of information we do not know regarding space, science, biology, and even physics. We still cling to our God to explain all of those things we still don’t understand. He’s the last of the gods if you like.
But we still fill in those gaps: that is obvious from the march of science. We will obviously know more about science in the future than we do today, just as we now know so much more than we did thousands of years ago. It does not, therefore, take much brainpower to figure out that science will likewise provide more answers, and the need for our present-day God will diminish and wither away. What brought civilization to where we are in the scientific method—trial and error and peer-review through other experts in the field—which ultimately seeks truth above all else. That is wholly opposite to the approach of faith, which asks you merely to believe and motivates you through fear of the unknown and a promise of better things to come in some fantastical place they call “heaven.” It is, in fact, Science that seeks—and gets—real answers to the unknown. Faith is also a ruse to control people, masquerading as a tool for morality and growth. But it is no different than telling your kids that Santa Claus will give them toys, if only they behave.
And then there are the horrors that religion has unleashed, at least organized religion. After all, it was the Catholic church that slaughtered so many in the name of God during the Inquisition. Didn’t the Christians kill hundreds of thousands of Jews and Muslims during the notorious Crusades? The paedophilia scandal, which exposed a decades-long practice of priests and other clergy busing young children, is an unforgivable mark on the Church—a scandal which grew bigger and bigger precisely because it enjoyed the protection of the Church while terrifying its victims with threats of hell-fire if they told anyone. Or worse yet: that this was God’s will.
This is to say nothing of all the horrors of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, where Protestants and Catholics tortured and killed one another with unimaginable cruelty—again believing they were doing “God’s” work. Even after that, leaders repeatedly used God and Jesus as an excuse for the brutal takeover of land in Africa, Australia and the Americas. People used religion to justify slavery, and institutional racism after that.
Organized religion either enabled and encouraged all these horrible things to happen. The Muslim world even today engages in routine “honor” killings, and systematic rape; they behead and set those they capture on fire. They engage in unspeakable cruelty to little children.3 Other have committed numerous terrorist attacks, including the infamous attacks of September 11, 2001, and continue to do so.
If God existed, and if he were truly so good and powerful, He would not have let such horrors occur at all, let alone in His name. For that matter, God would also refuse to allow general cruelty or evil to exist in the first place. In the words of Ivan Karamazov, in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov: “What about the children?” Even if you believe that bad things happen to people as punishment for some wrong in their past (a questionable theory), how can you apply this to a child who is dealing with inoperable bone cancer? How can you apply this to a child who is the victim of paedophilia, whom some monster abducted and sold into slavery or forced into child porn? No just God would allow such evil upon innocents.
A believer will talk about “free will” as the reason we have such evil. But this is nothing more than a mental contortion that sidesteps the issue, which is the horrible reality of evil. It goes nowhere to proving God’s existence and still doesn’t explain why God would allow an innocent small child to suffer cancer. The child didn’t exercise his free will and “choose” cancer.
Finally, regarding the Torah, the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, the Quran, and so forth: it defies all credibility to suggest that God wrote any of these books. Clearly, men (“inspired” or not) wrote these books. They are at best fables and legends men have cobbled together and repackaged from local lore. Much of it was no doubt political, expedient and derivative. Above all, men crafted them for the ultimate purpose of controlling and manipulating what would otherwise be a volatile and fickle mob.
To believe any of the specific stories of the Bible is silly: It’s literally incredible—and defies all science—to suggest that God created the world in six days (and the universe, no less) or that the earth is only five thousand-plus years old. We now know better: Earth is approximately 4 billion years old, and the universe is 15-or-so billion years old. It was nice to give comfort to those uninformed people two thousand years ago, but let’s grow up and yield to science already.
Also, no evidence exists for the flood of Noah’s time, and it is equally preposterous to suggest that Adam and Eve were the first human beings, not only because science shows we evolved from the apes, but we know that Cro-Magnon man existed way before Adam and Eve supposedly made their grand entrance. P.S.: how could Adam and Eve be the first humans when they only had two sons, Cain and Abel? Doesn’t that violate basic biology?
It is also silly to talk about the subsequent miracles in the Bible (the burning bush; the parting of the Red Sea; Jesus’ walking on water, raising people from the dead, and his own resurrection); or any conversations with God; interference by God; or struggles with God. It only insults the intelligence to suggest such “miracles” happened, when they clearly defy all laws of physics (miracles we incidentally don’t seem to see any more in the modern age). Not only that, but there is scant evidence of any of the characters of the Bible, let alone miracles. In short, the burden should be with the believer that a “creator” or the God we read about in the Bible, is real. The atheist need not prove that there is no God. That is asking him to prove a negative, like expecting someone to prove aliens do not secretly control our world.
And religion has impeded learning and science. What more evidence do we need than how the Catholic Church put Galileo on trial for heresy after he had published Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, which merely presented a debate between a heliocentric and a geocentric? The institutions of God have always had a historical self-preserving tendency to suppress science. While that suppression is less intense today in America and the West, it is because secularization has finally allowed science to flourish, and the Church’s all-encompassing political power has waned. In fact, the church only revoked its
ex-communication of Galileo in 1965.
Religious suppression and intimidation still thrive today, as we see in the Muslim world. Religion’s efforts to suppress science and progress remain, too. Why? Because science is a threat to religion: people might find out the truth and revolt. Religion is necessary to keep a perceived structure, but it is only to maintain a status quo in favor of the rich and powerful—many of whom are the religious ones themselves.
We ignore the harsh realities of our world by pretending there is some scowling master watching our every misstep and thought. It may somehow give us comfort to believe that someone is in charge, but it is a false comfort—and a dangerous one at that. It makes us believe fantasies and untruths, which can only lead to irresponsible, and even evil, behaviour.
Instead, we must assume responsibility for our imperfect world as it is, and roll up our sleeves and seek answers from the wonderful worlds of science and psychology, no matter how painful those answers might be. Only by doing that will we truly explain the realities of our world and universe and to make our world safer, kinder, and more productive.
We alone are our own caretakers. There is no one else out there. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can accomplish great things. Karl Marx understood that well when he claimed religion is an opiate of the people. Drugs can only hurt, not build. And only we can do this building, not some invisible “God” in the sky.
While God may have served as a psychological “crutch” once upon a time when we needed it, we must now abandon Him—much like a butterfly should abandon the cocoon that played a part in its creation. The cocoon no longer serves any purpose.
And please don’t tell me you have to believe in God to be moral or good. Animals live without God and we see several instances of animals rescuing each other in the wild, even if they are from different species. And there are many wonderful atheists who are law-abiding and moral to a fault. Likewise, there are many horrific religious people. Goodness ultimately comes from the heart, and we have evolved into a caretaking society over time, through logic and a sense of what is right for the community. The best code of conduct is not to do anything that would hurt others. You do not need God for that; just logic. That is what will move us forward, not wasting time in church. We need to focus on the today, not some fantasy reward in an afterlife that no one can possibly know. There’s a lot of work to do.
So, tell me: Have I gotten that about right?