Wrestling with the gods by John L. Neel

I am an Athiest, an Empericist, and a Scientist.

I was born free and then methodized.

Mom took us to church every Sunday.  Dad didn't go as often.  I struggled with church at an early age but accepted this Sunday ritual as something you just did.  I sang in the choir, went on youth choir tours, went to vacation bible school, but never gave it much thought.

God seemed about as important and believable as Santa, the Easter bunny, and the Tooth Fairy.

In my last high school days, I began to seriously doubt that God existed and formed a small group of friends who also questioned the things we had been taught all our lives.  Unbelief, or disbelief, was a very unpopular stance to take in 1970s Alabama, so we kept our thoughts and discussions within the group.

While working at Motion Industries, during a coffee break, I was sitting on a pallet of parts, reading a book called King of Kings by R.  B.  Thieme, Jr.  I had an emotional reaction some might call a conversion experience to this beautifully written description of what Jesus did for mankind in his last hours on Earth.

I became a believer.

I studied and applied bible principles to my life for years after that and it brought many good things to my life, but the whole while I had questions, doubts.  There were inconsistencies, anomalies, down-right lies in the scriptures.  The more I studied, the more I struggled.  I began to notice that the Bible didn't say some of the things I had been taught that it said.  The more science I studied, the more I realized that the two, science and religion, no matter how I tried to justify them, were too far apart.  I called this attempt to justify my belief in science with my religious beliefs, Wrestling with the Gods.

I took a break.  I invested more time in science.  Science won out.

For a while I adopted a scientific agnostic approach to the question, Is there a god? Since there is no proof for or against, I thought it the safest position.

A few years ago, I tired of that.  I thought myself Chicken-Shit.  I considered it a Better Safe Than Sorry attitude.  I had to take the next step to free my mind from the tether of Religion.  I had to cut the cord.  I adopted a four-point position.

1.  There is no god nor has there ever been a god.

2.  All holy books are the work of man.

3.  Heroes of holy books, if they existed at all, are merely men, deified by men.

4.  Religion is based on an ever-shrinking pocket of scientific ignorance.

To that end, I wrote the following treatise to myself.  Perhaps it was admonishment.  Before you read it, know that this is for me and that I respect your right to believe whatever you want to believe, as long as it does not step on my toes.

Blind Faith

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."  ~ Carl Sagan

No, you do not believe in god.

If you take just one moment to be honest with yourself, you will admit that you don't believe there is a supreme being.  You have had those moments before; you have been instructed to call them "doubts."    These moments quickly fade, overcome by years of indoctrination, fear of some everlasting damnation, guilt at not accepting some savior's sacrifice made just for you, or betrayal of almost everyone you know.  But, you continue to have them.

Why? Because everything around you points toward a different conclusion.

Your omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent god is conspicuously absent, inactive, and doesn't seem to have a damn clue what is going on down here.  Hospitals are full to the brim with little children suffering the most horrible diseases.  Why? So that their parents can prove their faith and lean on this god of yours for comfort and hope for the miracle that never comes? What kind of messed up crap is that?

People die in war every day over ideological, economic, and religious differences.  No matter what the reason, god is always "on your side."   Your god has real problems making up his mind.

I could go on and on, but you have already recognized the inconsistencies.  How many times have you heard or even said, .   I guess we're not meant to understand god's will.  This pie in the sky, by-and-by attitude should be a wake-up call.

For you to admit that you don't believe in god, means to throw away the security blanket.  Admitting that there is no all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present super-being out there looking out for you, no magic man living in the sky awarding your blind faith and good behavior with touchdowns, good jobs, or good parking slots at Wal-Mart, means that you would have to stand on your own two feet.  You would become responsible for your morals, ethics, and decisions.  There would be no one to come to your rescue in times of trouble, sickness, and death.  You would have to be your strength.  You would have to be informed.

All your attempts to hold onto your belief in this preeminent anthropomorphism are nothing more than a willing disregard of all of the evidence to the contrary.  You know the deal.  Don’t adopt that Better Safe than Sorry attitude.

You know there no big man living in a sky paradise, no devil ruling over a fiery prison, just like you know the Sun isn’t driven across the sky in a chariot.  Stand up for yourself.

Man created gods and religions to explain the explainable.  Life on earth is chaotic.  Bad things happen.  Bad weather, famine, drought, disease, and death were all mysteries to be explained.  Religion could explain everything—the sun rising every day, the seasons, the inconstant moon, crop growth and failures, stars, wandering stars, and what happens when we die.  In the absence of Science, it was the only thing people had.  Religion answered that age-old question, “Is this all there is?”

Gods and religion are only what has been called, "An ever-shrinking pocket of scientific ignorance."  The more we learn, the more we discover, the more we don't need or have room for a religious explanation.  Whatever we have trouble explaining or have yet to understand, "That’s GOD!  No need to look for any other answer."   That is a pretty weak position if you ask me.

But your particular holy book will help you maintain your ignorance.  It will tell you that if you believe you will receive special blessings.  You must have the faith of a child.  Well, when we were children, we believed in Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy . .. all of which, we dropped like a hot potato when faced with conclusive evidence to the contrary.  They just didn't pass the common sense test.  Neither does a god.

1st Corinthians 13:11, taken a bit out of context, says it best: When I was a child I spoke like a child, thought like a child, and reasoned like a child.  When I became an adult, I put away childish things.

Religion has been and continues to be the major source of suffering in the world.  Why? Because people like you have convinced themselves that they believe the writings of a bunch of ignorant camel herders from centuries ago, who did a not-so-convincing job of telling stories and then told us to believe them because these were the WORDS of GOD!  And, because you believe, when some holy man, preacher, or leader says, "God Wills It,"  you march off to perform every manner of atrocity in His Name.

Typically, some holy scripture tells you that it is the unbeliever who is the fool.  Psalms 14: 1 calls people who do not believe corrupt, vile, and up to no good.  Jesus supposedly said to Thomas, .   Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.  When writing this, I think it's pretty clear that the writer of John (John 20:29) knew there was going to be a major problem with a lack of evidence.  The writer of Hebrews claims (paragraph 11:1) that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.  If Paul was the writer, then Paul knew there would be no substance or evidence.  More properly translated, it would read “assurance and evidence” (NASV) and if you're true to yourself, Faith offers you none of either.

Get Real.  For one brief shining moment in your life, look at the world and universe and think for yourself.   We're just the luck-of-the-draw, a winning lottery ticket.   Then, know that what you do while you are alive matters because there are no second chances, no pie in the sky, no mansions and streets of gold.  You are not going to see your loved ones ever again.  This is it.  Put away your childish things and make the best of your remaining days.

THIS is all there is.   That's your answer.

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