Posts tagged ‘god’
Kieran Bennett recently completed his series on why Christians de-convert. To answer this question, he considered 94 of the 117 de-conversion stories he read on one of the largest archives of de-conversion stories on the internet.
Here is what he found:
- Dissatisfaction with the answers to simple questions proffered by the religion was the most common reason cited for de-conversion amongst the sample (14.89%).
- The realisation that religious dogma contradicted observable reality was
the second mostan equally common reason for de-conversion cited within the sample (also at 14.89%).
- 12.76% of the de-converted Christians in the sample spoke about realising the contradictions within the dogma itself.
- For 10.63% of people in the sample, reading the bible was significant in ending their faith.
- Only 8.51% of people in the sample attributed their de-conversion to the hypocrisy of the church.
- In another 8.51% of the de-conversion stories, people tried to speak to god and they now credit god’s lack of an answer for their de-conversion
- And finally, stumbling across the realisation that many religions were just like theirs caused deep doubts for 8.5% of the sample he read…
I wrote this essay a few months ago and have been waiting for a sign (or wonder) that it was time to post it. Given that in recent days we have been discussing this very issue, “divine hiddenness”, and in honor of upcoming April 15th, it seems like this would be a good time. In order to avoid excess length this article has been split into two parts. Part I: Why doesn’t God make things clearer?
I begin by saying: if there is a God of evangelical Christianity, he would appear to be less capable than the IRS(*).
No one wants, in particular, to pay their taxes. Almost everyone would rather keep their money. Most people, however, do pay their taxes, and presumably there are a variety of reasons why. For most, it is simply the law and they are in a habit of obeying the law. For many, perhaps, there is also a conscious fear of the consequences of not doing so. A few noble souls may perhaps see that government, for all its flaws, nonetheless does some good, and requires money to run, and thus they pay taxes out of a sense of civil duty. Some attempt to cheat, a few succeed. But most everyone is highly motivated to minimize or avoid paying taxes, if possible. Most everyone would love it – love it – if the IRS just flat did not exist.
But equally, no one – and I mean no one – actually denies the existence of the IRS…
I always find it interesting seeing what sorts of experiences and argument were most instrumental in moving a given person out of fundamentalist Christianity. For some, it is Biblical contradictions or Biblical atrocities. For others, it unanswered prayer. For me, it started with a kind of experience and ended with a question.
The experience was this: I moved away to attend school. I fell in with new friends there and, well, they weren’t evangelical Christians like me. Some were liberal or “cultural” Christians, some were outright atheists. In any event they totally disagreed with my view, on a pretty basic level, about Jesus, and salvation, and all the rest.
But the existence of disagreement, and especially of nonbelievers, has always required explanation in fundamentalism. This is because the “Truth” of Christianity is supposed to be obvious and unmistakable – indeed, virtually self-evident. Any fool can see it. After all, it is God’s own Truth. So, then, it stood to reason, to me, that those who didn’t see it had something wrong with them. And, really, there were only a couple of reasons why someone might not accept this obvious and self-evident Christian truth: he/she is stupid, or he/she is willful, unable, or unwilling. What other answer could there be?
But that wasn’t what I found. My new friends were decent and kind, thoughtful and compassionate people…
Frequently, when I bring up the fact that God never does any revelation, vision, miracle, visitation, etc, to make his existence obvious, I encounter an apologetic for the do-nothing god that goes something like this.
“God can’t reveal himself with total clarity because it would violate our free will. If He revealed himself with total clarity, we could not possibly choose anything else. And God must respect our free will.”
Well this is just a load of rubbish from every angle. Let’s look at some angles.
First off there’s the whole issue of free will. Do we really have free will? That’s debatable, both from the Bible and from secular philosophies. And if you introduce a deity with perfect foreknowledge, then free will is definitely gone. [But despite this, I’ve actually heard Calvinists use the above apologetic. Go figure.] I’m not going to settle the free will issue for anyone, but an apologetic based on such a highly debated issue is hardly a slam-dunk.
Next we have the problem of “God can’t “. That’s a biggie. The all-powerful God “can’t”???…
The debate as to whether a god exists has been around since man first believed in a god. This debate is unlikely to end anytime soon and I do not plan to make an attempt to end it. I will instead give a few reasons why the most popular God in the world, the Christian God, is not at all the powerful being he is made out to be.
In Christianity, God is said to be the creator of the universe, perfect in every way, a being of infinite power. It is believed that God can accomplish anything he wishes, There are of course no obstacles in the way of an omniscient being. These beliefs, although fully accepted by the Christian people, are flawed. In fact the flaw, or flaws, lie in the most important writing of their religion, the Bible. The Bible depicts God throughout its large number of books and in many of these depictions God is shown as a less than perfect, less than omniscient being.
The best area to begin with is Genesis, the beginning of the Bible. In Genesis God is depicted during his creation of the universe. An admirable feat by any account, but not admirable enough. The flaw in this situation is that God is not all powerful. He takes quite a bit of time to create the planet earth and the rest of the universe. Of course the rest of the universe is created very quickly, while this little planet earth takes the bulk of the six days, but I won’t stress that point. Taking time, any time at all in fact, not to mention an entire six days, is not a quality of a supreme and infinitely powerful being. A being of infinite power would create the universe infinitely fast and to a state of complete and utter perfection…
I’ve long been familiar with the type of argument that is known as “the God of the gaps”, though it has only been within the last year that I’ve heard that name applied to this particular argument from ignorance.
Shortly, for those who are unfamiliar with the phrase, a “God of the gaps” argument points to one area where either humanity as a group, or the individual making the argument in particular, have less than complete knowledge. The one proposing the God-of-the-gap argument then declares that God fits into that gap of knowledge. At one time, it was possible to respond to any question of how or why by responding that God was the answer, or at least the cause. As humans have discovered how various things work or why they happen, the gaps for this God to live in have gotten increasingly smaller.
The God of the gap is popularly invoked to explain the very beginnings of the universe, consciousness, common understandings of morality or the existence of living organisms. If we don’t quite know how something happened, God did it. If we aren’t sure why something happens the way it does, it happens that way in accordance with God’s plan…