I’m going to start a new series of posts called, completely derivatively: “What Grinds My Gears!”. Since I’m really good a bitching and complaining about various things, I figure I should be fairly good at putting my bitching and complaining down in words too! So, here goes…
The local news stations around here have, over the last several years, really started abusing the word ‘miracle’! Everything is miraculous anymore. “Miraculous car crash survivor“, “Miraculous surgery for conjoined twins“, “Miraculous birth“, etc etc. I find that this is really starting to cheapen the meaning of this word.
The lady in the car crash story above had to be removed from the car and is in the hospital recovering from her injuries. A miracle in this story would have been the truck falling over on the car, and the car staying completely untouched and the woman walking away unharmed.
The miracle surgery for the conjoined twins is nothing more than the amazing medical technology that we have developed as a society. The skill, talents, and knowledge of the surgeons and medical staff. To call it a miracle is to discredit the amazing work of these people. A real miracle in this instance would be the twins being separated after birth with NO intervention from surgeons or doctors at all.
The one that REALLY grinds my gears is all the people who tout the ‘miracle of child-birth”. “Our baby is a miracle”! “Childbirth is such a miracle”! Ugh! There are 7 billion people on the planet right now (not to mention countless billions of healthy births throughout human history). If child-birth is such a miracle, I would think that healthy human birth would have to be a truly rare thing indeed. However, it’s quite obvious that is not the case at all. Humans are baby making factories. We pop the little packages out at impressive rates. Hardly what I would classify as a ‘miracle’!
To me, a miracle would be something that occurs completely outside of the normal operations of the natural world according to the laws of physics and science. When news, ministers, and average believers start labeling every day occurrences (even if they are surprising occurrences) miracles, I believe that really starts to water down the significance of that word. Granted, I don’t believe that miracles actually occur, but there’s definitely a threshold of occurrence and would give me pause, and NONE of these stories qualifies.
Last week, on Facebook, I posted a link to a Fox News video clip about an ex-atheist who is now a believer because he prayed for his mother to win the lottery and she did. While the problems with this are obvious (why is an atheist praying, etc), the ensuing discussion in the comments, as expected, became interesting rather quickly. In the ‘news’ story, the interviewer had the gall to bring up the tornadoes down south and how we are getting ‘signs’ of God all over. Like the fact that an entire town was destroyed, but a cross from a church was left standing. I brought up this fact and my mother commented:
“Hmmnnn, God/lottery…. Doesn’t really fit. God does permit people to die. His word says “it is appointed for man, once to die” though.”
And another, more distant, relative later responded:
“Sorry, disagree honey – we plan and God laughs…He’s the one in control….”
My reply was this:
And I would never, in a million years, do anything to take away your right to believe that. That said, I find myself in a very small minority whose voice is often lost in the throngs of the believing majority. Especially here on Facebook. So, because of that, I will never stop voicing what I believe to be a sound worldview based on logic & reason. What I find most interesting and has been very enlightening to me can be explained with what I was talking about earlier. Tragedies like the tornadoes, the earthquakes in japan and Haiti, etc make a lot more sense when you take god out of the picture. You no longer have to do massive mental gymnastics to reason why an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good god would allow these things to happen. When you take him out of the picture, the random functions of our natural world make a lot more sense, though, it does not lessen the tragic nature of those events. Nothing can!
Pascal’s Wager is probably the most popular tool that believers use to try to use to get non-believers to reconsider their positions. It’s also one of the easiest to refute. So, I’m not going to go into the arguments in either direction, as there are literally gazillions (I love hyperbole) of articles out on the web that do just that. Go look them up if you’re curious.
What I would like to do in this post, however, is discuss the hypothetical situation where I find out that I’m wrong. First though, here’s a definition of Pascal’s Wager for those that don’t actually know what it is:
An argument according to which belief in God is rational whether or not God exists, since falsely believing that God exists leads to no harm whereas falsely believing that God does not exist may lead to eternal damnation.
Look, if I end up being wrong, and there IS a god that I have to meet after I die, I would expect that he’s probably a reasonable guy (wouldn’t you expect that the creator of all that is would be?). I hope that he examines me honestly and understands that I went out of my way in life trying to learn the things that I needed to learn to believe that he existed. It wasn’t like I just turned my back and said ‘screw you’. I know myself, and I know that I’ve examined the possibility honestly and with massive amounts of thought and research. If that isn’t enough to convince him to spare me of some eternal torture based on rules that he put into a book several thousand years ago, then there’s not much I can do about that. I can’t force myself to believe something when all of the logical and rational processes of my mind tell me it’s untrue. But before he damned me to eternal hellfire, I would hope I could at least ask him a few questions. Questions like:
“What was with all the hiding?”
“Where’s the evidence?”
“What’s your hangup with foreskins?”
“Slavery? Slavery is ACTUALLY ok in your view? please explain!”
“You created women, and immediately turned around and wrote a book that demeans them in every possible way. What’s up with that?”
“Thou shalt not kill, but wiping out entire civilizations is ok as long as YOU command it?”
“If your book is divinely inspired, why are there so many inconsistencies and contradictions?”
Seriously, though, Pascals Wager is so tired that I can’t believe it’s even used anymore. But, alas, I hear it all the time.
Predestination is a concept that I’ve thought about many times throughout my life. It’s probably one of the main ideas that have given me pause over the years, particularly my years as a believer.
Webster’s dictionary defines predestination as follows:
And therein lies my trouble. How can an all-knowing God NOT have predestined human beings for salvation or damnation ahead of time? I realize that Calvinists firmly believe in this concept and that God has pre-chosen an ‘elect’ set of people whom will be saved. I have no trouble with their beliefs on the subject. If you are to accept the idea of an all-knowing God, I don’t see how you can reject the concept of predestination. So, therefore I don’t find what they believe to be hypocritical in any way (at least on this topic).
Many of the people who I’ve talked to over the years like to say that God has given us free will. We are free to choose or reject him. But those same folks also claim that God is all-knowing. I really don’t see how you can have it both ways. If God is all-knowing, then he knows (and has known throughout all of time) who among us is to be saved and who among us will be damned to hell. I don’t see how it’s any more complicated than that. If God is NOT all-knowing, then there’s a limit to his power. And if there’s a limit to his power in THIS subject, how are we to know that there are not other limitations?
The concept of an all-knowing God is one that has always caused me difficulty. For as long as I can remember there have been times when I’ve tossed this around in my head. When I was a believer, I would just blow it off after a while and say to myself “All will be revealed when we meet God”, but there was always a nagging feeling that something was wrong with this concept. Now as a non-believer, it makes a LOT more sense to me. There is no trouble with an all-knowing God concept when you realize that there is no God to believe in in the first place!
I never want my atheism to define me. It’s only a small portion of the person that I am. It seems, though, that the religious majority forces my atheism to be an issue on a nearly day-to-day basis. I’m constantly subjected to having to answer questions and be forced to defend my position all the time by the theists that I’m around. It’s tiring. It hasn’t been as bad over the last few months (because I’ve been more quiet in voicing my opinions on various topics), but still there nonetheless.
At our Father’s Day gathering at our house yesterday, my Mom tried on several occasions to get me to acknowledge the fact that she felt that she had been ‘divinely healed’ of an ailment that’s been bothering her for years. I refused to even give it a follow up comment (she got plenty of support from her theist friends on her Facebook post about it though). I think that’s probably the best ‘modus operandi’ for me to take going forward. I’m just not going to give fuel to the fire anymore unless I’m directly addressed with a question or if I hear someone preaching outright falsehoods to people who aren’t questioning them.
A few weeks ago, she asked me if I wanted to send my daughter to ‘Teen Quest’, a religious summer camp for kids and teens. That question just left my jaw hanging open. I just couldn’t believe that she’d even ask that. It just reeks of a complete lack of respect for my belief system, and for the way that I choose to raise my daughter. Again, I just blew it off. Basically because I know I can not win the argument should I choose to engage. So, it’s in the best interest of my stress levels, that I just leave those arguments go.
There’s so much more to life than our positions on whether or not we believe in a god. Sadly, though, the vast majority of people in the world believe that that is THE most important thing. I, rather, chose to be defined by what I DO believe in, rather than what I do not. I’m an atheist because I don’t believe in any gods ONLY, but there’s whole list of things that I DO believe in and I think those things define me much more completely than merely the fact that I’m an atheist. See my post from last week about my revised new 10 commandments list for just some of those things.