Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Wait.....what?

I think that I may have confused some people with my previous post. I am an atheist. I do not believe in the existence of god let alone the validity of the bible. What I was trying to say is this: In the fictional bible story the people portrayed had evidence of god's existence. The word faith did not mean "belief without evidence". It meant believing the word of the readily apparent god that does indeed exist, in the stories. Believers today have no evidence for his existence, so many of them have invented this notion that evidence is the enemy of faith, which flies in the face of all of their sacred writings, which say no such thing. They in fact, as I showed previously, say exactly the opposite. In the past, it was evidence enough for the faithful that Abraham believed in god. Never mind that this person probably never really existed, that's for another post. Each succeeding generation has relied on the supposedly reputable eye witness accounts of the preceding generation. We had no way to prove or disprove the truth of those accounts for thousands of years. We do now. Faced with this ability to discern fact from fiction, myth and legend from actual occurrences they have retreated to the position that evidence is not only unnecessary, but it is actually the enemy of belief. They have taken the very thing that the god in their stories insisted on basing his relationship with mankind on, proof of his being and power, and turned its absence into the very hallmark of having faith. I call bullshit.

The Burden of Proof

When did the definition of faith become belief without proof? Where did the notion that evidence is the enemy of faith come from? I will tell you where they didn't come from: the Bible. Throughout the books of the bible god presents himself to people visibly, audibly and through unmistakable signs and wonders. He walks in the garden with Adam. He chastises Cain for murdering his brother. He speaks to Noah and gives him detailed plans for the ark. None of these people required "faith" as defined today. The evidence was readily available to them through their five senses.


The book of Genesis tells us that god spoke to Abram and told him what to do. It doesn't say that "Abram had a feeling" or "Abram felt lead by the spirit" or "God laid it on Abram's heart to move". It says that God spoke directly to him. Not much faith needed there. In fact the faith exemplified by the later renamed Abraham is not a matter of faith in the existence of god, but of faith in god's ability to keep his promises. The question of existence is non-existent. It's a given fact: god simply is, as the players in the stories can clearly see and hear.


Moses was given a very definite sign and heard verbal instructions as well. God provided him with evidence not only of his existence, but also of his power and authority. Through the plagues he gave the Egyptians ample proof of his existence and power. To the Israelites, visible evidence of his majesty and goodwill towards them. No faith was needed in his existence, only faith that he would do as he promised. This isn't faith as we define it today.


Throughout the books of the Old Testament we see over and over again a visible, audible, miracle working god. There is no question as to his existence for those to whom he is reported to have appeared. Over and over again we see this god give proof of who he says he is. Proof. He never asked anybody to believe without evidence. Never. Through signs and wonders we are to know that he is who he says he is, but the question of his existence is moot, for there he is. Even to those who didn't believe in him to start with. 


So where does this notion that faith actually requires a lack of evidence come from? Since it is obviously not in the Old Testament anywhere, perhaps we need to look at the New to find it. But it isn't there either. Jesus didn't show up and say, "Hey just believe what I say. I can't prove it, but you should believe me." Nope, signs and wonders as evidence that he should be believed. In fact, we are to believe that the entire Old Testament stands as a sure word of prophesy in evidence that Jesus was who he said he was. He never asked anybody to believe anything without proof. He even told his audience that his own testimony was insufficient, that they needed other corroborating evidence before accepting his word. No faith without proof here, friends. The only place you could even argue otherwise is John 20:29 when he tells Thomas, Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” However, this belief without sight would be based on the testimony of those who had in fact seen the evidence. Without the testimony of eye witnesses the entire foundation is shifty, as the author of Luke tells us to validate his take on the events of the life of Jesus. Again we are right back to evidence and proof being foundational to belief, only once removed and relying heavily on the good character of those reporting to have seen the evidence, not the least of which is reflected by their willingness to die for this testimony.  (playing devil's advocate a bit here).


So in light of all of this, why am I told that evidence is the enemy of faith? Why when I ask for a sign am I told that the very act of asking negates the possibility of it being shown? Why am I told that seeing is believing is wrong, and the maxim is that believing is seeing? None of these are to be found in the books that the faithful rely on as evidence. Oops. The books are evidence. Ah, the books are the only evidence required; for without them we would know nothing of this god, his nature, his desires, his plans or the Man Jesus. So we must believe what has been written without question, without proof, without any other evidence that there is even a god. But this principle of simple belief isn't even in those books! I find it convenient that we cannot see or hear god today. That we may not ask him to show us proof. That we may not expect a donkey to turn and speak to us or a burning bush to appear to us. He just doesn't do those things anymore, according to some. He still does and you will see for a donation, according to others.


So, to answer my initial question: Where do these notions come from? They come from the lack of an evident god. They come from the absence of absolute knowledge of god's existence as known by the characters in the biblical narratives. They come from living in a world where either god no longer behaves in the manner described in the bible, or he never did.  In the absence of evidence the very first rule of faith must be that none is required. 


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Come On You Apes

When I was a kid I loved reading the Weekly World News. I spent untold hours reading of the plight of the Bat Child found in a cave in minnesota, or was it Idaho Falls? Tales of farmers battling locusts the size of horses and yet another archeologist finding the skull of Satan kept me coming back week after week. Why did I never question these stories? Because they had pictures dammnit! Who can argue with pictures? Those photos that looked so real and convincing at 10 years old are now obviously fakes and poor ones at that.  Yet, how is it that I was so easily fooled? Why did those photos look real to me then and are obviously fake to me now? Two things come to mind: Ignorance and Faith.  

As a child the thing I never comprehended about these stories is that anybody would make them up. Why would people bother to write the stories and provide the photos if it was all make-believe? See, what my 10 year old brain lacked was the concepts of motive and agenda. I could not fathom that the writers had any intent other than telling me the truth. So I believed them. Little did I know that their only purpose was to get me to spend my $1.25 this week and next. 

Something similar happened to my cousin,  James. When he was 9 years old he fervently believed in Jackalopes. There was no telling this kid that it wasn't real because not only were there photos, but he actually saw one at the gift shop in Bartsow! When I told him that somebody just stuck some deer antlers on a stuffed dead rabbit, he balked, "Why would anybody go through all the trouble to do that if it wasn't real!?" There was no reasoning with him and he went so far as to tell me that I was trying to make him look dumb by convincing him that Jackalopes are just a joke. See, rather than question the motives of those who would perpetrate a falsehood that he had fallen for, he questioned my motives for wanting to convince him of the ruse. It is human nature to assume that our initial perceptions are the right ones and that anybody who wants to convince us otherwise is just trying to make us look stupid. It's hard to let go of the things that we have invested our faith into. 

I remember opening Christmas presents from "Santa" and getting a Hasbro toy (Star Wars I think). I remember thinking "Wait a minute....How does Santa get Hasbro toys? Does he make them? Does he buy them? Hold on now......maybe Santa isn't real....". The next thought is very vivid to me. I thought "DON'T EVEN THINK THAT! IF I THINK THAT THEN HE WON'T BE REAL AND I WON'T GET ANY TOYS NEXT YEAR!

As if that wasn't enough, there was then my falling out with the Tooth Fairy. I had had a tooth fall out and I placed it under my pillow at bed time, knowing that I would awake to find that she had arrived to collect my discarded enamel in exchange for some coin.  At some point in the night the exchange was made, but in my sleep I had knocked the money from under my pillow onto the floor. I awoke and searching under my pillow, I found nothing. I started to cry because I thought that bitch had taken my tooth and not paid me! My mom came in to find out what was wrong and told me that maybe she didn't have any change and was coming back, so go back to sleep. A while later, I was still laying there awake waiting for the thieving fairy to return. My mom snuck into the room and slipped a few dollars under the pillow not knowing that I was awake and watching her through burning, slitted eyes. The jig was up!  I instantly knew that there was no such thing as the tooth fairy and that my mom was a goddamn sneaky liar! Then I started to cry for the loss of something that I had loved to believe. 

Unable to cope with the loss I started to second guess myself. I MUST be mistaken. I came up with a plausible reason for her to do what she did, while holding on to my cherished belief in the tooth fairy. Maybe the fairy did rip me off and my mom was just being nice and giving me her money. Or maybe the money fell on the floor and my mom thought the fairy ripped me off so she replaced the money. I quickly got down onto the floor to see, and HOLY SHIT, there is the money! The tooth fairy did pay me AND my mom was just filling in for her because it looked like she didn't! Yay! I could still trust my mom and believe in the tooth fairy! 

In the case of Santa Claus, I had deduced the truth from the facts at hand and simple reasoning.  It took a few more years of having that thought pop into my head and pushing it violently away for me to see that I had the right of it. But for years the loss of reward for my belief held sway over me so I told myself to stop thinking about it. In the case of the tooth fairy, I instantly knew what was going on but loved my beliefs so much, (not only the belief in the tooth fairy but in the ability to trust my own mother not to lie to me), that I devised clever stories to retain them. 

In both cases I did not like the implications of the facts so I ignored them. The question is, how often did I continue to do this long after my childhood years? What else did my mother tell me about that may not be something to throw faith at unquestioningly? Is there another, bigger picture that I have been looking at, all the while ignoring the glaring evidence that it's been photoshoppedIs there some belief  that I cannot allow myself to even think may be false because of its promised rewardIs there a story that I so love believing that I invent arguments for its validity in the face of contrary evidence?  These are questions for which I needed answers, and they are questions that lead to death. The death of a cherished lie. 

Letting go is not an easy thing to do. Wanting these beliefs, that have at times comforted me, to be true and to live on is only natural. As I continue to examine the beliefs that I hold to be true and dear, the words of Lieutenant Jean Rasczak come to mind, "Come on You Apes, You want to live forever?"






Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Haters Gonna Hate!


I very well may be what people call a Hater. Yep, I hate everything and everybody. The only thing that I really enjoy in life is finding fault in the most unlikely places. That's who I am and I have finally come to terms with it. I have found, though, that hating can be done in such a way that encourages and motivates change in the way that people think. I really don't care if that change is for better or worse, as long as change takes place. Much like cancer, I love change solely for change's sake. But unlike cancer, it can also be very entertaining.

Join me as I hate on everything under the sun. Together we will explore politics, religion, gender relations, my favorite television shows, books, and whatever daily humdrum events get under my skin and make me irate.