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A Blast From the Past

Written by Jeff Drake
7 · 17 · 22
The Thinking Atheist

This post is a copy of a paper I wrote as a freshman in college in 1972. Actually, it was typed on a typewriter. I’m pretty sure it was for Freshman English. In any event, it was fun to rediscover it and to see that it is just as relevant today as it was then.

To Believe or not to Believe?

Isn’t it strange that in this day and age, when the trend of the youth is to question everything, that there is one belief that the majority of the young never question — the belief in God?

I was raised Roman Catholic, and the majority of my spare time in high school was spent in planning for some kind of religious life, either the priesthood or the entering of a monastery (Cistercian, the third strictest order of the Catholic Church). In fact, I came within 30 days of entering the monastery. I am now an atheist.

For the Christian (who might be reading this letter), there could be a few questions running through your mind right now. How did this happen? What went wrong? How could I lose such an obviously strong faith? The answer is simple: I chose the light of reason over the darkness of faith; the “light” being truth, the “darkness” being ignorance. I decided to use the brain that evolution gave me, that fantastically complex piece of organic machinery that separates man from the animals and look at religion and God objectively.

So, I committed the sin of questioning the existence of God, and read those forbidden books that dared tell of weaknesses in the various arguments that attempted to show that this God really exists. For some of you, these arguments will be familiar; for others, they may not.

If you ask a Christian why he believes in God, it is very possible that he will tell you that there is beauty and order in the world, so there must have been a God to create it, or that everything has a beginning, so the universe must have had a beginning. Here is how I would answer him:

Admittedly, there is beauty in the world, but there is also evil. Does this mean that God also created evil? How could He, when it is not in His nature to do anything evil? The Christian might answer, saying that evil is only the result of our doing something against God’s will, for God gave us Free Will. I would then say that God must be very unjust for punishing us for using an ability he gave us. If we are not free, then He must be some sort of sadist for punishing us for actions that we could not have helped committing.

Does order in the world show the existence of God? I would say it doesn’t, for what is order to some is disorder to others. To the criminal, there is order when he can commit his crime without being caught; there is disorder when his plot is foiled. If there is a creator who gave order to the world, why just one creator? Why not ten or twenty? What is there to show that this creator still exists? Just because a watch still works by no means proves that the watchmaker is still alive.

To this, the Christian might reply that there are miracles. It’s curious that a God who cannot create anything imperfect, would create a world that constantly has to be interfered with and changed. As the Christian’s arguments narrow, he might then add that if you look around you, you would see that everything has a beginning, so the universe must have had a beginning. I would have to laugh and tell him to look around himself, for as far as I can see, everything that is comes from some sort of matter. Why is it more reasonable, why does it make more sense to attribute the formation of things to an unknown power? Would it not make more sense to draw the existence of things from that we we experience every moment, that which is demonstrated by all the senses — matter?

In frustration, the Christian might then claim that he has had a religious experience. Religious experience? I have also felt God’s presence; knelt in prayer; bathed in the joy that I felt being so close to Him. I can see now where I was set up for the whole experience. I had been brought up to believe that God existed, that He was present everywhere, so what was more natural than to actually believe that I felt his presence? It was pur psychology. In fact, if it hadn’t been for the chemical processes going on in my brain at that moment of ecstasy, I couldn’t have felt what I did. I imagine that if I’d been brought up to believe that pink elephants existed, or convinced myself that they existed, I could also feel their presence. Because it is my own personal experience, who is to say I am wrong? But I say, who is to believe me?

The Christian, in despair, would possibly say, “Look! All men in all ages and countries have acknowledged the existence of some intelligence superior to that of humans!” Can the belief of all men change an error into truth? A philosopher once said that, “general tradition, or the unanimous consent of mankind is no criterion of truth.”

In conclusion, I will answer yet another false belief, that morality is founded upon God. A quotation from a man named, Baron d’Holbach, will do nicely, I think:

To discover the true principles of Morality, men have no need of theology, of revelation, or of gods: They have need only of common sense. They have only to commune with themselves, to reflect upon their own nature, to consult their visible interests, to consider the objects of society, and of the individuals who compose it; and they will easily perceive that virtue is advantageous, and vice disadvantageous to such beings as themselves. Let us persuade men to be just, beneficent, moderate, sociable; not because such conduct is demanded by the gods, but because it is pleasure to men. Let us advise them to abstain from vice an crime; not because they will be punished in the other world, but because they will suffer for it in this.

 

Let us know what you think…

Comments

3 Comments

  1. Paul

    I am also a born catholic, was an alter boy, went to catholic schools, and I had 3 nuns in my family. 2 were my aunts and one a great aunt. While logic and weird experiences and science has pulled me away from the belief in god, I still think that most religions are good for people who believe in them. Sure there are people who use religion to benefit themselves, but mostly religion is a good thing. The Bible has many good stories that can be interpreted in a way to help people be good. My opinion.

    Reply
    • Jeff Drake

      We’ll have to agree to disagree on this, Paul. I can think of few reasons when believing in nonsense is beneficial.

      Reply
  2. Paul

    I am also a born catholic, was an alter boy, went to catholic schools, and I had 3 nuns in my family. 2 were my aunts and one a great aunt. While logic and weird experiences and science has pulled me away from the belief in god, I still think that most religions are good for people who believe in them. Sure there are people who use religion to benefit themselves, but mostly religion is a good thing. The Bible has many good stories that can be interpreted in a way to help people be good. My opinion.

    Reply

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Author

Jeff Drake

Retired IT consultant, world-traveler, hobby photographer, and philosopher.