Religion faith is fading away across the World; it’s something I applaud and a sign we are finally growing up as a species and collectively better educating ourselves. It should not have taken so long. Back when we were living in caves the world was a frightening and unforgiving place; it’s no wonder that our ancestors looked to create deities to make sense of the world around them and enhance a sense of purpose and meaning. In the current technological and scientific age the need for these imaginary friends is fading although our own mortality inevitably creates emotional challenges as we loose loved ones. As Societies become more educated there is a clear correlation with a rise in secularism although the USA is still a curious exception to this trend. These changes sits entirely comfortably with me; I still have a strong sense of right and wrong, empathy for my fellow citizens and a desire for our species to succeed without any need for divine involvement. I also find the concept of an all-encompassing cosmic CCTV / judgement to be both repellent and indicative of a rather unpleasant, cruel omnipotent force.
Christianity never sat easy with me as a child raised in Church of England schools. I was certainly impressed with stories from the bible but no more than other powerful works of fiction. At Secondary School I went through the process of careful consideration to become Confirmed but eventually backed away from the process feeling confused and perhaps guilty at my doubts. Clarity finally dawned years later when I read Richard Dawkin’s excellent novel “The God Delusion” and at last my doubts and feelings had closure and coherence as I read a brilliant cross-examination of religious practice. I wished I had read this book in my early teens. My own personal fascination with the sciences and in particular astronomy has had much to do with my personal conclusions but more about that later. For me my atheistic Confirmation was of a different kind; a fresh enlightenment that I no longer needed an invisible teddy-bear in the sky to give my life both meaning and to help me through the thorny periods of my life. Life actually becomes more precious when you realise you have about 70 years or so (if you are lucky) to make the best of things and there will not be some cheesy five-star-hotel afterlife to pass onto as a next stage. One day Science may well give us the afterlife we crave as our conscious thoughts become downloadable but for us in this time the important thing is to do the right things for their own sake and just be extremely thankful for what we have and being around in the times we are.
Not a day goes by when I don’t muse over some of my internal arguments against religious belief and I would like to share some with you now. There are several obvious flaws I have sussed out about Christianity in particular and religion as a whole and they are easy to articulate. Firstly some obvious problems with modern faith. Why is God always considered to have a gender ie most often male? Such an assumption ignores the obvious conclusion that this God must have been created by a sexually-based evoltionary process and cannot therefore be immortal or have inhabited the beginning of time. Surely any realistic impression of a God should be un-gendered ie “it”. Secondly the idea of God in some way mimics humanity in appearance is equally foolish; again we are a product of an evolutionary process and any plausible God could never follow a similar existential route. Suspiciously why has this God also never made any observable act in the modern age where the majority of humans now reside? No religion seems to consider why their God was so interactive and engaged in earlier epocs but now seems to have fully retired from engagement in human affairs. Unfortunately this also leaves religious scriptures increasingly incompetent to deal with modern pressing issues. There is nothing in the Gospel whatsoever to help us with new problems such as global warming, nuclear weapon proliferation, antibiotic resistance, AI emergence or plastic waste. A continued interactive God would make much more sense if they were committed to our future success and would rubber-stamp the worship they so obviously demand. Why are all the burning bushes and parting of seas in the distant past when nothing can be authenticated and a tiny percentage of the overall human population were about. Any God genuinely interested in being supported, worshiped and followed by the 7.6 billion people on the planet could settle the issue in five minutes with a definitive appearance and message. I don’t buy the ‘mysterious ways’ requiring faith excuse for a chronic lack of evidence.
Many of the carrots and sticks of faith are also easily challenged. The concept of heaven is deeply flawed as soon as you try to visualize and challenge the concept. Is heaven really supposed to be like a free eternal 5 star hotel? That would soon lose its appeal! Equally a sex orgy heaven would stop being interesting after a day or two! When you think about it an eternal life is a frightening concept in itself and perhaps being allowed to cease one’s existence is a basic right for any sentient being. We all need closure and eternal existence a silly aspiration Another issue is who gets a pass and who doesn’t? Would well behaved pre-historic humans get automatically excluded for being wrong-place wrong-time? How about severely mentally disabled people, still-borne babies or Alzheimers sufferers; what kind of heaven would they be suited to? If you die aged 102 do you enter heaven at that same age or get reset to your life’s prime state? Do dying babies get fast-forward to a hypothetical future adult state or left in an eternal creche? How about animals and other life; all excluded or on a case by case basis? Many would like to think the loyal family dog would get a free pass but if animals are all ‘good to go’ where do you draw the line; anyone want to make the case for the Tsetse fly or spitting cobra? Heaven would surely be a dull / quiet place if devoid of all life except worthy humans and many of our favorite species are predators and potentially controversial members! Presumably Heaven would also need ridiculous rules and boundaries otherwise every attendee would themselves aspire to omnipotent and potential immoral behaviour at the expense of others; wouldn’t all attendees have to be vegan for example to prevent suffering of other beings (unless one assumes ideas like the consumption of food is just so last life)! The more you think about it the more farcical heaven must be and is surely just a fiction created by those frightened by their own conscious mortality and fitted into faith as a form of control. Equally many religions seem to be quietly dropping the idea of hell as a potential ‘stick’ alternative eternal punishment for similar reasons. There is no evidence the magma a few miles below our feet is home to fork-wielding demons any more than any other place people can think up. Why would any God also condone a place of Hell if they were both all-powerful and ‘good’; A God allowing a Hell within their Creation boundaries sounds a cruel entity to me.
The real devastating arguments for me come from astronomical revelations about the universe in which we live. We are now acutely aware of our insignificant, inconsequential position in a vast, ancient universe. Gone are the days in which we naively assumed we were the center of all things in which Earth had cosmic weight. If a God is assumed to have worked creation solely around our existence why would they bother with a vast, compex unreachable Universe. Why would this entity bother creating beyond the Solar System (which in itself very large and impressive) and give us uncountable star systems in uncountable galaxies which we may never likely ever visit or know. Over 13 billion years of history with untold marvels, spectacles and events have passed us by without ever being observed by human eyes; it doesn’t seem like our imagined God has plans for us ‘stage centre’ if we have unavoidably missed all this universal history! I know “God moves in mysterious ways” but that is no answer to this gargantuan waste of creational effort if it is all for our benefit.
I also often contemplate the divine intervention issue. Three possibilities exist; either our ‘God’ chooses never to intervene in human affairs ( leaving us to our own devices, making religious devotion a futile act and dumbly watching uncountable evil acts unfold including possibly standing idly by as we lurch towards our own extinction) or secondly this ‘God’ does intervene and therefore our fate is potentially determined before our birth, unchangeable and set to a fated script. Such a God chooses to watch as incredibly tragic and evil events happen every day and chooses to let them happen; this sounds sadomasochistic to me and not palatable at all. The third possibility is this “God” is no longer omnipotent or currently or ever physically present in the Creation process and thus lacks the capacity for interactivity and has quite literally retired from active service! I certainly hope whichever option is correct that we make our own fate and are not having our strings pulled.
I think a lot about these big issues but have reached a Karma in my conclusions. Life is exceptionally precious. I strive to do good for the benefit of my family, my species and my planet. I hope to leave things in a better state than I found them originally. My health is my most important asset and there is no angels looking out for me. Life can change direction in a split second and will sometimes be outside my control. Sometimes life will kick you in the balls and sometimes the die will fall in you favour. Either way I have conviction we do not need to curry favour with a theoretical Creator and no religion has any authority to tell us how to behave but is simply a form of human control. I’m enjoying the ride and I hope you are too!