What if I am wrong?
What if god is something beyond our senses or understanding? Who am I to declare that there is no god at all? I suppose my atheism was initially born as a response to the popular god concepts I have known best. Had all discussions about god been more abstract and vague I am sure I would feel less passionate about dismissing them. Not because I would believe in such a god concept, but rather because it simply wouldn’t matter if it were real or not.
That’s why it’s so easy to call myself an atheist. If god somehow exists in a place out of reach, how can it impact me? What consequence is there in being right or wrong about a god like that? None. It’s no big deal. We only care about religion when there is a reward or consequence to what we believe. That’s the part that feels dangerous.
A god without reward isn’t popular. One of the least convincing things about religion is how much it revolves around what we can get. We believe what we want to believe and then we write a story around that core desire. No need to explain why that happens, right? For some of us it is difficult to believe anything about ourselves without first wanting it to be true. When I was a Christian witnessing to others I was offering eternal life. Comfort. Hope. All of it was attainable. Because otherwise why would anyone care? If god is not interested in rewarding us, why should we worship and obey him?
What’s in it for us?
What we want is irrelevant to truth. I feel like those words come out of my mouth at least once a week. For many these are impossible words to live by, and that is one of the main reasons religion survives. Even if I could wrap my mind around the idea that we were created by some superior being, I find it even less likely that he is offering a complex reward system based on our abilities at cracking the puzzle he left us with. It makes no sense.
And shouldn’t it make sense? Is it enough that someone once wrote that the truth would appear as foolishness to a nonbeliever? No. No, it isn’t enough. And it shouldn’t be enough for anyone else, either. But we know better. Some people want to believe it and that desire makes it enough.
If there was a god, it would be more likely that we would live and die and our knowledge of some distant god would hold no meaning at all. God, science, the universe…. they can owe us nothing. Maybe that belief should only be held by those who desire truth above all else. Different strokes for different folks. We can eliminate many ideas, but none of us alive today possess the evidence to define complete truth. We all fill in the gaps in the way that meets our needs. And I see no reason to fill in those gaps with god. Who cares?
If only the evangelicals in my world could see what small pieces of the puzzle they actually hold. If only they could accurately calculate the chances that they are not representatives of the one true god or that they have any significant knowledge of him at all. They are stumbling around in the dark clinging to a tradition that offers something they want. They have no authority to apply their rules, rewards, or consequences to the rest of us; but acknowledging that would require them to consider that what they want to be true might not be true. And if they wanted to do that, they probably wouldn’t believe in the first place.
In my world such things make no difference. Reward and consequence are not tangled up in how I choose to define the undefinable. They are more obvious and have real impact right here and right now with the visible people around me. That’s it. And that matters.