I got an email today from a kid doing some research for a religion course at his school. He wanted me to answer six questions, and I thought I’d post my answers here as well because they state in a nutshell some of the reasons religion’s not my cup of tea. His questions appear in bold print and my answers immediately follow each question.
1. Do you believe in god or gods?
No, I don’t believe in any god.
2. Why or why not?
One of the big reasons people believe in gods is because they (gods) are thought to give an adequate explanation of how we came into existence. People are inclined to think it self-evident that everything must have a creator (else how did it get here). So they cite an omnipotent god as the creator of everything and consider the problem solved. But it’s not solved. Who created their god? And who created their god’s creator? There’s no satisfactory way to answer the question. I’m content just to acknowledge that we don’t yet understand how we got here.
Other people have spiritual needs that believing in a god fills. I simply don’t have these needs, or at any rate, I don’t find that believing in a god helps to satisfy them for me, though I can see how religion might fill a void for many people.
3. What is this god or gods like that you believe or do not believe in?
I believe in no gods. When evangelical Christians question my atheism (they’re the only ones who seem to be greatly bothered by it), I’m always happy to respond that I believe in just one less god than they do. As I don’t believe any god exists, I’m at a loss to describe what they’re like. They’re like nothing because they don’t exist!
4. How do you know?
Call it an educated guess. I’ve never seen evidence that I think suggests that there’s any god. I disbelieve in gods for the same reasons I suspect we all disbelieve in invisible pink unicorns: There’s simply no objective evidence to suggest that they exist. I don’t know that gods don’t exist; I just think it’s highly improbable. Similarly, there’s no way for me to know for sure that invisible pink unicorns don’t exist; I just haven’t seen any compelling reason to think that they might exist, and I’m happy to assert, until I’m proven wrong, that they don’t exist.
5. Does the existence of god or gods make any difference? Explain.
This is kind of a weird question, and I’m not sure exactly what you’re asking. If I think there are no gods and the Judeo-Christian god does in fact exist and behave as described in the Bible, I suppose it’ll make a difference because I’ll find myself in Hell when I die instead of just beind dead. But that’s not a proposition I can really test right now, so there’s not really any way for me to posit that the existence (or lack of existence) of gods makes any difference.
Let me approach this from a different angle, though. I don’t think the existence of gods makes any difference with respect to morality. I believe things are moral or not moral independently of any law or proposed deity. Whether or not there was a god, I’d think certain things were wrong, and I’d think it whether the god(s) proclaimed them wrong or not. So in that sense, the existence of gods makes no difference to me.
6. Imagine that you have been given an opportunity to interview god. What questions would you ask?
I don’t believe in god, so this is sort of an irrelevant question. I’ll play along for a minute, though, and pretend that the Judeo-Christian god exists and that I could interview him. I’d probably ask something like this: Given that you’re all-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing, how do you account for pain (physical and emotional), disease (spina bifida in innocent babies, for example), human cruelty, aging, death, all manner of things that are simply irreconcileable with an all-loving, all-powerful god? These things don’t seem very loving at all coming from an entity with the power to revoke them.