What is God?

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What is God? Why ask an atheist/agnostic? My short answer is going to be, "No Virginia, there isn't a God"... but my longer answer is more tolerant and agnostic. I believe in the absurd notion that "first there was nothing: then it blew up". With a view like that, I believe I have no room to criticize others beliefs. Science and Religion merge in astrophysics (since you can't run experiments or prove anything). Heck, like 90% of the Universe is supposedly (dark) matter and energy we can't see, hear, touch -- it's just variables that make our equations balance out. So I'm not trying to claim I have the only answer, just an answer that works well enough for me.

Big Questions

The purpose of this article is not to offend others, especially those with different beliefs than myself. Nor to ridicule their beliefs. I don't mind their beliefs, and I will listen to them, and discuss them. I've just had people in the past ask me why I don't believe in God, or what God is to me, so I decided to write down my views on the subject. This is just my personal rant/writing down of my own views, not any attempt to attack others for theirs. Please take it in the spirit in which it is given, and if my personal views would offend you, then don't read on.

To me, to understand adults, you just need to look at children. Watch kids on the playground in order to learn about people, as they are pure humans; unadulterated with trying to mask their motives as adults do. Boys want to compete and win (admiration and things), Girls want to socialize and get attention (admiration and attention). Boys are "leave me play", girls are "look at me"; with of course plenty of cross over in both. Both want things, to be right, to be loved, and so on. And both don't always know how to handle not getting those things, or life not measuring up to their expectations. If you look at adults, those motivations and effects are the exact same, and just barely under the surface.

So when looking at people emotionally, superstitiously, or spiritually, it is the same thing. We are children (under the surface), just in bigger bodies. Sure, we're more stubborn, less malleable, and slightly more experienced. But we often make the same mistakes, and act the same as children; we are always hoping that others won't catch on to the scared and confused little children that are hiding inside of each of us.

So lets apply child like views to our adult philosophies, to understand our motivations and in order to explain God.

God to me is the idea of super Santa Claus.

Come on, everyone sing along;

He knows when you are sleeping,

He knows when you're awake,
He knows if you've been bad or good...

So be good, for goodness sake.

The concepts of God and other myths, like Santa Claus are the same. They play on our fears or our desires. We want there to be someone, somewhere looking out for us; so we make up or invisible play friend, and our little construct helps us with our loneliness, assuages our fears, and will fictitiously vindicate wrongs and injustices done upon us. And who is Satan but our fictitious friends arch nemesis; or the other side of our invisible friend (his alter-ego); or at least our invisible friends split personality. But we all had invisible friends, and some invisible foes that we had to fight against. It is the way in which children polarize actions to make order of the world, or cope with things around them. And this is the exact same way that adults do so as well.

Who broke the lamp or did things we don't want to take the blame for? Why one of our invisible friend (s) or enemy. It is a way to dodge responsibility, or avoid accepting the unacceptable. Ask a kid a question that they don't understand, and watch them. Sometimes if they don't know, they'll be honest. Mostly, they'll just start making things up in their imaginations to explain things. Not out of malice, they just want to know so bad, that they will delude others, and themselves in order to know. And as usual, adults are not so different.

Think of the following coming out of the mouth of a six year old;

  • Who created the heaven and the earth? My friend God made it.
  • Why did that bad thing happen? My friend God must have been angry.
  • Who did that really bad thing? God's enemy Satan must have done it. God would never do that.
  • Why didn't God stop him? Ummm, uhhh. Because God didn't want to interfere with our free will, so that he could later judge our souls based on the sum of our actions. And then allow us to be cast into the fiery pit of eternal damnation and roasting of our souls, if we don't deny all the reason he gave us and just believe in him, or in his sons sacrifice, in spite of any lack of evidence, or all evidence to the contrary: which he put here to test our love.

It is all the same childish way to explain the inexplicable, and compound one lie on another, until the construct assuages our frustration at not understanding what is going on around us. It is the same coming out of the mouths of babe's, or when some zealot wrote it down or told the story thousands of years ago, or some priest is parroting it today. I don't think their underlying motives are bad, even if their reasoning was flawed, or their stories are pure fiction.

We do these things as coping skills, as have people before us, time immemorial. There is no doubt that human do all these things, and have these needs. Most humans accept this as truth, for all other religions accept their own. But for their own, they suspend reason and disbelief, and just believe and have faith.

Foxholes

There is the saying that there are no atheists in foxholes. Basically implying that when people are really afraid, they pray to God. This is supposed to support the concept that people fundamentally understand and believe in a God. What it really shows is that when people are put under stress, like extreme fear, that they throw reason out the window and hide in their reptilian brains, and do very simplistic things to cope. We are wired quite similarly, so it is no surprise that we cope similarly.

When we don't want something to be happening, we deny it (shock). Then we try to negotiate our way out of it (bargaining); I'll do anything, if you just make it stop. Then there is the guilt; this has to be happening for a reason; what did I do, why did I do that, this must be my fault. Then depression sets in; there is nothing you can do, it is happening and you can't stop it or do anything about it. Finally, there is the acceptance -- life is, things happen, cope. This is the standard and well-known resolution cycle, or trauma/grief cycle that is common to all human. There are different variants; as in the anger stage, but you can see that humans deal with things very similarly.

If you understand the resolution cycle, it becomes obvious God is just a construct that matches our own coping mechanisms, or even accelerates acceptance. It is the personification or anthropomorphization of that coping mechanism (or at least the first few stages). Denail; this can't be happening; God, why are you doing this to me? Negotiation; God, I'll go to church if you make it stop. Guilt; God, I'm sorry for all the sin and things I've done that have lead to this. Depression; this is my fault for not being more religious, Godly, etc., I'm a bad person and have sinned, and am tainted with original sin. And so on. Our imaginary friend comes out to play, and helps us through those events. So God, and religion, is just the personification of our own insecurities, and coping tool.

So if there are no atheists in foxholes, this supports that God exists because we need him to exist. Which supports the concept that man created God in his own image.

Why I don't believe in God

Which gets me to the deeper questions, like why don't I believe in God?

Despite the obvious issues; like the Bible is erroneous, that the reason people need God is to explain things and cope. That everyone believes and accepts that all religions are constructs, except their own. And the many other reasonable arguments, there are also the emotional and philosophical ones.

I have a core set of beliefs as to how I, and others, should behave. I will live by that code, and judge others by it; even a supposed God.

If you hurt people, or watch them get hurt, and do nothing about it, then you are not a good person. I might die trying to prevent a rape, assault or murder, but at least I stood for something and tried to make a difference in the world. How could I worship a God that didn't do the same?

If you let your emotions get the better of you, and you give in to them, and hurt others, beat or verbally assault people, or take out your frustrations on others, then you are not doing a good thing, but a bad one. You must learn how to accept, cope, and control yourself. This applies to a moody, temperamental and childish God that would drown people (flood), or kill people, or ask people to kill others in his name, all for being who/what they are.

These issues get are especially relevant when you consider that God created these things in the first place, and then is holding others accountable for his actions. What do you think of a child that punishes a dog for the mistakes they made? Or would get mad at a computer program for doing exactly what they created it to do? Where is the mercy in Hell or Satan? Which if God didn't create, he at least tolerates and doesn't stop. How can a benevolent and omnipotent and omniscient being have the maturity of a 3 year old?

We are the sum of our actions. You can't kill someone, and then claim you aren't a killer. You can't steal from someone and then claim you aren't a thief. You can't hang out with crooks, and not try to stop them, and then claim you are an honest person. You can't basically be a Bill Clinton, and then blame everything bad on those around you, and expect to get off scott free, according to my moral code. Inaction and tolerance of the intolerable is not significantly superior to bad action itself. If you know the cause and effect, and you let a bad thing happen, then you are nearly as culpable as the person who did it. You are your actions. You can stop doing the bad things, and stop being the bad person. But as long as you are doing the bad things, or tolerating them in front of you, then you are being the bad person. Now apply that to God watching Satan or man harming other men.

Religions say that you can't judge God, but why not? I'm not into hypocrisy either; and if God is going to judge me on my actions, then why shouldn't I judge him? And judge him by the same code as he judges me by? Why shouldn't the same rules apply to religion and our deities as applies to us? If I didn't fight against that which is wrong, then I'd be wrong. Well guess what the God does all the time?

But if you read the Bible (Old Testament) and believe in the stories , then this is not a very good God. God wasn't forgiving, he wasn't that tolerant; at least according to the Bible. He was a moody and unmerciful God, that had all the failings of a human; and not a very mature one at that. He was omniscient and knew the future, yet was surprised by our actions and punished us for them. He accepts who we are, then punishes us for acting exactly how he created us? He asks people to murder their own children and then says, ìjust kiddingî at the last minute as a test of faith? What kind of sick bastard would play those psychological games? Not someone I would believe in or worship. Ironically, the New Testament and Jesus has a totally different feel and tone, but then he's selling the same God in a different way.

If God is omniscient and omnipotent, and we are created in his image, then God may be love, kindness and all the good things; but he is also evil, spite, ego, hateful and all the bad things as well. That isn't something to be worshiped. The more you read the Bible (Old Testament), the more you can see the flaws of that God, if you are willing to open your eyes to it. But more likely we are just observing what is in humanity, and creating a false cause, or giving our behaviors or emotions names like God for good ones, and Satan for bad ones, or Jesus for forgiveness.

Conclusion

According to the Bible, God was going to create mankind as some mindless unreasoning thing that gave un-comprehending love but had the reasoning capacity of seriously down syndrome kids, and we existed solely for his own pleasure and worshiping him. Then God got mad when his other creation (Satan), went and had the audacity to give us self-awareness and free will? (You can't have true free will without self-awareness). Then, we are stigmatized with that ìoriginal sinî of acting in exactly the fashion that we were created to act in? Come on. If Genesis is to be believed, then I should be worshiping Satan, since at least he wanted us to be self-aware and know right from wrong and understand the world around us. God wanted us to be something that was closer to a sub-human love-pet, that just purred and basked in his glory. Which is ultimately how we'll end up? Talk about a needy mate, I'm not allowed to have any other interests and must put worship above all other things and self? If that was a person they'd need serious help.

I wouldn't want someone voting or loving me based on their own ignorance of what I am, or what I stand for. I wouldn't want people to be uneducated and ignorant in general. But there is a God that wants us to deny evidence and all that is reasonable, and instead go with unmitigated faith and unreasonable belief in order to worship him; or else be punished? Does that make sense to you? So to understand God, I think we must understand both ourselves, and humanity at large. Only in first doing that, fairly and objectively, can we understand God.

Could I hang out with someone that perpetrated or tolerate the holocaust, or the many other tragedies that are happening daily and throughout history? What if you could stop Hitler, Pol pot, or Stalin, but didn't? At some point inaction becomes action, and the CEO can't blame the companies poor performance on the employees. I certainly wouldn't worship a religion where the God is a responsibility dodger and finger pointer. God tolerates and allows all the evil to happen, then how is God any different than Satan? I could never respect a father that watches his daughter get gang raped, and then says, ìI warned you not to wear those sluty clothesî, but that is the moral equivalent of what God does all the time.

Once you understand yourself, your needs, and human needs -- it becomes obvious that God is obviously a construct that was made in mans image. God was a conglomeration of stories made up by men, to explain that which they didn't understand to calm others, or to try to teach others lessons that they learned. This isn't a bad thing; it is a nice set of parables to try to help others. It is a placebo to help us combat frustration with our own impotence, and explain what we don't understand. I'm sure these actions were done out of love and the sincere goal of trying to help others. All these stories have lessons that we can learn as humans. So I'll love others, and try to help others, and do many things that are Godly (or not inconsistent with the positive goals of the Bible). I'll read the Bible and try to learn from the stories of other men. I'll more than tolerate others beliefs; I see those belief as sincerely trying to help others achieve the peace they've found. But I don't personally believe we should lie to others just to make their lives easier, even children, and we certainly shouldn't lie to ourselves. And while the pious have reached a peace, they first had to give up a piece of their souls and selves to do it; I'll take the lesser peace of acceptance.

In the end, I'm left with a choice.

  1. Deny my reasoning capacity; which is what makes me a human being and above the animals. To hypocritically not judge a God in the way he judges me, to ignore any inconsistent and immoral behaviors of a God, and not to try to reason out the actions or morality of those actions. I'm supposed to deny all the evidence of errors in the Bible. I'm supposed to deny the human failings of anyone who has written, edited or taught the Bible. I'm supposed to deny actions and motivations of men. I'm supposed to deny science, logic and reason. And I'm supposed to just believe in Super-Santa-Claus and the child's best friend (his imaginary one), and to just blindly have faith (and intellectual reasoning of a child), in order to be truly saved. All because that mindless faith offers me a lot of comfort from the stresses that is life. But then other forms of psychosis or delusion might offer me an inner peace as well, but I'm not willing to disassociate from the real world to follow those paths either.
  2. Or accept what I am, what humans are, and the hard truths about the world around me, even though life is not always pretty, nice, or what I would desire.

Given that choice, I've chosen the latter. And if there is a God that would punish me for acting exactly how he created me, then I wouldn't call that love, mercy or anyone that would be worthy of my worship.

Written: 2002.10.08