Before we even begin, I need to address what I mean when I say “faith”. You see, all words describe an idea, emotion, or physical object. They are how we communicate ideas to one another, and one of the greatest problems in communication human beings have is in dealing with our understandings of what others mean when they use certain terms. Now some words are pretty fixed, such as the word tree or the number 2. These words mean the same to everyone, and we all understand what someone means when they say, “Look at that tree.” But some words, like faith, are understood or used by people in many different ways.
So what I want to do here is use the Merriam-Webster definition of faith as a noun, and most specifically definition 2b(1): “firm belief in something for which there is no proof”. From this point forward in this blog when I use the term faith, that is the definition that I’m referring to. Hopefully that will keep us all on the same page.
Court is in Session
I was drawn to write this blog after watching an old rerun of the television show Matlock with Andy Griffith. On this particular episode Matlock is defending a murder suspect in a case where the prosecution has no body, no murder weapon, no crime scene, and only circumstantial evidence to support the idea that a crime was committed at all. In his closing arguments Matlock addresses the jury and tells them that after he counts down from 10 the supposed victim is going to walk through the door of the courtroom unharmed to explain the whole situation. As he begins counting down, all eyes in the courtroom turn to that door, including the entire jury and even the prosecution. When he reaches 1, no one enters the room – but Mr. Matlock makes his case all too clear when he points out that everyone was looking at that door because everyone had a reasonable doubt as to whether a crime had even been committed at all, and they all believed there was at least a chance that the supposed victim was going to walk into that room.
Faith works the same way folks. There is no room for doubt with faith, whether that doubt is reasonable or not. If someone truly has faith they have put away all doubt. This is why I could never simply go through the motions following a religion based on Pascal’s Wager. I have a reasonable doubt. Furthermore, I even have some unreasonable doubts, and if all that religion has to say on God is true – then this “God” already knows my heart and knows that I have doubts. So am I going to sit here perpetuating a lie against myself – or that supposed God? In the same way that I would not sentence another person to death or imprisonment for a crime I was not sure he/she committed, I would not walk through life proclaiming something which I was not sure of. Quite honestly, this case was over the moment the first doubt sprung up, but I’ve let the prosecution make their case, as all humanity has done since the beginnings of civilization.
One of the other features of the U.S. judicial system is an idea called Due Process, which means that any defendant in a case has the right to have the case brought before the court and jury, should they choose a jury trial, in a swift and timely manner so that the defendant is not wrongfully imprisoned or denied other freedoms during the course of the trial. I’ll happily admit that this process fails miserably to accomplish what it is meant to because of all the loopholes and manipulations that we’ve worked into the U.S. legal system and codes. Ba’al knows the judicial system has become somewhat of a travesty and a joke here in the states, but it was built on very strong principles. (Just so we’re clear Christians, those principles aren’t “biblical”… but they’ll be plenty of time for history lessons later)
Now, the problem with the whole religious debate is that it has long ignored any idea of due process. You see, religion has been around since as far back as we’ve seen human civilization. All too often the religious of today forget that the mythology of the Greek, Roman, Norse, Egyptian, and countless other civilizations were once taken just as seriously as any of the popular legends that mankind follows today and proclaims as absolute truth. In all that time, each of these myths and their doctrines and “holy men”, have used these ideas of “truth” to manipulate mankind and hold us hostage to their idea of what life and the world should be. In each of these cases, these ideologies have always left certain groups excluded or even specifically persecuted. And for all these tens of thousands of years that mankind has sought to come together and form civilizations where we can all prosper and grow together and find some safety in greater numbers in an impersonal and often violent universe, these religions have always been present and they have always intruded upon the freedoms of humanity. But none of them have ever proven their case, and so proven that they have the right to assert any dominance over any of us. Yet they have never faltered in asserting dominance in abundance like a plague wherever they go.
All Objections Overruled
There will undoubtedly be some who feel that tackling religion as if it is a legal matter is somehow “wrong”. They’ll say I’ve not “let God into my heart”, or some other convoluted nonsense. And quite frankly, I’ll offer no rebuttal to such ignorance. I’m 32 years old, and of those years I’ve spent 25 looking for God and still continue to do so.
The fact is, I am no more convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that God or a possible afterlife doesn’t exist than I am that those things do exist. I can say for sure that none of the various religions can offer any definitive answer on the matter and that they are all built on myth and superstition. Quite frankly, that should be obvious to everyone. I am an atheist because I have no personal idea of a “God” in even the deistic sense. I think the notion of thinking of God as some cosmic collection of energy just makes it very impersonal – albeit scientifically correct in a general sense. I happen to think that even if there were a being that set our universe in motion, that being had no hand in what happened after the initial “start” was initiated. In that sense, our existence is just a happy circumstance of a chance combination of factors being present at the right time. In my opinion that makes it even more amazing! I mean, if you boil it down, the Abrahamic myths simply tell us that we are the imagining of the being Yahweh, and our substance is only relevant to that being’s mind – and I’m sure that doesn’t sound like a new idea to anyone.
It is because of this continued search that I have no use for anyone else’s objections to my methodology. The truth is that if “God” wants me to know about him/her/it, then I really shouldn’t have to search so hard and I surely shouldn’t need anyone else’s help to get in touch with said “God”. I am told constantly of the power of the God of this religion or that one, and all I’ve ever asked is just for these almighty Gods to present themselves or show some tangible evidence to substantiate the claim. Now we all can be swayed by different levels of evidence, and for the majority of humanity who subscribe to various religions it would seem that circumstantial evidence is more than enough to convince them of the existence of God, but for me that is not enough by a long shot.
I believe that what it all boils down to is a simple question;
“Do you have any doubt whatsoever that God exists?”
If the answer to that question is yes, and quite honestly I think that it is yes for most people, then you have to consider why it is that you still believe even though you have doubts. Is it because despite there being no good reason to believe it to be true that you feel it deep down to be true – or is it because you have some book that tells you it’s true? If your doctrine is “proof” of the “truth” of your religion, then you have no faith. If it “proves” your God or “messiah” or your version of the afterlife, then you’ve no right to tell me of your “faith”. Instead, what you have is a case to be made and most of us have heard the case before and feel that the evidence is circumstantial at best and not worth further review.
This case is over for me. I’ve sat as single juror to review the evidence before me and my verdict is an acquittal. I cannot stand with conviction for a God, and so I must admit that I see no reason to believe that one exists. As with any case in the U.S. judicial system, the only way to bring up this case again is if there arises new evidence. So far, there has been little to no new evidence for God to show up in all the years I’ve been studying theology – but science is showing us each and every day just how irrelevant even the idea of God truly is. And I believe the question we must all ask ourselves is whether or not we are staring at that door with a reasonable doubt as to whether a God, any God from any religion, is going to walk through it at all. There are those who are certain that their particular God is going to enter the courtroom, and that their God will see fit to judge us all and condemn all but the handful that lived exactly as those men thought the doctrine says one should live. Then there are those who doubt, and we are on both sides doubting. The agnostic atheists who are uncertain and doubt – and the theist who proclaims their doctrine as truth, yet runs from any debate of that truth claim for fear that he might be disabused of that notion.
There are however, a precious few who are uncertain yet hope that some God will walk in and be fair and just, seeing that most people are good and decent and leaving only the most “wicked” to be exiled – that is what true religious “faith” is. They have no need to debate or argue, because they don’t have “truth” nor do they want it. They have faith, and that faith is not built on knowledge, but rather by a deep-seeded conviction within them that very few who count themselves amongst the faithful can actually say they have. Those people are not “hurt” or “offended” by what I do or say any more than they want to force me or any other person to follow what they believe to be true. It doesn’t affect their faith or fealty and they have nothing to “prove” in coming to the defense of their beliefs. I imagine that when all the dust settles and the bickering has ended, those few with true faith will be unmoved by the whole affair having firmly held to the path they see as right and hoping for the best.
Do You Have Any Last Words?
I have only these to offer;
I’ve been honest. If there is a God and I have to face that God one day, those should be the only words I should have to speak in my defense. I have been honest about my doubts and why I cannot follow any religion. Despite those doubts, I have lived with kindness and compassion towards my fellow man without the fear of eternal punishment as a threat over my head or the carrot of an eternal afterlife of bliss to coax me forward.