Monday, May 23, 2011


Why would I write a blog exposing myself to the world as a nonbeliever? There are plenty of virulent atheists on the internet hiding behind screen names; I’m not one of them. I’m not trying to convert anybody nor am I trying to put down those who believe. I admit to making fun of believers now and again but I counter balance it by remembering that these are people who believe I am going to burn in a lake of fire for all eternity. Is it really fair to begrudge me a few laughs at their expense while I have the time?

But I digress. Harold Camping recently and wrongly predicted the rapture and the end of the world. I found out about this while driving down to South Carolina for the weekend. I had finally completed my BA and was heading down for the commencement ceremonies. My wife and I love road trips and through North Carolina at least we had good weather. So there we were with the top down streaming down the highway and we saw the billboard informing us that judgment day would be May 21st. I was a bit put off by this as I was just about to receive degree and would be able to put it to no real use if the end of the world were to come but a week later.

During following week, surfing the internet, mostly for my own amusement to find out what was going on, I found I was surprised. What surprised me were not the virulent atheists I mentioned earlier, I had expected them to be on the attack. It was the faithful Christians that really floored me. They were attacking the Camping prediction with the same fervor as the nonbelievers, sometimes using the same arguments. This intrigued me because both sides of the debate, the Camping folks and the mainstream Christians believed very similar things regarding the rapture. The chief difference being that one side claimed to know the date and they other disputed that. Words like “insane” and “irrational” were bandied about by the Christians, as if believing in the miraculous was “rational” yet believing the miraculous would occur on a certain day is not.

One site let to another as web surfing often does and I stumbled upon the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM). Therein are contained the writings of Matt Slick. Mr. Slick defends not only Christianity but his particular brand of it through a series of articles and arguments. After reading some of Mr. Slick’s articles I felt I needed to address some of the issues he raises. In addition, some of the other explanations offered by the religious on the various websites are just crying to be well…doubted.

I think only fair to give a little background on the root of my own views. I was born a Catholic but at various times in my childhood and early adulthood have attended different churches including Methodist, Baptist and Nondenominational. I am not a religious scholar and other than a few religion classes and Sunday School hold no formal training in that area. I claim no insight into truth. I am a skeptic…a Doubter if you will. I chose the name of this blog based on that and of course the Biblical Thomas would not believe unless he saw. As you might suspect, my middle name is actually Thomas.

I remember a Sunday school lesson on Thomas when I was nine or ten, this was in a Methodist Church. The teacher told us disapprovingly about how Thomas had doubted the resurrection. I was struck by the hypocrisy of that disapproval, although I certainly didn’t know the word or really even how to express it at the time. That teacher and all my classmates were certain that THEY would not have been doubters. I doubted that too.
Such an event that defies that notions of he faith to which you have been indoctrinated occurs and defies the natural law and you wouldn’t doubt it?

I don’t know if that was the seed that began to make me doubt but it was certainly near the beginning. I did try to believe, I wanted to believe. But the contradictions started mounting, many of which I will address individually in separate posts. For a while I did what a lot of Christians do, I took the faith as a buffet style, taking what I wanted from it and leaving, discounting or glossing over the rest.

But then I realized that I was clinging to belief as do many religious for three reasons neither of which was enough to prove God. I truly did not believe but was forcing myself to make the wholehearted attempt. The three reasons are really just three different forms of the same root and that root is FEAR.

The first fear was the fear of society. How am I to be viewed by most people if I state I do not believe in God? The views of other people are certainly very real and they affect us in very real ways. But at some point I found that other’s views were not as important to me as I once thought. And in truth most people don’t wear their religion or lack thereof on their sleeve anyway.

The second fear was the fear of punishment. Having been indoctrinated virtually since birth that to not believe was to invite divine punishment, it was difficult to shake the worry that if they were right and I was wrong I might be in big trouble. I am certain I held on for a while to hedge my bets. I will probably do a post on Pascal’s Wager in the future but for now I will simply say it doesn’t work. As I became more convinced that I was right and religion wrong I began to realize the fear and that I was afraid of something I didn’t believe in anyway. By realizing it and confronting it I found that it had little hold over me.

The final fear was the hardest to get over because it is the biggest fear we humans harbor, the fear of death. I am mortal like everyone else and will die someday. No one likes to think of their own demise and religion provides an escape for the most unpleasant of thoughts. Even as I woke to the problems with religious belief and it did feel like an awakening, I cling to the belief that there must be something after death. Surely there was force out there even if every religion had it wrong, at that point I suppose I was truly agnostic. Then I wondered at my reasoning for believing even that. I had no rational grounds so why did I believe it? The answer was simply because I wanted it to be so. The universe has never yet arranged itself in the way I wanted it to be and does not seem likely to in the future. Therefore it doesn’t follow to believe in something because I want it to be true. In the end that was the thought that quelled all the fears.

Finally, and this is getting far more long winded than I intended, there is the question as to what I am now. Some might call me an atheist all though some would argue that if I admit even the remotest possibility I might be wrong then I am really an agnostic. This is an argument Christian use against atheism. Again I will probably address that in a later post.

What I know is: I am neither a God nor any other form of omnipotent being. Therefore I cannot say that there is no possibility that I am wrong. What I believe is: That there are no Gods or other omnipotent beings. Agnostic? Atheist? Does it matter? I have come to accept that which of those labels applies to me depends on the person doing the applying rather than one me in particular. I’ll accept either.

Karl Marx wrote on religion that it is, “the opium of the people.” While I disagree with his politics, I believe Marx had a good insight into religion here. Religion makes you feel good. That is what it is designed to do. If your lot in this life isn’t so good then it will be better in the next. The purpose of this blog is not to convert anyone. If you are happy with your beliefs; if they make you feel good; then I am happy for you. If however you would like to read some of mine feel free. Also feel free to question or refute them. I welcome the conversation.


  1. Hi Bill, I had a response to you on the Ask God Yourself blog, but I thought I'd respond here, too.

    First off, I hope you continue posting. For one thing, any subject that is well-considered is worth writing about, and secondly, writing well about that subject is doubly worthy - I think you're off to a great start here.

    Personally, I consider Thomas to be the disciple I most identify with, too. I am not a typical Christian, and I really only apply the term "Christian" to myself in that I come from a Christian background and that I believe in God.

    I enjoyed reading your post - it answered many of the questions I had in reading your comment on Ask God Yourself's "Harold Camping 21" blog.

    I believe there is a path to God that is not based on fear or on literal interpretations of any scripture. I think most to all humans are fools, and I think every human is massively ignorant, and therefore I do not view the Bible as a document from God but a document from men (a handful of which were not complete fools). That said, yes, I do handpick some items that I believe hold deeper spiritual and figurative truths and tend to ignore the rest. If I'm guilty for this, then I'm not worried. I believe God knows my heart, and I believe God can do with me in whatever way God chooses. I could die tomorrow, and I would love God. I could be damned to hellfire, and I would love God. But, really, I don't think we know what if any afterlife there is. It doesn't matter to me - I'd still love God. If there is no afterlife, then I'll still love God until the instant I no longer exist.

    I don't think it's possible to read the Bible and actually NOT handpick what to believe - there are too many conflicting elements and too much room for interpretation. One can discount the Bible entirely for this, but I'm not convinced that is the wisest course.

    I'm also a student of many of the world's religions, and I really want to learn more. My view on other religions is that they are all struggling to reach out to God in one way or another (and some with greater and some lesser success).

    And here's the dirty little secret that I believe about atheists. I actually have great respect for atheists, because at heart I believe that many atheists are uncompromising seekers of truth (even though I also believe that absolute truth is unattainable for us). The struggle for rationality (unfortunately, there are such things as irrational atheists) and its application in life is something that God (in my finite understanding) truly desires. And personally, God (in my finite understanding) likes a rational atheist a lot more than a destructive and wicked Christian (and unfortunately, there are such things).

  2. I think where many atheists in our society get tripped up is in being provided with only one particular, and probably false, interpretation of God. It's a very, very common theme for someone from a Christian background getting one version of God and having the sense on their own to think, wait, if that's God then I don't want to believe in God. I personally believe that is not an unworthy thought for us to have.

    But maybe God is more than that (I'd say that if God exists, then it's almost certain that God is more than that). And yes, I just said, "if God exists". It is wholly healthy and normal to question the existence of God. We're fools if we do not. Even Mother Theresa often questioned the existence of God and her faith.

    On religion "makes you feel good", that's a yes and a no. I believe a seeker of God has a lot of valleys and peaks in faith. Where religion becomes an opiate, that is probably true when a particular version of religion insists on its own limited version of truth. But even in a society with a complete lack of religion (and I don't think there ever has been such a society), I think there would still be a lot of people seeking for the deeper meanings of life and what it means.

    Best wishes to you!

  3. Hi Bill, well heck, I wrote two comments, and the first got deleted somehow. Sorry. It had more about my points, but I can't re-write it. I did say that I hope you continue your blog - it's off to a good start! I've also written a response to your comment on Ask God Yourself's "Harold Camping 21" blog. Again, best wishes!