Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Countdown to the Reconcilliation

Exciting news to share. Tomorrow evening I am set to meet with my religious friend to talk about the future of our friendship. Its going to be a little tough for me to talk about since I'm sure it will be an emotional dialog and since I am no longer allowed to speak of her beliefs. I have a few important things I want to say to her but some of those things I am unsure of whether or not they should be said at all (they may serve no useful purpose). I'll decide during our discussion about which of those more controversial thoughts/feelings I should share with her. I've preempted the discussion by asking her to please be as honest and open as possible about this and to not hold any of her thoughts or feelings back regardless of how painful they may be to her or to me. I know that's kind of ironic to ask that because I actually am planning on holding some things back, but she continues to get upset when I am honest with her about something I disagree with so I don't really know what to do about that other than just not bring up anything contentious.

I may not have time to write a post after our discussion tomorrow night so hopefully I'll get around to sharing the results on Friday. No video clip to share tonight, but I do want to share something that popped into my head the other day. I asked myself "If God exists, does He really love me?". I thought about this long and hard, based on what properties I "know" about the Christian God and did a logical assessment of this question to see if I could arrive at an answer, or at least get close to one. Here's my logical analysis in a bulleted list format, first with several assumptions stated.

  • Assumption A: God exists
  • Assumption B: God is omniscient (knows everything)
  • Assumption C: God is omnipotent (able to do anything)
  • Assumption D: God is omnibenevolent (possesses infinite benevolence)
  • Assumption E: All humans who do not believe in God will go to hell for all eternity (also: hell exists)

  1. I do not believe in God, primarily because of a lack of evidence to support the claim that He exists. (And contradictory to what some theists might think, I am totally willing to change my mind if I am provided sufficient evidence to believe).
  2. Because of God's omniscience, He knows precisely what it would take for me to become a believer
  3. Because of God's omnipotence, He is in no way prohibited from providing me with the proof I need
  4. Because of God's omnibenevolence, He should desire for me to become a believer so that I would not go to hell (which by the way, this omnibenevolent being created).
  5. God has not shown me sufficient evidence to support His existence, although many others around the world claim that he has revealed Himself to them in a manner sufficient for them to believe.
  6. Therefore one or more of the five assumptions must be false, or some other condition I am unaware about is in effect (explained below).

Analysis of False Assumptions

Lets take a look at these one at a time. If assumption A is false and God does not exist, then all of the other assumptions are also false. Pretty simple, although not a nice outcome for everyone who does believe.

If assumption B is false and God is not all-knowing, then the reason God hasn't revealed himself to me is that he doesn't know how to convince me that he is real. This concept seems a little silly to me though that he can be all-powerful but not all-knowing. If he had the power to make me believe in Him, then why wouldn't he do it? Oh that's right, its because he's omnibenevolent and loves his creations so much that he gave us free will. Including the free will to damn ourselves and suffer eternal torment and torture after death. Speaking personally, I wouldn't exactly call that love...especially since he can change the rules (he is God after all) so I wouldn't go to hell at all.

If assumption C is false and God is not all-powerful, God knows what I need to believe and wants me to believe so that I can be "saved", but is unable to. That kind of sucks. I mean, he had the power to create the universe and everything in it, right? But he doesn't have the power to provide sufficient evidence of His existence to an open-minded human being like myself? Seems kind of far fetched to think that only this assumption is false.

If assumption D is false and God is not omnibenevolent, well then that would pretty much say right there that God does not love me. You know, I think it actually makes a lot of sense if this assumption is false. I mean, God created hell just like he created heaven, Earth, and absolutely everything right? Well what purpose does an omnibenevolent creator have for making a place like hell where people suffer infinite punishment for finite "crimes" in their mortal life (where that crime can be as simple as not believing in the right God)? That doesn't seem like the actions of an omnibenevolent God, or even a good God. That seems like the behavior of an evil, vengeful, immoral God. But again that's just my opinion.

If assumption E is false and hell does not exist, then maybe God doesn't really care what we believe at all if he's not going to punish anyone after death. If E is false, that may also indicate that heaven does not exist, or it may not. I heard in a recent Pew poll that a surprisingly disproportionate number of people believed in heaven but not in hell (more believed in heaven than believed in hell). I also heard that many Christians do not believe that atheists will go to hell either (phew, hope they're right about that one!). I really wish I had a link to these poll results but I haven't been able to find it yet, I just heard about it on a recent episode of The Atheist Experience. I'll talk about it in a future post though, and I'll be sure to find the link then. Anyway, if E is false then that would explain how God could be both willing and able to prove his existence to me, loves me, but has not provided me with the evidence that I require.

Like I said one or more of these five assumptions should be false, so which one is it? Well obviously I'm biased into thinking it is assumption A (and hence all the rest), but I don't want to let my personal bias effect this, so for sake of argument lets say that assumption A holds true. Assumption B's falsehood doesn't make much sense and neither does assumption C. In fact, thinking about it both B and C seem to be kind of intertwined with one another. How can you be all-knowing without being all-powerful, or vice-versa? So lets rule both of those out. That leaves us with D and E. Assumption D could lead us to conclude that God is not a good God, or at least does not possess infinite kindness, which is why he doesn't love me and why I'm going to go to hell as a result. Assumption E means simply that there is no hell, leaving only heaven or a non-existent state after mortal death (or possibly reincarnation or another option, but lets keep it simple and say its one or the other). So God may know that I'm already going to have the same fate as his followers after my death, and since He sees me living a happy life he feels no need to prove Himself to me (although it would still be nice of him if He did). My personal opinion in the order of most likely to be the false assumption to the least likely is: A - D - E - B - C.

Possible Apologetic Counterpoints

Now the falsehoods of those assumptions couldn't possibly explain everything and I'm sure a Christian apologist would be quick to jump in and "correct" my logic. So what are some alternative options for this answer? Well, one could be that God will provide evidence of Himself to me eventually, but just hasn't yet. To which I would respond, what's the wait? There are millions of people younger than I am that he has already proven Himself too. Especially for Him to hold back now, when I am taking a serious look at these sorts of questions, doesn't seem very fair to me. But hey what do I know, I'm only human.

Another argument might be that its not God's fault, but rather it is my fault. Its my fault for setting my standards too high. Really? So I should lower my standards to believe in something without sufficient evidence? If that's the case, then I should be just as ready to believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Allah, Shiva, Zeus, etc.. One page I looked through on was addressing the question of whether or not there is evidence of God. I didn't read the entire response but I do remember reading a line that said (paraphrasing) "God wants us to believe in him on faith". So, he doesn't want to provide evidence of his existence, yet expects us to believe anyway or otherwise we face the worst punishment possibly imaginable. Well, that's going to be a problem for me. And I reject the notion that it is my fault that I have high standards for what I believe and what I don't believe. After all, before God even made the "rule" that you go to hell if you don't believe in him, he knew that I would eventually be born into this world and I would reject this notion that I have to believe in something without sufficient evidence.


I'm sure there are some other arguments a good apologist could come up with, but those were the two that I immediately thought of. Well I ended up talking a lot more about this little hypothetical situation than I intended too, but oh well. Wish me luck (or pray I guess, if that's your thing) for my discussion with my friend tomorrow evening!

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