Is There a God?

Is There a God?


I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.
~ Stephen F. Roberts (born: 1967 age: 47)
Christians have a special word for people who don’t believe in Jesus, atheists or sometimes pagans. Muslims have a special word for people who don’t believe in Allah, infidels. Jews have a special word for those who don’t believe in Jahweh, gentiles. Every religion has a word for deniers of the faith. To describe me then you need a giant list, atheist, infidel, gentile, Zeus-denier… Those are your epithets for me, not mine. I almost never think to myself I am an infidel any more that I think to myself I am a faggot. That is some bigot’s term for me. I simply reject all the 10,000 religions, not just 9,999 of them as you do. We are in 99.99% agreement on the bogosity of the world’s religions. It is just that I don’t see yours as any more plausible than all the rest.
~ Roedy (born: 1948-02-04 age: 66)
General ideas, especially moral ones, impressed on us at an early age, often become deeply embedded in your brains. It can be very difficult to change them. This may help to explain why religious beliefs persist from generation to generation. But how did ideas originate in the first place? And why do they so often turn out to be incorrect? The very nature of our brains evolved to guess the most plausible interpretation of the limited evidence available makes it almost inevitable that without the discipline of scientific research we shall often jump to the wrong conclusions especially about rather abstract matters.
~ Dr. Francis Crick (born: 1916-06-08 died: 2004-07-28 at age: 88), co-discoverer of the structure of DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid).
But we all recognise the primary foible of frail humanity — our propensity for embracing hope and shunning logic, our tendency to believe what we desire rather than what we observe.
~ Dr. Stephen Jay Gould (born: 1941-09-10 died: 2002-05-20 at age: 60), Rocks of Ages
Religion: a set of beliefs, unsupported by facts, that are obviously false, fanciful and absurd to everyone but those who have been immersed in them from birth.
~ Roedy (born: 1948-02-04 age: 66)
Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.
~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca (born: 4 BC died: 65 AD at age: 68)
Are you afraid of death? You have already experienced being dead for billions of years. It is exactly the same as before you were conceived. If you are afraid, it because you tremble before the monster god under the bed that somebody made up to scare you to control or con you out of your money. The religionists, like drug pushers, offer even more of this poisonous belief to cure your fear of death. It is not the cure; it is the cause!
~ Roedy (born: 1948-02-04 age: 66)
Introduction How Can You Tell When You Have Found God?
Blog To Discuss Religion and Atheism Alternate Definitions of God
Pascal’s Wager
What do I mean my the term God? Bedford’s Wager
Arguments For The Existence of God Hill’s Wager
Arguments Against the Existence of God Suicide
Holy Blackmail Does It Matter?
Preferences Why Do People Believe in God?
What Is God Like? Probability of the Existence of God
Life After Death Why There Is No God
Arguments For Life After Death Pragmatic View
Arguments Against Life After Death Parting Thought
Omnipotence DVDs
Advantages of Believing in God Books
Disadvantages of Believing in God Links
How To Find God

Introduction

There are two related questions I would like to tackle:
  1. Is there a God? a creator of the universe, even perhaps completely different from the descriptions in any holy book.
  2. If so, is He anything like the descriptions in Christian or Islamic scripture?
I suspect the first question may be well beyond man’s intelligence to answer, however, the second is more amenable to reason. I will attempt to tackle the first question in this essay. I attempt to tackle the second an another essay The Real God.

What do I mean my the term God?

The word God has become empty of meaning through thousands of years of misuse. I use it sometimes, but I so sparingly. By misuse I mean that people who have never even glimpsed the realm of the sacred, the infinite vastness behind that word, use it with great conviction as if they knew what they were talking about. Or, they argue against it, as if they knew what it is that they are denying.
~ Eckhart Tolle (born: 1948-02-16 age: 66) The Power Of Now

What I primarily mean in this essay by God is:

There are other definitions, such as Thomas Moore’s Religion is a sense of dependence. That God is something you can rely on to help you. In other essays I define God as whomever or whatever created the universe. I don’t mean is the bible true, or does the god Jehovah exist? Here I am tackling a broader question. The bible has been proved to be nearly completely fiction. Its unflattering description of the god Jehovah is so ludicrous it really should not merit serious debate. However, the broader question is still interesting.

Arguments For The Existence of God

  1. The most convincing evidence I have found lies in the fundamental universal physical constants. If the charge on the electron had been different by an almost infinitesimally small amount, the universe would never have developed the structure it did. The expansion and contraction forces of the universe are almost precisely balanced. You could imagine some intelligence calculating the various fundamental constants of the universe to find a set that would create an interesting universe. An alternate explanation is that we just fluked out. There are/were other worlds with the constants set differently, but they just generated boring masses of goo, and intelligent life did not develop in them. Because these worlds would have to be totally isolated from ours, mathematicians dismiss their existence as irrelevant. Physicist Stephen Hawking said that it may also turn out, that for some mathematical reason, the charge on the electron was compelled to be the precise value it was. It was not an arbitrary choice, in which case invoking God to set it would be unnecessary.
    Ree’s Six Universal Constants Essential To Life
    Symbol What it Measures Comments
    epsilon force that binds atomic nuclei together. The difficulties if it were too weak are pretty obvious, but I do not know how it being a little stronger would have affected the universe.
    N binding strength of forces that hold atoms together divided by gravitational attraction. If gravity were not much much weaker than the other forces, only short-lived miniature universes could exist.
    omega density of matter in the universe. If it were larger, the universe would have collapsed long ago. If it were smaller, no galaxies and stars could have formed.
    lambda the strength of the cosmic antigravity that controls the expansion of the universe. If it were stronger, no stars could have formed.
    Q the size of the ripples in the expanding universe. If it were smaller, the universe would be a mass of cold gas. If it were larger, great gobs of matter would have collapsed into black holes.
    D the number of dimensions in our spatial universe, i.e. 3. If this were different, our universe would be very different from the one we are familiar with, but I see no reason it could not support life or something else equally interesting. This same argument applies in a lesser degree to the other constants.
  2. Stephen Hawking explains the weak and strong anthropic principles and M-theory which explain why these facts are not as remarkable as they seem.

    Books

    book cover recommend book⇒The Grand Designto book home
    by Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow 978-0-553-38466-6 paperback
    birth 1942-01-08 age: 72 978-0-553-90707-0 eBook
    publisher Bantam 978-0-7393-4426-2 audio
    published 2012-02-21 B003TXSF5C kindle
    Some recently thinking on M-theory on multiple universes. The most serious claim a god designed the universe is the way universal constantas are so conveniently arranged for life. M-Theory explains this by explaining that ours is just one of 10500 universes, most of which are not friendly to life. We could not very well exist in one of them. In a similar way there are billions of planets, most of which are not suitable for life. Since we are here, necessarily ours had to be one of the good ones.
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    Greyed out stores probably do not have the item in stock. Try looking for it with a bookfinder.
  3. When particles pop out of nothing, you always get one particle and one antiparticle. Therefore you should expect to find an equal number of particles and antiparticles in the universe, and for them to annihilate. What what you actually see is mostly particles with only a sprinkling of antiparticles. How did it get asymmetric? Presumably Jehovah did it by creating an imbalance of particles and antiparticles in the first place. Presumably the scientists have a different explanation.
  4. The laws of the physical universe are simple, elegant and beautiful. The Spartan simplicity of quantum mechanics leads inevitably to the periodic table of elements and from there to chemistry and biology. It can be considered a masterful piece of mathematics/art. We are used to viewing the universe at a macroscopic level where it is very untidy. To discover this underlying order astounds us. We imagine that tidiness could not possibly be an inherent property of existence, and postulate a designer. I wonder if somewhere there are a race of microscopic beings, discovering the macroscopic untidiness of the universe for the first time, and deciding the universe needs a designer to possibly explain this mysterious chaos, so unlike the natural ordered microscopic universe they are used to.
  5. People have near death experiences. They report meeting the dead and a variety of religious figures consistent with their religious expectations, and generally experiencing love and bliss. Surely this is a foretaste of life after death. We have discovered you can also create these experiences by starving the brain of oxygen using a centrifuge. Various drugs such as nitrous oxide, cocaine and heroin also stimulate ecstatic states. These experiences are part of dying, not of life after death. I have gone under anaesthesia several times. I just disappeared. I watched myself fade away. I have no problem with the notion that when I die I have no consciousness at all since I have already experienced total lack of consciousness while alive. On the planet earth, billions of animals die every day and billions of tons of vegetable matter dies. What are some possibilities?
    1. Consciousnesses are recycled at the soul level and reincarnate.
    2. Consciousness hang around at the soul level for a while before allowing themselves to be decomposed and recycled in a process analogous to leaves rotting.
    3. Consciousness just stops and disappears.
    4. Consciousness is broken down and reused.
    5. Consciousness is protected for eternity from further change living happily ever after in heaven or in hell in eternal torment.
  6. Jesus could heal people and Jesus said there was a God. Unfortunately Christian con artists like Peter Popoff and Ernest Angley in our day have convinced people God healed through them. Does this make their pronouncements infallible? We don’t even know for sure if Jesus was as actual person. There were no written records about him created until 130 years after his death. God could easily have provided more solid evidence for His existence for us to examine in this day, but for some reason He elected not to.
  7. On the 100 Huntley Street TV show, people come on daily and tell a story how God told them to do such and such a thing. It turns out what they meant is they heard a quiet voice inside that urged them to action. They are so puffed with pride they imagine their own internal voices are the Creator of the Universe taking time out to give them special guidance. They ignore  John 5:37 which claims God does not talk to people. Oddly, not once did one of these voices reveal the chemical formula for a cure for cancer. Oddly, this same quiet voice counsels others to murder, such as the demented Abraham.
  8. What makes fantastic declarations believable is, in part, the vehemence with which they’re proffered. Again, in the world of spirituality as well as of pop psychology, intensity of personal belief is evidence of truth. It is considered very bad form — even abuse — to challenge the veracity of any personal testimony that might be offered in a twelve-step group or on a talk show, unless the testimony itself is equivocal… Whatever sells, whatever many people believe strongly, must be true.
    ~ Wendy Kaminer (born: 1950 age: 64)
    Some people just know in their bones that God exists. They can’t imagine life without that comfort. Obviously, a belief in God is comforting. Your enemies will eventually be punished, you will eventually be exonerated, your pain will eventually be replaced with joy and you will be reunited with those you love who have died. Quite a package! Yet what has comfort to do with truth? The truth often hurts. People who have been conned often refuse to recognize the signs of betrayal simply because they want so badly for the con to be true. Wishful thinking clouds the mind. Just what evidence is there that any of this Christian mumbo jumbo is true? The only evidence is repeated assertion. Repeated assertion when a child is very young creates rock-like faith in any arrant nonsense. Just look at the children of cult members. We don’t recognise this as a con even though the believer hands over money and unquestioning obedience to another in the promise of a reward which, so far as we can tell, is never delivered.
    I am satisfied, and sufficiently occupied with the things which are, without tormenting or troubling myself about those which may indeed be, but of which I have no evidence.
    ~ Thomas Jefferson (born: 1743-04-13 died: 1826-07-04 at age: 83), in a letter to John Adams, 1820-08-15
  9. Richard Dawkins Interviews Father George Coyne click to watch, the former Vatican astronomer, defines God as the Prime Mover. He argues that nothing moves unless someone moves it. That means there must have been someone who moved that mover, all the way back to the Prime Mover who started it all. But this is obviously nonsense. Rivers flow all by themselves without anyone frantically paddling the water. Further, an astronomer such as Father Coyne surely knows that his argument presumes a very naïve view of time, that ignores what Einstein learned, and ignores the discovery that time itself has a beginning. In other words, he is fully aware his argument is scientifically bogus, but presents it anyway hoping it will convince the naïve.

    Using a slightly more sophisticated Newtonian view of his logic, you might imagine inanimate objects move either because they were already moving or because something bumped into them. I would expect a lay person should have no difficulty at all with the Hindu view that this moving process has been going on indefinitely into the past. If it going for 5 billion years does not bother you, then surely it could go for 5 billion years and one day without needing a magic jump-start.

    Postulating that previous to some point, nothing existed, then shazam, the entire universe appeared fully formed, all moving in complex patterns, as if it had just woken from a dream, strikes me as too bizarre for words. Why would god do nothing for that infinite time prior to the creation? Surely the fact of the universe is mind-boggling enough without making up even more mind-boggling god-based creation myths for which there is no evidence.

    Father Coyne is fully aware of the mathematics and astronomical observation that can look back in time to see the birth of the universe, because light travels so slowly, and because the universe is expanding, some of the light that left at time of the creation is just arriving on earth now. Scientists, including Father Coyne, know how this moving process started and evolved in considerable detail. However, he continues to try to bamboozle others with his Prime Mover argument for motives that must remain a mystery.

  10. In times of trouble, some people talk to God, some to themselves, some to their pets. They would feel exceedingly lost and alone without that habit. However, this is not evidence for the existence in God, just in the comfort that comes from pretending there is. This may be the main power the god delusion has for people. They feel unsafe without pretending there is a powerful figure looking out for them in tough times. This is god as an invisible teddy bear for adults. A teddy bear is a comforter, not a protector. Instead of talking to god, try talking to yourself, telling yourself reassuring and encouraging messages. This will get you a lot further than passively waiting for God to rescue you.
  11. That gut feeling there has to be a God is just a measure of the depth of your existential pain. Do something practical to reduce that pain:
  12. Many people, myself included, have had OOBE (Out Of Body Experience) s. This suggests life may be possible without a body. Mind you, everyone who has ever reported an OOBE had a living brain at the time, even if it were so quiet that it appeared dead. In my experiments with dreaming, I have discovered that dreams can be equally vivid in detail as real life. Most OOBEs (Out Of Body Experiences) can be considered like dreams or hallucinations that weave information gleaned from various sources. My brain is perfectly capable of computing what my eyes would see from the rafters of a theater, where I was floating in my own OOBE. Yet some OOBE s glean information by inexplicable means. Buddhist reincarnationist theology is just as compatible with OOBE s as Christian. Questions on ESP (Extra Sensory Perception) and OOBEs could be settled either way, quite independent of the truth of Christian theology or the existence of God.
  13. People who are seriously ill sometimes spontaneously recover. Whenever this happens, God is usually given credit for special intervention. Nobody asks why God let all the others die with similar diseases many of whom appeared to be even more deserving. It is a bit like giving God credit when someone wins the lottery, rather than as the natural outcome of the laws of probability. If the odds are 1 in 1000 of surviving, there will be natural survivors from time to time. If there were not, it would be cause for note.
  14. People who believe in God have lower blood pressure and they live longer. Some have argued that man’s brain is wired to believe in God — any God. This may well be true, but if anything it just shows we humans are so biased we cannot study the problem objectively. Scientists have even found a God spot in the brain, that when stimulated creates feelings of religious ecstasy and the presence of God, using whatever religious symbolism the subject is familiar with. Bertrand Russell pointed out that the Muggletonians (Flat Earth Society members) are among the happiest people on earth. Their happiness however, has nothing whatsoever to do with the accuracy of their beliefs.
    The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.
    ~ George Bernard Shaw (born: 1856-07-26 died: 1950-11-02 at age: 94)
  15. Jesus said there is a god named Jehovah. Jesus healed people; therefore everything he says must be true, goes the logic. However, Jesus himself said that people healed themselves through faith. Ernest Angley heals people on TV by the power of faith; therefore everything Mr. Angley says must be true. Really?
  16. Mohammed said there is but one god and his name is Allah. Mohammed was the greatest Arabic poet of all time; therefore everything he says must be true, goes the logic. Shakespear was the greatest English language poet; therefore everything Shakespear says must be true. Really?
  17. The Bible reports various spectacular divine interventions, such as the parting of the Red Sea, and Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt. However, for some reason God does not act like that anymore. The authorship of these tales is not established. Further, these stories had long periods of oral transmission, in which they would be embellished. It sounds to me like they are apocryphal.
  18. Monks who fast, pray and meditate for very long hours report states of extreme bliss, deep peace or profound clarity. Some consider this consciousness of God. Obviously, something happens that the monk finds astounding.
  19. Sondra Ray. Hanging out with this woman is like entering an alternate reality.
  20. Ken Keyes.
  21. The incredible life of Captain Paul Watson, head of the Sea Shepherd Society, who scoffs at religions, but who lives a life more charmed than a Star Trek character. He miraculously escapes from predicament after hopeless predicament. He hints that perhaps it is the whales warping the probabilities in his favour.
  22. Co-incidences. I have had one in a billion coincidences in my life. One possible explanation is that they are orchestrated by God. I tend to think the explanation will be more mundane, but still astounding. I suspect we humans have some way of warping reality that unconsciously creates these mind-blowing co-incidences. It may be a form of ESP or perhaps some quantum effect. New agers have recently been making reference to the Quantum Field as a new name for God.
  23. The argument that Wayne Dyer finds most convincing is the explosion in a print shop. To him looking around at the universe of living things interacting in such complex ways without conscious design is like expecting an explosion in a print shop to spell out the works of Shakespear. How could this possibly happen by pure chance? His is a fallacious argument based on a misunderstanding of the theory of evolution and natural selection. Natural selection is not pure chance. Only the mutations are pure chance. Natural selection is intelligent, though not very intelligent, with roughly an IQ (Intelligence Quotient) of only 1, but when you let it refine and refine its designs over 4 billions years of winnowing out those that don’t work and keeping the best, it can come up with some pretty amazing stuff. If you study the fossil record, it is dithering, inept and meandering, with no hint of foresight or planning. Animals and plants work, but they are far from elegantly designed. Scientists use genetic algorithms to simulate this mindless, but powerful, winnowing process in computers for solving difficult mathematical problems. Imagine asking your child to create 100,000 paintings and then having a panel of the world’s greatest artists select the best one. Your child, judged solely on that winnowed painting, would look like an artistic genius.
  24. Long before Darwin, philosopher David Hume pointed out the inconsistency in the God-must-exist-because-man-superficially-looks-designed argument. God is much more complicated than man, so where did God come from? If man is too complicated to accept coming into being without a designer, surely God requires a designer even more. Conversely, if you can accept something as complicated as God existing without a designer, surely something as simple as humanity does not need one either.
  25. When you study the evolution of life, you discover all kinds of mistakes, ugliness and ham-fisted bungling. This is not the work of an intelligent infinitely careful designer. Evolution proceeds by making do with what already exists without any planning. If God is in charge of the details of this process, he exhibits an IQ less than 1. That is quite insulting to God. There is no more need for a god to direct evolution than to conduct the trajectory of every raindrop. It all works on automatic.
  26. The bible is the account we have of biblical times. It has been revered a long time. Therefore it must be 100% true. Yet we have tens of thousands of times more evidence for the miracles of the living Sai Baba and he does not even get an honourable mention. Every night TV evangelists heal people (who were not sick in the first place) using the same con-man tricks that have been used by shamans since the beginning of time, and only a few of us are suckered in. We have tens of thousands of times more evidence for visitors from outer space, yet most of us remain highly skeptical. The gospels were not even written until Jesus had been dead for decades. The only reason people are so willing to presume the bible is perfectly true, with no corroboration, is they have been told since birth it is the word of god, and they have not actually read it cover to cover. All you have to do is read the bible cover to cover to discover it is false (e.g. the earth is flat), silly, erroneous, vicious and no possible basis for a cooperative society. Under Jehovah’s command, his followers commit genocide and pretty well every other conceivable crime. You would be utterly astounded at the goofiness in there. It advocates owning slaves and beating them, for heaven sake. What sort of moral guidance is that? It advocates treating women much as they are treated in modern day Afghanistan, e.g. stoning them to death for not being virgins on their wedding night. I have debated with Jehovah’s Witnesses who put OJ (Orenthal James Simpson)’s lawyers to shame in their fancy footwork to excuse the bible’s errors, inconsistencies and outright insanity. The work of the creator of the universe should surely be much higher quality than that. It should be divinely clear, beautiful and perfect. It should not require lawyerly defence. It should be better written than any human could compose. But it isn’t, far from it. You want proof? Open a page at random and read any unfamiliar passage.
  27. It is necessary for god to exist and for punishment after death or else people would run amok. This argument has nothing to do with the existence of god. It is an argument for lying that he exists when he does not. The atheistic Swedes, Norwegians and Danes behave much better than the Christian nations such as the USA. They have less violence and are more generous to each other and to the third world. It seems holding up a violent, cruel, selfish, intolerant, vain god as a rôle model creates violent, cruel, selfish, intolerant, vain people. There is thus no point in lying.
    What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church… a lie out of necessity, a useful lie, a helpful lie, such lies would not be against God, he would accept them.
    ~ Martin Luther (born: 1483-11-10 died: 1546-02-18 at age: 62)
    If you watch Nanny 9/11 you will discover parents who threaten their children with grievous bodily harm raise little monsters. The children beat and punch their siblings, using the same tactics god supposedly uses on them. That sort of violent threat has the exact opposite effect of that desired.
  28. One of the silliest arguments I have heard came from a TV Evangelist on the Armor of God Show. He was discussing the rapture, a nutty belief that people will float into the air to do lunch with Jesus. He was chastising people for believing mere books written on the subject. Just what does he think the bible is? It is just a book too, of uncertain human authorship, reputedly written long after the alleged events based on second hand accounts. It does not even claim to be God’s handiwork like Moses’s lost tablets. The bible has been proven wrong on almost every point that can be checked. There was no 40 years in the desert. There was no King David. There was no call to taxation in Bethlehem. Why has this book of myths any credibility left at all, other than as metaphor?

Arguments Against the Existence of God

  1. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has not been hit by lightning. He is possibly the most evil man to ever walk the planet.
  2. The Norse took Wotan seriously, the Romans worshipped Jupiter and killed those who failed to show sufficient respect. How is it that every society’s ideas of God but our own are preposterous? What a strange co-incidence! I explored the Roman ruins a Bath England. In particular, when I saw a bronze mask of Minerva Sulis, I felt an even greater sense of dignity and religious awe than I felt in the nearby Christian Cathedrals. I was quite convinced these ancient peoples took these Gods even more seriously than we take the Christian god today.
    Nearly 300 years after the Age of Reason was prematurely announced, most people, in most nations, most of the time, are mentally in total bondage to religious leader who operate on sheer bluff, i.e. on the basis of claims that cannot be proven and appear clearly insane to everybody who hasn’t been raised within their frameworks.
    ~ Robert Anton Wilson (born: 1932-01-18 died: 2007-01-11 at age: 74)
  3. An A&E special on Scientology asked Is Scientology a legitimate religion? I find the question absurd. No religion is legitimate! All religions depend on belief in some unsubstantiated silly story. All use that story to take power over others to convince them to behave a certain way. (Granted, in many cases this way is more moral than the people would have naturally chosen, but it is all still based on a lie.) All use that story to convince others to give money to some special priest class in return for special favour from the deity. The story is obviously preposterous to everyone but those who belong to that particular cult/religion. There is no essential difference between a cult and a religion other than vintage and popularity. We put up with the most blatant of con games the instant the con men throw in bit of religious hocus pocus into the mix. The con men may even seriously believe their own malarkey. That is why they are so convincing.
  4. Had Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, tried to pass off his cock and bull story today, he would be diagnosed with schizophrenia or dismissed as a charlatan. His followers are considered sane even though they believe the same delusions. They enjoy this status simply because there are so many of them. All religions are based on stories just as outlandish. They don’t seem so to the believers because of familiarity.
  5. Various scriptures of the world were purportedly written by God. If anyone should know how the universe is constructed, it should be God. How come then these scriptures show no understanding of medicine, chemistry or even basic physics? However, this does not show there is no God, only that God did not write the scripture.
  6. Some people are astounded at the complexity of the universe and thus insist it must not have been self creating. They imagine that postulating a God simplifies things. It just muddies them further. You now have an even more mysterious, sourceless God plus a complicated universe. An astounding universe by itself is quite sufficiently amazing to swallow all on its own. It is intellectual laziness to claim whatever you don’t know is unknowable. Hiding the mystery of the universe behind an unknowable God is like sweeping dirt under the rug that you are too lazy to deal with. Why is an amazing invisible God more palatable than an amazing visible/invisible universe? The universe is by definition e v e r y  t h i n g, so surely that should include God — the creator of the universe (whatever/whoever that is). So by definition, the universe is self-creating. Q.E.D.
  7. Christians often go their whole lives without doubting the childhood stories of Santa Claus or his older brother Jesus, despite ample empirical evidence that praying for a pony does not work.
    ~ Roedy (born: 1948-02-04 age: 66)

    From a practical point of view, what people are really interested in when they talk about the existence of God, is can He be persuaded to bend the normal rules of the universe to provide special beneficence for ourselves and special punishment for our enemies. Despite all the wild claims to the contrary, there is no statistical evidence that God plays any favourites. He rains on the just and unjust equally. Christians die in plane crashes the same as anyone else. Little boys with cancer die whether the congregation prays or not. He pays absolutely no attention to prayers. Whether you pray or not, both unexpected good and bad things happen to people. Prayer may give people courage to do what needs to be done. It may encourage others to help. However, it won’t bend God’s ear. That is the Big Lie that churches have repeated so often that most people believe it.

    Praying is like a rocking chair — it’ll give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.
    ~ Gypsy Rose Lee (born: 1911-01-08 died: 1970-04-26 at age: 59)
    Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer.
    ~ Anonymous
    Here are two exceptions:
    1. When an alcoholic prays for deliverance, by submitting to any higher power the prayer sometimes changes him.
    2. Quantum Miracles.
    (1) may be a special case of (2).
  8. Keep in mind that if you pray and a Good Thing™ happens, that is not evidence that God answered your prayer. If you put a cherry pit up your nose and a Good Thing™ happened, that is not evidence putting the cherry pit you your nose in any way caused the Good Thing™ to happen. If you put a cherry pit up your nose four times a day and nice things continue to happen to you, it is still no evidence. You must keep track of all the nice and bad things that happen, and when and when you do not put a cherry pit up your nose, and look for correlations. Further, you must get hundreds of other people to keep track as well before you can scientifically claim cherry pits/prayer works. Much as we would like it to, prayer does not pass this test any better than poking a cherry pit up your nose. Though we have had thousands of years to accumulate such evidence, we still don’t have anything but anecdotes of the occasional fluke success.
  9. Gautama Buddha observed the first noble truth, all is suffering. Why would a kind loving god create a universe where all its inhabitants continuously suffer? Even birth implies old age and decay. Our lives begin in screaming agony.
  10. Prayer simply does not work. Consider how many millions of people prayed desperately for President Kennedy, Lady Diana and Mother Theresa. Nothing out the ordinary happened at all. If prayer had power, well known public figures would all live forever in perfect health and happiness. God either has a heart of stone or simply does not or cannot make exceptions.
  11. God is supposedly unchanging, however, He has not done anything to show himself for two thousand years. He sat on His thumbs through two world wars and atrocities in Germany, Viet Nam, Uganda, Cambodia, Kosovo, 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq… Where did He go? It makes you wonder if those stories handed down from years past where God actively intervened in human history were fables, not actual accounts. Sadly, God must live in the hearts of the people or there can be no Quantum Miracles.
  12. Women who win music awards invariably thank God for their trophies. Similarly football players give credit to God when their team wins. I find this blasphemous, as if God were so petty as to take sides in such unimportant contests.
  13. Despite the condemnation of armed conflict in most of the world’s scripture, leaders of armies confidently proclaim that the Almighty has taken their side, and therefore they cannot lose. Even in the case of Adolf Hitler, God made not even a token appearance nor made any overt attempt to protect the devout from the Nazis. If God refuses to ever act, for all practical purposes, He does not exist. Napoléon observed that God always seemed to be on the side of the biggest army, hardly a ringing endorsement of His moral character.
  14. Buddhists and Hindus claim that after death, instead of resting for eternity in an excruciatingly dull heaven or hell, you reincarnate back on earth. There are many stories of young children reporting details of their former lives, and often these check out with reality. The children mysteriously know intimate details of lives of people who have died. The 14th Dalai Lama’s web page describes the process by which he was selected as the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama. There is no similar evidence to back up the Christian theology. I have a friend who went to a renaissance town in Italy and had a very strong feeling of deja vu. He recalled events that occurred in the town hundreds of years ago, and was able to check some of them out, such as the location of his favourite pub which was still standing but had been converted to some other use. Buddhists claim that if you meditate and release your attachments sufficiently, you will be able to recall details of your previous lives, just as did the Buddha at his enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. Christian theology is so constructed no conceivable test could check if it were true. Usually in science we automatically discard any such untestable theories as bogus. Only those that could potentially be disproved are considered potentially legit.
  15. The best behaved political/religious leader on the planet is the Dalai Lama. He makes no claims about the existence of a God. If you are supposed to judge a tree by its fruit, Christianity does not rank very well. Christians carve Christians in Ireland. Christians and Muslims kill each other in Indonesia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Racism and sexism flourish under the banner of Christianity in the USA.
  16. The Gödel argument probably won’t be very convincing to Christians, but it may alleviate some deep seated doubts in non-believers. The universe seems so incredibly complex. Surely some intelligence must have designed it, then created it, argue the theists. Not necessarily. There is a mathematical theorem called the Gödel incompleteness theorem that very roughly says a tiny part of a system can’t possibly understand the whole. Analogously, man is such a tiny fraction of the universe that it is preposterous to imagine his relatively nanoscopic brain could glimpse but even an inkling of the totality or the innate intelligence of the totality. So naturally the universe seems incredible and miraculous to him. The universe necessarily appears that way because we humans are such a tiny part of it. It appears that way because we compare the entire universe with our own mundane little limited existences. We don’t have an absolute yardstick for how wonderful our universe is. We have only have one to admire. If there are parallel universes, perhaps ours may turn out to be comparatively shabby, obviously lacking the ultra-intelligent design of the usual universe, (where all the women are beautiful, all the men are strong and all the children are above average) proving a true God had nothing to do with ours.
  17. I can understand ignorant people believing in a god, but certainly not a loving caring god.
    ~ Roedy (born: 1948-02-04 age: 66)
    People tell me they could not bear it if there were no God. I think this is rubbish. If there is a God, he is clearly a rather cruel or uncaring or ineffective bastard. There is not much hope. God made things the way they are. He must want them that way despite his protestations. How can things change with a great lunk like that in charge? There is no hope. So it is less pessimistic to assume there is no one in charge. It means things could get better. You are merely fighting chaos, not a deity, to improve man’s lot. For the atheist, knowing you definitely won’t be tortured for eternity after death for minor infractions of holy rules is extremely reassuring. I don’t know why Christian choose to dangle this sword of Damocles over their entire lives, and lie to themselves this obnoxious bastard is a great comfort.
    The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous, proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.
    ~ Dr. Richard Dawkins (born: 1941-03-26 age: 73), The God Delusion chapter 2

Holy Blackmail

Humans are such cowards that they willingly allow themselves to be conned by those claiming death is not real and claiming to know the precise details of how the afterlife works.
~ Roedy (born: 1948-02-04 age: 66)
Several people have tried to persuade me to become Christian with a pragmatic argument that goes like this:

Let’s assume that it is very unlikely that God exists, say 1%. You should still believe in Him anyway and follow Christian dogma for purely practical reasons. There are four cases:

  1. If you believe in Him and He does not exist, what do you lose? You just die and nothing happens.
  2. If you believe in Him and He does exist, you have eternity in Heaven.
  3. If you don’t believe in Him and He does not exist, you just die and nothing happens.
  4. If you don’t believe in Him and He does exist, you will rot in Hell for eternity.
You come out ahead if you believe, in two of the four cases.

I counter this argument by saying:

  1. I am interested in the truth, not toadying to some imaginary despot. This argument is roughly the moral equivalent of a scientist falsifying his findings in hopes of receiving a bribe from a tobacco company. It is intellectual dishonesty.
    He who begins by loving Christianity better than truth, will proceed by loving his own sect or church better than Christianity, and end in loving himself better than all.
    ~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge (born: 1772 died: 1834 at age: 62) poet in his Aids To Reflection
  2. If the following argument persuades you, then you should become a Muslim. Islam offers far greater after death rewards to the faithful and far more terrifying tortures for the non-believer than Christianity does. Jehovah is a wimp compared with Allah. Read the Qur’an if you are skeptical. I did and had nightmares for months.
  3. Why should I fear death? If I am, death is not. If death is, I am not. Why should I fear that which cannot exist when I do?
    ~ Epicurus (born: 341 BC died: 270 BC at age: 71) Greek philosopher.
  4. Every religion offers punishments and rewards to its rejectors and adherents, including the worship of Wotan and Zeus and the religions of the Indians of the Amazon. How do you decide which is the true religion? They all sound equally improbable, bogus and silly.
  5. Faith is believing what you know isn’t so.
    ~ Mark Twain (born: 1835-11-30 died: 1910-04-21 at age: 74)
    If you follow the tenets of Christianity as it is practised you would probably lead a more evil life than you would otherwise. You would be judgemental. You would discriminate against gays and probably blacks. You would lie to people about the best ways to cure disease. You would spread superstition and lies that are part of the Christian faith. You would indirectly kill children by blocking sex education about AIDS (Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome) and birth control. For a more detailed list of the evils of Christianity, see the essay on why Christianity should be combated. As an extreme example, Jeff Dahmer said grace before consuming his murder victims.
  6. If you believe in God, you life will actually be more miserable than if you do not. Why? If you believe in God, you will tend to mope around praying — wondering why God is ignoring you. You will waste time waiting for God to do things only you can do for yourself. If you don’t believe in God, you will be much more practical and self reliant. You won’t be saddled with an unrealistic sense of entitlement. You cannot very well be angry with God for disappointing you if you don’t believe in Him. You don’t project unrealistic expectations on the universe that it was created for your convenience. You take it as it is. Holding unrealistically high expectations is a major cause of suffering.

Preferences

We long to situate ourselves on a benevolent, warm, furry, encompassing planet, created to provide our material needs, and constructed for our dominion and delectation. Unfortunately, this pipedream of succor from the realm of meaning (and therefore the magisterium of religion), imposes definite and unrealistic demands upon the factual construction of nature (under the magisterium of science). But nature, who is as she is, and who existed in earthly form for 4.5 billion years before we arrived to impose our interpretations upon her, greets us with sublime indifference and no preference for accommodating our yearnings.
~ Dr. Stephen Jay Gould (born: 1941-09-10 died: 2002-05-20 at age: 60), Rocks of Ages
People often tell me that they just could not stand to be alive if there were no God. Roughly, if there were no God, they would invent one. All they are doing is warning me about their emotional biases. They know they can’t look on the matter objectively.

In Isaiah 45:7 God admits he creates the evil in the world. God then gave your father a brain tumor, fanned the hatred that boiled over into a gang rape of an eight year old Albanian girl, etc. If this is true, you are dealing with an immensely powerful, evil, cruel, heartless, arbitrary adversary. What hope do you have? In the story of Job, it is clear God does not even spare the just from his sadistic torments.

Would you not prefer to deal instead with nature? These negative happenings are essentially random events, but with some pattern behind them. There are laws physical or psychological. Eventually they may be understood and the evils averted. I certainly would prefer to deal with nature than a quixotic, slippery, tyrant God.

What Is God Like?

There are two quite different pictures you get of God, one from examining the Bible and the Qur’an, and quite a different one from examining the rest of the universe as well.
Beware the man of one book.
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (born: 1225 died: 1274-03-07 at age: 48)

The God of scripture is petty, cruel, jealous, inconsistent, prudish, partisan and foolish. He is fanatically concerned with controlling every thought and action of humans with a set of insanely arbitrary rules. He desperately wants to be loved. He is willing to bribe his subjects with unimaginable largess or torment after death, but refuses to offer even the tiniest foretaste to prove he is not bluffing. Earth and man are the center of His existence. He is oddly partial to the Jewish people at the expense of all others.

To me, that description sounds like a Roman Caesar — how a human behaves when given absolute power. The Old Testament was composed by people imagining what they thought God would say if He spoke. Unfortunately, they projected their failings onto Him. They described how they would behave if given absolute power. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely should not not apply to God, only to people.

In contrast, look at the universe. See the stupendous variety and stupendous quantity. Earth is just a tiny backwater planet on the edge of a backwater galaxy. There are trillions of stars and trillions of planets. Even on earth, the variety of animal and plant life is utterly amazing.

No prude created the sexually-daisy-chaining periwinkle.

The lust of the goat is the glory of God
~ William Blake (born: 1757 died: 1827-08-12 at age: 70)

If there is a creator, He is the consummate mathematician, physicist and biologist. He is not some narrow cleric afraid to look at the earth as it is.

The world is full of beauty and cruelty. Birds and fish are dazzling colours and patterns for no apparent reason other than exuberant beauty. The whole web of life is built on the principle that animals eat plants and kill and eat each other. This is the fundamental cruelty of our existence. A frog may have a million young, yet only two on average will survive to adulthood. This is true of all species, including humans. Does that seriously sound like the handiwork of an infinitely merciful deity?

God likes using small simple building blocks to construct a bewildering variety of forms. Consider atoms, DNA and cells, in particular brain cells.

If there is a God, He looks after the big picture. He has no more interest in individual humans than a child would have in the individual ants in his ant farm. He works with general principles and allows their consequences to work out logically.

God likes subtle asymmetry.

The bewildering intricate beauty of the Mandelbrot set springs forth from the simplest of mathematical equations. Even these lowly equations can help themselves from strutting like peacocks.

Life After Death

Life after death is a related question to is there a God? You might have it four ways:
  1. No god. no afterlife, (materialist)
  2. No god, with afterlife (Buddhist)
  3. God, no afterlife (hippy)
  4. God, with afterlife (Christian, Muslim)

Arguments For Life After Death

Arguments Against Life After Death

I also tackle this topic in a separate essay.

Omnipotence

Christian theologians have made some rather silly assumptions about the creator of the universe, namely that He is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, perfect, infinitely loving, infinitely good. There is no reason on earth the creator of the universe necessarily would necessarily have any of those qualities. It is almost like a son bragging about his Dad.

Clearly toothaches, bad breath and fungus infections exist. How to explain that?

We presume that God created a Devil who then created these things. God gets off the hook by one level of indirection. That makes about as much sense as a Mafia don claiming innocence because he hired a hitman.

Perhaps it would be simpler to just say God created the best universe he could at the time. Perhaps it is impossible to create a logically consistent universe any better than this. This may be the best of all possible worlds.

We keep imagining the universe was created for the personal pleasure of man. We may well prove to be one of the least important species in the galaxy. From God’s point of view, we may well be a cancer on planet earth, destroying its carefully planned biological diversity, about as well-loved as rose blight.

The one thing we have discovered is the creation is logically consistent. Scripture is anything but. If there is a creator, the best way to understand Him is to study His creation.

Christians mean Do you believe the Bible to be literally true? when they ask Do you believe in God?. The questions are only loosely related. If a God did exist, there is almost no chance he would be anything like the one described in the bible.

Advantages of Believing in God

None of these argument have any bearing on whether God actually exists, they are the pragmatic advantages for believing.

Disadvantages of Believing in God

Believing in God is like believing in imaginary seat belts. It gives you a false sense of security.
~ Roedy (born: 1948-02-04 age: 66)
None of these argument have any bearing on whether God actually exists, they are the pragmatic disadvantages of believing.

How To Find God

Evangelist Emmet Fox in his book Around the Year with Emmet Fox: A Book of Daily Readings, proposes an experiment. Here is a greatly abbreviated description of it.
book cover recommend book⇒Around The Year With Emmet Foxto book home
by Emmet Fox 978-0-06-250408-1 paperback
birth 1886-07-30 died: 1951-08-13 at age: 65 978-0-06-062870-3 hardcover
publisher HarperOne 978-0-06-201035-3 eBook
published 1992-04-10 B003H3IOZK kindle
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You can then interpret anything out of the usual that happens either as co-incidence, the work of God or as the work of your unconscious, and decide for yourself which seems most plausible.

To me it would seem prudent to act normally during your experiment. Pay your bills. Look both ways before crossing the street. You don’t want to get yourself in too much trouble if God decides to ignore you for not having enough faith. On the other hand, you want to go at it seriously. After a failure, you will have even more evidence that God will ignore your pleas, and so it will be even harder to whip up the requisite faith for a second attempt.

I’d be interested in hearing from people who have performed this experiment. Tell me what happened and how you interpreted it.

I tried the experiment for the month of 2000-06. I spent three weeks taking ganciclovir IVs to clear up my nausea where nearly everything went wrong. At first, it looked like the treatment did not work. I met a strikingly handsome young guy who came over twice for massages. I worried less than usual, and it became clear that worry does little to improve most situations. There was nothing sufficiently out of the ordinary to require divine explanation. However, the following month something unusual did happen. A long standing friend asked if she could become my lover, and I accepted, even though she was of the wrong sex. Life has been unusually pleasant and eventful ever since.

How Can You Tell When You Have Found God?

I once heard the voice of God. It said Vrrrrmmmmm. Unless it was just a lawn mower.
~ Age 11

Nearly everyone claims to have found God when they feel something inside intensely pleasant and very different from anything they have felt before. There are three problems relying totally on this approach.

  1. When my friend Phil was a child he shinnied up a pole and had an orgasm. He assumed the pleasant sensations were caused by being closer to God near the top of the pole. We laugh at Phil, but grown people act just as foolishly.
  2. These intense feelings can be created on cue. Preachers have been perfecting the techniques for centuries. In modern days there is a whole new arsenal of ways of fooling people into thinking they have truly found God. See Dick Sutphen’s article on how it is done.
  3. People who rely on pleasant sensations for their spiritual barometer can find themselves bound to the gods of cocaine or heroin.

I think more reliable signs would be how you had changed for the better or how your life had turned around. These effects may take years to become apparent. Other people would probably tell you they thought your life was touched by God.

Alternate Definitions of God

Pascal’s Wager

And if there were a God, I think it very unlikely that He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence.
~ Bertrand Russell (born: 1872-05-18 died: 1970-02-02 at age: 97)
Philosopher Blaise Pascal came up with three arguments, not for the existence of God, but for trying to talk yourself into believing there is a god, and that God behaves as described in the Christian Bible. The concern is not for truth, but for prudential practical benefit, basically that conning yourself is your best bet. These arguments are, according to InfidelGuy.com, the most commonly used by Christians debating with atheists. They are known collectively as Pascal’s Wager. The argument is essentially this:
  1. If you don’t believe in God and you are wrong, after you die, you are in deep trouble.
  2. If you believe in God and you are wrong, nothing too terrible will happen, other than the consequences of silly superstitious actions you may have engaged in as a result, e.g. wasted time praying, or failing to take appropriate action expecting God to bail you out.
  3. If you don’t believe in God and you are right nothing special happens, other than living a fearless life.
  4. If you believe in God and you are right, you hit the jackpot.

Of course, you can fool others that you believe, but you can’t actually fool yourself. Pascal’s original version called only for going through the motions, not trying to trick yourself into believing.

Calling Atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color.
~ Don Hirschberg
Of course you could construct a similar argument for believing in God as described in most of the religions in this list. Because there are so many, your odds of picking the right one, if any such thing exists, are quite remote.
The immense majority of intellectually eminent men disbelieve in the Christian religion, but they conceal the fact in public, because they are afraid of losing their incomes.
~ Bertrand Russell (born: 1872-05-18 died: 1970-02-02 at age: 97)

Pascal is doomed. Though he can pretend to believe, he can’t fool a God who knows his thoughts.

Pascal presumes you can’t settle the matter though reason. We now know far more about the question than did Pascal, and I think we know the probability of a God anything like the one in the Christian Bible is extremely remote. Almost nothing in the bible that can be tested has proved true. Further, the consequences of believing in the bogus Christian God are far more serious than Pascal imagined. For example, if you trust in this Christian God, you are not capable of biology or geology. You will be a bigot. Think of how difficult life would be for a medieval peasant, believing in goblins, witches and devils teleported to modern day. Every nutty incorrect idea you hold hampers your ability to function.

Since there are 60,000 gods, and you don’t know which is the real one, if any, you have to repeat the wager 60,000 times and hope the gods don’t get too jealous.

Pascal also presumes God is terribly interested in whether you believe, not how you behave. A fair God would be far more concerned with your behaviour than your belief in some far fetched myth. What is so wicked about rejecting what appears to be false?

Pascal’s wager applies to Islam. It has even bigger rewards and punishments. By that sort of thinking Christians should convert to Islam.

Bedford’s Wager

The Riddle of Epicurus
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
~ Epicurus (born: 341 BC died: 270 BC at age: 71)

My friend Darwin Bedford, the atheist messiah, at atheists.net looks at it this way:

  1. If you don’t believe in God and you are wrong, after you die, so long as you have lead a moral life you should have nothing to fear. A compassionate god would not punish you for guessing which religion had an exclusive handle on the truth.
  2. If you believe in God and you are wrong, you will have done foolish things such as wasting time praying when you should have taken effective action. You will have lived your life as if it did not matter because you erroneously thought it was merely a trial, preparatory to your real life after death. You would have lived an overly safe conventional life, keeping your nose clean and avoiding all adventure. You would have let evil thrive, because you felt dealing with that was God’s responsibility, not yours. You would have done irrational things just because some hoary old book tricked you into it, like mistreating blacks or gays. You would have wasted much of your life in fear of the imaginary divine meat axe.
  3. If you don’t believe in God and you are right, you live a zestful life. Every second counts. It is all you have got. You don’t fritter your time in ritualistic activities. You take responsibility for the planet. You make a difference. You made your decisions rationally, not based on fear of some lunatic bogeyman in the sky. You behave well not because you fear punishment, but because you know that such behaviour is globally and locally optimal, good for everyone and also for you. You are a blessing to the planet.
  4. If you believe in God and you are right, you are more likely than not to be an insufferably smug hypocrite, looking down your nose at others and judging incessantly just as Jesus told you not to do. God judges your actions, not your beliefs. In Luke 13:25, Jesus warned you that mere praying would not get you into heaven; only good deeds would. You get punished doubly since you ought to have known better.

Hill’s Wager

Since most religions send you to hell for believing in the wrong god, it is better to believe in no god at all rather than risk offending the One True God by wasting your life upsetting him by worshipping one of his (many) rivals.

Suicide

A religion is supposed to help you when things get really awful. A Christian calls out to God and of course nothing happens. He feels even more abandoned. An atheist does not bother. He has the possible out of suicide should things get really really bad. He still has to balance the benefit of ending his personal torment with increasing the pain of others. Normally people choose to stay alive no matter how bad things are simply because life has a way of improving all by itself. The suicide option is closed to the Christian. The Christian is trapped by the threat of even worse eternal torment if he tries that escape. For the atheist, at least knowing the option is there is a great comfort. There is a limit to how much the atheist must endure. Even if Christians meddle and make the suicide impossible, suffering is still limited in time. How do Christians bear existence without that escape clause?

Does It Matter?

I have the sneaky suspicion what people are concerned about when they ask, Does God exist? is they mean "Will I be supernaturally punished/rewarded in the hereafter (or in my lifetime)? Is there any point in behaving well?" For me it makes no practical difference. I long ago decided to behave well. I want war, hunger and bigotry ended because war, hunger and bigotry are awful, not because I imagine I will be rewarded in the hereafter with a mansion of gold. I refrain from stealing, not because I fear being roasted on a spit, but because I know what it feels like to be stolen from.

Why Do People Believe in God?

So why do we insist on believing in God?
From a biological point of view, there are lots of different theories about why we have this extraordinary predisposition to believe in supernatural things. One suggestion is that the child mind is, for very good Darwinian reasons, susceptible to infection the same way a computer is. In order to be useful, a computer has to be programmable, to obey whatever it’s told to do. That automatically makes it vulnerable to computer viruses, which are programs that say, Spread me, copy me, pass me on. Once a viral program gets started, there is nothing to stop it.

Similarly, the child brain is preprogrammed by natural selection to obey and believe what parents and other adults tell it. In general, it’s a good thing that child brains should be susceptible to being taught what to do and what to believe by adults. But this necessarily carries the down side that bad ideas, useless ideas, waste of time ideas like rain dances and other religious customs, will also be passed down the generations. The child brain is very susceptible to this kind of infection. And it also spreads sideways by cross infection when a charismatic preacher goes around infecting new minds that were previously uninfected.
~ Dr. Richard Dawkins (born: 1941-03-26 age: 73), 2005-04-25, Salon

Probability

Man is certainly stark mad; he cannot make a flea, and yet he will be making gods by dozens.
~ Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (born: 1533 died: 1592 at age: 59)
As of 2007-01-20 here are my best estimates of probability of various assertions around the existence of god.
Estimates of the Probability of the Existence of God
Probability Assertion Notes
0.00001% That the bible was composed by God. The bible is of such inferior quality, it could not possibly have flowed from the pen something supposedly perfect and all-knowing. Other holy books get roughly the same rating with the Qur’an getting a few extra points because of the claim its poetry is of superhuman quality, a claim I cannot verify.
0.0001% Something with an IQ above a moron intelligently designs each new species.
The world would be astonished if it knew how great a proportion of its brightest ornaments, of those distinguished even in popular estimation for wisdom and virtue, are complete sceptics in religion.
~ John Stuart Mill (born: 1806-05-20 died: 1873-05-08 at age: 66)
Evolution itself is a problem solving process with an IQ of about 1. It is bungling slow process. If you look closely at life, it is an endless series of mindless tiny hacks, with no sign of brilliant design or forethought. The end result can be impressive, but that is only because evolution is exceedingly patient at searching for better designs, not intelligent in designing them.

The big creationist lie is the that the end result of evolution is random, like a perfect watch forming from an explosion in a the watchmaker’s shop. The process is anything but random. Evolution might be likened to a retarded blind watchmaker who had no understanding of how watches work, who just kept trying various combinations of gears over millennia to find counterfeit watch designs that would sell better. The intelligence lay all in his customers’ intelligent discrimination refusing to buy the crummiest designs. Eventually his designs would actually work, and would even continue to slowly improve.

0.05% God talks to people
When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion, it is called Religion.
~ Robert M. Pirsig (born: 1928-09-06 age: 86) the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
When people such as George W. Bush hear voices in their head, they are so conceited that they imagine these internal voices are the creator of the universe Himself are taking time out for a consultation. The messages themselves are invariably silly or deranged and reveal nothing only God Himself would know. Further John 5:37 makes clear Jehovah does not talk to individual people. This of course contradicts other parts of the bible where He reputedly does.
0.01% Presuming there is a God, that the old Testament roughly expresses God’s wishes. The essential values of the old testament are intolerance, animal sacrifice and smiting enemies. God is supposedly just, kind and all-knowing. He would not take sides in petty battles.
1% God, or some other mysterious process, is like a cosmic Santa Claus watching you at all times and keeping a record of your every transgression. This is just a story told to older children to help make them feel frightened about masturbating or sex play. If God were all that interested in the behaviour of his individual creatures he would make his authority and the desired behaviours clear, rather than acting through various con men. He would intervene, chastise and explain at many points in a life rather than waiting until death. To learn, you need immediate feedback.
2% That your consciousness keeps on experiencing something for years after you die. You might be a ghost, reincarnate, live in some other dimensional heaven/hell…
2% Something with an IQ above a moron intelligently designed the basic underpinnings of reality, e.g. the laws of quantum mechanics, that there are such things as distance, time and mass and chose the basic constants. The way basic reality works on a subatomic level is undeniably mathematically elegant and highly convenient for life. If you presume we are not the only universe, there may be vast numbers of them, mostly uninteresting. Imagine being an ancient Hawaiian. You would presume that God had made the climate perfect for your benefit, food abundant for your benefit etc. Only after you travelled the globe would you discover this was not universally true. There was no universal beneficence making the climate temperate. You just lucked out on a nice spot.
20% Presuming there is a God, the New Testament roughly expresses God’s wishes. The essential values of the new testament are kindness, non-violence, tolerance, restraint in use of power and faith without evidence. These values (except faith) are geared to the long term sustainability of the human species. Missing is any sort of ecological awareness. The New Testament is full of superstition which just divides Christians and non-Christians further.
So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.
~ Bertrand Russell (born: 1872-05-18 died: 1970-02-02 at age: 97)
60% That under some circumstances your consciousness has experiences even when there is no measurable brain activity. This personally has never happened to me. When I was under anaesthesia, I awoke as if no time at all had passed. It is possible trauma causes memories of events to be directly laid down that were never actually never experienced, not even in imagination. But that would not account for sensory information gleaned while there was no brain activity.
75% That there is some unknown mechanism that sporadically creates highly improbable co-incidences in our lives. This is most probably some weak form of ESP that unconsciously makes unconscious arrangements with other people. It may be an advanced species playing tricks on us, or playing with us.
99.999% That it is possible to have an out of body experience while you are still alive. This has happened to me and to several of my friends. I make no claim other that this is how it appears to the observer. It may just be some sort of waking dream.
Believing would be easier if God would show himself by depositing a million dollars in a Swiss bank account in my name.
~ Woody Allen (born: 1935-12-01 age: 78)
When someone says Do you believe in God he is conflating all these questions. When you break them out, and answer with probabilities rather than with absolute certainty, we may discover more patterns of agreement than at first appears. Have fun with the list. Compare your probability estimates with others as a jumping off point for discussion.

Disproving the Existence of God

Most people are quite happy to believe in the existence of God simply because no one has found an iron clad way to prove God does not exist. It does not bother them in the least there is no evidence for the existence of God. If someone told me the earth was rhombus shaped, borne through the cosmos by in the pincers of two invisible enormous green lobsters called Esmeralda and Keith, I could not prove the lobsters did not exist either. I can’t prove there are no fairies or no unicorns. I can’t prove there is no Russellian teapot orbiting Mars. But, on the other hand, my failure to prove non-existence is no evidence at all for their existence. If you want to convince me that sasquatches, yetis, Loch Ness monsters, fairies, unicorns, Jove, Jahweh, Jupiter, Esmeralda and Keith, orbiting teapots or the cadborosaurus exist, it is up to you to present some evidence.

The old misconceptions that people mistook as evidence for the existence of God no longer hold. We have discovered the universe is quite capable of functioning without the constant tinkering of a deity. We have discovered even complex creatures like elephants arise by natural processes of chemistry and biology. They don’t require an intelligent designer. They came into being by a mindless laborious genetic process of trial and error carried out by busy little DNA molecules.

Why You Know There Is No God

I cannot believe God created parasites to torture small children.
~ Sir David Attenborough (born: 1926-05-08 age: 88)

Stephen F. Roberts’ Objection

I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.
~ Stephen F. Roberts (born: 1967 age: 47)
I find Stephen Robert’s quotation one of the strongest arguments against Christianity, but oddly Christians don’t find it in the least convincing. To a mathematician, inconsistency is an anathema. Why believe in some gods but not others? The same arguments for existence apply equally to all gods. But inconsistency does not bother Christians in the least. Any argument against Ganesh, is also an argument against Jehovah. Why do Christians have no problem accepting an argument when it refutes the existence of Ganesh, but reject the exact same argument when applied to refute Jehovah? Why do Christians have no problem accepting an argument for the existence of Jehovah, but reject the exact same argument when applied to proving the existence of Ganesh? How can Christians be so sure theirs is the best description of god when they carefully insulate themselves from even hearing about any other? That strikes me as insane.

I dismiss Ganesh and Jehovah for the same reason: there is no evidence for either. Christians hold Jehovah in such high esteem, they think I must be kidding. They can’t conceive of me deciding Jehovah is preposterous with the same lack of angst that I decided Ganesh is preposterous. It is difficult only if you have been conned during infancy that Jehovah (or Ganesh) will get you if you are naughty.

[I was lucky. The BS I was fed was that elves were spying on me, and were I naughty, I would get a lump of coal in my stocking at Christmas. I scoured every hiding place in my house for elves and decided my mother was putting me on. Happily, my mother did not beat me for my refusal to believe her story.]

The main reason Christians believe their twaddle is they can’t escape the fear they just might be hideously punished for failing to do so. It has almost nothing to do with logical probability. It has to do with the severity of the punishment. The feared punishment is so hideous, it is not worth the risk no matter how unlikely. This primal fear of the bogey-man god is dressed up for philosophers as Pascal’s Wager.

Islam is thus even more entrapping than Christianity. It promises even more frightening punishments. I had nightmares for months after reading the Qur’an.

Those who reject
Our Signs, We shall soon
Cast into the Fire;
As often as their skins
Are roasted through,
We shall change them
For fresh skins,
That they may taste
The Penalty: for Allah
Is Exalted in Power: Wise.
~ The Qur’an (born: 610 AD age: 1404) Surah Al Nisa 4:56

Pragmatic View

When someone asks, Does god exist? what they really mean is Are you a category 1 or category 2 person?

A category 1 person is most easily persuaded with a list of reasons why it would be a good idea to do something, both for their and others’ benefit, and why it would be a bad idea not to do it.

A category 2 person is most easily persuaded by reciting a fable about someone who refused to take the requested action, and how a fictitious ogre tortured or killed them. Oddly, the majority of homo sapiens are category 2.

Parting Thought

I feel sorry for people who believe in religion. They are like people who never go outside, who only look at tacky advertising calendars to learn the what is happening in the outside world. To appreciate the Alps, or a tropical coral lagoon, you have to look at them directly for yourself. The more science you know about what is going on with the lives of all those tiny creatures, the more awe-inspiring the reef is. How can you possibly fully experience soaking in a warm sulphur spring when you have only read about it? Religious dogma is like looking at the world though a filthy, cobweb distorted piece of glass. Religionists imagine their ancient dogmas reveal the hidden beauty of the universe, but in actuality they hide it. Draft horses wearing blinders silently thank their masters for the splendid view they have of the lead’s horse’s hind quarters. They could never dream what was to be seen if they would somehow shake the blinders free! The worst bondage is when you don’t know you are captive. Remember the movie The Sting where Paul Newman as Henry Gondorff explains the best con is one where the mark never even figures out he has been had. Conning via religion is as old as mankind. The art was perfected thousands of years ago.

DVD (Digital Video Disc) s

dvd cover recommend DVD⇒Discussions with Richard Dawkins, Episode One: The Four Horsemento dvd home
DVD
byRichard Dawkins, Chris Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris
birth1941-03-26 age: 73
asinB0015GIZG4
upc882224444477
Two hour discussion with the four famous atheists of 2007.
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dvd cover recommend DVD⇒The God Who Wasn’t Thereto dvd home
DVD
byBrian Flemming
birth1966-06-06 age: 48
asinB000CAPZBC
upc837101074865
This movie debunks Christianity by showing how all parts of the Jesus legend were borrowed from earlier religions, and that even the church fathers admitted that. It also shows how early Christian writers were not talking about a literal historical person. Finally it shows how the Bible is at odds in many crucial places with established history. See the TheGodMovie.com website for a variety of clips.
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atheisme.ca: a bilingual Canadian atheism site. Contains a glossary
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