Am I the only atheist that wants to believe in God?

Discussion in 'Quackenbush's' started by dang-str8, Mar 2, 2015.

  1. dang-str8

    dang-str8 1,000+ Posts

    So since I was 14 I started to question everything... My dad was a baptist preacher... I went to church several times a week when I was little... I've read the Bible several times, most of the Qur'an and part of the Book of Mormon (gave up really early on that one)... By 16 I was already claiming to be an atheist (that was 20 years ago). To me it's clear, I don't believe that there is a God... I don't agree with organized religion, and I'm not afraid to say "I don't believe" in case I get struck down by lightning or anything like that... but I do keep my options open. I always reserve the right to change my views depending on what evidence presents itself. I'm more of a humanist, and have a strong opinion on the power of the individual... still, don't believe in God...

    That said, I really wish I had faith. To me it's almost like I'm atheist just because I can't lie to myself... like you can't tell me black is red because I know damn well what black looks like... I've read other opinions and I've stretched the boundaries of "belief" to mean all kinds of things like "God=Collective Consciousness"... But nothing convinces me...

    Is it dumb to just want to have blind faith? I can't fake it, and I wouldn't even want to practice religion... but I feel it would be really something if we could prove that God (whatever that means) existed...
  2. MudHorn

    MudHorn Admin Moderator

    Moved this from Cactus Cafe to Quacks
  3. OldHippie

    OldHippie 2,500+ Posts

    I thought it would probably be more fun to believe in something than in nothing so I just decided one day to "believe" for a week and see if I could come up with something to believe in that would be palatable to my general view of the cosmos and scientific mind set. I came up with my own unique religion which may or may not be compatible with atheism, agnosticism, Buddhism or Taoism. Carl Jung (synchronicity) and Joseph Campbell offer me some hoped for and much needed intellectual back-up. I look for the subtle signs or currents of unseen forces to which I try to surf, dance or harmonize. When I think I find them, it makes life easier and more fun.

    So my suggestion would be, just arbitrarily decide to "believe" for a while and see what it is you come up with that is compatible with who you are.
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  4. dang-str8

    dang-str8 1,000+ Posts

    That's a good suggestion... I can "believe" in an idea that could be more realistic (yet not proven) and see where that goes.. Lol... If anything, I will give me more truths to debunk theories..
  5. TheWalkingHorn

    TheWalkingHorn 500+ Posts

    I am very similar in my views. Growing up my parents didn't take me to church all that much, but they were both Catholic. They always told me they were leaving it up to me to decide. In my late teens I took it upon myself to get baptized, and spent almost 10 years attending mass regularly.

    I never believed the stories in the bible as truth, but I did believe in the life of Jesus. Now looking back it just seems so ridiculous. I don't know how I ever got so wrapped up in religion. As I got older I just found my views soooo far off from the Catholic church, and Christianity in general. I'm pretty liberal, and I just felt like a hypocrite attending, wanting to roll my eyes at the homilies. The very last time I attended church someone made an announcement about having a "prayer group" outside of an abortion clinic and I just got sick to my stomach. Haven't been back since.

    I wouldn't consider myself atheist now, just agnostic. I can't see myself ever going back to an organized religion. It does sadden me to think of never seeing my uncle again. It's heartbreaking really.
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  6. Crockett

    Crockett 5,000+ Posts

    I would definitely have a problem being a Christian based on the fear of hell and my intellect can't abide "all answers are in the Bible." (I consider the Bible to be a marvelous God-inspired but not God-written book. I started a different thread on that and won't repeat it all here. I love the Bible but don't worship it as divine.)

    However, when I see the good works, courageous action and joyous selflessness that God inspires, I can't help but believe in him. Read about Saint Patrick, William Wilberforce, John Wesley, John Newton --- people who made this world a kinder, more-just place, who fought slavery, poverty and the sex industry, etc. and I think you can see God's hand at work.

    My Jesus is probably much more inspirational and perhaps less authoritarian than the God you may have learned about as the son of a Baptist Pastor. (I say "perhaps" because some of the kindest, lovingest, most Christ-like people I've ever known have been Baptist). The authoritarian God folks can't agree with me, because they want everything settled in black and white. But I worship a marvelous God who continues to reveal himself through goodness and kind acts he inspires among his followers.
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  7. Texanne

    Texanne 5,000+ Posts

    I'm going to suggest a book: "Love Wins" by Rob Bell.

    I don't believe in hell as a destination; hell is a separation from God, and as humans, we are all in hell because we are separated from God by our sinful nature. Every one of us, even the most pious among us.

    There were times when I wondered if I actually was an atheist. When I saw what people would do to other people in the name of God or Christ ... well, it just made me sick. I'm not a deep thinker or anything like that, but I believe in the power of love. At my church, there's never any fire and brimstone. The sermons are rarely about sin, and even when they are, they always come back to the same theme -- Christ asked us to do two things: love the Lord and love each other. It may seem simplistic, but I believe the love in our hearts for people and animals who are suffering is proof of the existence of God.
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  8. Crockett

    Crockett 5,000+ Posts

    I've read and liked Bell's book too Texanne. He irritated a lot of the Christians who irritate me.
  9. Texanne

    Texanne 5,000+ Posts

    Yeah, he was the darling of the mainstream Christians until he discovered progressive Christianity. Lifeway stores pulled his books and refuse to sell them now. That's why I love him. My pastor turned me on to him.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2015
  10. BevoJoe

    BevoJoe 10,000+ Posts

    I honor my peoples' ancient beliefs, customs and traditions. I don't believ that our ancient gods can do anything for you at all, but I respect the traditions. I respect other religions so believe what you want, do what you want, but don't attempt to proselytize me or convert me. I do like following the hooked X. Interesting stuff.
  11. THEU

    THEU 2,500+ Posts

    I come at this thread from a very specific position. I want to try to give some of my story and little to no advice. I grew up in a pretty conservative family, but a progressive mainline church. We went to worship every Sunday and Sunday School, and as I got older I was in youth choir, and did the youth group thing. I was pretty much a poster child for churched kids. I had a lot of questions though and a lot of doubts at a youth. I was much more liberal than my folks, and I certainly didn't see some things as being a big deal that they saw as a big deal. As a result of being in a progressive church there was a lot of emphasis on being a good person, be good and God will love you. Be good and you get to go to heaven. (no mention of hell if you were bad, but I guess it was implied) But my major issue was I never felt good enough for God. Most people tell stories of being in a brow beating Bible thumping church and not feeling like they were good enough for God's love, but I can tell you the same thing can happen in a church where the entire means of salvation is your being good. (here I won't get into details about my bad stuff, but I promise I can shock most people with either stuff I have done or thought about doing with great enjoyment).
    The other thing that bothered me about my church was what I thought was a pick and choose approach to the Bible. They didn't seem to like the Old Testament, but were into Jesus, but only part of what Jesus said. I didn't get how they could believe only in stuff they seemed to like anyway, and the hard to believe, or hard to do stuff they just threw away; no real explanation.
    So here I was a sick and twisted teenager who pretty much lived in fear because I never felt like I measured up to God, until one day my junior year of HS. These damn Bible thumping Baptists from across town sent two elementary school aged girls to my door. Honestly, I thought they were selling girl scout cookies. Instead, they asked where I would go if I died. I really didn't know. I told them what I knew, cobbled together from the theology of my church; God loves good people, God hates bad people, God is just, but God is holy... but.... I don't know, how could I know. They had some canned Scriptures they shared. The thing is their canned Scriptures made sense to me. I did feel like I had sinned against God and fallen short. Every day I felt not good enough. So when they shared with me that the thing was I could never be good enough to earn God's love, but that He loved me first, and sent Jesus for me, and that all I had to do was believe in Him and I could receive His rightness with God. Wow. Did I feel a freedom that day! I didn't have to act good enough, or even be good enough, because He was good enough for me. Incredible.
    So these 'conservative' Baptist girls led me into a freedom I had never gotten from my progressive church. So I guess my story is a bit opposite of some others here.
    Now instead of reading the Bible as allegory and myth and 'good stories' I read it as history, and take many parts much more literally. Interestingly enough, because I love science and read things about string theory physics, and theories of evolution and biological sciences, and genetic anthropology, the Bible makes more sense not less. I grew up with not doubting things like The Theory of Evolution, while now it just makes absolutely no logical sense to me at all. So I can't have faith in it, because I have lost seeing the logic there. Also, I grew up and I am not a pastor in that progressive denomination. So I guess I have come a bit full circle. Everyday, I see people come to faith and have questions of faith. I love my calling, and I love to see how and when God shows up.
    I can tell you I feel God, and I experience Him in ways that I used to have no doubts where fake are too far fetched when I was growing up. So anyway, that is a bit of my story.
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  12. chango

    chango 2,500+ Posts

    Bravo Texanne! This proves you ARE a deep thinker.
  13. THEU

    THEU 2,500+ Posts

    Texanne, might I suggest also, that the fact that you believe that animals and people suffer, is an even deeper proof of the existence of God. I had a TA in my Philosophy of Religions of class at UT back in the day. He riffed on the greatest day of his life being the day he saw a nature show and saw the brutality of lions or something attacking and eating other animals. He said, he saw such suffering and knew that if that existed there wasn't a God. I wasn't educated enough to disagree with him in class, although I didn't agree with him.
    It took my agnostic friend John, to point out my TA's inconsistency. He said, if there is no god/God they why would your TA ever think that the 'natural' order was unfair or cruel? If we have all have some sense of right and wrong, and cruelty, and we all inherently oppose such, where does that idea come from? We not only are called to love each other and God, but we also seem to have a fairly common understanding of the need for justice and fairness to be worked on. Also, I agree with Chango, that you are a deep thinker if you have that much figured out.
  14. Texanne

    Texanne 5,000+ Posts

    Thanks, fellas. I've lived a long time and I've seen lots of things, but man's inhumanity to man has always baffled me.

    On a slightly different note...

    Every month, when we have communion, our minister speaks of the great mystery of faith: Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. As much as I agree with this, I also think there is a much greater mystery of faith. I think back to the wretchedness in which I have lived my life, the sins I've committed and the cruel things I've done. Yet Jesus still loves me, despite my spiritual shortcomings. He said so. And it comes up several times in the Old Testament with regard to the coming of the Messiah: their sins will be remembered no more.

    To me, THAT is the great mystery of faith, that Jesus and the Lord see something in me that is worth loving.

    The New Covenant is missing one important word: if. The Old Covenant stated, "I will love you if you obey my laws." But the New Covenant simply says, "I will love you."

    That's pretty mysterious stuff right there.
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  15. georgecostanza

    georgecostanza NBHorn7’s Protégé

    The New Covenant is something that some people misinterpret to rationalize their own sin. In my mind, the Old Covenant basically states, "Follow the Commandments perfectly, and you will be saved." However, we are sinful creatures and are not able to fulfill this requirement perfectly. Hence, we need a Savior.

    In the New Covenant, we are no longer required to fulfill the Law perfectly in order to receive forgiveness of sins. Jesus fulfilled the requirement of the Old Testament, but he still suffered the punishment for our failure. All we are required to do is believe Jesus is who He says He is and that God is the one true God and we will be saved.

    I have discussions with people from time to time where they try to rationalize something that they do that is clearly forbidden by God. They think that since Jesus suffered for us and God offers forgiveness for all those who simply believe, they can do whatever they want, but at the end of the day still receive forgiveness, and there is nothing wrong with time committing the sin.

    As an example, I work with someone at work who constantly tries to get me to pursue women simply to "get laid". I believe that God wants us to find a single mate, but that we should not physically consummate the relationship until after marriage. I've told him as much, but he wants to keep telling me that God will forgive me for having sex with multiple partners and outside the confines of marriage, so I should try to "get some" as often as possible.

    God would forgive me for having multiple partners, inside or outside of marriage, but that does not make it okay. If I believe in God as the one true God, that Jesus lived a perfect life and died unjustly for my sins, and that God is omniscient, how could I possibly think that pursuing women like this is okay? If I believe that God is all-knowing, then I believe that God knows what is best for me. If I believe that God is the one true God, then I believe I should follow His commands above all others. If I believe that Jesus lived a perfect life and died for my sins, then I would want to respect His death by living the kind of life He wants me to live.

    Certainly, we will fall short of God's standards. We're human. We will sin. But that does not mean that we should not strive to lead sinless lives.
  16. Monahorns

    Monahorns 5,000+ Posts

    Why isn't fear of hell a justified reason to believe in Jesus? Because there is no hell? Because sin doesn't exist or you haven't committed any? Because no one wants to believe in a mean God who punishes people?

    I guess I don't get it. If hell exists and my sin can lead me there and God offers a way out, it seems pretty logical to accept the way out.
  17. OldHippie

    OldHippie 2,500+ Posts

    I just happened upon this quote by Albert Einstein from The World as I See It: "The most beautiful and deepest experience a man can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion as well as all serious endeavour in art and science. He who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious. To me it suffices to wonder at these secrets and to attempt humbly to grasp with my mind a mere image of the loftystructure of all that there is."
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  18. LonghornCatholic

    LonghornCatholic Catholic like Sarkisian

    Atheists Are Closer to God Than They Think


    Listen to the audio version of this content
    atheists. Because of this belief system, we believed that we had a duty to act in the most moral, ethical way—after all, we weren’t bound by the arbitrary rules of some book or church for our understanding of right and wrong. Our moral code was based on a pure pursuit of goodness.

    “We don’t have to look in a book to see if it says that we should be nice to people,” my father would say. “We can just do it out of the goodness of our hearts.”

    Like most young people, at college I began to explore the belief system my family had taught me and to make it my own. Inside the classrooms of my secular university, my beliefs weren’t challenged in the slightest. Outside the classrooms, however, I ran into difficulty.

    Cracks in the Foundation
    I had always considered the moral code by which I’d been raised to be rock-solid: We formed our understanding of rights and wrongs based on reason, evidence, and the scientific method; we sought the greatest good for all humans out of pure empathy and compassion—not as some attempt to curry favor with supernatural beings. Yet the more I pushed on these assumptions, the more I found that my “rock-solid” moral code had some cracks in it, and they ran deep.

    One afternoon I read an article by a professor who posited that since adult pigs are more intelligent and aware than newborn babies, it would be more ethical to kill an infant than a pig. I scoffed. But when I tried to combat the professor’s ideas, I quickly ran into problems. I had always assumed that the only reason that humans were more valuable than other animals was because we’re more intelligent and self-aware, yet what did that mean for infants or the severely mentally disabled? Would that not mean that they were less valuable than the rest of us, perhaps even less valuable than some animals?

    I met with similar problems when a classmate made the shocking statement that richer countries should stop sending aid to poverty-stricken areas of the world, explaining that it diluted the gene pool and added more suffering to the world to allow societies to survive who were not able to take care of themselves. I found this statement, too, to be morally repugnant. But, once again, my counter-argument was weak.

    Looking at the evidence from the natural world, I could reason that there are evolutionary advantages to showing compassion to others, or that as social creatures we’ve developed a nervous system that makes us more happy when the societies around us are stable and harmonious. However, the gaping hole in my argument was that those were not the only viewpoints that reason and evidence could support: An equally strong case could be made that the most important goal of any species is to pass on only the best and most fit genes, so that its members will thrive well into future generations. Combining this argument with the assumption that a life of suffering is not a life worth living, my classmate made a disturbingly coherent argument that it would be best to let those who were not capable of surviving simply die off.

    No Ought from Is
    Later in life I would hear author John C. Wright make a critique of secular morality in which he quipped, “You cannot deduce an ought from an is.” I wish I’d heard it back then, because that was the problem. I’d hit up against a hard, inconvenient truth—that the material world does not gives us moral absolutes: It gives us ises, not oughts. Sure, I could reason that we should seek the greatest level of happiness for all human beings, based on the assumption that happiness was humanity’s highest goal, but—also using evidence and reason—someone could argue just as well for a more ruthless worldview that members of the species who were weaker or less able to display intelligence were less worthy of life.

    All the while, when I encountered views like my classmate’s or the professor’s or countless others, a part of me wanted to scream, “You don’t kill newborn infants or ignore people in need because that’s just wrong!” All this cool, detached analysis of how we should treat our fellow human beings based on what stood up to the scientific method fell nauseatingly short of capturing the intense feelings that boiled within me when I pondered such matters. I sensed that there was absolute right and wrong in these matters, and that it was external to any human opinion.

    After countless conversations with fellow atheists, the issue of the impossibility of getting to an absolute ought from the ises of the material world alone—and the chilling implications that had for any kind of moral code—remained unresolved. Eventually, all my big questions got pushed under the rugs of work and socializing, and it would be years before I thought about them again. I built a comfortable life for myself that left me too busy to ponder such inconvenient questions.

    Just Tell Me the Truth
    All that changed, however, when my first child was born. Staring at this precious little life shocked me into digging up all those long-forgotten questions about meaning and morality, and to ask some more to boot. And this time, something was different: For the first time in my life, I was willing to ask the big questions with humility. Back in college I’d approached all discussion of these subjects with a heavy dose of pride. But one look at my newborn son was enough to change my motives entirely. I didn’t care if I looked stupid. I just wanted to know what was true.

    I set out on a search to find out what was at the root of that mysterious sense I’d always had that there is one moral code out there, and that it’s extant and true regardless of human opinion. It was impossible to avoid religion when studying this subject matter, and one day while looking for books about Buddhism I stumbled across some Christian authors who laid out a historical case for Jesus being who he said he was and the Resurrection having actually happened. I was surprised and intrigued to hear a reasonable, logical case for the founding of this religion. Only a few months earlier I would have flatly blown off any such notions as impossible since I refused to consider anything supernatural, but this time I was willing to hear more. I’d realized that we atheists certainly were far from having it all figured out, so I decided to suspend my assumptions for a while and just read a few books by Christians.

    As my bedside table piled up with books by authors like C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton and St. Augustine of Hippo, I slowly began to see that this religion was not what I’d perceived it to be. Though I was increasingly impressed, I also ran into some big problems. For one thing, I could not make heads or tails of the Bible. Without any Christian background, I had no idea how to interpret it—and when I researched Christian answers, it seemed like there were as many interpretations as there were people. Also, it seemed that the notion that the Bible was the main way to know God would be fundamentally unfair to people who were illiterate or had poor reading-comprehension skills—a concerning proposition considering that the printing press and widespread literacy are relatively recent phenomena.

    I wasn’t quite ready to give up on Christianity, but I didn’t know any practicing Christians, so I had almost nobody to talk to about all these issues. I decided to start a blog to see if I could find any Christians who could answer some of my questions. After a few months of discussions with readers in which I threw out every tough question I could think of, I began to notice that the Catholics had the most compelling defenses of everything from the scientific case for God to the accuracy of the New Testament stories to the Christian moral code. Though obviously I would never become Catholic since I “knew” that it was a superstitious belief system founded on a corrupt Church that had done a lot of bad things throughout history, I couldn’t deny that the Catholic worldview was insightful and intellectually consistent.

    On the advice of the Catholics from my blog, I decided to pick up a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Once I read it, I never saw the world the same way again. I pored over these teachings and marveled at how they resolved so many questions I had—everything from the meaning of life to how we can know there’s a God to how to interpret the Bible. I shared what I found with my husband, a lapsed Baptist with anti-Catholic views of his own, and we both agreed: This was too consistent, too wise, too prescient, too perfect to have come from human beings. This Church claimed to be guided in its teachings by Something far above humans, and we were both starting to believe that this just might be true. After beginning to apply these teachings to our own lives, as well as spending a couple years devouring stacks of books that addressed everything from Catholic teaching on contraception to the Crusades to the popes who committed immoral acts, we were completely convinced. My husband and I both entered the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil in 2007.

    Written on Our Hearts
    What I found was that the Catholic Church offered a perfect articulation of the moral code that’s written on the human heart, that unshakable sense of right and wrong I’d been aware of all along—and what had initially seemed to be a confining set of arbitrary rules was actually a prescription for living a life optimized on love. To my great surprise, I found that Catholicism was not as much a departure from the atheistic belief system I’d grown up with as it was an elaboration and fulfillment of it. I’d merely followed all those longings I felt for things like truth, beauty, justice, and peace and found that they had a source—a living, personal Source.

    Most atheists are closer than they think to believing in God. I think of the atheists I know who are so dedicated to living a life of love, kindness, and empathy that if it were scientifically proven tomorrow that these things were neither beneficial to the individual nor to society, my guess is that they would still live lives of love, kindness, and empathy. They believe that if these things are not good and true, then nothing is good and true—that in some ways they’re more real than reality. And, as I’ve found, when you embrace that realization, you’ve had your first encounter with God.

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  19. LonghornCatholic

    LonghornCatholic Catholic like Sarkisian

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