Evil Rant #29- The Power of Disbelief
“God is like a box; people put all of their fears and their doubts and questions about life in to it, and push it aside so they don’t have to worry about them anymore”, my father said to me when I was younger. This explanation came up as a result of me asking whether or not he believed in god. His immediate response to this question was “which one?” pointing out the fact that there have been many thousands of gods throughout human history. My dad always was a pretty smart guy.
Although I could go on all day about the logical problems with the idea of god, these sorts of arguments are fairly common and well documented. History has shown that people will always ignore logic in favor of a comfortable falsehood. They’re primarily emotional creatures, after all. And debating the illogic of religious belief to someone who truly wants to believe, for whatever reason, is futile. I’ve heard many people say that they “don’t want to believe that”, when confronted with an unpleasant reality. Such statements make it disturbingly obvious that these people have no intention of considering logic and are willingly to embrace there delusions wholeheartedly. Considering that someone who already believes in god is not likely to change their minds in the face of logic, it would be pointless to argue and examine all of the reasons why the idea of god doesn’t make sense (and there are quite a few of them), which is why I’m not going to attempt that. Suffice it to say, from a strictly logical standpoint, I don’t see any way that god could possibly exist. But here’s an interesting thought (from a pro-atheistic standpoint), let’s go ahead and throw out logic.
Many people seem to think that the essential question between religion and atheism is about logic (or pessimism to some) versus comfortable belief (or ignorant delusion for some). However, I really don’t believe that this is truly the case. I have a great deal of respect for logic, and I do believe that this sad world would be a better place if it were more important to people. But I can’t honestly say that logic is my only (or even biggest) reason for being an atheist; it’s a starting point, but not the whole story. The truth is that I really don’t want to believe in god. That’s right! This is not merely because I want to make sense or be logical or somehow seem smarter and intellectual. I honestly do not find the idea of god appealing at all.
But how could this be? Isn’t the idea of god the more ideal and comfortable concept, and only to be sacrificed under the harsh scrutiny of cynicism, common sense and logic? Not for me. I recently heard someone say that they choose to believe in god because the idea empowers them. “Empowers” is not even close to the word I would choose to describe god. Perhaps it makes you feel safer, like someone is watching over you. Maybe the thought of an afterlife makes you feel that you can never truly die, and you find that comforting; but this is not empowerment; its safety. The way I see it, true empowerment is dangerous because a powerful being is responsible for its own fate. Having power means operating without a safety net. The everlasting debate about national security is a great example of this. Often, when discussing individual rights, the term “freedom” is used. I would say that the word freedom and the word power are, in a sense, interchangeable in this instance. To benefit from the security provided by others, as well as any higher authority, you must sacrifice your individual power and freedom. This is the essential problem that I have with god.
Basically, the existence of god or even the belief in god, would take away from my personal power. God is an authority, and I want as much power as I can get. I feel that I have to deal with enough authorities in my earthly existence (note: sacrificing some freedom or power isn’t always a bad thing if it ultimately serves your goals; the ability to choose who you bow to, is what’s important, as well as having the choice of whether to act on your own). If I don’t like my family, I can disown them, if I don’t like my boss, I can quit. If I don’t like my girlfriend, I can dump her and even if I don’t like the rules of the nation in which I live, I can strive to relocate. Most people or organizations, who might pose a threat to your freedom and power, are able to be circumvented, provided that you are willing to deal with some of the potential hardships associated with acting as an individual. This is not so, in the case of god. If there is a god, then he is inescapable, and would most likely act like a parent, boss and tyrant all rolled into one. I do not find this to be a very pleasant thought.
There are many benefits to being an atheist. If there is no “almighty creator” or “higher power”, then that means that we exist for no particular purpose. This may seem depressing to someone who wants their purpose handed to them, and who can’t stand the idea that their life might be somewhat pointless in the whole scheme of things. Personally, I find this idea to be extremely liberating. This means that we are free to determine our own purpose, by our own standards. And, that we have no obligation to any higher power. The idea that I may have been born, already indebted or obligated to something larger then myself, without my consent, is a sickening thought.
Even more disgusting is the idea which has been proposed by some, that we may have already consented to this in a different form, before our births and we just don’t remember this. This seems like such an unbelievably convenient excuse for why we should try to act a certain way or believe certain things. That kind of thinking makes me nauseous. Basically, it’s implying that I am to be held responsible for a decision which I have no memory of, and would not make in my current form. On top of that, whoever’s saying this to me is implying that they know something about my existence that I do not. Aside from the grossly irrational problems with this scenario, it’s also insulting on an emotional level. But the worst thing about it is that it implies that I, in my current form and state of being, do not get to decide how I'm going to live my life; and that is unacceptable. Surely even true believers can recognize the excessively self deprecating nature of such ideas (actually they can’t, which is really frightening).
Another fun benefit of being an atheist is that there is no afterlife. Although this may seem very discouraging for many of those folks who lead fairly pathetic or utterly worthless existences and are hoping to be rewarded for their goodness in the next world, despite not having achieved much here on earth (you ever notice how afterlife scenarios always seem to reward those miserable souls who are living in quiet desperation, hmmm…?); for empowered individuals like us, this is a very good thing. This means that there is no set of cosmetic rules or laws, other than what exists here on earth. This also means that whatever happens in this earthly existence, stays in this earthly existence. Obviously this is a selling point for a villain. But even if you don’t want to consider yourself “evil” or even amoral, the possibility of being punished or somehow judged for what comes naturally to you (anything you’re likely to do probably comes naturally), should be fairly unappealing. And as Anton LaVey so astutely pointed out, there is something very life denying about looking forward to the hereafter, as if this existence doesn’t count and shouldn’t be taken seriously. Although many people try to spin it into a positive or joyous thing, I see nothing but suicidal tendencies and other hopelessness in faiths which condemn the earthly and are preoccupied with the afterlife (some of the most extreme versions of this are religions which heavily preach about “apocalypse” type scenarios; despite their declarations of love, they subconsciously just want to die and take everyone else with them, how repulsive).
Ultimately, belief in god or any other higher power is an emission of insignificance. Not in a cosmetic, human versus god sort of way; but within the person’s own consciousness. It is a reflection of the individual’s inner sense of self. If I believe in an external god, then that means that I am not a god. But, more importantly, it also means that I am willing to accept and embrace that designation. That I have no aspiration or desire to be a god. “I want to serve, I want to be controlled, I want to buckle under a higher power, I want to be judged and I want my safety to be in the hands of forces other than my own. I am not powerful, responsible or otherwise worthy enough to be my own god.” If you think this way, then you’re probably right! After all, surely a true god would have the insight to recognize what they are.
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