There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way who nods at them and says, 'Morning, boys. How's the water?' The two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, 'What the hell is water?'
Talking about gods often feels like this to me. Either you're born into a family and community where God (capital G) is everywhere and you take His presence for granted (What's atheism?), or you've somehow managed by birth or by thought to come up for air and see a world with no evidence of any god (small g) and you wonder why believers sound so collectively insane. If it was 10 people talking about faeries, you'd just ignore them, but when it's a billion people who believe in Yahweh or Allah or Vishnu, you have to pay attention. The gulf between these religious and non-religious worldviews often feels so unbridgeable though - like the one between the fishes who cannot understand what the other one sees or does not see - that I often despair I'm just shouting into the abyss that lies between whenever I try to rationally or emotionally discuss this topic.
Nonetheless, the decision to accept or reject the 'a' in atheism is one of the fundamental choices that must be made to know thyself and define your philosophy about the universe and how you should act within it. And so, even with little hope of using a blog essay to convince anyone to actually change their beliefs (I have other ideas to work on that), I would like to note the facts I have come to accept on this point in question during the research I've conducted for my own personal Evolutionary Philosophy. Concerning God and Religion, I wrote these three points:
There is no conclusive evidence that a god exists. An examination of the evolution of religion clearly shows its origin and development by man. The first gods were invented and worshiped for their power to explain natural phenomena - primarily the sun, the moon, day and night, the seasons, and fertility. As science has explained more and more natural phenomena, the gods have grown less and less powerful.
There once were many European and Middle Eastern fertility goddesses and savior gods born of virgin births. (Roman pagan god Attis born of the virgin Nana, Greek pagan god Dionysus, Egyptian pagan god Osiris, Persian pagan god Mithra, Saxon mother goddess Eostre, Aphrodite from ancient Cyprus, Ashtoreth from ancient Israel, Astarte from ancient Greece, Demeter from Mycenae, Hathor from ancient Egypt, Ishtar from Assyria, Kali from India, Ostara a Norse Goddess of fertility. See here, here, and here.) These beliefs are a natural reaction to ignorance about the flowering of life season after season and generation after generation. They were consolidated by Rome into Christianity under the worship of Jesus and Mary. Ancient polytheistic mythologies evolved to monotheism because of the human quest for power and solidarity. The need to control one’s flock in order to get money and membership for survival means that other gods and priests cannot also be right. This is why early Christianity survived while the Gnostics went extinct. Christianity branched off into Islamism when Mohammed did not accept the word of Jesus as final, and splintered into other orthodox or protestant factions based on the strength of empires and fervor of heretics. Remaining pockets of paganism were swept up by Christianity and its descendants as Rome conquered Europe and Europe conquered the globe. Religion may have supported empires, but empires stamped religion for their purpose as well.
Eastern philosophies of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Shintoism are separate from this evolution but have become non-theistic explorations into the best way to live. Unfortunately, “the way” that Eastern philosophies recommend leans too heavily towards detachment from desire, pain, suffering, and the world. Followed unerringly, this leads to stagnation for the person and the human race. Modern science and psychology teach us a better way. Flexible detachment, mature defense mechanisms, balanced goals, motivation, and progress; these are what make for the better way.
That's a brief overview of the history and evolution of the belief in gods that I have examined and used to confidently place my beliefs on the side of atheism. Next week, in the spirit of always cross-examining one's beliefs, I'll take a look at the historical arguments that have tried to persuade us all to join the camp of theism. In the meantime though, I'd love to hear what your thoughts on this are. Is any of this history new to you? What has persuaded you one way or the other as to the existence or non-existence of god? Is it even something rational, or is it just an emotional feeling?