5.12.2014

One of those Inevitable Facebook Debates: Religion, Agnosticism, Time & Space

I recently had one of those inevitable FB discussions with some right-wing conservative Christians in which I was lumped in with atheists. I tried to explain that my lack of religion is no more a rejection of a deity than an independent voter's lack of party association is a rejection of government.
Here's part of that discussion in which I explain how my appreciation for the vastness of time and space tends to make it difficult for me to accept any form of religion as we know it:

Many people don't quite understand why people make a conscious decision to not identify with or follow a particular religion -- or no religion at all. Most of us did not reach this point without a great deal of contemplation. Many of us simply can't reconcile any of the existing religions with our understanding of the cosmos -- not with good conscience, anyway. We are not bad people. Morality can and does exist outside of religion.
13.8 billion years condensed into a calendar year
There have been many belief systems throughout time (and possibly throughout the cosmos by other intelligent beings millions of light years away from us), and there will be many other belief systems, possibly arising long after our likely inevitable extinction.
To discount such an acknowledgment is to deny the realities of the history of the cosmos and any and all life within it. We're a tiny blip on the timeline of the cosmos, as well as on the map of the cosmos, which contains at least 300 sextillion suns. That is a 3 followed by 23 zeros.
Perspective is a good thing.
I don't deny the existence of a deity. I simply acknowledge the reality of the vastness of time and space, and logic dictates that one religion which has only existed for a very brief sliver of time on one of billions (trillions, more?) of potential life-supporting planets, is probably not the one 'true' brand of religion. If it is, it's a very strange thing for a deity to do -- to drop a needle in an infinite haystack -- the one needle that will guarantee eternal life -- yet it is only available to the tiniest sliver of living beings (and only a portion of those, since many of them follow another religion due to geographical and historical influences, heritage, etc.), who happen to live on this one very extra-special planet (one of sextillions, likely many more) during an incredibly minuscule sliver of time -- also, let's drop this nugget on a small group of isolated desert-dwelling people who don't (can't) write things down.
If you were a deity, that would maybe be the absolute worst way possible to inform a cosmos (which you created) about your existence. It's hard to imagine that a deity, if he/she/it exists, would be that short-sighted, or that bad at marketing him/herself.
And if a deity made it possible for me to think logically about these things and it led me to being open-minded about the possibility of other paths of being a moral creature in this world, and I honestly gave it a good go for a good decade and a half, and continue to be as moral and ethical as I was then, why would he/she/it punish me eternally? Wouldn't he/she/it appreciate a well lived life of philosophical contemplation, empathy, and a determination to reduce suffering?


2 comments:

  1. You make a good point here, and one that's not brought up nearly enough: Rejection of the established religion does NOT equal denial of God.

    Granted, I've always had a bit of an issue with the revealed religion's entire concept of God as someone who is playing some sort of game where you have to guess that he even exists. Saint Thomas Aquinas is with me there, though: he said one of the two good reasons to argue against the concept of God is that nothing yin life REQUIRES the concept of God. It's like the old aether concept in science.

    Anyway, deism will be attacked as atheist today, so it's a tough sell. But this was really good food for thought!

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  2. Hi Katy. I agree. There's the logic that says, "If God really wants us to know he exists, why doesn't he just take over the jumbotron at the superbowl for 2 minutes?" And the response is, "God doesn't work like that. You have to have faith."

    That seems to me to be a very strange thing for a deity to do, if he/she/it truly wants us to know him/her/it. It results in a vast number of people running around mis-informed or confused. If, say, you start a complex project in your job, and it goes off the rails with different people working towards different goals, or getting seriously off-message, it's kind of important to call a meeting and say, 'Hey folks, do I need to resend the requirements doc to you?"

    You're right, the way religion is laid out for us at this time in history, it entails a deity playing a very strange game with his/her/its creation -- behavior that, in human terms, would be signs of a severe personality disorder.

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