Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Belief in God is impossible in two ways

When I was a believing Christian, I wondered why it was that it wasn't obvious to nonbelievers that God is real. I figured that it must be that they were biased and dishonest. For some reason, they didn't want to believe in God. I thought of Romans 1, where Paul talks about how the people who don't follow God deny that God is obvious because they 'became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened'.

From Boğaziçi, Asia, New Year

When I stopped believing in God, many of my believing friends thought that there were only bad reasons for not believing in God, that people who don't believe in God don't believe because they are dishonest and biased. These friends had different theories as to why I doubted. Some thought that I was confused and going through a phase and figuring things out, but, at this point, my doubt doesn't look like a mere phase. Some thought I just didn't have enough information, but I've read stacks of books. Some thought it was in response to some suffering that I'd experienced that I was blaming God for, but I can imagine a good God that allows hangnails and horrible professors to exist (I have a big imagination).

This is doubly painful. I feel pain because I want God to be real but he doesn't seem real. Hurt is piled on top of that when my believing friends think that I don't believe in God because, at my core, I don't want to.

One reason why people don't believe in God is because people are small, in a petty sort of way. Another reason is that God is big, in a perplexing sort of way.

Five words into the Bible, 'In the beginning, God created', good theologians give up theology as a job and become truck drivers or moms or professors. If God is perfect, why did he create something imperfect? If God is perfect, why would he create anything at all? Christianity teaches that creation is under God and in God, but it is not God, and that's a flat logical contradiction. It's not a seeming paradox, such that if we attain some sort of heavenly enlightenment, the doctrine of creation will make logical sense; we might believe it more easily with more enlightenment, but it won't ever make sense.

For things that are very impossible, very strong evidence of very impossible things is required. I need more than second-hand stories about someone thinking that God told them something or cancer going into remission or a bag of groceries being left on a doorstep in a time of need. These things might be unlikely, but God existing is less likely, if we're talking about the sort of God that's worth believing in at all.


  1. I want to see miracles
    To see the world change
    Wrestled the angel
    For more than a name
    For more than a feeling
    For more than a cause
    I'm singing,
    Spirit, take me up in arms with You
    And You're raising the dead in me

    - "24", Switchfoot

  2. mildly off topic - or perhaps not so...in that stack of books, what of Leibniz' work have you read/are you reading? I bring this up, because his theory is that this is the "Greatest of All Possible Worlds" - my information came secondhand through Norman Geisler, so I'm assuming that G.W. Leibniz' reasoning was a little bit more thorough.

    Something to add to the conversation - you're asking good questions and I honestly don't know where you'll end up in your search, but I pray the best for you in it

  3. I have no inclination to read Leibniz, having read Candide. (A character in Candide is a satire of Leibniz. Perhaps an unfair one.)

    Obviously, we live in the best world that we live in. My little sister is the worst little sister I've ever had, but she's the only little sister I've ever had.

    I'm not sure what Leibniz is saying on top of that, but I don't care for metaphysics at all. I have the impression that Leibniz either is stating the obvious, or that what he's saying is only meaningful in a context that I'm already having too much trouble relating to.

    Josiah, thanks for thinking seriously about these things with me. I know you're asking good questions too, and am glad for your camaraderie.