What follows is most of an email I sent to a friend today. I’ve talked about my very-nearly-reversal on faith/religion before. When I read this again, though, I decided that it’s pretty close to the best job I’ve ever done explaining my position (particularly to an audience of believers). So, I decided to post it on my web log (which, probably most importantly, syndicates to my Facebook page). This will likely be a big ol’ batch of “knew that already” to most people, but I think there’s good info there for people who are sincerely curious.
Keep in mind that I (as always) reserve the right to do anything I damned well please to any content that shows up on my blog. That being said, you can probably tell that me and said friend don’t agree. I’m posting this anyway, though. I’m quite tolerant of dissenting viewpoints, as long as my impression is that those beliefs are being shared for some purpose other than simply to show me that I’m “wrong” (and/or to explain what’s “right”). Newsflash: I already agree that I don’t know everything, and I think that’s the biggest thing that’s happened to me since I was a card-carrying believer: I’m okay with not knowing.
The point of this isn’t to convince anyone to change his/her mind. The point is to clearly and plainly express my own beliefs.
Okay. disclaimer out of the way. I’m going to quote from the email now. I won’t be using the “blockquote” tag, because that apparently prevents me from being able to italicize text.
I’m struggling quite hard right now with my past assertion that I have no desire to change your mind. I’ve realized that’s not completely true. What is true is that I don’t relish the thought of creating conflict. I realize there is such a thing as “healthy debate”, but that depends on both parties being willing to be convinced to change their own minds. While that’s technically true for me, the kind of argument that would convince me is something that I think every believer would say, “isn’t the way God works”.
Also, please understand that the text below is not intended as an “attack”. It’s merely the only way I know how to express what I believe in the presence of the huge “gulf” between me and a believer.
According to them, it’s a case of me not being willing to believe what they think is obvious. My mind goes back to Mandy Patinkin‘s line (as “Inigo Montoya”) in The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” While I completely agree that it’s possible for someone to “refuse to see” something that’s “obvious” to most people, the thing they refer to as “obvious” invariably requires an interpretation which depends on an already-existing belief in God. Basically, the things they identify as reasons for believing in God are dependent upon a belief in God. I’ll take “circular logic” for $1000, Alex. I think that the primary problem is that my state of non-belief isn’t remotely similar to what most believers are used to dealing with. We live in a world where my belief in a creator is all but assumed, and my background as a former Christian makes that even more likely. I try to be like someone who has no prior knowledge of God (mostly because I have no reason [other than the desire for comfort] to believe in what I was taught), and I’m very skeptical about any “truths” which do not flow directly from things I can observe myself.
As a matter of fact, every believer that has been willing to talk to me on that level has said (in effect) that there is no such evidence. They’ve said that belief in God requires a “leap” beyond the logical. My opinion is that someone who created my brain and is “all-knowing” should know what would convince me. The fact that I haven’t experienced anything that convinces me of such a being’s existence says that 1) I’m incredibly unobservant, 2) that being doesn’t exist, or 3) that being has specifically chosen not to reveal him/her/itself to me. I think my life so far has been a demonstration that 1) isn’t true. If it’s 3), then this being is such an incredible asshole that I don’t want anything to do with him/her/it. The resulting action is also equivalent to 2) being true. Finally, 2) is also the simpler answer, so I choose it.
So, what that “translates to” for most believers is an unwillingness to be convinced. If you don’t see it that way, then I would be quite willing to continue the conversation.