See, the thing about God is that I can’t believe he’s actually that interested in us. If he did indeed create the entire universe, why would he be any more bothered about one species in one place in one time than the inventor of bread is about an individual grain of flour in my toast? And surely he’s got more to worry about than whether people with matching danglies fall in love, or whether people choose to call him Allah, Brahman or simply God?
There are many arguments for God’s existence and many atheist responses – I’m not going to rehash them all here. Similarly, the ‘Problem of Evil’ has been discussed for millennia and I’m not arrogant enough to think that I’ve a new perspective, so I’ll leave that alone too. What I do feel like putting out there, however, is this – why do we as a species feel we need this God character in our lives? What does he bring? (Incidentally, my lack of capitalisation on ‘he’ is deliberate but not intentionally disrespectful. The masculine third person pronoun is not capitalised under any other circumstance and since I’m fairly certain there’s no God I shan’t be dismissing the conventions of the English language just yet.)
I have heard many people over the years trot out the view that religion causes wars. To paraphrase the gun campaigners I would respond that religion doesn’t cause wars, people cause wars. What this easy dig also fails to acknowledge is that religion can be a force for good too, encouraging charity, forgiveness and love. That said, I think there are plenty of charitable, forgiving and loving atheists or agnostics out there; in fact I think there’s a case to be made that to embody these virtues without the motivation of eternal reward is closer to that pinnacle of desired behaviours – altruism – than the consequence-driven behaviour of the theist.
Searching for meaning and purpose can also lead people to God. In the greater scheme of things, most people’s lives are insignificant; this seems to be something with which many people struggle to come to terms, though personally it doesn’t trouble me. To give a sense of purpose, theists often like to set themselves the goal of getting into heaven or attaining a good rebirth. Allowing your life to be given its goal solely by what may happen when it is over seems as illogical as going to the cinema and taking no notice of the film because you’re preoccupied by the chance of finding a winning lottery ticket on the bus on the way home. Perspective is key here – your life may be insignificant in the context of a 14 billion year old universe but seen through the eyes of those whose opinion you actually lose sleep over, your life probably occupies a more prominent position.
I have always labelled myself an atheist (a position which arguably requires as much faith as theism) and I headed this blog ‘agnostic’ but I think my true position is better expressed in the Buddhist view that whether or not God exists is just not that important. I try to live by the Golden Rule (capitalised that one) and value the present as much as the future. I share values with many religious people, I just got to them via a different route – does this make me less ‘good’? I find it hard to believe that God would care.