Thursday, 27 June 2013

Letter to an old friend

An old friend messaged me the other day asking me why I'm no longer an atheist and how my faith was a sharp turn from when he knew me. Below is my response:

The sharp turn was very sudden really. It took them (my church) less than two months to convert me back in 2011. At the time it was mainly the aspects of morality and how corrupt mine was that convinced me. They taught me that some of my behaviour was wrong and instinctively I knew it was wrong because realistically it wasn't any different from what a good parent would tell a teenager. And while it was wrong there was exemption for that behaviour if I was to follow and trust in the teachings of this old book. But it wasn't just an old book written by some crackpot, it was multiple books written by many different authors over thousands of years, and while the style changed significantly, the underlying message was consistent. A book that tells of an extraterrestrial with unlimited power, and while the idea of extra terrestrials is generally accepted as scientifically plausible, the people that say they encounter them in whatever form are laughed at because they cannot support it with experimental scientific evidence. The books says that extraterrestrial sent us a human rescuer to show us what he had done for us, why he had done it, and how amazing the gift of that rescuer was. He was sent to take the punishment that we deserve for the crimes that we commit.

Through their behaviour towards me and towards each other they demonstrated that what this book teaches was true, by following specifically the teachings of this special person that did nothing wrong. They taught me that we were instructed to care for each other and to care for strangers, to feed the hungry, to look after our families, to live our lives selflessly instead of selfishly and most of all spread this knowledge to others so they too would understand and believe it.

They also demonstrated that this extra terrestrial with unlimited power could be communicated with directly, that He could be known to us directly and we could develop a personal relationship with him. They were effectively able predict the future through this communication. It became harder and harder to believe what they call in psychology "attentional bias", the theory that we attribute too much interest in certain events when they're really just a series of coincidences. Rationally concluding these to be a continual series of coincidences became far too unlikely for me to accept especially since they were being predicted so readily.

Despite all this, I had to overcome two major hurdles to join in this belief. The first being the years of exposure to misinformation spread deliberately about this book and the people that believe it, and the exposure to people that mix the book with their own ideas. The second being my strong trust in specific scientific theories such as the big bang theory and the theory of evolution.

Richard Dawkins spends a lot of his time in an effort to defend some of the scientific theories that he trusts in by actively attacking this book and the people that follow the teachings of it. It is now commonplace in our culture to be taught from a very early age that followers of this book are gullible, powerless, delusional, uneducated and illiterate. I find it amusing now the idea that there are people that follow the teachings of a book without having the ability to read that book.

These are our not our ideas though, they are taught to us by people that want to put forward their ideas instead. We are taught unsubstantiated ideas like this book is full of contradictions and that it has scientific inaccuracies. What isn't taught however is where these contradictions are and where these scientific inaccuracies are, because their aren't any. When pressed for specific examples of contradictions or inaccuracies they cannot name them. We are taught that is a good idea to have these attitudes while at the same time to be wilfully ignorant of this book. We are taught that religion is the cause of all war, and while the book documents some historical wars it's message is one of peace and love. Of course we are taught that because of all the other religions, the ones that are based on the idea that we can somehow work towards attaining rewards for acts done here on earth, some of those acts include murder. We are also taught that words that are held with respect in this book are in fact curses. The terms God, Bible, and Jesus Christ are tainted by the world we live in. The phrases "Oh my God!" and "Jesus Christ!" generally considered expletives in most people's vocabulary. The Bible itself has a bad name because a lot of people take it deliberately out of context to manipulate people into doing things for them, usually for money or for power. Getting over the fact that these aren't curses but are real names in English at least is something that it took me some time to overcome.

We are also taught that speculative theories like the big bang theory and the theory of evolution are absolute facts, and that people that do not trust in them are ignorant, uneducated fools and should be laughed at. Just because a theory has general consensus with peer reviewed scientists it doesn't necessarily make it fact, just the most agreed upon by the scientific elite. While they are based on repeatable scientific experimental knowledge they are still theoretical and unprovable. The big bang theory for instance is based mainly around observations of the universe, general relativity and the Doppler effect. The problem is that by their own admission general relativity doesn't explain the universe on a very small scale, and they have another theory of quantum mechanics that deals with the very small scale. These two theories are completely incompatible, effectively making general relativity as a theory while being useful for things like GPS technology is fundamentally flawed when dealing with large scale problems like the nature of the universe. Indeed general relativity doesn't work when faced with trying to explain the very beginning of the universe and quantum mechanics has to be used to explain it. There are other major issues that mean wild speculations have to be put in place to support this theory, like the idea of dark matter, which has no evidence at all outside of speculative mathematics.

Ultimately I do not claim to understand what God is. I don’t really have a good understanding or comprehension of a lot of these metaphysical theological terms like soul, or Holy Spirit, or of Heaven or of Hell. Indeed this is why we need the human image of Jesus Christ for us to begin to understand God. I think of God as an “extraterrestrial” because that is my best way of understanding Him. But then, I don’t have to because that is not my motivation in being a Christian. My motivation hasn’t changed from when I was an atheist. I’m still motivated by the ideal that should strive us as intelligent rational beings. Simply, we strive for the betterment of mankind. The only difference now is the method by which I achieve that. For most of my life I was under the impression that the betterment of mankind is through the pursuit, development and consumption of man created technology, and while it does help us in the west mainly to live more comfortably, it itself is not the answer. Life is wasted by obsessively following the consumerism of the modern technology. It is sitting in front of the TV watching Big Brother with a microwaved ready meal and a can of beer. So many people, I was amongst them, are plagued with the suffering of living an empty and unsatisfying life and end up trying desperately to fill the hole with alcohol or drugs or junk food or junk sex. They are all temporary pleasures and constantly have to be pursued. This is the detrimental behaviour from the psychologically damaging belief that there is no God. Atheism is the delusion. Christ shows us a better way, and I speak through experience that real Christians are happy, well adjusted and at peace. Showing love toward each other and towards strangers is something virtually non existent in a life without God. Christians are from my experience rational, intelligent, and have complete free will in their choices. Before I was a Christian I was constantly angry and miserable. Now I am constantly happy and content. The evidence for the truth in the Bible is not in the words nor the scientific ideas, it is in the fact that life is simply better when following Christ.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Children

My pastor tweeted the other day that he cannot imagine what a parent goes through when they lose a child. Speaking from experience there is no greater grief than the suffering of losing your own child. I have in the past been both resentful and grateful that I never got to meet my child. God gave us children to raise them. To nurture them, to love them, to pass on our knowledge and experience and ideals to another generation. The parent’s suffering and loss and grief and pain and anger is the same, no matter what age the child is, be it 2 months old, or 50 years old, or even still in the womb. The life that is lost to us is still the same. The experience of the joys and pleasures of this wonderful world that God created for us is tragically cut short for that person. All the hopes and dreams that you pass on to your child’s future are severed. There will be no future for them, not in this world at least.

How easy it is to blame God for such loss. How could a loving God do this to us as parents? Lest we forget that God has suffered that loss Himself. He knew before even His Son was even born that He was destined to be slaughtered for our sin. And how much greater is God’s love for His Son than our love for our children. If God’s love is universal, and His wraith wipes out every living person on this planet bar one family, how much greater is God’s grief for the death of His Son? How hard was it for Him to hear the words, “Eli Eli lama sabachthani”? I doubt that any of us as potential parents would be willing to go ahead with a conception if we knew that our innocent child would eventually become a sacrifice for the sake of other people's crimes. But God knew this and He still went ahead and let it happen! How great His love is for us!