Those who have the capacity to think for themselves, yet refuse to do so, whether it’s because of religion, politics, or allegiance to a military or state, are wasting their minds. If you are not willing to question everything, including yourself, and the paradigm you live in, you are not truly thinking, you are following. You aren’t going to learn anything truly useful until you can get into this mindset.
From my studies, I have come to the conclusion that the assertion that God is clearly revealed is much like the assertion that the Emperor really is wearing clothes. It is a false assertion designed to use our fear of looking stupid and ignorant to bring us into line. The fact is, that if a god actually did choose to reveal himself through the Bible (or nature for that matter), he had a very odd way of going about it. It’s almost like he was trying to make us think that it was a book written by men for political ends, what with the pseudepigrapha and later editing out of details (The Hebrews were originally polytheistic and Jehovah was a synthesis of two different gods from two different Canaanite pantheon, for example) that would mess with the narrative that they were promoting. He also seems to have gone to a lot of trouble to cover up his role in nature. To paraphrase Sam Harris, I would challenge anyone to think of a question that we once had a scientific answer for, however inadequate, but that the best answer is now a religious one. Things that religion explains are just things that we don’t understand through science yet, but it doesn’t work the other way around. We used to be afraid of thunder, and we thought it was something supernatural, now we don’t anymore.
My whole journey to atheism started because I wanted to be a better Christian. I was making sure that I was ready to give a defense to anyone who asked, like in 1 Peter. As I studied more about the Bible, its history, and its theology (all from Christian sources, I might add), I realized that I was keeping myself in a box. A thought box. There were certain places that my mind had been trained not to go. As a Christian, you can explore different theological ideas (within boundaries), but you can never truly allow yourself to look at the possibility that Christianity itself might be wrong. The core theology underlying the different creeds may not be questioned. The only way that these ideas may be examined is for the purpose of building up the bulwarks around them. When I hit this wall, I realized that there was something wrong. These ideas should be able to hold up to the weight of scrutiny, and the burden of evidence. If not, why should I believe them?
Once I realized this, and started truly examining these tenants, I quickly realized that they did not meet their burden. Once this occurred, it wasn’t too long before I finally rejected it. I stand by this decision, and I would assert that faith’s purpose is to keep you satisfied with not knowing. Why would you seek out the real answers to the big questions (eg: Why are we here?) if you have faith in an “infallible” book that already gives you those answers? Why would you trust what science has to say if it contradicts your preconceived notions?
Let me just close with a quote by Marcus Aurelius, “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”
This is how I want to live my life. Not cowering in fear of hellfire as some do. Not limiting my thoughts to a box of topics as set by religious beliefs. I refuse to be satisfied with not knowing. I will not give up my mind for the uncertain promise of a reward in the hereafter. I don’t know if the conversations about what is True, what is Just, and what is Beautiful and Noble will continue after I die, but those are the conversations I want to be having while I am still here, and I want others to desire these things as well. If I am not doing these things now, while I am still alive, then I should not expect to do them once I die, if that is even a possibility. I would hope that you would join me in this journey of discovery, wherever you might be now.