God for Atheists

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God for Atheists

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This is written assuming that you are a skeptical Atheist, not a fundamentalist Atheist.

A true skeptic is skeptical about everything.  He questions all assumptions.  Many who call themselves skeptics are actually faithful followers of the Secular Liberal faith.  These people are not true skeptics since they never question their own beliefs.

The life of a true skeptic is harder than that of a person with faith.  A skeptic must continuously study issues to reach conclusions.  In studying a text, the skeptic will likely reject those texts that require him to accept too many assumption.  The skeptic will accept those texts that don't include many assumptions and whose conclusions are supported by known facts of science and history.

So let us consider how a skeptic would react to different belief systems.  We can start with Christianity and the New Testament.  Clearly these are not appropriate for the skeptic.  Christianity demands faith which the skeptic is unwilling to give.  And the New Testament is full of miracles that won't be accepted by the skeptic.  Next we can try Islam.  Islam makes fewer assumptions than Christianity does but it demands greater obedience.  The skeptic will not obey if he doesn't see the reason to obey.  Obedience for its own sake will not work for the skeptic.  Next we can try Rabbinic Judaism.  Here people are expected to trust the judgement of the rabbis.  A skeptic will not trust someone else's judgement, he must verify things for himself.

Now let's consider Secular Humanism/Liberalism.  History shows that this system reflects the decline of all successful cultures and anthropology shows feminist ideals (which are part of this belief system) are inversely correlated with cultural development (see "Sex and Culture" by Unwin) and finally, an understanding of evolution shows how this belief system actually causes evolutionary decay in the population.  So a true skeptic with any degree of intelligence and knowledge of science and history would be horrified by Secular Humanism/Liberalism.

Where does this leave the skeptic?  Is there any belief system or text appropriate for him?  The answer is yes, the Old Testament is the most perfect book for the skeptic.  The Old Testament makes no demands of him regarding belief.  The Old Testament is a guide to morality.  And the morality of the Old Testament is fully supported by history and science.  The simplest example of this is the success of religions based on the Old Testament.  No other text has produced so many successful cultures.  And no other text has lasted so long and is still respected by so many people.  The only explanation for this is that the Old Testament contains a moral code that makes cultures successful.

Let us consider the issues of belief in the Old Testament.  The first issue to consider is belief in God.  But to ask the question of whether one believes in God, God must be defined.  How can one talk about belief or disbelief in something if one doesn't know what that something is?  But no definition or clear description of God is provided in the Old Testament.  In fact, the opposite is true, the Old Testament carefully avoids any definition or description of God.  The Old Testament even has God bluntly refuse to define himself in this passage:

Then Moses asked God, “If I go to the Israelites and say to them: The God of your fathers has sent me to you, and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ what should I tell them?”

God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.”
Exodus 3:13-14

So what exactly does it mean to believe in this God who refuses to define himself?  One answer may be that even though God isn't defined, his actions are described in the Old Testament, so believing in God actually means believing in a literal interpretation of the Old Testament.  But there is actually no basis for this answer.  Nowhere in the Old Testament does it ask the reader to take the stories literally.  Unlike the New Testament, the Old Testament never demands faith or belief in the stories.  It doesn't even demand for belief in God himself.  It only demands that you do not worship other (immoral) gods.  The demands of the Old Testament are all moral, not demands of belief.  If you consider the time that the Old Testament was written, it was a time when fables were used to convey morality.  In fact Aesop's Fables was written at about the same time as the Old Testament was compiled.  So there is no requirement that the skeptic take the Old Testament stories literally.

Before continuing, I just want to make clear that there is no right answer as to whether the Old Testament stories should be taken literally.  If you are a person of faith, then it is reasonable for you to take the Old Testament stories literally.  But if you are skeptic, then it is reasonable for you to take some of the Old Testament stories as fables.  There is no right or wrong answer here.

Returning to the question of belief, if God isn't defined and the Old Testament stories don't have to be taken literally, what exactly is there to believe in?  Factually, not much.  But the word "belief" refers to more than just facts.  I can say "I believe in you" or "I believe in my country".  In these cases "I believe in X" does not mean that I believe in the existence of X.  It means that I support X.  The Old Testament is a book about morality with God serving as an embodiment of moral values.  So when a skeptic says "I believe in God", what he means is that he believes in the morality of the Old Testament.  When an atheist says that he doesn't believe in God, what he really means (whether he knows it or not) is that he doesn't believe in the morality of the Old Testament.

Those who are greatly concerned with truth may not be satisfied with this answer.  They can simply restate the question as "Do you believe in the existence of God?".  Since God isn't defined, a skeptic must create a definition of God in order to answer this question.  The skeptic should pick a definition that allows the answer to be "yes".  I suggest that the skeptic define God as natural law.

This definition may seem odd to some.  Some may wonder if this God, defined as natural law, is really the same God as the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim God.  In fact, people's definition of anything will vary slightly.  Two people's definition of words like "table" or "chair" will not be exactly the same.  What matters is that the important characteristics of the thing being defined match.  In the case of God, the important characteristics are the morality He represents.  The definition of the Christian God varies slightly from the Jewish and Muslim God because the Christian God is the holy trinity while the Jewish and Muslim God is not defined this way.  But this doesn't really matter because this part of the definition is not the essence of God.  The essence of God is the morality of the Old Testament, and this is shared by the God of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and the Old Testament, so all are the same God.

To better explain this view of God, here is a fictional story of my founding a religion.

To found my religion, I first wrote my holy book about the god Gravity.  Here is an excerpt:

And Gravity said "I guide the earth around the sun, and the moon around the earth.  I hold the galaxies together.  I keep the waters of the oceans in their place.  I allow the walking creatures to walk and I keep the air that they breath on earth."

Gravity said to his people "You shall love me because without me, you would not live.  You would have no air to breath and no water to drink.  At the same time, you shall fear me, for if you fall from high places, I will kill you."

Next I organized my church where each week we pray as follows:

"We thank Gravity for guiding the celestial bodies, for providing us with air and water, and for allowing us to live."

And then I went to spread the word of Gravity.  I encountered Atheist with whom I had this conversation:

Me:  Do you believe in Gravity?

Atheist:  I believe in no gods.

Me:  But don't you see how the earth is guided around the sun, and the moon around the earth, and all of the other things that Gravity does?

Atheist:  Yes I see those things, but they are done by science, not by Gravity.

Me:  But there is no contradiction between science and Gravity.  In fact Gravity is a part of science, Gravity is the force of science that does these things.

Atheist:  But in your holy book, Gravity is a god who speaks, and I cannot believe in such a god.

Me:  You are free to take my holy book as literally as you choose, but the central aspect of Gravity is what He does.  If you reject Gravity, then you are rejecting the concept of some one unified being or force that does the things that Gravity does.

Atheist:  No, I do not reject the force, I just reject your god of the force.  This in the same way that I reject Poseidon but I do not reject oceans.

Me:  But there is a difference between Gravity and Poseidon.  Poseidon is the god of the oceans, not the oceans themselves.  But Gravity is not the god of the scientific force of gravity.  Gravity is gravity itself.  The stories in my holy book, if taken literally, may attribute more traits to Gravity than gravity itself has, but the distinction between the god Gravity and the scientific force of gravity is insignificant, so by rejecting Gravity, you also reject gravity.

Atheist:  So what am I to do if I believe in gravity but not in the specifically god-like aspects of Gravity?

Me:  Do not deny Gravity.  Instead, reject Atheism and accept Gravity but simply interpret Gravity as gravity as a scientific force to be respected.

Atheist:  Okay, I accept Gravity/gravity.

In my fictional story, Gravity is a god who corresponds to the force of gravity.  If I had to go back 3000 years and explain gravity, explaining this force as a god may not be a bad idea.  This would in no way detract from the key idea that there is one unified force out there that does all these things.

The god of the Old Testament is YHWH.  This is a name.  In most translations, this is replaced with "God" or "Lord" or some other meaning which distorts the Old Testament's original intent to avoid assigning a specific meaning to YHWH.  We don't know the correct pronunciation of YHWH, so I will arbitrarily use Yehovah because I want to use a pronounceable name.  It is true that Yehovah was considered a god and that many thought of him as lord, but the fact is that Yehovah goes out of His way in the Old Testament to avoid being pigeon-holed, to avoid being defined, classified, and even named at the beginning.

Now I would like to make an analogy: the god Gravity is to the force of gravity what the god Yehovah is to the force of yehovah.  The force yehovah is just the lower-case word of the god Yehovah.  Just as with Gravity/gravity, there isn't that much of difference between Yehovah and yehovah, the only difference being one of interpretation.  So what exactly is the force yehovah?  The closest concept we have is "natural law".  And by natural law, we mean one set of laws that dictate not only the laws of science but also the laws of morality.  These laws include all the forces of physics as well as evolution and the forces that determine which moral systems work.  This means that yehovah will enforce morality by naturally destroying those societies that follow the wrong morality.

Now let's consider some of the statements in the Old Testament.  For example, yehovah is one, there are no other gods.  This means that there is only one natural law and that there are no other gods that can violate that natural law.  In fact you can read the entire Old Testament either in terms of Yehovah or yehovah and it will make just as much sense either way.

The existence of yehovah as a set of natural laws that includes a force that supports morality is as scientifically undeniable as the theory of evolution itself.  Scientists refuse to study this topic because most of them are Modernists and this conflicts with their faith.  But denying reality has repercussions.  Someone who denies gravity because they reject my holy book of Gravity may encourage people to jump off a cliff and try to fly.  Similarly, those who reject yehovah because they reject some literal Old Testament stories are effectively encouraging culture to jump off a cultural cliff into the moral abyss.

Why is yehovah undeniable?  Read my article on Human Evolution to find out.  In this article, I explain why certain morals are required to make tribes successful, and because of this, evolution ultimately supports morality.  And since yehovah is basically the same as Yehovah who is God, and since yehovah exists, a skeptic can say with confidence that God exists.