Monday, January 14, 2013

Does God Exist? Why I Don't Care.

This was written for a family member determined to bring me back into the fold of believers (where I may still be: I am not precisely certain what tokens of "real faith" I lack; the only crimes I can find in my behavior seem like virtues to me, e.g. I refuse to say that I think as I do not, and I remain open to polite discussion with believers and atheists of all stripes alike--and find much to appreciate among individuals on both sides of all these arguments).

The deity I believe in doesn't need me to believe in it.  It doesn't care what I think, about anything.  It knows (as I am slowly coming to realize) that thoughts are just limited impressions (faithful impressions at best, but even then they are never going to tell you "the truth" about the way things are).  I haven't decided I don't need god(s), since any gods out there don't care what I decide (and my decision would be silly: why would I make such a decision?  I haven't decided that we are the only life-forms in the universe either, or that I am never going to eat toast no matter what happens).  Worldviews are diametrically opposed, but the world isn't.  It is just there, being what it is, no matter what rubbish anybody thinks about it.  I don't believe in any worldview whole-heartedly.  I think they all have their merits and demerits, as indexes to the world (which is more real than any of them will ever be).  I like using them when they help me and avoiding them when they hurt me (in real life: I am about living more than I am about developing a blueprint for life). 

I live my life based in faith (trust, confidence, experience), the same as every other person I have ever met (as far as I can tell).  I trust some people more than others.  I trust some stories more than others sometimes, too, but I don't have an unshakable commitment to any story.  They are all true and false, in my eyes.  The answer to the question, "Is there a god?" is really "Why should I care?"  From there you get on to the practical things that God's existence is supposed to entail.  As long as God's existence entails me doing things consonant with my integrity, then I am happy to call myself his friend.  When his existence begins requiring me to sin against my honor, however, I become his enemy.  I don't care whether he exists or not.  (Of course reality exists!  God is just another word for reality.  Richard Dawkins is a fool waging a crusade against Santa because he cannot understand Christmas.  Unfortunately, many people who love Christmas seem to be just as shallow and silly as he is: they think defending Christmas from his idiotic onslaught requires proving that there really is a Santa like the one he imagines.  Gah!  The whole charade makes me alternately sick with disgust and giddy with mirth.  People are so dumb!  But such is life, I guess.)

I don't love my family because somebody has come up with a mathematical equation proving to me that they exist (for reals).  The god I believe in is like you (personally): he doesn't care (or even know) what scientists and theologians are doing with their little games, cheap parlor-tricks that have somehow become so expensive in recent times.  Anyone can believe whatever nonsense he pleases about the gods, and they don't care.  They just do their god thing, and let us do our human one (until our time runs out).  The point is to be a good person, not to know the truth about gods--which is unknowable, especially if divinity is really the uncreated, inaccessible mystery that some people want it to be: I am open to experiencing the company of a being who isn't there the way we are, but how would that happen, really?  How would I experience something so outside my experience?  If the answer is that I do it by believing in the literal truth of bed-time stories, then I have to laugh.  I simply cannot do that.  Assuming he exists, God would understand.  I love you, not because of theories or arguments or some such claptrap, but because I know you, personally and intimately, in a way that circumvents all arguments and evidence and nonsense.  I will always love you, even if at some point in time you don't exist.  Existing is not the point.  Arguments over existence mean very little to me any more.  They are a bunch of sound and fury, signifying nothing except the small-mindedness of those who take them too seriously.


  1. "We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."

    If that were all that was required to be a faithful Latter-day Saint, I might still be a member of the SLC Church. A real Christian, or even a real Mormon, is one who seeks after the good, without necessarily defining what "the good" is. Joseph Smith said Mormon simply means "more good".

    I think my God is more personal than the God you envision, but perhaps that is beside the point. The point is that you and I are "nothing", "empty"--asking questions rather than assuming we have all the answers. How can one grow spiritually, mentally, emotionally, etc., if he is already "full"? That is the crux of the issue.

    I have no dogmas, no rigid conclusions, but rather I am an entertainer of thoughts and ideas. The LDS Church, on the other hand, will supply you with a set of conclusions and guarantees--which is ironically all Lucifer had to offer in the Temple narrative. This is a group of people that think entrance into heaven is contingent upon abstaining from coffee, tea, beer, and profanity. Many people who leave the LDS Church are anti-Mormons in much the same black and white way that they were Mormons. Some of us, however, just grew up and realized we were no longer welcome.

    1. "Some of us just grew up and realized we were no longer welcome." That is exactly how it feels to me. I didn't lose faith. I lost a little bad theology, a little poor reasoning that I trotted out as a kid when people asked me why I believed and I felt a rhetorical response was necessary (because I was told it was). But that is not faith. Faith and doubt are fundamentally the same thing, I think. I can have doubts about a friend even as I trust him (faithfully) to do the right thing (maybe I doubt that his understanding of right coincides perfectly with mine; that does not destroy my faith in his integrity).

      The god I believe in exists outside reasons I might give for or against his existence. In my life, he does not speak with clear moral directives applying broadly across all contexts, among all people everywhere (regardless of time and circumstance). How can I proclaim the truth I do not know, the life I do not live, the faith that I do not have? How can I cheapen my faith, making it a rhetorical proposition (something liable to be knocked down tomorrow or even ten minutes from now when some new words come to me)? Real faith is not about words. And yet the LDS church (and some other churches too) continues to make it more and more about words, which means that deeds fall by the wayside (and masturbating somehow becomes equivalent to rape--such absurdity!). The modern church is a church of words, and mine just don't belong, so I don't go. But that doesn't mean that I have nothing to say, that I am worthless, that I should erase the messages God has given to me and pretend that he told me whatever people want to hear. To do that would be to betray my faith truly and utterly, perhaps irredeemably. That is denying the Holy Spirit, as near as I can tell, and I don't need any institution to warn me off of it: the mere thought of doing it makes me sick to my stomach (as I often felt during the last year I attended church meetings regularly; since then, I have moved on, and over Christmas I was able to attend LDS meetings without feeling bad at all! that made me happy).