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Dear Believers in God,
You and I know that, the belief in the existence of God is not down to how many times he has showed up in his physical form or how often we have been able to communicate with him. The belief in God is down to a summation of various events, lessons and experiences that have led to the maintenance of the notion that there is a God after all. This however, does not take away the rather sad fact that there are many of us who have grown to believe that God exists, not out of our own freewill but because of circumstances. The trouble is not in the process through which one gets to believe that God exists but in the eventual refusal to actually validate the existence of God to oneself. Many of us believers have grown up believing God exists and we even appear to pray to him unaware that we are simply following in the footsteps of others and we are not exactly curving out our own reasons for belief.
It is all well and good that many of us believers have been blessed to grow up in God-fearing families with our parents teaching us the values of believing in and praying to God. However, it would be more beneficial if we made the personal realization and discovery that God does exists having set aside all traditional or enforced beliefs handed down to us from authorities and families.
Very many people claim to believe in God having been pushed by circumstances, history, acquaintances, the environment, troubles, hearsay and all sorts of reasons. Very few have actually taken the time to conceptualize and create a basis for their belief in God. If I believe in God because my father is a Church elder, then I may as well be regarded a non-believer because after all, my belief is channelled through and is dependant upon my father. In the event that he is no more or for some reason unavailable to keep holding my hand, my belief will be shaken or even shattered without a doubt. However, if my belief in God emerges from conclusions I have personally drawn and observations I have made on my own, my faith will probably be rock solid. True, my faith may and will often be put to test but the chances that I can weather the storm are higher if my faith is founded on principles that I personally visualize and not on principles that someone else set up for me.
It is my hope that believers in the existence of God (irrespective of their faiths i.e, Muslims, Orthodox, Protestants, Born Agains e.t.c) begin to have belief in God and defend their positions based on personal conclusions. Each person does have the ability to analyse the question of God’s existence on their own; after all, I believe God did not create us with powerful minds just to have these minds believe without questioning. Having belief that is independently rooted in some other people or authority can be very dangerous especially since others are susceptible to changing goal posts or even twisting issues to suit their own needs. This probably explains why some people use faith based arguments to front their desire for terrorism and other inhuman activities carried out in the name of God. Aside from the fact that it tarnishes one’s faith in the eyes of the rest of the world, it also creates a huge problem for such a believer in case they were asked to present a logical and well thought out argument for their belief in God. They would start scampering around looking for arguments previously presented by other people and this lends credence to the argument that they probably believe in a God they do not even know personally.
I may not be able provide physical evidence that God exists or to offer some sort of script documenting the conversations me and my God have had, however, I know well enough not to use my emotions and sentiments when arguing or debating with atheists. Besides, when I stand on my two feet and say I believe in the existence of God, I offer my argument based on what I have personally experienced or what I think is my reason for belief. I do not offer arguments based on what some other person or authority says. Every once in a while I may reference or quote someone else but overall, I offer my argument based on my own conclusion and not someone else’s conclusion on my behalf. This principle, I imagine, is what belief in God should be founded on because only then shall we be able to talk to atheists with level-headedness and only then shall we appreciate and cherish our own belief in God.
One of the problems that atheists tend to have with us believers (and I totally understand them here) is that many believers tend to argue as if we own exclusive rights to the deity that is God. Maybe we do, because after all, we are the custodians of the argument for the existence of God, are we not? However, many a time, our arguments are half baked, botched and extremely shallow. Sometimes I see or hear my fellow believers offering arguments to atheists and I almost hide my face in shame. We as believers are fond of making submissions with the anticipation that the other person should (must) understand and agree with our stand point right away and without much question. And this probably explains why atheists are quick to claim that many of us believers are arrogant, perpetually in denial and somewhat aloof. Many times, this degenerates into a worthless argument …
…more often than not, we even end up exchanging words that tend to feel like (and in many cases turn into) actual blows.
When holding an argument with an atheist, instead of conceding that we may be short on valid arguments at certain moments, we as believers instead go ahead to explode into a series of uncoordinated responses that often lead one to conclude that maybe, after all, the believer’s arguments are unworthy of audience.
I have had the honour of debating and arguing with several atheists about the question of the existence of God but one thing that I have noticed over time is that the more you present a calm, collected and well articulated argument, the better your chances of putting your point across (if any). I may not be able to make the atheist convert and start believing in the existence of God but I will give them reason to agree that maybe even as a believer, my thinking cap is not lost or misplaced. True, I am often offended that my God is being belittled and treated as some illusion but I understand that if someone does not believe in my God, they are likely to use the most demeaning words – that I know and try not to kill anyone over it. Therefore the chances that I will lose my temper are minimal because the key to holding a logical argument or debate is to allow oneself to understand the other person’s argument no matter how divergent their views may seem.
Over the years, there have been fundamental issues raised by both the atheists and theists pertaining to the question of the existence of God. And it is these fundamental issues that have given rise to continued debate between the atheists and theists. However on more occasions than I can remember, I have come across an atheist and a believer failing to respect each other and instead have their argument degenerate into some kind of argument about who is sharper or more intelligent than the other…
…its almost as if they are trying to see whose brain is more superior.
I therefore have two simple appeals to make to believers. The first and probably most important is that you ought to believe in God not because your parents pushed you to or because you studied in a school that was run by believers and so the belief in God was taught to you by teachers. Belief in God is supposed to be felt, experienced and lived voluntarily and not taught or enforced. It may be true that freethinking calls for one to be inclined to forms one’s own opinions rather than depend upon authority, especially about social and religious issues; exhibiting boldness of speculation. However I believe this should work for the believer as well. The traditional freethinker will probably question my application of freethinking to the belief in God but I am insistent that the two can and should be married together because only then will believers start to be more logical and in turn benefit from their belief in God.
My second and final appeal is that when we are arguing with atheists or even doing the bare minimums of spreading the word, let us desist from condemning the non-believers. Let us try to keep calm heads and offer arguments with level headedness. That way, not only shall we attempt to live by example, we shall also end up appearing organised and well grounded in our belief (never mind the fact that we may have our own personal doubts and insufficiencies). Do not lose your temper as you talk about or put up a case for your belief in God …
…If you do not get a grip on your anger and temper, you could wind up turning into a savage warrior.
I end this letter with a quote from one of my favourite playwrights of all time; a namesake as well – George Bernard Shaw
The moment we want to believe something, we suddenly see all the arguments for it, and become blind to the arguments against it ~ George Bernard Shaw
Chew on that fellow theists; otherwise, God Bless all of you.
Yours in belief,
The Talkative Rocker
The Talkative Rocker is a member of the Freethought Kampala Facebook group. He is a Christian.
[Originally posted at: The WORKZINE]
The Freethinkers’ Initiative of Kenya are organising a discussion on the topic of the existence of ‘God’, to take place this weekend.
According to Wikipedia, Jesus Camp is:
… a 2006 American documentary film directed by Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing about a charismatic Christian summer camp, where children spend their summers learning and practicing their prophetic gifts and being taught that they can "take back America for Christ."
This film raises interesting questions about the ethics of indoctrinating children, who, one could argue, are too young to provide informed consent about whether or not they would want to partake of religion – be it the religion of their parents. There are some who have even suggested that indoctrinating children is tantamount to child abuse:
On the other hand, good parenting is often thought to be the act of instilling values and morals into children so that they can grow up to be responsible human beings. If those values and morals are part and parcel of a religious worldview, then it seems almost inevitable that children will have to be taught the tenets of the religion that incorporates those values and morals.
If this is the case, then is the issue one of the degree of indoctrination?
Maybe all of this is irrelevant. After all, would it not be a violation of the parent’s right to freedom of worship, for them to be denied the right to impart to their children the tenets of the faith they subscribe to? Many religious people, in fact, believe that it is their mandate from their ‘God’ to instruct their children in the ways of the faith. Are they justified? Or should parents wait until the child is 18 and is able to provide consent, or make her or his own informed choice about which path to follow – even if it ends up being a path that the parents disapprove of?
Let’s watch the movie, then discuss!
The June 2012 Freethinkers’ Night will take place on Thursday, 28th June, at 4 Points Bar & Restaurant (now called SPICE GARDEN), Centenary Park, Kampala, starting 6PM. Entrance is FREE.
If you are an open minded person whose opinions are formed on the basis of science, logic, and reason and are interested in meeting like-minded individuals – you are more than welcome to join us.
I dug up some photographs from my recent trip to the UK. I thought I’d share with you some interesting things I saw in the city of Cardiff while I was there.
From afar it looked like a church:
Closer inspection revealed that it was actually a shop!
Care for Durex condoms? No problem…
…just check right below the hookah (sheesha pipe).
This shop actually used to be a Presbyterian Church, once upon a time. People stopped going, and it got sold off.
Now it’s a shop.
Many thanks to Andy Thomson, Trustee of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, for donating to us 2 signed copies of his latest book “Why We Believe in God(s) – A Concise Guide To The Science of Faith.”
Petitionary prayer, put simply, is a type of prayer where a believer specifically asks ‘God’ to intervene in a situation and change the course of events.
Here is a nice response by a person called Wilstar in the comments section of the article “Governors Urged to Observe National Day of Prayer, Ignore Threats” appearing the Christian Post online, with regards to the apparent futility of petitionary prayer:
Petitionary prayer can’t work anyway and I can prove it. Not by relying on empirical evidence, which also shows that prayer doesn’t work, but by the bible itself. It goes like this: Christians claim that God has a divine plan. The bible also says that the will of God will be done. His divine plan is consistent with his will. So if you pray for something that is already God’s will, the prayer will be answered, but even if you had not prayed for it it would be done if it is the will of God, Regardless of your prayer, God’s will will be done, so why pray? Does prayer change God’s mind? It can’t if God has a divine plan, unless he changes His divine plan, and if he does that for prayer, then his plan is totally capricious. Therefore, prayer doesn’t work by the rules of the bible.
The notion of petitionary prayer does indeed contradict any idea of the omniscience of ‘God’. It is strange that most Christians do not realise this. Their philosophers, however, do recognise that there are serious problems with it:
There is certainly something very strange about the idea of God changing his mind. As God is omniscient, every decision that he makes he makes in light of all of the facts; there cannot arise any new information that God failed to take into account that might cause him to revise his decision. God, then, should never change his mind.
This means that telling God of our needs and asking him to meet them is a waste of time; God is fully aware both of our needs and of our desires, and will have taken them into account in making his original decision. Whatever decision he has made, whether it is in our favour or not, we should not question; our judgement as to what God should do will surely be inferior to his, and so we should let him get on with doing what he is going to do.
It therefore seems that Christians ought not to pray petitionary prayers. Prayers of worship and adoration are understandable, of course, but requests for divine intervention seem to be futile; whatever God is going to do he will do, whatever he is not he will not. Our prayers won’t change that.
So petitionary prayer is a waste of time!
…not that there’s any good reason to think a ‘God’ even exists, in the first place.
Religion and politics have always been intricately linked…
‘Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful’ ~ Seneca (5 BCE – 65 CE)
‘Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet’ ~ Napoleon (1769 – 1821)
Throughout history, monarchs, governments, and politicians of all stripes have used religion as a tool for controlling the masses. There is something about religion that makes it ideal as a tool of manipulation. Perhaps part of this ‘something’ lies in the religious texts themselves? Let’s see…
Christianity, for one, openly advocates for unquestioning obedience to those in authority.
Romans 13:1-2 says:
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
But what happens if the person in who is the ‘governing authority’ is a brutal dictator, such as Adolf Hitler?
A Youtuber called ProfMTH has a wonderful video illustrating this conundrum:
So if Romans 13:1-2 is to be believed, it means all Christian believers must accept whatever rulers they get, no matter how cruel, ruthless, or corrupt they are… for they were put there by ‘God’, and to rebel against them is to rebel against what ‘God’ has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgement on themselves.
Then of course there’s that whole thing about giving to Caesar…
Many monarchies in Europe during the Middle Ages sustained their power by claiming that they were divinely chosen to rule over the rest.
The Qur’an instructs Muslims to obey those who have been ‘given authority’, in addition to ‘God’ and the ‘Apostle’. Qur’an 4:59 says:
‘O believers! Obey God and obey the Apostle and those who have been given authority [uulaa al-amr] among you’
As executor of the will of ‘God’:
In a previous post I said of religion…
…the most widely practiced forms of it (i.e. Judaism, Christianity & Islam) claim to derive inspiration from a divine being whose prescriptions for life are believed to be absolute. Further, acting in service of this being by preserving, propagating, and enforcing its absolute prescriptions for life, is seen by most who subscribe to these religions as the greatest possible act of virtue. There is therefore very little room for debate in resolving differences in opinion on these ‘absolute’ prescriptions for life, and it is easy to see how hostility or violence ensues when these differing opinions cross paths.
By portraying himself/herself as a leader acting to enforce ‘God’s absolute prescriptions for society, a leader (in a highly religious society) can usually expect to face minimal public resistance to otherwise questionable actions he or she may decide to undertake – and some cases, even receive overwhelming support for them.
Religion is an effective tool for control… one that fosters blind loyalty to authority – which is why throughout human history, it has tended to go hand in hand with politics.
A nice response in the comments section of the article " As I didn’t say to the archbishop" appearing the Guardian online:
For as long as people feel the need to believe in a crutch, there will be those out there who don’t; that those who don’t no longer have to fear retribution, persecution and blackballing for our views is a good thing. If you’re unhappy that we find your ideas so contemptible, find new ideas, or accept that your ideas will be open to ridicule.Ideas are not sacred and should be open to as much opposition, as much derision and as much praise as is possible. If they stand up to reason – which, invariably, religion[s] does not – then they deserve to be taken seriously.
Indeed, ideas are not sacred… and should be open to as much opposition, as much derision and as much praise as is possible. All that matters is whether or not they stand up to reason- not how deeply people cherish them.
Okay, so the overwhelming majority of New testament scholars agree that the story of the Nativity of Jesus is a religious work of fiction. December 25th was celebrated long before the advent of Christianity as the day of the Winter Solstice, and was very much a pagan holiday until it was co-opted by the Church several centuries later. The pagan origins of the December 25th holiday are well known even among Christians, with some denominations even going as far as rejecting it wholesale specifically because of this.
So what’s new?
Well, an organisation called American Atheists has put up a huge billboard (pictured below) that features a nice warm and fuzzy message, based on what most of us already know about Christmas, for people in the New Jersey area.
Perfectly appropriate for this holiday season, wouldn’t you say?
As reported in the Guardian:
Speaking at Church House, central London, she told members of General Synod that believers and atheists were equally able to contribute to the prosperity and wellbeing of the country.
The Queen, who is supreme governor of the Church of England, said: "In our more diverse and secular society, the place of religion has come to be a matter of lively discussion. It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue and that the wellbeing and prosperity of the nation depend on the contribution of individuals and groups of all faiths and none."
Well said, Queen Elizabeth.
She was speaking to members of the General Synod (the deliberative and legislative body of the Church of England) last week in London. The synod consists of the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy and the House of Laity.
Approximately 40% of Britons do not believe in the existence of a ‘God’, and only 15% of the UK population actually attends church more than once per month.