There is a type of question on tests in which we are given several samples and we are to choose which one doesn’t belong. For example, which of the following doesn’t belong: horse, mouse, man, mosquito, whale? The answer is mosquito because the rest are mammals. Here is another. Which of the following doesn’t belong: Muslim, Jew, Sikh, Agnostic, Atheist, Christian? Five of these hold a belief about the existence of God. It could be said that an agnostic has a belief but the belief is not in the existence of God but rather that no one knows whether or not God exists. Atheists believe there is no God while the others believe there is a God.
It bothers me that the term agnostic is frequently used similarly to the other terms in the list, usually lumped together with atheists as being nonbelievers (in a god). There can be agnostic Christians, agnostic Sikhs, agnostic Muslims, agnostic Jews and agnostic atheists. That is to say that, linguistically at least; one can hold any belief about a god while acknowledging that what they believe is just that, their belief.
But when someone says their God is the only true God, that their God is the only way to the Promised Land, and that they know this, they are telling everyone who doesn’t hold the same belief that they are wrong. Most of us do not react too well to being told we are wrong. How much better it would be if that someone said something like: “I believe in this wonderful God and through Him I will find my way to the Promised Land. What do you believe?” Then I could respond, “I believe in 24 Gods, two for each sign of the zodiac and they are all trying to sing in harmony and when they do they will hit a note that will transport all of us to the Promised Land.”
Well, hey, there’s a cool belief.
What I truly believe is that the world would be a much better place if we accepted each other’s beliefs as being no less valid than our own.
Do you think Satan exists? If so, then, yes, Satan exists in your reality. We each live in our own reality and that reality includes our beliefs. If you believe there is a Satan but not a God, then you might want to consider where the notion of Satan came from. The simple answer is that your Satan came from the Bible. Satan is a personification or deification of evil to contrast with the personification or deification of good which, in the Bible, is given the name God. There is really very little information about Satan in the Bible. He has been fleshed out by many authors since which has given the notion of Satan pretty much the image people hold today. The dialogue between Satan and God in the book of Job in the Old Testament is the only place in the Bible where Satan actually appears and is a good place to try to understand the Biblical Satan. The image I suspect you hold of Satan can be found in Paradise Lost by John Milton or in sermons by people who believe they are teaching from the Bible.
I don’t think Satan exists. My thesis that Satan wrote the Bible is for people who believe that God wrote the Bible or caused it to be written, that the Bible is the word of God. If you believe that, you should read what “God” says and does in the Bible. You believe that God gave you your mind; use it. Use it to try to understand the God and the Satan that you believe in. Don’t rely on what others (like preachers, rabbis, popes and the like) tell you about God. Don’t rely on what is said about God in the Bible. Go right to God’s actions and words and I think you will find an image quite different from the one you worship.
Neither Satan nor God wrote the Bible or had influence over the writing of the Bible. The Old Testament was written by men passing on stories that were created in the minds of men (and likely some women) to try to explain creation and the early life of the Jews to explain how they came into being and to lay down some rules of behavior so the species could get along and live good lives. Science has come a long way since then toward explaining creation and how we came into being. That some people reject what we have learned and cling to notions developed over 2,500 years ago is an indication of how powerful teaching beliefs rather than teaching open mindedness and how to think at an early age can be. For those who can use the minds that came with their bodies I suggest looking at the age old questions from a current day perspective.
As for creation scientists have reached back to the big bang which comes from evidence of what the universe is doing today—expanding at in increasingly rapid rate. They don’t know where the material came from that came together and then exploded—still a mystery. If you like the notion that God created the universe, why not have him do it with a clap of his hands, BANG! Or how about the notion that this is a virtual reality much like video games; the creation is this fantastic game that surrounds us wherever we go, whatever we do—it is us. We have been getting ever closer to creating virtual reality; movies, then 3D movies, surround sound, Imax and video games that keep getting closer to reality. Scientists have figured out how to stimulate nerves in amputees to give them feeling in prosthetic limbs. From that it is comprehensible that they will be able to stimulate all our nerves in a virtual experience. For me I’d like that to be a date with Sophia Loren when she was about 22.
Another way to look at this notion is to consider what we know about the makeup of matter. We are made up of atoms that have a nucleus and electrons spinning around them interestingly much like the planets spinning around the sun. These atoms are mostly space. Take out all the space and we would be reduced to a speck of dust. Science has got another thing going on that I don’t understand very well as it is too new for my brain but as I understand it they have now got us or everything reduced to wave lengths. From another reality looking in on us we might be holograms.
Might it not be a good idea to think about how we came into being (actually science has largely answered that one), the purpose (meaning) of life and how best to behave so our species can get along and live good lives with all we know now rather than hanging onto ideas developed before electricity, before computers, before we had any thoughts about a virtual reality?
Ah, the truth. The truth for you may be different than the truth for me. I think it is something each of us must find for ourselves. It is a pity that many people are taught at an early age that their religion is the only true religion and that they should not question it. If you are not questioning, you are not learning.
The truth regarding the contradictions in the Bible is that it was written by many men based on stories that were passed down orally through many generations with corrections, embellishments, errors and, I suspect, some intentional fraud. We should keep in mind that these men thought the world was the center of the universe and that the earth was flat. They should be admired for the philosophical/psychological truths they discovered but thinking should not stop.
Consider how much more we know today than was known 2,000 years ago about every field of thought—astronomy, geography, biology, chemistry, botany, psychology, psychiatry, etc.—while religious philosophy for Jews, Christians and Muslims has stood still.
If you have debated with someone who takes the Bible literally, you have probably reached a point in the debate where your opponent says, “It is a leap of faith.” That is where a debate between rational or logical thought and religious belief has reached an impasse. That is where I say, “Leave your leap of faith behind and use your God-give mind.” By the way, when I say that, I am not stating my own belief on the existence or not of a Supreme Being but rather using language that should resonate with the person I’m debating.
Whether you believe there is one god, no god or many gods, your belief is no better than any of the others. You may believe in a compassionate god while others believe in a vengeful god. You are no closer to the truth than the others. No one knows there is or isn’t a god.
Perhaps the greatest good, certainly a great goal, for the future would be to have all people come to an understanding of the difference between knowledge and belief. Every belief is valid. I can make a case for there being four hermaphrodite Gods with purple hair who created the universe through a monster collision which is how they mate. The collision, of course, was a big bang and you can take it from there. Should I go a little farther? One of the purple haired Gods is my conscience, another plays with my conscience, testing it, another provides the world through which I pass, my perceptions, and the fourth is in charge of my interaction with other people.
Understanding the difference between belief and knowledge doesn’t diminish anyone’s belief. It might actually strengthen it because others would not be putting down your belief as being inferior to theirs. Imagine a world without religious conflict. Wow!
Whether you believe in a single god, several, many or none only makes a difference in how that belief affects the way you live your life. Those who feel others should believe as they do feel that way simply because in their heart of hearts they know they don’t know—if everyone believed as they did, they could feel totally comfortable with their belief. Since that isn’t going to happen, wouldn’t it be better to accept the simple fact that belief is not knowledge.