The importance of evidence

sent in by Joshua

Some friends of mine have posted on this site and asked that I do the same. So, here is my story.

I grew up in Kansas. Christianity and church were a big part of my life. From the time I was very young I enjoyed church, Sunday school, singing hymns, and reading my children's Bible. When I went to college, I immediately joined a Bible study group and had an instant group of close friends. I felt that the people around me were good honest and hard working people. Christians like me wanted nothing more than strong marriages, well behaved children, good neighborhoods and good schools. I never had any bad experiences or anything like that. Yes, there were scandals from time to time, sexual and otherwise, which we good church folk loved to gossip about but overall my experiences were good ones.

After graduating I got a job in Los Angeles. I was a little nervous about leaving a Christian paradise to move to a sinful city but the offer was too good to refuse. The first thing I did after moving was seek out a church. Once again I instantly had new friends in a strange new place.

In LA, for the first time, I came in close contact with people of other religions, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, even a Zoroastrian. These people believed just as strongly in their respective religions as I believed in mine. I realised we couldn't all be right.

I also came in contact with atheists, agnostics and the just plain nonreligious. My next door neighbor to the left was a Wiccan. The neighbors to the right were a gay couple raising an adopted child. One was a stay at home parent. My boss was an agnostic. All of these people were good people, just like the folks back home. They all wanted the same things. Happy marriages, good kids, safe schools, and so on. They were all kind and helpful to me. The Wiccan neighbor took me grocery shopping every weekend, while I saved for a good car (you don't want to drive a crappy car on LA's freeways). Every morning, the gay neighbor drove me to a bus stop two miles away, so I wouldn't have to change buses, even though it was out of his way. My boss was always happy and friendly. He treated all his subordinates with the utmost respect.

I was forced to reevaluate my views on everything. Gays weren't evil and immoral. People didn't reject God or religion, just so they could behave immorally. They sincerely and honestly didn't believe. People of others faiths sincerely and honestly believed that their religion was true.

I started to seriously question my faith. How could I really know that Jesus was my savior. Where was the evidence to back up this belief? The Bible? Where was the evidence that the Bible was true? I realised that Jesus may have been a savior, or a madman, or a liar, or a figure who was mythologized by grieving followers. I have no way of knowing.

Faith is believing in something you can never know to be true. You choose to believe it but you have no evidence to back up that belief. The Muslim believes Muhammad was a prophet. Maybe he was. Or maybe he was a madman or a liar. Maybe Ganesh or Ahura Mazda is the real god. Maybe David Koresh was the real messiah. How can I know what is true and what isn't true without evidence?

I continued to go to church for a couple of months after losing my faith. I enjoyed the fellowship and the ritual. I had friends there. But I couldn't help looking around at all these people who claim to "know" the unknowable. I stopped going to church. I decided that from now on any belief I held had to be based on evidence of some kind.

When people ask me my religion I tell them I have none because I only believe what I can prove. Of course, I've heard a few stories from individuals who have had powerful spiritual or supernatural experiences that convinced them that God is real and their religion is true. The most recent story I heard was from a Muslim revert. Of course, the Muslim's supernatural experience reveals the truth of Islam, the Christian's the truth of Christianity, the Hindu's the truth of Hinduism and so on.

Religious belief is not rational or logical. It is often more powerful than reason or logic. You can point out contradictions in scripture, historical inaccuracies, OT prophecies that turned out to be wrong, violence and perversion in the Bible and so on. It doesn't matter. The desire to believe is stronger than the evidence against belief.

I truly feel sorry for religious people. People tithe, practice celibacy, wear burkhas, fast, and so on all out of belief in something they can never know is true. Generally, they believe because that's what their parents taught them, and their parents taught them, and so on. You can't convince them that it is not rational to expend so much time, energy and money on the unknowable.

I teach my children, 8 and 6, to be skeptical, to question everything. I teach them that a lot of people make claims that are not true and they try to deceive the gullible for their own gain. I tell them not to fall for deceptions and to think for themselves. Even though my life was good as a person of faith, it is better now that I am an openminded free thinker.

LA
CA
How old were you when you became a christian? Born into it
How old were you when you ceased being a christian? 24

14 comments:

Perry said...

hello, Joshua

One of the best, balanced stories I've seen on this site. I commend you on your erudition. And your exposition. Well done. The best to you, your children and your wife.

And your life.

All power to you.

Daniel said...

Hey Josh,

Over at Goosing the Antithesis, the question of efficacy was raised in respect to an atheist/non-religious person "witnessing" to a religious one through the life they live. It really is powerful to realize as a Xian that your values, which you were strongly taught are Biblical and contingent upon it and upon the Xian god, actually are not.

I think that is why religion is more powerful than reason--so many people do not believe they can maintain their values without their god or religion. And, by definition, values mean more to people than critical thinking and logic and skepticism.

Nice "ex-imony". Thanks for sharing.

freedy said...

Joshua ,..maybe your kids, my kids
and their generation will chamge
hopelessly decieved religious world!

Anonymous said...

Joshua:

Your story is a balanced one, as Perry noted. Your move from you homesite to another "culture" had an impact on you. Experiencing different cultures (value of diversity) is a learning experience. Unfortunately many members of the Global Community fear this, avoid this, are not able to move out due to financial and other constrictions, as well as the great number who are not learners. Part of religious belief system serves the purpose of the establishment and harden of "boundaries" - the tribal god(s), the god tied to a particular land area, etc. And, we can see currently with the terrorists activities that there is an element of the Christian Crusades. Muslims interviewed on TV (radical) talk about the Koran saying it is their responsibility to kill the non-believers. Religion is not going to go away anytime soon. But, it is always refreshing to see, hear, and read of those who are enlightened and become open to new learning. Best to you in your journey.

freedy said...

Christianity creates and fosters this us against them feeling of superiority. This arrogance causes
more suffering then good.Religion in general,is an outdated
absolete and almost barbaric way of achieving some since of self- identity....(or national identity) This is why I consider all religions,churches,etc...as cults

Jamie said...

hey whats up, i know exactly what ya saying, my name is Jamie, i was a professed atheist, i felt that way about it, but i ended up seeing, i ended up experiencing proof and ill share my story of how i went from agnostic to atheist to Christian if ya curious, just email me at jamiehoban@shaw.ca
i grew up in a agnostic/atheist home

much love

Jamie

boomSLANG said...

Hi Jamie, welcome. ' Gotta admit---yeah, I'm curious.... I'd love to hear about your proof for the existance of the Christian Biblegod. Notwithstanding, I'm also curious if you know the difference between a Personal belief(subjective) and a Universal belief(objective). We'll see.

Regards.

Peregrino said...

Once again, the more you know the less you have to take on faith. More power to you, Joshua.

Dave8 said...

Joshua: "Of course, I've heard a few stories from individuals who have had powerful spiritual or supernatural experiences that convinced them that God is real and their religion is true."

Hello Joshua, good to hear that you are living a free life, without having to expend energy to repress logical thought. I agree, there are many people, who live their lives with a god icon, because they were given a "god", placeholder, for everything "unknown" growing up...

Many just find enough answers to previous "unknowns", to finally put the god icon, in abeyance until there is an "unknown" worthy of assigning to a SuperNatural event/deity... Again, great to hear you have found freedom to think, take care.

Adam said...

I have to admit I have not always been a Christian at heart. I used to question the validity of God's existence as well. The fact of the matter is that faith is something you cannot prove. It belongs to the individual who is willing to admit the universe wasn't just created by some accident or chance. Even if you believe in the big bang theory, my question to you is where did the material to make that happen come from? If you say it was always there then you are just as supposedly foolish as the religious people you disagree with. We believe God has always been there and He created the Universe. Big Bang Theorists worship the material world while I and my fellow christians believe in something more. How could one believe that the life they live is meaningless and that when you die its all over? To not believe we were made for more is a belief in hopelessness. You have essentially agreed that no law should govern you and that you yourself are some kind of god because you feel you are above religion.
To all of those who say religion is outdated this is for you. How can you claim christians have a superiority complex? Our goal is to HELP others. To live a Christ-like life isnt just singing hymns or preaching damnation, but rather extend a hand of peace to a troubled world. Many so called christians give us a bad reputation because they do not care enough to actually live the life they profess and for that I do apologize. They do not represent what we are about.
My final question to you, even though it may not be appreciated, is what if there is a God? Are you willing to tell Him when you die that He didnt provide the proof you needed to believe in Him. He will only turn and say, "Did you not look at the wonders around you?" God is everywhere and if you would stop building up your wall against Him, He can be a source of hope and joy for you. The true church, the body of believers not the various organizations, is always welcoming to those who seek hope and a value centered life.

God is just a Word said...

Adam: "My final question to you, even though it may not be appreciated, is what if there is a God? Are you willing to tell Him when you die that He didnt provide the proof you needed to believe in Him."

Adam, lets pretend you get your pretend wife pregnant, but you divorce this wife before the child is born.

Lets say, later in life, you introduce yourself to your child, and your child has none of your values, beliefs, or anything like you would expect a good child of yours to have. Uh, would you terorize and torture your child, even when your child continues to scream while they are burning in some fiery pit that they had never seen you and thus had no evidence of how you would want them to behave. If you would torture your child, then, you are sick. But, that is exactly what you are suggesting your god will do, to those who obviously don't have any evidence. Great job, do us all a favor, don't have children, and stay away from children if you are going to act like your god.

Adam: "Even if you believe in the big bang theory, my question to you is where did the material to make that happen come from? If you say it was always there then you are just as supposedly foolish as the religious people you disagree with."

Adam, its simple. There is zero evidence to support the non-existence of this universe before I was born, and yet, I am here, so this universe existed before I got here. What evidence would compel be to believe that it wasn't here long before I got here, like, forever before I got here. You are suggesting something out of the ordinary, by suggesting that "something" more than what "IS", occurred to create this universe. Why don't you provide this evidence of creation, to compel me to believe there is more to this universe than what I currently know. I know it existed before I got here, and I know it exists now, why don't you go back to the hypothetical beginning and prove more than that, and let me know what you come up with.

Adam: "We believe God has always been there and He created the Universe. Big Bang Theorists worship the material world while I and my fellow christians believe in something more."

I know you didn't just say that big bang theorists "worship" something. If you use the word "worship" to describe someone who admires or has a profound love for something, then you are using the most liberal sense of the word to attempt to make your point. In the most "common" use of the word "Worship", ritualistic practice and expression of reverance for a deity or supernatural god(s).

Some may admire the logical foundations for the theory of the big bang, but they do not "pray", or engage in ritualistic practice to show reverence to a deity or supernatural god(s). There is nothing wrong with admiring a theory, however, there is something logically broken when a person worships a deity that is much less than a theory without any evidence.

Adam: "How could one believe that the life they live is meaningless and that when you die its all over?"

Having to believe in something with no evidence, means someone has lost touch with meaning in their life, and they are looking for something that makes life more valuable. Uh, Adam, this means you are seeking validation and meaning not those who do not need a god to justify their meaningfulness in life. As far as after death, if you truly believed you lived a meaningful life, you wouldn't ge hung up on trying to get a better life after this one. Some of us, believe we have lived a meaningful life, and therefore, don't need to "hope" for something better after we die. However, you keep on looking, it just means you haven't found any meaning yet.

Adam: "To not believe we were made for more is a belief in hopelessness."

Adam, what if we "are" the "more", and we are part of the "IS" or "All" of this Universe. Dying no longer becomes hopelessness, its just change. Those who fight change, are the hopeless, we will all die, its just a matter of time. To waste ones' life trying to concoct some recipe to "control" the change once we die, is a waste of ones' life.

Adam: "You have essentially agreed that no law should govern you and that you yourself are some kind of god because you feel you are above religion."

Actually, I believe that there are fundamental laws of this universe, of which we humans can not change and therefore, all humanity is subject to those laws. Also, there are the governing laws of society, which I find useful, as the laws are based on values that I can agree with. Now, your religious values, and laws, well, I don't agree with the intolerance and hate speech of the bible, i.e., all unbelievers should be murdered, etc. Those who wrote the bible, thought they were god, obviously. Those who attempt to use the bible as justification for their actions, are doing nothing less than making themselves "gods" by proxy.

Adam: "To live a Christ-like life isnt just singing hymns or preaching damnation, but rather extend a hand of peace to a troubled world."

Your bible says not to extend a hand to a non-believer, and to kill the witches. So, in fact, you are not following biblical teachings. If you are to love your enemy, do you love satan as much as you love your god, if not, why not? Do you believe in your bible literally, if so, why don't you follow it to the letter and quit making comments that you are extending a hand to humanity, more like, if you are following the bible, you are extending a fist to those who don't believe exactly as you do.

pault said...

Joshua

I'm afraid to be the one to inform you.But according to my Bible-i dont know if you still have a bible? God has left sufficent evidence for everyone to know that he exists.

I realise...your probably chuckling right now..eh? :-)

But seriously! There are place's in the bible were he says that God has left man-kind with plenty of evidence,for proof of his existance.

I realise you may not be in any kind of mood to discuss the bible? I can go along with that.

But there are certain things in the world-that God speaks of-that to our physical eyes,those things are "Invisible" and they will always be invisible to us(you will find mention of these things in-

(ROM 1:20)"For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen"

But how can something that is invisible be seen? simple! God here is talking about our consciences.Whenever we go against our conscience,we might shrug our shoulders abit? but after a while, we always find something to EXCUSE ourselves from doing it.(you will find mention of this in the next chapter of romans.

Let me just show you were this teaching is in this book.

Quote.."Their thoughts meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another."(Rom 2:15b)

See that! God as writen his law on every persons heart,but its invisible.Even though you and i cant see it.Its there.We have all expierenced the guilt of it.Whenever we've done wrong that is.

So amongst those invisible things that God points us too as evidence.Is our own conscience.It's invisivble,sure!

But we know it exists-dont we?

look again in this 14th verse."For which the gentiles,which have not the law,do by nature the things contained in the law,these,having not the law,are a law unto them-selves" They are a law unto themselves because they have Gods Moral law writen on their hearts.....( v 15) "Which shew the work of the law writen in their hearts,their conscience also bearing witness"

We all know what the apostle means when he says "They are a law unto themselves" how about the time you told your child to do this-and he wouldnt? sounds like the above eh :-)

Anonymous said...

God is real.

boomSLANG said...

Classic----In a thread titled "The importance of evidence", robo-fundy stumbles in and posts:

"God is real."

LMAO!

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