March 02, 2015

What's Wrong With Asking for Evidence? Thoughts after listening to an interview with Ross Blocher of Oh No, Ross and Carrie

I was working through a backlog of podcasts from The Friendly Atheist last week, and one featured an interview with Ross Blocher, of the podcast Oh No Ross & Carrie. As they describe their podcast:

Welcome to Oh No, Ross and Carrie!, the show where we don’t just report on spirituality, fringe science and the paranormal (from a scientific, evidence-based standpoint), but dive right in by joining religions, attending spiritual events, undergoing “alternative” treatments, partaking in paranormal investigations, and more. At Oh No, Ross and Carrie!, we show up, so you don’t have to.

One quote really jumped out at me. Blocher said, of seeking God while having doubts about his beliefs:

I want to know You, but You know I need more.

 And I couldn't help but relate. I remember struggling with this same thought, even nights as a younger person when it set itself on repeat through my brain. Because I grew up in a belief system that placed very little value on doubting--in fact, it was actively repressed--these thoughts were terrifying. I assumed that I wasn't saved, even when I felt a "connection", because I needed more than that emotional feeling that said God was there. I needed something that my brain could explore and accept.

It feels weird now that I've embraced my doubt to think of those years spent trying to hide from it.

I remember reading over the book of Job, after a pastor mentioned in sermon that he always referred people to doubts with it, specifically chapters 38 to 41.

And Chapter 38 of course opens with:

1 Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:
2 “Who is this that obscures my plans
    with words without knowledge?
3 Brace yourself like a man;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone—
7 while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels[a] shouted for joy?

And it continues in the same vein, until Job is good and chastised and feels real bad for what he said about God.

But here's the thing, and it's always bothered me, and it revisited me in Blocher's quote above: Job's questions were RIGHT. He had the right to ask him.

All of these bad things had happened to him through no fault of his own. He was suffering because God was in a pissing contest with a fallen angel that he'd supposedly kicked out of heaven to begin with.

And then God says, "Who are you to question me?" What the fuck kind of question is that?

The God of the universe, the one that supposedly created us, believes he should be allowed to inflict whatever pain he wants on us, for whatever reasons he wants, with the expectation that we will not question. What kind of sense does that make?

Here's the rub for me: God knows exactly what kind of evidence would cause us to believe. He knows exactly what it would take to get the entire planet to believe, so that no one would suffer eternal damnation.

And yet he doesn't. Why? What do it serve?

We're supposedly bound in a system that he created, that he has understood from the beginning. Which means he knows, exactly, who's going to hell and what it would have taken for them to come around.

Why not respond? Why not give people evidence of your existence? Why prize faith over the reasoning abilities that he supposedly saw fit to give us to begin with?

It just boggles my mind sometime to think of how I accepted this, without really questioning, or rather, without accepting my right to question.

Today, I've settled this. For me, it was atheism. That was the natural progression of my questioning--and it's one that I've found tends to happen with people that move away from fundamentalism. Even if we retain some sense of spirituality, the break seems to be clean and permanent. My more liberal Christian friends seem truly capable of managing any questions and retaining their faith--but that literal, inerrant view of the Bible that we are taught in fundamentalism makes that impossible in so many cases. It's the logical fulfillment of Christianity when you base it on those premises, and I, personally, want no part of it.

Today, I can sound agree with Thomas Jefferson, and I hope all of you can do:

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.

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