May The Farce Be With You

A Lighthearted Look At Why God Does Not Exist

by April Pedersen

Atheist. The word has shock value, but simply means 'without belief in God.' Unlike agnostics, who suggest that God s unknowable, and that they cannot or do not know whether God exists, atheists discount any and all supernatural entities. Atheists are not waiting for evidence of God any more than they are waiting for evidence of purple unicorns.

It is no coincidence that humans are the only species who practice religion, for we are also the only species that is aware of death. Soon after evolving the ability to think (and to think about death), we began to believe in gods: sun gods, fertility gods, volcano gods, animal gods, and the god of special interest to atheists, the monotheistic Judeo-Christian, omnipotent, universe-creating God of the Bible. God belief seems to be an inevitable cultural byproduct of self-awareness.

Aliases. Yahweh. Jehovah. Savior. Heavenly Father. Allah. Lord. Holy Spirit. Creator. Maker. Christ. Intelligent Designer

Crimes existing under false pretenses impersonating a deity violating Good Samaritan laws by failing to come to the aid of those in need causing assorted Acts of God resulting in loss of property and life

Considered armed and dangerous. Best course of action should you encounter him Ignore him and he ll go away.

Copyright @ 2001 by April Pedersen. All rights reserved. For information contact See Sharp Press, P.O. Box 1731, Tucson, AZ 85702-1731. Web site http // Free catalog upon request either write to us or go to our web site and send us an email.

The Farce of God
Atheist. The word has shock value, but simply means without belief in God. Unlike agnostics, who suggest that God s unknowable, and that they cannot or do not know whether God exists, atheists discount any and all supernatural entities. Atheists are not waiting for evidence of God any more than they are waiting for evidence of purple unicorns.

It is no coincidence that humans are the only species who practice religion, for we are also the only species that is aware of death. Soon after evolving the ability to think (and to think about death), we began to believe in gods sun gods, fertility gods, volcano gods, animal gods, and the god of special interest to atheists, the monotheistic Judeo-Christian, omnipotent, universe-creating God of the Bible. God belief seems to be an inevitable cultural byproduct of self-awareness

We may be smart enough to believe in (more accurately, hope for) a higher power, but our unique human brain is also stubborn enough to continue believing/hoping despite the discoveries of science that pretty much put God out of a job. Recent polls indicate that roughly 10% of Americans consider themselves to be atheists, making nonbelievers a larger minority than Jews or Mormons. That still leaves 90% of citizens claiming belief in God.

God s existence, it is said, cannot be disproven. In fact, anything that the mind can imagine can never be disproven. Think up something fanciful, something you know can t possibly exist, such as an invisible elf that resides in your refrigerator or a table with 10,000 legs. POOF! it automatically has an above-zero chance of existing, because it cannot be proven absolutely that this invention of your mind doesn t, hasn t, or won t exist somewhere at some time in the universe. All of space and time would have to be searched to prove it 100% false.

The logic seems absurd, but it s a necessary disclaimer. A believer who says prove God doesn t exist could just as easily demand Prove there isn t a colony of Flatlanders living in Planet X s core. God s existence is more problematic than that of Flatlanders, for God is supernatural, not physical. The whole cosmos could be searched atom by atom and He d never be found. Because of this, atheists consider belief in the supernatural, and hence in God, to be irrational-as irrational as backwards time travel or claiming to know the final digit of pi.

Paradoxical Prayer
A comatose young boy hovers near death. Family and friends pray he ll survive. The boy dies. The family muses that God needed him he s been called home and is being embraced by all his loved ones that preceded him. Perhaps his parents ask, Why God, why?! and then concede that the answer would be beyond their understanding. Suppose the child survives. It s a miracle, their prayers were answered! Now let s say the boy survives, but with a severe handicap. Were the prayers only partially answered? No, he becomes an inspiration to others as part of God s grand plan. What about a patient down the hall who dies. Not enough prayers? God needed her more? (And for that matter, how could God need anyone?)

Notice that no matter what the outcome, the events are twisted to justify our sense of hope. Whether the prayer is said to work or not, God comes out smelling like a rose.

A glance at the newspapers reveals God s odd prayer-answering priorities. Apparently He favors granting record-breaking home runs over saving a doomed commuter train. He allows a planeload of praying passengers to smash into the ocean while He puts someone s multiple sclerosis into remission. He looks the other way when a toddler is kidnapped and murdered, but gladly answers a farmer s prayers to end a drought.

When planes don t crash or when a person doesn t get a disease, prayers are again given credit, and God is given points for allowing life to proceed without mishap.

Praying before a sporting event is among the most ridiculous forms of worship imaginable. To think that the Creator of the universe would care about the outcome of a high school football game is ludicrous. Did God play favorites with the winning team? Was He angry with the player who made the losing fumble?

The motive behind prayer is especially revealing. Prayer begs God to intervene. Isn t that second-guessing God s intent? Isn t prayer a suggestion to God that this present course might not be the best way to handle things? Do you really need to take little Timmy now? Praying implies that God s divine plane is in error and that we have useful advice for him.

Why interfere with the Lord s plan for us? Don t pray for a loved one s cancer to be cured, for it s God s will that this disease will claim her, after which she ll be on her way to heaven. Might unanswered prayers be a test of faith? God won t give me more than I can handle. My, what a nice God, always testing us, always toying with our emotions.

The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon spawned a surge of prayers, though all too late to have changed God s mind about allowing the tragedy. Inevitably, the where was God? question surfaced. Clergy answered, It s not a question of where was God or why did He let it happen, but rather, why wasn t it worse? So, if we can imagine something worse, we then praise God for not letting it happen? Every excuse in the book was used. Notably absent was the alternative Maybe there is no God after all.

The fact is, no prayers are answered. No prayers go unanswered. People are simply seeking meaning in any result, in much the same way that they see shapes in the clouds. Prayer can be used as a form of mood-calming meditation, which in turn can aid the body to heal, but there s nothing divine behind this placebo effect. Scientific studies show similar results from petting cats and watching fish swim in an aquarium.

Prayer is a human reaction to apparently meaningless physical and emotional pain.

Murky Miracles
December 2000 saw a horrible truck accident which resulted in an eight-month pregnant woman being hurled through the windshield and onto the pavement, her body then being sliced in half by the jackknifing vehicle. The force caused the expulsion of the baby, still attached by the umbilical cord and very much alive. The child s survival was hailed as a miracle by the woman s husband, the driver of the truck. Something else must be at work here besides luck, he commented.

A miracle? It was a miracle that the mother died an ugly death by being cut in half by a truck? A miracle that the baby will grow up without his mother, and, when old enough, will be saddened by the horrible way she died? A miracle that the baby was jettisoned onto cold asphalt as his father became a widower?

Sorry, there was no miracle here. The human trait of seeking comfort is a strong one. Notice that only the good is focused on. The baby survived the freak accident. People look for reasons to maintain their faith in God, and they will convince themselves that they ve found it.

Time and again folks overlook the negative and latch on to whatever is left. An infertile couple praises the Lord for the miracle He bestowed when the fertility drugs kicked in to give them septuplets. Why was the couple plagued by fertility problems to begin with? Why not be content with the destiny He chose for them? Maybe they were meant to adopt a special needs child instead? No. Truth be told, all miracles are observations made in hindsight.

A tornado skips along a residential neighborhood, wiping out some houses, sparing others. Those with intact houses will praise the Lord, while the neighbor next door standing amidst rubble is demanding, Why me?! Randomness is assigned meaning by pattern-seeking humans. The result is a miracle. No god need apply, for the human mind has filled the position.

A man has a near-fatal encounter with (insert your own mayhem). In an interview he humbly explains, It wasn t my time. Has he forgotten about all the people who were snuffed out in the prime of life, and infants who never got to know life at all?

Watch what happens when trouble befalls a church. An earthquake in El Salvador destroyed the church of a small town, and also killed hundreds under a landslide of dirt and rubble. Survivors quickly declared, God loves us, He left some of us alive to rebuild the church! Huh?! God let people die horrible, claustrophobic deaths in order for the others to see themselves as survivors ? This is a good thing? Why wasn t the church spared? Come to think of it, why did the quake occur at all? Was God busy curing someone s canker sore?

God only knows why this happened . is another common utterance, often spoken in dismay. Indeed, He must be one sinister God to allow or to make a natural disaster happen. Or maybe He s a nice God, taking whole families up to Heaven at once so they can discuss this act of God.

It s a miracle that more people weren t killed. Uh, it was a miracle that the earthquake happened so that more people weren t killed?

Miracles, it turns out, are in the eye of the beholder.

Illogical Heaven
Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but nobody wants to die. What s the matter, do we have doubts? We should, for the concept of heaven is a selfish, logistical nightmare.

Take free will, the decision-making capability that lets us make personal choices and gives us our sense of self. As nice as free will is, it has the potential to lead to crime, lying, cheating, and other unheavenly behavior. Will we retain our free will in the afterlife?

It s a Catch-22 situation. Without free will, we become lobotomized sheep. Keep our free will, and heaven would have all the problems found on Earth. Either way, what s the point?

Perhaps spirits won t want to rebel? Ever hear of the fallen angel Satan? And look at Adam and Eve, the first humans given a shot at paradise they blew it. Apparently God didn t even see that one coming.

Then there s the slew of sticky social situations. The murder victim who sees her born again attacker stroll through the Pearly Gates. Families waiting for their earthbound loved ones to die so they can all be reunited. Spouses sitting on a cloud Family Circus style who spy their mates remarrying or pawning heirlooms.

And boredom. With death out of the picture and without goals or purpose, we are going to be a restless bunch. Humans like to overcome obstacles. We thrive on new challenges and on the unexpected events of a physical world. An eternity is a very long time, and the prospect of forced immortality will have winged residents wishing they could hang themselves with their halos.

Some believers claim boredom will be unheard of, that our souls will be free to embark on any endeavor in the universe. Hmm, as long as we re making it up, might as well make it sound good, right? Besides, given infinite time, anything would wear thin.

What about the Bible s own easy way of achieving eternal life, by believing in Christ (John 3 16)? Under this premise, a repentant rapist/ serial killer, who has found religion at the last moment, will get his own harp, while any of his victims who rejected Christ will be doomed to eternal torture in the fiery pit. It seems that God cares more about the flattery of His own ego than the unfairness of a killer getting into heaven while his victims do not.

Heaven is nothing more than invented false hope to make the living feel better. Frank Sinatra is now singing for a heavenly audience sounds a lot better than He s six feet under and never coming back, doesn t it?

Observe the contradiction when dealing with death of a loved one. In between sobs, people state the deceased has gone to a better place, and that there was a reason he died in the manner in which he did. Then shouldn t we be happy? We ll see them again someday ... right?

Heaven has a way of making a mockery out of life. So what if Grandma died? She s with Jesus now. One little girl even stepped in front of a train to join her recently deceased mom up in heaven. If heaven is so great, you d think believers would enthusiastically welcome death for themselves and everyone they know who is saved.

To underline what a selfish, fabricated notion heaven is, consider those who believe their pets are crossing over, too. Not former chicken nuggets or last year s Christmas ham, but Fluffy, Fido, and Polly. Just because they own it, the creature must be deserving of heaven. How convenient to overlook dinosaurs, gazelles, and every trout that ever lived. But by George, Poopsie will be there waiting for me. Hopefully not that mean pit bull next door,
but Poopsie for sure. No doubt the owner of the pit bull is wishing the same thing for Fang.

Evolution & God Incompatible? Yes!
Darwin s dangerous idea should have made atheists out of everyone. Yet the vast majority of students who learn about evolution in public schools still believe in God. Either they doubt what they are taught in biology class or are content keeping evolution and religion in separate lobes of their brain, and never the two shall meet.

Many scientists say that science has nothing to do with belief in God, but let s be realistic. If God played no role in formation of the human species, then what else didn t He do? Attempts to reconcile facts with faith have led to fanciful conjectures filled with contradictions that paint believers into comers.

These attempts to reconcile religion with science include
- God put evolution into motion, knowing that its random path would produce humans someday. Why use a wasteful, undirected process when He could just as easily have zapped everything in place at once ? This scenario means apes are our kin, a point many people find distasteful gone would be the special creation of Man, starting with Adam and Eve and their original sin.

- God made each species separately, but in stages to prepare the earth for future epochs. This is a poor attempt at explaining the indisputable evidence of the fossil record that shows simple life preceded more complex life. There is no getting around the fact that trilobites came before fish, and fish before birds, birds before wooly mammoths, and dinosaurs before humans. God s first shot at creating life would have to be something like blue-green algae. Why would God need to make such primitive life first? Did He need lots of practice to reach the level of mammals? Is he not powerful enough to make a global ecosystem of snails, flowers, reptiles, and mammals all at once? God s supposed work parallels what fossil dating shows, which is well explained by the theory of evolution, so God as an explanation is entirely unnecessary.

- An Intelligent Designer is responsible. This argument claims that an Intelligence of some sort made life, and that this Intelligence doesn t necessarily have to be God or even be supernatural. It opens up the farcical notion that there could be multiple Intelligent Designers, yet no effort is made to explain what made them. Presumably God stands by and merely watches the Designer(s) work animal-creating magic.

- God created the illusion of evolution to throw scientists off. Then He is a manipulative, deceitful god who is not to be trusted.

- Evolution explains the origin of all species except for Man, who was specially created in God s image, complete with eternal spirit. Then why did he use primates as a template? We look like chimps, our DNA is closer to chimps than chimp DNA is to orangutans, a chimp fetus is a spitting image of a human fetus, and we share many behaviors. In fact, chimps are so close to us that biologists have considered adding homo ,to their Latin scientific name.

- Evolution is fact, but God exists too. For starters, the Bible says God created the world and all its creatures in six days (and, strangely for an omnipotent being, rested on the seventh). It doesn t say a mindless process is involved. To believe in God and to accept the fact of evolution is to invalidate an important part of the Bible. To acknowledge that life got a foothold on Earth all by itself is also to acknowledge that God is uninvolved, if not entirely absent. If God doesn t care enough to choose what life to seed a planet with, then He s surely not going to care about a hairless primate s cancer or hope for an afterlife. Such a God would be distant, not the personal savior so many people want to believe in. In all honesty, evolution voids the entire supernatural content of the Bible and its petty, intrusive God.

An alarming percentage of the general public remain ignorant of the theory of evolution. They find it hard to accept that such complex creatures as humans evolved from a chemical soup. Perhaps our ignoble beginnings foster a fear that we aren t so special after all.

Why do Christian fundamentalists focus on this field of science? They feel it is a threat to their faith. And they are right.

Got Proof?
Ironically, lack of evidence is a reason that some people believe in God, for it automatically designates God as being supernatural, and hence no physical evidence can ever apply. The trouble is, this logic can be used to leave the existence door open for magical gnomes, invisible 12-dimensional sentient trees, and other figments of imagination.

Much more convincing than lack of evidence is the fact that humans have believed in gods long before the Bible was written. It is our nature to want to believe in something higher than ourselves. But why should the biblical God be any more credible than Zeus, Ra, or a volcano god?

Not surprisingly, theists have an answer. They claim their god is purely spiritual and not limited by superstitious beliefs based on ignorance of physical phenomena like erupting volcanos or the changing seasons. Show how a volcano works, and poof, there go the volcano gods. Show how species arose on their own and every god s existence is in danger so it s no surprise that Muslims and Christians oppose evolution, though the supernatural status of God allows even people who accept evolution to maintain their faith.
Once a culture has concluded that some ultimate higher force must be out there, a fear and reverence of this force, this God, naturally follows. Such a God would have to exist via believer s faith alone, which puts it conveniently out of reach of the physical world and false gods. This effectively makes the Supreme Being of various cultures a single deity. Muslims, Jews, and Christians believe in the same single God, despite variations in doctrine, and Muslims openly acknowledge this. Such a God becomes by default, the Creator of the universe. Clearly, this type of reasoning points to God as being simply an end product of thinking about abstract ultimates, but this is an irrational basis for thinking that God exists for real.

Another flaw involves circular reasoning. God exists through blind faith, but why is blind faith needed? To believe in God. The Bible is the inspired Word of God. How do we know? The Bible says so.

An episode of The Simpsons features Homer acquiring great intelligence. One of the feats he accomplishes with his enhanced brain is writing a proof showing that God does not exist. Alas, there can never be such a proof, because the supernatural is supposed to be above any proof God exists because He must be supernatural in order to be God. Such logic in effect says God must exist because He cannot be disproven. This should be reason enough to show that God is a thought experiment and nothing more.

Still, this doesn t stop us from believing. Lack of evidence continues to have a powerful voice. When prayers aren t answered or when nothing happens, we think there must be a purpose to it. But what s the difference between not intervening and there is no God to intervene ? God is a product of faith, faith is a product of the mind, the mind is a product of evolution, which in turn is a product of other non-divine physical processes.

Watering the Seeds of Doubt

Where did God come from?
If some people have a hard time accepting that simple life formed from non-life in a natural chemical process and diversified into species from there, imagine the giant leap one must make to suppose that a complex intelligence such as God arose exnilo, or that such an entity had no beginning at all! Some have shoved God back to the beginning of time and left Him there as a remote, non-personal Cosmic Causer, to explain the origins of the universe. While the circumstances before the universe existed is still an unknown to science, ignorance is no excuse to invoke the supernatural.

Why is life unfair? Why is there evil in the world?
This seems a tricky spot for God to wiggle out of If He made everything, then He made evil too, so how can he be all good ? If He is allowing evil to continue, He s being negligent. If He can t fully control evil, then He s not omnipotent.

There really is no such thing as evil per se, just the undesirable choices of a species with free will. But it s harder to explain why millions were murdered during the Holocaust while God is credited with tiny miracles like putting a tumor into remission. Can the same God really allow children to starve to death in Third World countries and yet help someone in California find a missing wedding ring or win a gold tournament? Disturbingly, the answer is all too easy to fabricate We wouldn t understand. God works in mysterious ways. The meaning will be clear later. Yada Yada Yada.

Free will or sock puppet?
Monotheistic religions posit that an all-knowing all-seeing, omnipotent, God is everywhere and every-when. If so, is our free will an illusion? A sham? Are we living a predestined lie? It would seem so if God knows our every action in advance. He must laugh at the deep thought we put into our puny little daily decisions and presumptuous prayers. He s always known the outcome He knew it trillions of years ago. An eternity ago.

Anthro-centric humans?
We humans have always thought of ourselves as special. The Earth was once assumed to be at the center of the universe. Then, when other planets were known to exist, the Earth had to be at the center of the solar system, with the sun revolving around us. We used to believe ours was the only galaxy. Now we know there are billions of galaxies, and that our system is in the outskirts of an arm of an average spiral galaxy. The evidence has continually dashed our hopes of being center stage.

Today many people wrongly assume that evolution had us in mind as its ultimate goal, and some charts depict humans occupying the top branch of life s tree. We continue to be pompous by anthropomorphizing animals. We project ourselves onto other creatures in order to make them less like animals, and more like us, as if that somehow improves them.

And of course, we think ourselves the special creation of a single perfect God, who thought so much of us that he granted us an eternal soul which lives on in a glorious afterlife. It is this last bit of self-importance that cannot be disproven by science.

Nails in the coffin
God s coffin has more than enough nails. Notice how we have given it a gender, a male gender. The Heavenly Father. This is still more evidence that God is a fabrication of self-centered humanoids.

To Err is Divine
For a deity who is supposedly inerrant, Jehovah has a lot of explaining to do. Mistakes were made.

Extinction is a prime example. A large majority of earth s life has gone extinct. Estimates put it at 99%, with today s species representing a mere 1% of all life in the planet s history. It seems that most of God s perfect creatures weren t quite perfect enough. They couldn t adapt quickly enough, compete well enough, or weather natural disasters successfully enough (disasters that God could have averted). This is not to say that today s species are perfect. They are simply adapted to current conditions.

But God is said to have created each life form as is using His infinite powers of wisdom and perfection. Why then do giraffes have a hard time bending down to drink? Female kiwi birds struggle to deliver an enormously large egg. Mammalian eyes have their retinas on backwards and a blind spot created by the optic nerve. Humans suffer from obsolete wisdom teeth and from lower back problems caused by relatively recent bipedalism.

Vestigial organs also point to less-than-perfect workmanship. They betray a creature formed by evolution, not an effort-free Designer. The whale s shrunken pelvis. A python s residual back leg stumps. A human s pesky appendix. Vestigials can still be utilized by an animal s body for another purpose, but they are the telltale signs of evolution, not of a perfectionist Creator.

God s planning ability is as dubious as His designing. How do the dinosaurs fit in? Why create such a diversity of terrible lizards to dominate the planet for so long when He planned to make humans later on? Did He tire of them and allow an asteroid to wipe them out? Dinosaurs are not given the play in the Bible one would expect of such incredible creatures, undoubtedly because the authors were unaware of them. God must not have thought much of them if He left them out of his dictations.

God s trouble with planning becomes obvious in the story of Adam and Eve. When God allegedly created humans, He initially made only Adam. It was after Adam expressed loneliness that the Lord created Eve. This shows an incredible lack of foresight. God gave each animal a mate, but felt Adam could go it alone? Could He not foresee that Adam would need a partner too? Poor Adam had to bring this to God s attention, after which he awoke, minus a rib.

Are such oversights and imperfections the intent of God s mysterious ways ? No. The answer is much more simple. There s no need to second-guess God, for the world behaves exactly as it should if there was no God at all. Which there isn t.

Can God create another God equal to Himself? This feat would be impossible, since the newly minted God II would be younger than the original and hence would not be equal in duration to the God that had no beginning. The very notion that this second God had a creator makes such a deity lesser. So no, God could not make an equal God. If God did decide to produce multiple copies of Himself, how would we know? If we were to be oblivious to 2, 20, 30, or 60,000 Gods, why believe a single God exists?
Can God kill Himself? Let s suppose an eternity of being all-knowing and all-seeing wore thin with Yahweh. Could He commit suicide? Amy method that worked would have to be more powerful than God Himself, an impossibility for the Almighty. As long as we re speculating, say He did manage to pull it off. Again, how would we know? Why then believe he exists right this moment? Perhaps the universe would vanish as soon as God ceased to exist. We d be unaware of this as well. An impossible premise yields impossible questions. God is impossible.

But ...

The universe is fine-tuned for life!
The universe seems like Goldilock s porridge not too hot, not too cold, but just right for life. Some take this to mean the cosmos was designed. Earth is just the right distance from the sun to support life, and the sun is just the right type of star. Conclusion a Creator was needed. This anthropic universe scenario is a case of using an unnecessarily complex answer when a simple one is better. Hindsight in this case is blinding, not 20/20. If the universe didn t turn out the way it did, we wouldn t be here to discuss it. We focus on how astonishing it is that we exist, the same way a lottery winner is astonished that he won, despite a 100% chance that somebody would win. If we weren t here, or if no sentient life existed at all in the universe, something would be around, even if just a hodgepodge of atoms or empty space, just as lucky to exist as we are. We are a self-centered species that gasps golly gee! The universe doesn t know it s suited for life and that humans would come along and ask such questions.

Life is too diverse and complex to have formed on its own!
But it only had to happen once. Again, we re like the star-struck lottery winner mentioned above. A God isn t needed to explain any natural phenomenon. The only place He is needed is to give false hope to a death-fearing primate species.

Then is human life purposeless?
Leave it to us prideful humans to think that we are so wonderful that there must be a reason we are here. We are inventors and designers who do things with intent, so we figure since we are here, something made us for a purpose. Some take this purpose as a personal destiny or calling, while others think their purpose awaits them in heaven. There is no reason why we are here, or why some people die sooner than others, or were spared from harm. The purpose of living organisms is to pass along DNA, but even then there is no reason why it must happen. The universe and everything in it is an ongoing natural process, and we evolved brains to ponder what we consider big questions. This need not be a bleak view. Our purpose is what we make it. Who needs a God for that ?

Why Believe?
Fear of death / hope for an afterlife
There are no atheists in foxholes, goes an old quip. We don t want to die. We don t want this life to be the only one. We yearn to be reunited with loved ones.

if a wrongdoer escapes punishment here on Earth, it feels good to think the person will have a personal judgment day with God.

Many people swear that they feel God s/Jesus presence, have witnessed miracles, experienced divine healing, dreams, or visions, and that their personal relationship with God is as real as any tangible event or object. The human mind has enormous aptitude for believing in the non-verifiable. Psychics, horoscopes, and alien abductions all have their true believers. The mind can convince itself of anything. It can invent significance out of thin air. Personal experience is subjective and in no way can be used as evidence that something is real.

The Bible
The Bible is the Word of God, so there must be a God. Sure. Just as the Koran is the Word of God, so there must be a God. Just as the Book of Mormon is the Word of God, so there must be a God ...

Upbringing / social pressure
Many folks indoctrinated into believing in God from an early age never even conceive of questioning their faith. This is why the Catholic Church, fundamentalist Muslims, and other religionists are so insistent upon giving their children a religious education. The desire to please one s parents or to fit in with the traditions of society also plays a large role.

Belief gives comfort
The security of hoping one s life has meaning in some bigger picture is a huge inspiration to maintaining belief. It helps many to cope during a crisis to imagine God s hands holding them and the world. Who wants to believe that one s life is a purposeless, one-shot event? Apparently not many! Insisting that a higher power is out there is a comforting crutch.

Loose Ends
Ask people if they believe in gods, and they ll likely answer, No, that s for superstitious villagers or the ancient Greeks or something. Ask people if they believe in God and they ll likely answer, Of course, what kind of question is that?

Announcing that you don t believe in gods is a moot point, but stating you don t believe in God will raise eyebrows. Why? Atheism is viewed as bleak, cold, cynical. To be Godless is to be on par with being immoral and uncaring. What went wrong to make you an atheist? they ll ask. Evolution, which is often equated with atheism, has been blamed for fostering an attitude of we re just animals, which in turn leads to social decay. But social problems have always been around, long before evolution was formulated. In fact some of the very worst social problems, such as slavery, rampant infectious diseases, and the routine use of torture (all abundantly common in the Age of Faith), have markedly declined since the theory of evolution was propounded.

Often people will remark, I m not very religious, and then hasten to add, but I believe in God and all that, as if it s horrible not to believe. Yet a recent survey by Public Agenda reported that 58% of respondents said, It s not necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values.

The pious find it hard to swallow that atheists do not have some form of belief Surely you believe in something? they ll inquire. Well, atheists believe that all religions have it wrong. Atheists believe there is no God, or rather, they have a lack of belief in God.

Agnostics like to declare that, atheists and preachers share something in common both are positive their respective beliefs are correct. Agnostics claim it s illogical to be so strongly certain either way. They say the God question is untenable. How illogical of them! It s a black-and-white issue. There either is a God or there isn t. There are only two options, and one must be the correct one and given the total absence of the desperately longed-for evidence supporting the existence of God, not to mention all of the above-listed paradoxes and absurdities, it s simply not reasonable to beg the question by saying, No one has disproved the existence of God, so it s an open question.

By saying the subject is open, agnostics are actually giving believers the benefit of the doubt that God might exist. But note the absence of magical elf agnostics or supernatural gnome agnostics. No one has disproved their existence, either.

So, one strongly suspects that agnostics maintain their stance for social reasons-to be acceptable to their religious neighbors and, perhaps, to flatter themselves that they re more open minded than atheists.

What would it take for you to believe in God? is asked by believers and atheists alike. A giant hand parting the clouds and resurrecting the dead would help. As would spying a purple unicorn in one s neighbor s yard bolster the case for the existence of unicorns. But that evidence has never appeared, and never will. Only in your mind can you imagine a day when trumpets blare and a legion of angels descend from the heavens, followed by a bearded man on a white horse.

Atheists can still be in awe of the cosmos, and of a delicate flower and other wonders of nature. Perhaps atheists have even more reverence for life and nature than religious believers, because we know that it s only by chance that we re here at all.

Our brief and only lives means that we d better treasure this world and its beauties all the more.