I have recently been intrigued by the Baylor Religious Survey referenced in some discussion I was observing. I found the following statistical facts fascinating:
- Almost 30% had attended their current place of worship for more than 20 years.
- 23% attended weekly services, but of those, only 30% attended a Bible class or Sunday School weekly.
- Exactly half (49.4%) only read their Bible twice a year (or less) outside of church!
- 74% felt “Forgiving” described God very well, yet 67% felt “Just” described God very well. (73% felt “loving” described God very well.)
- 33.3% disagreed or strongly disagreed with an atheist teaching at high school. (Close to the 37.5% that said the same about homosexuals.)
The fact that approximately 2/3 of the people thought God was both Just and Forgiving (two concepts which are mutually exclusive) made me chuckle, thinking of exactly how much thought we put into our opinion of what a God is. As I Christian, I probably would have voted the same way, mind you.
What really grabbed my attention, though, were a number of questions along the line of:
Even if you might not believe in God, based on your personal understanding, what do you think God is like: A cosmic force in the universe…concerned with my personal well-being…angered by human sin…angered by my sin…directly involved in world affairs…directly involved in my affairs…
Is it just me, or are those questions odd?
“O.K. you don’t believe in a God…but seriously—what do you think God is like?”
“Uh…I don’t know…kinda purplish?”
Look, in my concept of the universe about me there is no god. To ask, “But what do you think God is like?” is like asking me if Leprechauns swim. Since I do not believe leprechauns exist, their ability to swim or not swim is of no matter to me.
Imagine if I went to a church, and said, “O.K., O.K., O.K. You don’t believe in Magic. Got it. What type of magic do you think could knock God unconscious?”
Would a churchgoer seriously consider my question? Or would they scratch their head and say, “He doesn’t get it. I don’t believe in Magic at all. Why then, would I consider different types, kinds and powers of something that doesn’t exist?”
At a certain point in my deconversion, I came to the conclusion that the Christian God did not exist. I was still very strongly a theist. There was no question that A god existed—just not the particular version of Christianity’s God I was most familiar with. So which one?
I was like a kid in a toy store who, for the first time, was handed $20 by his parents and told “Rather than have us pick out a toy for your birthday, and you making do with what we pick—you get to pick your own toy.” I was ecstatic.
However, after years and years of believing in (reluctantly) the wrong picture of God—I wanted to make sure that I believed in the most correct picture of God. I did not expect the problems I encountered in that endeavor.
See, even believing in a God, based upon my personal understanding, I was having difficulty determining what he/she/it was like. In fact, the last thing I wanted to rely upon was my “personal understanding”—that had gotten me into trouble before! I wanted to base it upon what was actually true; what was God actually like.
Was God angered at sin? Gee—there isn’t really any way to verify that, is there? Oh, I understand that some people are angered at what others do. And their level of anger can vary over different societies, times and beliefs. As humans, we are angered at genocide. Not so angered at violations of “Keep off the Grass.” And for many of us, we are angered when the other person does NOT violate the Speed limits!
Yet just because humans are—does that mean God is? It is hard to believe that I, a mere human among 7 Billion others, on a planet that took Billions of years to even come into being, in a universe that took even more Billions of years to develop to the stage in which the Earth became a planet, with a Creator that is master of it all—that I could anger such a creature by some particular word or deed. Is God that small?
Here I was, a kid with my $20, and I didn’t know what to buy. What was true. What was actual.
I truly desired to get it right. To have the right God. To have the right belief—there was simply no way to verify whether the belief was correct or not. It was all speculation, coming from very human perspectives. What one person claimed God was like; another would immediately declare as false. A third would claim it was close, but wrong, and a fourth would declare it was wrong, but not completely.
Of course, I eventually reached the conclusion that it is ALL Speculation. There is no god—just a bunch of humans capriciously declaring what they think God is.
As I was reading the survey, I recalled that search for what God was like, even as a theist (but not a Christian.) If even then I could not determine it—I would clearly be worse as a non-theist.
It appears that even after I lost my theism, they best they can offer, is “But what do YOU think?” Is that how we determine something—by each person’s individual opinion? The most persons that statistically believe (whether they are atheist, agnostic or theistic) that God is involved in world affairs—well, then god either is or is not?
They don’t want me to teach high school—but they are interested in my opinion as to whether a non-existent God is concerned with my personal well-being. Odd.