Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

My Atheist claim collapses and is replaced with weak deism.

October 1949 is the official birthday of the People’s Republic of China.  Any student of history can tell how poorly planned economies work.  One needs only to look at the Great Leap Forward to see how badly planned economies can fail.  And yet, for the first few years after the Communists won, things went better. Why?

Well, it’s not that Communism is that great.  It’s not.  It’s simply that the system of overlapping warlords it replaced was so truly awful that anything, even Maoism, was a distinct improvement.  Within about 5 to 10 years, Chinese Communism had reached its systemic limits and began to deeply hurt rather than to help China.

The point here: it’s not that Communism was so good, it was that the existing system was so bad that even Communism was an improvement.

Atheism is not a perfect fit for me.  I can’t honestly say I am an atheist.  But I can honestly say that not expecting God to help me with day to day struggles and challenges has been one of most rewarding experiences I have ever had.  I am thus, presented with a conundrum: I believe that God is very likely but find the less I have to do with Him the more joy and happiness I experience.

So why believe in God at all? Why do I wish to believe in God?  Well, to be honest, though intellectually weak, one reason is because my parents do.  I’m not pleased with that as an answer, but honestly, if my parents were conservative Muslims instead of conservative Christians, my philosophical struggles would be of a different nature.   Had my dad been an astrophysicist and golfer with a penchant for tintinnabulation instead of charge nurse and Sunday school teacher with itch for IV Demerol, I would be a very different person.  So if I am going to be honest with myself, at least one of the reasons I believe in God is because I always heard it at home.  I can’t reorder my intellectual DNA anymore than could my physical DNA.

I shave the stubble of my brain with Occam’s razor.  To quote Wikipedia… “This is often paraphrased as ‘All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best.’ In other words, when multiple competing theories are equal in other respects, the principle recommends selecting the theory that introduces the fewest assumptions and postulates the fewest entities. It is in this sense that Occam’s razor is usually understood.”

Occam’s razor applies to two instances for me.

The first (the objective one) is the huge amount of evidence for the big bang theory.  The big band theory is not a perfect explanation for the the origin of the universe.  It is certainly not nearly so complimentary as the idea that the whole universe is a vast and complicated diorama created with humanity in mind to help them mark the changes of seasons and draw their attention to God.  Regardless, it is the best available theory.

Its weakness is that parts of the theory seem to operate in a manner inconsistent with the laws of thermodynamics.  Matter cannot be created or destroyed, yet the matter had to come from somewhere. Until further evidence is available, I say God seems a likely candidate.   Yes, I know this is the “God of the Gaps” theory; that we invoke Gods to explain things we don’t understand and if we do, those Gods’ jobs gets smaller every year. So what?  To me Occam’s razor says, considering the evidence, there was most likely some force which existed before force existed.  That sounds like the realm of the Divine to me.

The second and final one, is an answer to a prayer I received.  I know this is subjective, but subjective doesn’t mean false, it just means subjective.  You see, after many days of some really horrible experiences that I am not going to detail here, I pulled into a grocery store parking lot.  I needed to get another week’s worth of groceries, but I couldn’t make myself get out of the car.  To me, at that moment, buying another 7 days of groceries would be saying that I could carry on for another seven days, but I couldn’t, not alone.  So I prayed for a friend.  I needed a friend whom I could trust enough to be myself around.  Someone who would love me and let me love them.   Someone I could be vulnerable with.  Someone I could hold and touch and be held and touched in return.  So I prayed for it.  I prayed for the love of a kindhearted woman.

And having prayed that, I walked into the grocery store.  And I met this beautiful checkout girl.  We’ve been together for almost 8 years now.

Now, I could believe that my subconsciousness did this and that, and that in an infinite number of universes representing an infinite set of possibilities that this is mere chance.  I asked an invisible being for something and got it 30 seconds later.  I take 3 possible routes with this.

(1.)  Pure coincidence. (2.) Invisible workings within me. (3.) Invisible workings outside of me.

I find the first to be unlikely.  So, it’s a battle between the second and third.  To me, the second seems unlikely because I have the happiest marriage of anyone I know.  I work hard at my relationship with my wife with enormous rewards, but I had worked hard on my relationships with the girls I knew before her, too, and without the rewards. My (now) wife had prayed earlier that week for a man to really love her.  It seems like this relationship was very special, from day one.  To me, Occam’s razor here again says God.

So now I must admit, I believe in God. But despite me belief in God, I believe that my life goes best when I live like there is no God.  I believe in God, yet persist that the atheist perspective brings freedom.

Well, I wrote the blog before to complain about a world of miracles.  This was the world I tried to inhabit before, a world which was influenced by my beliefs themselves rather than how my beliefs affected my actions.  It was a horrible place to live.  Everything bad was my fault, for not believing right.  Everything good was a miracle I could not claim credit for.

Every single negative thing in my life became my fault for not believing right.  Every good thing was God working.  I could not like myself for what I did right, only hate my self for my constant failure.  I wasn’t poor because I couldn’t get a good job.  I was poor because God had something to teach me.  I needed to suffer more to get enough of God to be happy.  I wasn’t unhappy because my life sucked, no, no.  My life sucked because I was unhappy.  If I had only had the discipline to make myself be happy when my world was spinning apart then my life would be great.  I would be OK that I didn’t make enough to feed my wife and daughter, because God would provide.  It would be OK that we couldn’t afford health insurance because God would either heal us or miraculously provide for us.

When I was eight I prayed that God would make mommy and daddy stop screaming, would make mommy stop breaking things, would make daddy stop hitting sister, would make mommy stop hitting daddy, would make brother stop cutting himself.   Home schooled and living in the country, I would pray for a girlfriend, so lonely for human touch that I would have panic attacks when I saw two girls hugging.  Later on, a charismatic acolyte, I prayed for a paralyzed woman. Marked her forehead with olive oil, laid hands on her and prayed she would walk.  I am to this day haunted by the vacant, pained look in her eyes as she sat and tried to get up (“Raise up and walk, in Jesus name!”) and found herself no more healed than when her husband laid her in the chair.

Researching afterward I found that God’s likelihood of “healing” someone is directly proportional to the likelihood of spontaneous remission for their particular disease.  Spontaneous remission is not the same as placebo, and is most common among “debilitating and progressive diseases such as cancer and tuberculosis.”  But totally unheard of for people with amputated limbs.  Not surprisingly there is no verifiable case of limb regeneration, leading some to ask what God has against amputees.

If there is a God out there, as I believe there probably is, he has enormous respect for entropy, physics and freewill.  Such that 99.9% of the time it’s just like he’s not there at all. I leave 0.1% for highly subjective experiences like mine, and other experiences that I have heard of from people.

But one does not dare trust 0.1% to save their life.  I don’t think God’s 0.1% miracles are enough to protect us from our own stupidity.  I don’t earn a lousy paycheck and expect God to foot the rest of my bills.  I used to.  Thats how I ended up $12 G’s in debt.  (Which I worked my ass off and repaid, btw.)

Further, if we, as a species, are looking for improvement, it will not come from any number of prayer meetings or prophecies.  They will come by working really hard for change. The early church (which changed the world) was different from today’s church, not primarily because of belief, but because of behavior.  They didn’t have canon to argue about.  They didn’t have a professional clergy sponging off the laity.  They didn’t have buildings to pay for.  In short, they focused on being loving and easy to get along with and taking care of their poor.  They were the change they wanted to see.  The early church only trusted God to take care of the poor after the the church’s money had been spent.

Now, if the world around us will not be changed despite sincerity of belief, can we ever change it?  What comfort can there be in an indifferent universe?  How ever much we choose. True, physics will not be bent for you, though you may pray frequently.  True, God either does not act or will not act (if you are are a Deist) or does not exist (if you are an agnostic or atheist).  But we choose whether we will care about our fellow man.  If the world is indifferent to our suffering it is because, by and large, people have chosen to be indifferent.

Does this mean I am saying I put my trust in man, rather than God?  A qualified yes. History shows God cannot be trusted to stop wars, famines, and plagues. Though man can be trusted to start them, he can also chose to fight them.

So, I am a weak Deist.  I believe the only sane world view to have is that God pretty much leaves this earth alone and I reserve the right to say he may influence people’s hearts once in a while.  But when someone tells me they have message from God, I will respond with Luke’s famous line to Vader in Robot Chicken, “That’s very… unlikely.”  I will not trust God to do anything for me.  I will not give him credit for the good that happens to me, nor blame him for the evil.

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August 24, 2008 - Posted by | atheism, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. Really interesting article. I believe that in these days, God is providing compelling evidence demonstrating His veracity. Check out http://www.Jesusevidence.com

    Comment by rico7 | August 24, 2008 | Reply

  2. I allowed the above comment because the website is run by such a bunch of crackpots that I felt it helped strengthen my argument. Enjoy, fellow skeptics and free thinkers!

    Comment by truthwalker | August 25, 2008 | Reply

  3. Thanks for another good post!

    I checked out the link in the first comment here and it scared me. LOL

    Comment by Lottie | August 27, 2008 | Reply

  4. So you go from being Christian, to being Atheist, to being a soft deist for the same fears and unanswered questions that would lead someone to conclude there is a god?

    What’s the matter with simply admitting that you don’t know and likely will never know something?

    Also, I believe the nice cushion of terminology you’re looking for in your self description may be “Soft Atheist”.

    P.S. You should have slept with your wife’s best friend.

    Comment by linkdeath | November 2, 2009 | Reply


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