Dear Believer: Why Do You Believe?

6 years ago

Dear Believer,
Have you ever stopped to consider why you believe what you believe?
Have you ever thought about why you chose the religion you choose?
Why do you believe in Jesus Christ as the only means to eternal salvation, and not in karma or reincarnation?
Why do you believe that Allah is the one true god and Mohammed is his prophet, and not in the four noble truths of the Buddha?
Why do you hold to the Torah as the only revealed word of God and not the Bhagavad Gita?

Dear Believer,
Do you ever wonder why your heaven resembles a utopian Earth and is composed of the same base elements found right here on this planet?
Do you ever wonder why your deity governs within a power structure that resembles that of the specific time and place in which your holy text was written?
Do you ever wonder why your god looks just like you, or the animals with whom you share the planet?

Dear Believer,
Is the faith you practice the dominant one within your culture?
Do you not find it at least a little suspicious that the overwhelming majority of all religious believers adopt the religion of the society into which they were born, yet remain convinced they’ve lucked out (or been divinely admitted) into the one, true faith?
Does it not make you at least somewhat apprehensive that almost every person of faith chooses belief not because of its virtues, supporting evidence, moral codes or expression of worship, but rather because it was what they were born into?
Why, out of the abundance of faith choices available, does almost every believer on the planet choose the faith that’s within arm’s reach?
Are you a Christian because you were born in America or Europe, a Muslim because you were born in Saudi Arabia or Indonesia, a Buddhist because you were born in Japan or China, a Hindu because you were born in India?
Can it be that faith is, in almost every case, just an accident of geography?
Do you sincerely believe that had you been born in another country, you’d undoubtedly still be practicing the same faith you now embrace?

Dear Believer,
Is the faith you practice that of your parents and their parents before them?
Is it the first to which you were exposed?
Did you know that nearly all religious devotees end up believing what they were taught to believe by their parents?

Why is it that we scoff at the idea of labeling a young person a Republican Child or a Marxist Child or a Keynesian Child, understanding he or she lacks the intellectual discrimination, life experience and wisdom to make such a complicated and nuanced decision, but do not raise so much as an eyebrow when a youngster is referred to as a Christian Child, surely a choice no less complex?

Could it be that there’s no such thing as a Muslim Child, just a child of Muslim parents?

Dear Believer,
You are supremely confident in your faith. You KNOW it is the right one and all others wrong. You are literally willing to bet your eternal soul on that fact.

And yet, have you ever stopped to consider that there are two-dozen major religions and literally thousands of different faiths practiced on this planet?
Did you know that within Christianity alone, there are more than 45,000 different denominations, each claiming to understand ultimate truth better than the others?
Do you realize that each member of every faith practiced is just as devout, just as sincere, and their conviction every bit as sure as yours?

Did you know they too read infallible holy texts, have air-tight apologetics, have experienced miracles, feel god’s presence, sense his still small voice, obediently follow his perfect will for their lives, love him indescribably, and can defend their belief with the same fervency as you do yours?

And yet, since every religion is mutually exclusive and contradicts the other in matters both large and small, they cannot all be right…right?

You know, you just KNOW, your faith is the exception, and yet, if every member of every faith feels as you do, what are the odds that you’re right?

Dear Believer,
I’ve often been told that my unbelief is a guarantee of missing out on heaven an ending up in hell.

But whose heaven? Whose hell?
I’ve often been told that I should, just to be safe, accept god, after all, what have I to lose?
But whose god? Given so many options, aren’t I more likely to chose incorrectly?
Might not I be better off wagering on no god rather than on the wrong god?
You put it to me, “What if you’re wrong?” But what if you’re wrong?

What if, rather than Jehovah, Allah is the one true God? Or Shiva? Or Wooten? Or some god you’ve never even heard of?

The truth is, you already know what it’s like to be an atheist in regard to every other faith but your own. It’s clear to you that adherents to other faiths are mistaken, deluded or deceived. But they think the same of you. The way you view them is exactly the way they view you.

Every devout Hindu has embraced his faith for the exact same reasons you have embraced yours, yet you do not find his reasons compelling, nor do you lose sleep at night fearing that if you die you’ll wake up in his hell.

Given this, is it so hard to see why some of us just take our atheism one god further?

Dear Believer,
I wonder if religions just aren’t ancient constructs in which early humans attempted to both explain and control the chaotic world around them. Though irrational in content, their emergence certainly isn’t. We do not blame our ancestors for inventing religion. There is no shame in stumbling when you are blind, or failing to properly construct a puzzle in the dark.

But we no longer live in the dark. Science is ablaze in our world and illuminates our way, dissipating shadows and exposing even the deepest of crevices. We no longer live in the cave. We have crossed the valley, scaled the mountains and have begun to make out the magnificent vista on the other side. We no longer require comforting stories to make us feel safe or valued.

Is it not time that our beliefs match our discoveries?
Is it not time that our ideas reflect our new perspective?

There is equal, if not greater, awe in reality than there is in fantasy. Perhaps it is time to stop telling ourselves that we are the reason the universe was made; that our culture is somehow better than other cultures; that our tribe was chose over all other tribes. It is time to learn how the universe really is, even if that deflates our conceits, wounds our pride, humbles our point of view, and forces us to admit that we do not have all the answers.

Believer, if you honestly value the truth above all things as you claim, as I truly know you do, you must confront these fundamental questions.

Far better, Carl Sagan said, "To embrace a hard truth, than a reassuring fable."


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