Until very recently, my journey in seeking truth has essentially been a private one. The vast majority of my friends and family are strong or moderate Christian believers, and I have often felt uncomfortable sharing my questioning journey with most of them, because I did not want to argue over differing points of view or to undermine their path or mine, or at least so I rationalized to myself. I also wanted to keep my journey as “fresh” and as non-biased as possible by not allowing myself to be overly influenced by the emotions of myself, my friends, and my family, which can easily happen with me because I care about them deeply and want to get along with them. Somewhere along the line I bought in to the idea “getting along” also meant agreeing on everything. I see now that is not always if ever the case. Nevertheless, I am still essentially a closet non-believer, since the potential costs socially, personally, emotionally, to family relationships and in seemingly countless other ways can be very high, especially if one comes from a mostly religious family, has mostly religious friends, and lives in a Christian religious nation. When one lives in a country where one almost certainly could not get elected President or even to high public office if they didn’t claim to believe in an invisible prayer-answering God of the Christian tradition, it is clear we live in an essentially Christian religious nation in which the skeptic and non-believer find themselves in the minority, or the “out group.” And this “out group” is where non-believers can often find themselves not only publicly, but also with their believing family and friends, which can make being open about and/or framing one’s views with intellectual honestly quite challenging. However, if one was to take a step back and honestly question their religious views as they would question anything else in which we utilize our critical thinking, perhaps questioning unfounded claims, especially religious ones would be met with less pushback. However, as will be explored in depth throughout this book, religion is held to a special double standard, which unlike most other ideas, cannot be openly criticized without substantial social costs, at least within the context of a mostly religious nation, and believing family and friends. While some might cleverly attempt to justify this double standard, I would argue this double standard between religious ideas and any other idea is invalid, since religion is nothing more than another man-made idea which can therefore be criticized and held up to scrutiny, just the same as anything else in the open marketplace of ideas.
While I am uncertain as to whether or not I will ever come completely “out of the closet” as a non-believer, opening up about my true feelings and questions on God and the supernatural to some of my believing friends and acquaintances has been most helpful for me in looking at life from a different perspective I might not have considered before I revealed my thoughts to them. It has been a little disorienting for me to consider both what I am taking in from others’ point of view, while striving to see truth clearly at the same time. I also do not want to always sound like a “contrarian” or seem “difficult” when I may rebut or challenge a point of view others may have while speaking with them. I want to hear what others have to say, and I do not wish be closed off to their words. I want to consider other points of view. At the same time, I also do not want my emotions to rule over my head to the point where I let go of critical thinking and discernment. There is being open, and then there is being gullible. There is being closed off and a deliberate contrarian, and then there is being genuinely honest about wanting to see things truthfully without the filters of personal bias. That is why I so admire the scientific method in which the goal is to eliminate personal bias as much as humanly possible, while data and evidence is analyzed and thoroughly examined before arriving at a conclusion. It seems obvious to me the only way to be as sure as humanly possible that what we are seeing is the truth, we need to take our heart out of it because it is too easy to give in to our heart’s desire, too fool ourselves, to believe what we want to believe is true, or committing the logical fallacy of “confirmation bias,” instead of accepting that which is actually true, regardless of whether or not it corresponds to what we want to believe.
Whenever the heart overrules the head, we are vulnerable to gullibility. I am keenly aware of this tendency in myself especially, and so I have tried to let my head ultimately rule over my heart in matters of discerning the truth. It seems to me our hearts lead us in our quest for truth, while our heads enable us to discern the truth. My best friend from college once told me our hearts tell us what we want, and our heads tell us how to get it. While our intuition or hunches can sometimes tell us what is true, and we quite often act on instinct without rationality, it is usually best to not rely solely on our personal intuitions and interpretations when formulating our beliefs and views on things, but to consider our hearts as well as our heads if at all possible. If something is actually true, then good evidence and/or sound reasoning will confirm it to be true. Without the checks and balances of reason and intuition – of heart and head, we cannot see reality clearly with any consistency. While this battle between my head and my heart has raged within me throughout my entire life, what has been nice about opening up to others is the fact I now see they struggle with this same head and heart dichotomy I also struggle with to some degree or another. Some call this the struggle between the “flesh” and the “spirit.”
While we cannot let our heart rule over our head, at the same time we must not let our head override and negate our heart. We must acknowledge our heart and be honest about how we genuinely feel. In short, we must find a balance between head and heart in order to be both emotionally mature and intellectually honest people. From my point of view, I try to acknowledge my personal feelings and emotional desires, and then take a step back to look at all the evidence and sound reasoning I have in my awareness to discern what is actually true. In addition to evidence, or lack of evidence, I try to think critically about even the possibility of something being true. For example, I ask myself if the proposition is a logical contradiction – like a “round square.” If it is a logical contradiction, or a double standard, I cannot accept it as true because I have found through logical thought and rational analysis that all contradictions and double standards are always false. While some may try to dispute this, a double standard is a logical fallacy, similar to special pleading in which one believes that certain standards or rules applied to others or certain circumstances do not apply to oneself or certain circumstances. However, the problem with contradictions and double standards is the fact that double standards are applied without adequate justification, and I have yet to hear a single valid example of a so-called “true contradiction.” The “law of non-contradiction” states that contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time, and if one would claim that they are, then the argument would be self-defeating, as illustrated by the simple math problem +1 -1 = 0, and will be explored in more depth in the next paragraph and throughout this book. The very term “true contradiction” is a contradiction in itself and is therefore incoherent. It can therefore tell us nothing about reality. Once I come to be convinced through good evidence and critical thinking that something is true or almost certainly true, I then try to come to accept what is true regardless of whether or not it corresponds to what I personally want to believe is true. While I feel belief in God and the supernatural is mistaken, almost none of the Christian believers I have spoken with have sounded delusional in their faith. I can see their faith is genuine, and the core of their faith appears to be unshaken even in the midst of questions they may have.
I however, am not so sure, because my questions go beyond mere objections to the Christian faith. They are far more fundamental than this because from my vantage point, the fact and truth of Oneness make the notion of any eternal “separate beings” – including God – impossible to begin with, because this very idea depends on the truth of the fundamentally flawed concept of dualism – the idea there exists two “separate” and “independent” realities – one “material,” and the other “spiritual.” The problem is, dualism is provably false on more than one level – not the least of which is the fact it is logically impossible. For if there were two opposite, “separate,” and “independent” realities, as theists and substance dualists claim, then one “reality” would cancel out the other, resulting in only nothingness, which is obviously false. Simple math demonstrates this fact clearly. If there exists one “material” reality (+1), and at the same time a second and opposite “spiritual” reality (-1), then simple math tells us that 1 minus 1 equals 0. That is why there exists only one reality, even though it contains different aspects, including our subjective notions of such opposites as “good” and “bad,” of “pleasure” and “pain,” etc. These opposites are actually nothing more than two “sides” of the same one coin. But they are not, and cannot be “separate” and “independent” from each other, since again – if that were the case, then one would cancel out the other, which would only result in nothingness.
As just illustrated, dualism is a logical contradiction, which is why it is false. Logical contradictions like “round squares” cannot exist, and therefore do not exist. This is the essence of my inability to accept the traditional concept of God as a “separate,” and “independent” eternal being apart from ourselves, and is a theme that is continually revisited throughout this book because I feel it is that important and that basic. If someone were to ask me why I do not believe in God and the supernatural, my response would be it is essentially because since I cannot accept the existence of round squares, I therefore also cannot accept the existence of God, since both concepts are logical contradictions, which are therefore false. While I have several other reasons for not believing in God or the supernatural, as I explore in depth in this book, the fact of the logical contradiction of the concept of God and the supernatural is the essence of my inability to believe in these things, and is in fact and ultimately, the only reason I need as far as I’m concerned. What more reasons beyond recognizing the contradiction of the concept of round squares do we need to disprove their existence? What more reasons beyond recognizing the fact that one minus one equals zero do we need to disprove the concept of dualism, or the mistaken notion that one minus one equals three? We need no more reasons to disprove the existence of God and the supernatural either since – like round squares, and the idea that one minus one equals three – these very concepts are the exact same kind of logical contradiction, as I explore in depth in this book.
While we cannot technically “disprove” God, we can demonstrate the fact the very concept of God is a logical contradiction. Since contradictions are always false, ideas such as the concept of God and round squares are also false, and therefore cannot exist. This is akin to the logical contradiction of the argument of “creatio ex nihilo,” or the Latin phrase meaning “creation out of nothing.” If one begins with nothing, then it follows logically only nothing is possible, as will be further explored in this book. To claim that something can come from nothing is like saying I can go into my completely empty condo and find a book from inside my condo. It is a non sequitur, meaning the conclusion does not follow from the premises. Therefore the idea of “creation out of nothing,” or “something from nothing” is logically impossible. Being logically impossible, I do not see any more reason to seriously consider the idea than the notion that one minus one equals three, which is equally logically incoherent and therefore false. Matt Dillahunty is an atheist and secular humanist whom I consider an excellent critical thinker who surgically deconstructs logical fallacies brilliantly on his television show and in his debates and lectures, however while listening to him rebut one caller on his show on the problem with believing something can come from nothing, he said we cannot be 100% certain something cannot come from nothing since we have no example of “nothing” from which to empirically demonstrate the fact. While he is correct we cannot have an example of “nothing,” since all we can empirically examine must necessarily be “something,” I would think the blatant contradiction and therefore incoherence of such a proposition as something from nothing would render such an idea meaningless and therefore not true since it is a contradiction. From my vantage point, when scientific, empirical evidence does not exist, as is the case in the question on the existence of God, then we have only reason and logic from which to demonstrate the truth or falsity of a given claim. It is in cases like this where philosophy and not science can best tell us what is true. And while we may not have material “evidence” per say for a given proposition, the demonstrable logical impossibility and therefore incoherence of a given proposition invalidates it automatically, as stated previously. Those who saddle themselves to scientific, empirical evidence alone severely limit themselves unnecessarily in making reasonable truth claims. This is why I don’t understand why some atheists like Dillahunty shoot themselves in the foot with irrelevancies such as the fact we do not have empirical evidence of “nothing.” Of course we don’t, but we don’t have to in order to render such a concept as something from nothing logically incoherent since it is a contradiction and is therefore impossible. Likewise, we do not need empirical evidence of God to demonstrate the idea of God is impossible when the attributes of God are self-contradictory, as is the case with the Judeo-Christian/Islamic God. For when it comes to self-contradictory propositions, empirical evidence is irrelevant. While empirical evidence is important in many instances to demonstrate the truth or falsity of a given claim, it is not possible nor necessary to demonstrate the non-existence of something when its attributes are self-contradictory and therefore incoherent. While Dillahunty recognizes this when deconstructing many theological contradictions, I am amazed he failed to recognize this on the question of “something from nothing.” It is the same rabbit hole Christopher Hitchens unnecessarily led himself down in a debate with Dinesh D’Souza, as I explore in a later chapter in this book, “Sound Reasoning.”
While the Christian believers I have spoken with accept God as a given without question, I cannot accept God as a given because I cannot intellectually accept the premise of dualism in the first place – the self-contradictory premise I would have to accept in order to believe in God as defined as a separate, independent, and “transcendent” being apart from ourselves and existence. I cannot accept and believe in that which cannot exist due to the logical contradiction I would have to accept in order to believe in its existence, no matter what it is. I would have to abandon reason. I would have to somehow ignore non-contradictory logic and sound reasoning in order to believe in logical contradictions and concepts like “round squares.” This is something I cannot do, as I am not comfortable abandoning reason by ignoring my head for the sake of my heart no matter what I want to believe.
The question of the historicity of Jesus also poses a huge stumbling block in my way of accepting Christianity as true. The incredible lack of any evidence for an historical Jesus dated from the time he supposedly lived, with not a single word written either by Jesus himself or by contemporary writers and historians in reference to him to corroborate the Gospel accounts during his supposed lifetime, the lack of a direct and definite reference to Jesus of Nazareth in the “Dead Sea Scrolls,” combined with the strong evidence suggesting the Roman Flavians invented or at least re-invented Jesus for purposes of manipulation and control of messianic Jewish rebels and slaves, also make belief in Jesus as my personal savior impossible for me given my current understanding. Accepting the Jesus story as literal fact is hard enough for me to believe given all I have learned about the Bible being constructed as typological literature, the lack of contemporary, third-party accounts of Jesus’ life, and the Roman Flavians’ mind-control campaigns they were notorious for; but even more fundamentally, the logical contradiction of a “separate” God being the exact same kind of contradiction as a “round square” as stated previously, make it impossible for me to accept the concept of God to begin with, even though I emotionally would like to believe the loving and pleasant aspects of a God in his Heaven are true. Unless someone can genuinely explain a serious error in my logic and reasoning I may have never before considered, or unless someone can explain to me how squares can be round and how one minus one can equal anything other than zero, I see no way possible for me to accept the concepts of God and the supernatural while maintaining intellectual honesty. As of now, I have not found any thought, philosophy, principle, insight, or scripture, which would contradict my findings on Oneness, and therefore the impossibility of God.
I have lately mused whether faith is synonymous with the “heart,” and fact is synonymous with the “head.” I wondered if it was possible for me to reconcile the two by acknowledging my heart wants to believe in a loving God, while my head knows God is not real, because he cannot be real. I am not sure if it even matters to those of faith whether or not the concept of God is logically possible, but it matters greatly to me, as I still cannot reconcile sound reasoning with the idea of a “separate” and “independent” “timeless” being of any kind, let alone God, because it is synonymous with the concept of a “round square” as stated previously. While I was observing Sunday school one day, a little child brilliantly asked the question, “who created God?” Wow. Out of the mouths of babes. If he only knew the profound depth of his question. It is indeed the impossible contradiction of belief in the necessity for all things to have a creator, while at the same time committing the logical fallacy of “special pleading” for an “uncreated creator,” which makes it fundamentally impossible for me to accept God intellectually.
It is easy for me to accept the idea of a loving God in my heart. It is impossible for me to accept the concept of God in my head. Since neither my head nor my heart can “win” over the other if I strive for balance, I feel the most honest thing for me is to acknowledge the ultimate question of “why” is unknowable, and to perhaps acknowledge the “good” that the concept of God can have and does have on many lives, even if God is not real as an actual, factual reality or being outside ourselves. For me, the only way I could believe in a literal “supreme-being ego-god,” is I would have to choose to believe in God while knowing God is logically impossible at the same time. I am personally not comfortable with this because I cannot simply ignore what my critical thinking mind tells me what must be true logically, and find it far more comfortable to deal with the head-heart dichotomy by acknowledging my heart by trying to live as closely as possible to the “Godly” qualities of truth, love, integrity, compassion, and forgiveness, while not attributing them to a “separate” and “independent” being outside myself, nor attributing them to me. Who owns happiness? Who owns sadness? Who owns joy and compassion? Nobody owns these things because they cannot be owned as they are Universal, which is why nobody – not me, not Jesus Christ, nor God can claim “ownership” of that which cannot be owned, such as truth. That is why I reject the idea that truth is the exclusive property of any one religion.
In short, I see the concept of God as a metaphor – as the embodiment of principles, not as a literal, factual reality or “being” outside ourselves. While our beliefs may change our perception of reality and how we act in this world, they do not change what actually is, just as belief in a flat Earth does not change the fact the Earth is a sphere. It is my observation that how we live, how we love, how we support others and put them ahead of our selfish desires is at the end of the day what most people – including most religious people, actually care about, rather than what one professes to believe with their words since actions tend to almost always speak louder than words. My passionate quest for truth involves navigating that never-ending, ever-allusive balancing act between my head and my heart.