There are three simple steps we can take to uncover the truth about our traditional concepts of God and religion, particularly within Judeo-Christian, Islamic traditions.
- Recognize the fact that all contradictions and double standards are false.
- Recognize the fact that all religious beliefs in the supernatural are contradictions and/or double standards.
- Recognize by virtue of steps 1 and 2 that all religious beliefs in the supernatural are therefore false, which automatically demonstrates that religious beliefs in a supernatural God and “realm” are imaginary.
In the abovementioned three easy steps, we can prove that God and religious beliefs in the supernatural are imaginary and false, because while we cannot technically prove a universal negative, that is, we cannot prove the non-existence of something, we can prove the fact these ideas are based on contradictions and double standards. Because they are based on contradictions and double standards, which are always false, these ideas therefore cannot be true, and by extension, are not true, as we have discovered before and in the last chapter. So, we technically don’t need to “prove” God does not exist. We only need to prove the fact such an idea like God is self-contradictory, which automatically makes this idea false. It’s as simple as that.
For purposes of clarification, when I refer to “fact” and “truth” in this chapter, I am using these terms interchangeably. I make this point of clarification because in this book I will often cite a careful distinction between fact and truth, with fact being something we can demonstrate and/or prove to be true, while I posit truth as essentially the message behind the facts, such as the resurrection story being a metaphor for the truth of us “rising again” after overcoming trials in our lives.
While we have just discovered how easy it is to prove the impossibility of God and religious belief in the supernatural, as we did in the last chapter, for the time being, let us put away the idea of whether or not God, the afterlife, or any other “spiritual” concept actually exists, and just examine the facts of what believing in these religious ideas actually does. That is ultimately what matters more than whether or not these ideas are actually true, because the point is, while what we believe never changes reality – what is actually true, it does affect our lives and our relationships with others. Let us look at the afterlife. Such an idea is a great source of comfort for millions of people around the world, whether we believe in this through the form of reincarnation, Heaven and Hell, resurrection, rebirth, immortal souls, etc. What is rarely examined is the price for such a belief. How does this belief fundamentally change us as people? Does believing in such notions make us more compassionate, more humble, and more reverent for life and its incredibly precious fragility and transience? Does belief in the afterlife make us more aware of the truth of life and enhance our understanding of reality and our place in the universe? Is it honest to believe in the afterlife because we fear punishment and hope for reward? To believe in the afterlife because of hope and fear is hypocrisy because we do things with an expectation to get something in return for ourselves, not because we actually want to do these things in our hearts. Coercion never changes our hearts. It only exposes us for the hypocrites we are. To believe a so-called “just” and “holy” God with any integrity would not value honesty, and would instead reward or punish us for our hypocrisy is absurd. When we believe we are going to somehow, some way, “live forever,” does such a belief instill within us an immensity of respect and humility for life in the here-and-now more, or does it somehow cheapen life on Earth, making it easy for us to undervalue this life, seeing it as a “passing phase,” some incidental occurrence in which “something greater” and “eternal” awaits us after death?
It is easy to see how believing in the afterlife can contribute to greatly undervaluing life in the here-and-now, and how such a belief allows us to excuse our ignorance, ignore the real needs of people on Earth, and be insensitive to human suffering since “something better” is awaiting those who suffer “in faith.” It is also easy to see how those in power can easily coerce the proletariat into tolerating injustice and less than decent treatment since “something better” awaits them after death if they remain “obedient” to their faith and to those in power. Whom does such a belief benefit? It benefits those in power who would keep the masses under their thumb through the coercive means of reward and punishment, whether this is done by the Church or the State. Religious belief allows the strong to remain feeling strong by suppressing the weak by getting them to buy in to the idea it is “pleasing” in the eyes of God for them to suffer and obey, and for the weak to aspire to strength through believing the idea God is “on the side of the suffering,” and “something better” awaits them after death in reward for their obedience to the power structures who rule over them. Since the ego needs of both the weak and the strong are so perfectly met under these beliefs, it is no wonder the ideas of God and the afterlife have been perpetuated for millennia.
The concept of the afterlife, as we have come to understand it in modern Christianity, is absent in Old Testament Judaism, and did not actually come about until the invention of Christianity. It would take Jesus – the “Prince of Peace” to finally speak of the “weeping and gnashing of teeth” of the damned – a remarkable contradiction for a man who taught others to “love and forgive your enemies,” while speaking of their eternal punishment at the same time. While this may seem to contradict the notion of a God of “love” and “forgiveness,” this seeming contradiction makes sense when we realize Christianity was almost certainly invented or re-invented by those working for the narcissistic and egotistical Roman Flavian emperors, who were never interested in the true freedom and enlightenment of humankind, but in perpetuating ignorance, blind obedience to authority, demanding the worship of themselves as gods, and the enslavement of others, as will be explored in the upcoming chapter, “Caesar’s Messiah.” Even if one is skeptical of the “Caesar’s Messiah” theory, the evidence that Christianity was almost certainly the invention of a given power structure desiring control of others can be found in the very scriptures themselves, particularly by what both Jesus and the apostle Paul said within scripture, and perhaps more importantly, what they did not say within scripture. Jesus’ lack of condemnation of slavery, and Paul’s instruction to slaves and the proletariat not to resist their masters or people who rule in authority over them is especially suspicious. While it is true that a well-functioning society requires some semblance of order and not constant anarchy and rebellion for no good reason, it is never just or reasonable to accept suppression and injustice by intimidation and coercion from the few so they can benefit at the expense of the many, which has been the case in virtually all societies throughout history regardless of what form of government is in power. Jesus did not even have to abolish slavery to have at least some measure of credibility. All he had to do was simply state that slavery is unjust and a human abomination, but amazingly, he had nothing at all to say about the incredible injustice of slavery, which is remarkable for the very Son of God who lived at a time and in a place where slavery and its cruelties was widespread. However, these words of scripture condoning slavery make sense if we read them as Roman propaganda, or the propaganda of another authoritative power structure instead of “divine” literature. “Divine” literature would not be written to serve such base human self-interests as the owning of other human beings as property for one’s own pleasure, service, and convenience, as in part the Bible does. And if this was the zenith of the moral sensibilities and message of a “Divine God,” what kind of person would want to worship and serve such an immoral “god?”
At this point some apologists might try to backpedal by attempting to justify why slavery in the Bible was somehow “different” from American slavery in which slaves were forced laborers held as the property of their masters against their will, and was instead more like American indentured servitude. This is not entirely true as we find in Leviticus 25:44-46.
“You may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way.”
American indentured servants were not slaves for life, but served their masters for a specified term – typically five years, after which time they were free to find work on their own. They were also provided room and board. Unlike slavery, this was an equitable agreement – a contract which was designed to benefit both parties. That is not the kind of slavery as found in this Leviticus passage. Besides, if Biblical slavery was not so “bad,” as many apologists claim, why then does the Bible itself explicitly state the “chosen people” are not to be treated as slaves in the above Leviticus passage? If there is any question how Biblical slaves were treated, we need look no further than Exodus 21:20-21.
“When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property.”
No matter how any apologist tries to spin the harsh and disturbing reality of God’s endorsement of slavery in the Bible, these passages among numerous others clearly show that at least some forms of Biblical slavery were not only of the “indentured servitude” variety, but included the right to beat slaves just short of murder since they were – as the Bible states – the property of another human being. To be a man of God and simply ignore or justify slavery – the insidious act of trying to own another human being no matter how we try to rationalize it makes no sense. However, if Jesus was actually speaking as the Roman emperor Titus, as we will explore in the upcoming chapter “Caesar’s Messiah,” and Paul was working for the Roman Empire to promote its Jesus cult, the lack of their condemnation of slavery and Paul’s justification of it makes perfect sense, especially since slaves at that time comprised at least forty percent of the population of the Roman Empire, whose economic system was dependent on slavery.
The bottom line is, regardless of whether or not God and the afterlife actually exist is not even the point. The point is, religious belief is simply a bad idea, because it perpetuates ignorance, violence, and fear in one form or another since it is based on faith, which is ignorance itself because if you have knowledge of truth, you don’t need to believe. We only have faith when we are ignorant – when we do not know and therefore need to invent false “answers” to comfort ourselves in our ignorance and fear instead of seeking actual truth from evidence, observation, awareness, and sound reasoning. Religious belief, while purporting to be about “God,” and “truth,” is actually all about me because it is all about “my” salvation. The New Testament states time and time again the need to be “justified” before God. Religious belief, and particularly Christianity, with its false belief in the permanent self, is therefore dedicated to the defense, perpetuation, and justification of the ego. If Christianity truly was not about self, and its justification before God, none of these ideas would exist in the Bible. The scriptures themselves plainly convict Christianity of its true motives if we read them openly, critically, and honestly. As long as it is ego, and not the reality of actual truth – the Oneness of All upon which our lives are based, then we will suffer in ignorance indefinitely.
All that being said, it is completely understandable why we would want to believe in God. It pacifies our fears of being alone in what is often a cruel, hurtful world. It offers us consolation when our loved ones die, and we are told they are “in a better place,” or that they did not “die,” but made a peaceful “transition” to “another realm of existence.” It also offers us comfort in facing our own mortality, as well as our feelings of vulnerability in a difficult world we so often do not understand and are afraid of. It makes us feel vindicated to know our “good” actions will be rewarded and the “evil” actions of “bad” people will be punished. It satisfies our need for “justice.” While it is understandable to want to believe all of this, our desires cannot make what we want to be true truth itself. What we want to believe and what is actually true is not necessarily one and the same.
While it is understandable we would want to believe in God and the afterlife, what is less acceptable is the idea we would be so dishonest about why we actually believe in these things. What is most hypocritical and insidious about many religious believers, is their assertion of the “truth” of what they believe, instead of being honest by simply saying they do not know what they believe is true, but hope it is true because they want to believe it is true, and because they have bought in to following a chosen authority. They could simply state, “I’m alone and afraid. I fear death. I want to believe “someone” is “watching over me” and will help me when I am in trouble. I want to believe I will not be permanently gone after I die because I do not want to be extinct. Therefore, I believe in God even though I cannot prove God’s existence because it validates my hopes, soothes my fears, and gives me purpose, meaning, and strength to carry on in this brutal, cruel, hurtful world.”
I could respect such an honest statement of faith, because it would be an honest testament to what is actually true. While it would be extraordinarily refreshing to hear such honesty about the truth of religious faith, virtually no believer will ever be honest enough with themselves to actually admit this truth, especially pastors and those whose paychecks depend upon the truth of their religious convictions. What many zealous religious people fail to understand is the fact that once you make an assertion of truth or fact, you must provide evidence to demonstrate and/or prove your assertions. The religious will often cavalierly state they don’t “have to” provide evidence to justify their faith, and in a way, they are correct. They don’t have to justify why they believe what they do, but they do have to justify why they call their faith fact or truth, since any such claim of fact and truth require evidence to take it out of the realm of faith and into the realm of fact. The two cannot be assumed to be one and the same thing.
People have a right to believe whatever they want to believe. What people don’t have a right to do is make a truth or factual claim that cannot be proven or demonstrated as fact. If it was possible to prove or demonstrate religious claims as fact, then we could refer to such claims as religious fact instead of religious faith. When religious apologists and theologians assume the “truth” of their religious faith as being factual, without any credible backup for their claims, they fail to see their incorrect conflation of faith with fact, which is why none of their arguments hold any credibility. Faith, like talk, is cheap, since faith, unlike fact or truth, requires no backup. It only requires we believe whatever we want to believe, while fact and truth requires evidence to back it up – to prove and/or demonstrate its truth. Having faith is laziness and requires no effort. It only requires we “believe.” Knowledge of truth requires we work to uncover truth for ourselves through evidence, sound reasoning, and logical, critical thinking that is without contradiction, not simply accepting the words of an arbitrary authority through blind “faith.” To say “I believe such and such is true” is simply a statement of faith. To say, “I believe such and such is true and what I believe is a fact or is true,” is a contradictory statement. Either we know or we do not know. Either we believe something is true or we know something is true. It is always either one or the other. It can never be both. That is why the conflating of faith with fact is incorrect, and why the very expression “spiritual truth” is a contradiction of terms and is absurd. Religious belief on the other hand, is not a contradiction of terms because religion is always based on faith, on belief, precisely because we do not know, because we are ignorant.
As we have discovered previously, all contradictions and double standards are false. When religions purport claims as “fact” or “truth,” they must back up their claims with evidence, just as a scientist, witnesses in a court case, or any other person must also back up their conclusions or claims with evidence to prove or demonstrate them as fact. That is the only honest, truthful way to discover and demonstrate what is true. Just because religions purport to be about “God,” does not give them a pass from the requirement to provide evidence to back up their claims if they want to assert what they are claiming is the truth. Everyone else has to provide evidence to support a truth or factual claim, and so do the religious. However, the difference between the religious and everyone else in our society is the religious are seemingly exempt from the need to provide evidence, and somehow manage to be able to make “truth” claims without any evidence whatsoever, which is complete and total dishonesty, enabled by a hypocritical double standard. To use one’s “faith” as a claim for truth is invalid because everyone, regardless of their faith, believes their religious beliefs are “right,” while often believing other religions’ beliefs are “wrong,” with no legitimate evidence to back up these claims. When each group equally believes in the truth of their assertions simply on “faith,” then the only means by which we can authenticate and actually prove or demonstrate the fact of the “correctness” of any given belief system is evidence and/or sound reasoning. However, the problem with all of these religions is the fact absolutely none of them provide any legitimate evidence whatsoever to back up their claims for truth, and are all therefore equally invalid. Everyone is an atheist with respect to those gods they do not believe in. Even theists reject at least one god, while believing their god or gods to be the “right one(s).” The only difference between a religious atheist and a true atheist, is the true atheist is honest enough to reject all gods equally, because they recognize the fact all gods are equally without good evidence, and are therefore all equally imaginary.
It seems one of the persistent symptoms of the sickness of religious faith is in not being able to recognize the fact what we believe is not necessarily truth itself, but is often instead what we think is true. It is distressing to realize the extent of religious delusion. It is especially distressing to realize the fact we cannot be honest with ourselves while clinging to religious belief because in doing so we cannot see the distinction between belief and fact. If we could see this distinction, then in most cases, our faith would end because it would be exposed for the illusion it is due to the non-truthful self-contradictions and double standards it contains. Awareness is the end of ignorance, fear, and therefore… faith.