For the most part, religious belief does not play a central role to my thinking. If you believe in God, great. If not, great. If you like, you can even talk to me about it- I enjoy discussing God and religion with other people. Who knows, they might even convert me.
I have been raised a Christian my entire life, and during that time I have experienced things that I could call personal revelation, but I don’t believe are, because I can get the same feeling of awe from a good book or looking at the stars as I get in a “spiritually charged” atmosphere. I have read apologetics books in massive amounts, and took the advice of my pastor and steeped myself in the Bible. I have done my best to reconcile all my doubts about a Creator- but at the end of the day, I cannot force myself to believe. I cannot in good conscience lay down my curiosity and allow it to be trampled by faith- that is not who I am.
Probably the first among my doubts is how on earth can you possibly reconcile the god of the Old Testament, a god who is vicious, merciless, uncaring when it comes to death of any people but his own- with the god of the New Testament- one who is kind, gentle, loving, and caring. The Bible says they are the same- his actions say different. And a He he must be- it is stated in the Bible, but that is not why I know his gender. If he were to exist, he is far more vicious and bloodthirsty than any military or political leader to have ever lived, and I cannot reconcile that with a woman’s often gentle nature. Women, in general, are capable of extreme violence, but mostly only in defense of others. Very, very few women are wantonly bloodthirsty for the sake of it- that is often the province of my gender- of men.
Given the actions of God in the Old Testament- his destruction of the earth out of disappointment, his allowing of the Jews to be punished in Egypt to prove a point, the wandering for 40 years, the slaughtering of infants, children, women, and animals he created, the wiping out of entire tribes of people, the disruption of man for trying to build a tower- all these things are not things I can imagine happening because of a caring emotion. You do not kill a child because you fear that one day he will become corrupt, although the Bible tells us that this is perfectly acceptable. You do not call yourself loving and caring overall and then slaughter that which you claim to care about.
So there are only a few explanations- the first is that God has a very fluid personality. This scares me, because God would be eternal, if we follow the Bible’s teaching- and an eternal God with a rapidly changing personality (on an eternal timeline) is not something worthy of your worship. Caution, yes, worhip, no. Because one day, you will be singing praises, and he will decide he is sick of the noise, and cast you down into fire and brimstone to get you to finally shut up. Or maybe because he wants to hear you scream.
The other two options are that he is either totally reprehensible, or totally good. Obviously he is not totally good, or there would be no evil. And don’t tell me about free will and the necessity for evil that creates- Creationists and religious people in general are fond of saying God understands things we don’t, and that he knows all- so he should know of a way for people to exist with free will without quite so much pain- half of it caused intentionally by him. And if he didn’t, he could create one. After all, he is God. The other alternative is that he is totally evil- which thought scares me as well. And an evil god is not worthy of my respect or worship.
In the end, all those thoughts are moot- I do not believe, and have not for some time, although I have thoroughly tried for the majority of my life. And perhaps that is a good thing, in the end- because if I did believe, I could not in good conscience let God exist without doing my best to kill him, or at least strip him of all influence in this world without him blowing it up again. After all, he only promised he’d never flood the world again. Didn’t say anything about fire.
At any rate, most of that thinking doesn’t matter anymore- thanks to The God Delusion. I’m notoriously scatterbrained, and have trouble following trains of thought all the way to their destination- my trains sort of teleport from track to track, and may or may not end up in the same county. The God Delusion helped to smooth out the bumps in my random musings, and helped me to have the courage to admit to myself that everything I have been taught and immersed in for twenty years did not matter to me in the slightest in terms of how to live my life, because- God does not exist.
Thank you, Mr. Dawkins, although I still have quite a ways to come, as you can see from what I’ve written above. Religion still has far too much of a hold on my thinking