Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Holy Spirit told me God isn't real

Read the Bible to find a God
The Holy Spirit told me he God isn't real. "How can that be?," you might ask. Let's begin by discussing what people mean by "the Holy Spirit".
What is the Holy Spirit, and how can we know when it's talking to us?
I was going to share my personal opinions based on my experiences as a Christian, but that would only lead to charges that I'm wrong. Instead, I'll use some GotQuestions "answers" [Emphasis is my own]:
But how do we recognize the Spirit’s guidance? How do we discern between our own thoughts and His leading? After all, the Holy Spirit does not speak with audible words. Rather, He guides us through our own consciences (Romans 9:1) and other quiet, subtle ways. 
One of the most important ways to recognize the Holy Spirit’s guidance is to be familiar with God’s Word. The Bible is the ultimate source of wisdom about how we should live (2 Timothy 3:16), and believers are to search the Scriptures, meditate on them, and commit them to memory (Ephesians 6:17).
So what do I mean when I say "The Holy Spirit sold me God isn't real"? I mean that:

  • It's knowledge of the Bible that emerged from my conscience,
  • This knowledge was revealed to me over the course of months or years of routine study of the Bible as a believing Christian, and 
  • The revelation occurred as a series of smaller revelations, such that the entire faith was internally consistent at any one time.
    1. An loving and ethical God wouldn't punish me for thinking for myself. God is loving and ethical, so it's safe to think for myself. (This was the key to freedom)
    2. A fair assessment of biblical stories must include all reasonable explanations
      1. One potential explanation is that the people who wrote the bible were sincere but deceived
      2. Another explanation is that they were insincere
      3. Another is that the message was corrupted or manipulated during canonization
      4. Finally, there's a chance that a god with the omni's wrote it.
      5. There are a great many serious problems with that final hypothesis::
        1. If a God wrote the Bible, it really ought to be in agreement with the emerging discoveries of science rather than conflicting with them.
        2. A just and loving God wouldn't chose to ban shellfish and permit slavery
        3. An intelligent god would understand that we are rational creatures and require reasonable evidence to accept a claim.
      6. There are many reasons to believe the Bible could be sincere yet false
        1. Even in the modern era, it's common for people to interpret events inaccurately
        2. Much of the Bible (especially OT) is known to be pre-literate Jewish oral tradition.
        3. Even many of the NT Books are of unknown authorship or are written generations after the alleged events.
      7. When I stopped to reflect on the communications I'd had with God / Jesus, I realized
        1. They were never specific enough to make a prediction of an outcome
        2. They never provided me with objective insight which I didn't already have. 
        3. In these VERY REAL ways, my communications with "god" were not possible to distinguish from my own imagination.
    Of course, there's also this gem:
    Knowledge of God’s Word can help us to discern whether or not our desires come from the Holy Spirit. We must test our inclinations against Scripture—the Holy Spirit will never prod us to do anything contrary to God’s Word. If it conflicts with the Bible, then it is not from the Holy Spirit and should be ignored. 
    But what is "God's Word"? Obviously, they think it's the Bible (which version)? Other people think it's the Quran or the Book of Mormon or some other book.  But we all have seen how the Bible contradicts itself. A cursory review of the breadth of Christian denominations proves that one can read anything one wants into the Bible. It's like a Rorschach Test for believers. In any case, that's not a rational way to approach any test. Reasonable people recognize that the Bible they were handed was handled by men in the following chain from their hands:
    • Store
    • Delivery
    • Printer
    • Editor
    • Many hundreds of years (in some cases)
    • Translator
    • Many hundreds of years
    • Canon selection (allegedly divine, impossible to verify)
    • Original Author (mostly anonymous)
    • Source material (allegedly divine, impossible to verify)
    So when it comes down to it, we realize that the book we hold in our hands could have been corrupted in ANY of the preceding steps (some more likely than others). Two of the steps are so fraught with potential error that theists are taught to believe divine intervention somehow protected the Biblical word.  Returning to GotQuestions:
    ... he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Romans 8:26–27).
    In any case, the end result is that we know it's god or the holy spirit because you're studying scripture, or praying, it feels real, and it agrees with scripture -- something poetic and open to many interpretations. In talking to many Christians, it came across that God or the Holy Spirit were talking when things were suddenly clear and understandable.  This was the measure Christians seem to tend actually to use.
    As I reached the age of reason, I studied the Christian teachings I'd been taught as a child. I searched my soul to understand the ethics of the God / Jesus model I had been taught. Some things became clear:
    • A just God wouldn't torture for disbelief due to missing evidence. In a just system, deeds must be the basis of reward and punishment, not beliefs.
    • The Jesus I was taught to believe in was not hateful or discriminatory, and certainly didn't lash out for honest mistakes. The fire and brimstone preachers were caught up in their own personal anger and projecting it onto their version of god.
    The clarity of these personal revelations was convincing evidence of their divinity to my Christian self. They made it possible for me to think openly about the strength of the evidence for the things I was taught to believe as a child.  I didn't need to worry about torture because God is just and wouldn't torture without reasonable cause. 
    In short, a rational review of the reasons for by beliefs helped me recognize the circular logic and simple collection of human cognitive frailties which lead to and reinforce superstitious beliefs. Central to those are the power of community belief, and confirmation bias. But surely there must be evidence of god which stands up to scrutiny that accounts for these cognitive biases!
    There wasn't. I looked and didn't find it in any of the places I expected to. Of course, I heard that "Absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence", but given the superstitious nature of early people, I couldn't shake the possibility that my religion was just as much a superstition as all the others.
    I was atheist for decades before I really even knew the word, much less found authors or community.  There wasn't a sudden switch, but a gradual increase in my doubt for god. Example after example showed that God was no more likely than other mythical creatures.  
    • Intercessory Prayer (Prayer for others) [FAIL]
    • Better health of believers [FAIL]
    • Trustworthy clergy [FAIL]
    • Miracles [FAIL]
    • Firmament and heaven up in the sky [FAIL]
    • Genetics or archeology to confirm any ancient books [FAIL]
    One by one, the loving interventionist god I'd been raised to trust fell to the cold hart facts of reality: These things don't happen. People interpret any little positive thing as god, and ignore the negatives. True interventions that align with any objective and intelligent purpose simply don't happen.
    If God is real, it has no detectable interaction with reality which I've been able to uncover. And belief without reason is unhealthy.
    Maybe I'll meet a  god some day.  I doubt it, but if I do and it's ethical and benevolent, it will understand and accept my nonbelief.

    1 comment :

    1. Wow - perfect description of how I feel as well.