Okay, so here I am in New York City. I just flew in to do this appearance tomorrow on the View. I have no idea how it will go, but I am so thankful and happily surprised that they are having me on the show to talk about Letting Go of God. I know that Jenny McCarthy is also a guest. I don't know if we will get into my show very much or not. But we will see.
I am going to start a Forum so we can continue all this great discussion. It probably won't be up for a while, but it eventually will exist. In the meantime, I'm collecting my favorite comments that people have made and I am going to post them in a special place on my website.
In the meantime, I wanted to answer the letter that Michael wrote to me -- after I asked him, why he believes in God and what that God is like. His letter to me is in italics. My response is not.
Thank you for at least acknowledging there are issues with the concept of spontaneous creation. I appreciate your honesty about that.
Wait a minute! I didn't say there were "issues" with spontaneous creation. I said that there are lots of possibilities for how life got started on earth, all of them plausible and from natural sources - or not-God sources. I worry that you use the word "issues" to mean that the evidence for a wholly natural universe is shakey, when it is not.
Now, to answer your questions. I write this with a little trepidation because I know that it will be jumped on by many, but, you asked an honest question and I will provide an honest answer. I don't expect that it will be a satisfactory answer to most, but it is at least a contrary viewpoint from a believer to a non-believer.
The short answer to your question of why do I believe what I believe is that I believe that God loved me so much that He voluntarily came to earth and became human. He endured incredible suffering of physical and spiritual pain and torture for the redemption of my sins. He was humiliated, mocked, laughed at, and killed because of that love. Yet, he was resurrected. I cannot escape his love for me and I, in turn, love him. Boiled down to its core, love is the essence of my relationship with God.
But there is no evidence that God loved you so much that he came to earth and became human. To me, this is a myth - a common myth - that you believe as true because your religion told you it was true and you have some reason to need to believe it. This story of Jesus divine nature is repeated through out many myths. There is no credible evidence that he was resurrected. The evidence is based on heresay and eye-witnesses and we know that this is one of the worst possible types of evidence. Even though it might feel good to believe this story and even though there might be plenty of social and psychological reasons to believe this story, to me - it doesn't seem like there is any solid evidence to believe this story as fact.
I feel his presence in my life. I have joy, peace, and contentment trusting in him even in very difficult situations. God has been faithful to me even when I have not been faithful to him. He has answered prayers and provided guidance with difficult decisions. Without Him in my life, there was a gaping hole in my being that only He could fill.
I think you have been coached to feel that the joy and peace and contentment came from God when really that is all within you. You have the capacity to make yourself feel joy and peace and contentment and God is a mechanism through which you can transfer your inner powerfulness onto a "God" and then give it back to yourself as if it's a gift. And it IS a gift. It's the gift of your own evolved psychology and biology. You may need to believe in God. You may be a better person for believing in God. But that still doesn't mean there is a God.
Now, the longer answer. There was a time in my life when I questioned whether there was a God "up there." But, in doing so, I had to acknowledge that the universe had a beginning at some point. It likely started with a singularity and rapidly expanded from there. Why would that have occurred? What would have caused it? How could matter be created out of nothing? In the words of the old Billy Preston song, "nothing from nothing means nothing." Logically, it does not make sense that something would be created out of nothing for no reason without the force of a creator creating it. An intellect and power beyond anything we can comprehend or even imagine in this dimension would answer that dilemma. It makes much more sense to me that a being created the universe than believing that it just happened.
I think that there is plenty of evidence for a Universe created without intention or intelligence. I think consciousness is a product of an organ that we have evolved: our brain. I think we have evolved to think that consciousness is something that is other-worldly or exists outside ourselves. We overly-revere consciousness -- and it's easy to see how this could be. Consciousness is amazing. But that doesn't mean that the Universe has a consciousness. Also, the universe didn't "just happen." It happened through a long process of evolution and natural selection. Our brains are also designed to expect a designer. We see such a small little bit of it in our lifetime -- that's why we need science and a concillience of evidence from many disciplines to really see what is likely to be true. And all of that points to a world without design and without an intervening and loving consciousness that is concerned about us. Even though - I know - that SUCKS. It was really hard for me to take that. It meant that bad things really did often happen for no reason. It meant that all that time I "kept it to myself" when I was wronged or thought I was wronged, and then thought - "well God knows this and that's what is important." It meant that I had to stand up for myself and see all the terrible injustice in the world. And that bad things can happen to good people because lots of bad things are random and not deserved. So, I know, it is difficult to look at the world that way. But I think it is accurate to look at the world without a Supernatural Love. And now I see the dark side of believing that, too.
Secondly, there is the question of where did life on this earth come from. Life on this earth also had a beginning. How did it begin? Evolution is one attempt to answer that question. An atheist friend I used to work with tried to show me how clear evolution was. He provided me with some books, one being from Gaylord Simpson. As I read it, I noticed how many assumptions, speculations, and holes there were in the whole theory. Why should I abandon my faith in God for a theory that required my faith to accept. (I acknowledge that there are many Christians who accept evolution as being God directed; however, I personally don't buy macroevolutionary theory).
Evolution is not a theory in that it is debated in the scientific community. Theories in science are what describe groups of facts. Evolution is a theory and a fact. The theory of gravity explains why apples drop from trees. But gravity is not a theory that is debated in science. The same is true for evolution.
The more I've learned about evolutionary theory, the more incredible it is for me to believe. I've touched on only a couple problems I have with it. I don't accept these assumptions that have to be made. For example, creatures more advanced than apes supposedly led up to man in a string of transitions. Those creatures would have been at that time the most advanced creatures on earth. Where are they? Why aren't they still around? Oh, I know that we have a few bits and pieces of bones here and there which are subject to interpretation. But I'm talking about the living, breathing creatures. Why would the most advanced creatures on earth ALL disappear except the last in the line? It doesn't make any sense. Therefore, again, the Bible supplies the answer for creation of the species that makes much more sense. A creator created that life.
I don't really understand what you are saying here. They are us. Or they are other species that are not extinct. I don't think you understand what evolution really is. The Bible's description of the creation of the species is a story that was made up by an ancient people that didn't have the means to look at the evidence. It makes much less sense. Why would God create all those animals? We don't need all those animals.
I also have found that the Universe, the beauty of nature, and the incredible complexity of life from cells up to humans displays not randomness but design. Design implies a designer. One may make patterns out of a cloud, but the cloud is not the object you see. I wouldn't expect to come across a sculpture and wonder what windstorm or firestorm caused some hunk of bronze to fashion itself into the replication of a horse. Rather, I would wonder who created the sculpture. Yet, atheists see an incredibly designed, perfectly complex universe and all that is in it but believe it just happened on its own by chance.
We see things as designed becasue we are arriving here on earth so late in the process and we are only alive for a very short period of time. It is reasonable that you would think the world was designed. This is one of the greatest gifts of insight that science has given us -- it shows us that the world exists without a designer. It goes completely against our instincts and common sense. And yet, the evidence points this way. We can see it in the smallest levels -- the ones that you accept -- in viruses and bacteria. Evolution happens and the byproduct, over a very long period of time, is a world that looks designed.
Fourth, why are humans so different from all the other creatures. The Bible says man was made in God's image. There is a quantum leap in intelligence between humans and animals. Furthermore, isn't it odd that all peoples throughout history have believed in a God. Now, you can chalk that up to ignorant superstition, but if that's the case, why do doctors, mathematicians, lawyers, CEOs, and, yes, even scientists, etc. in the year 2006 also believe in God. It would appear that there is some connection between being human and believing in God. It is not unreasonable to believe that God has given us the ability to find Him.
That's just it! We humans, it turns out, aren't all that different from other creatures! And it SO seems like it. But the more we learn about animals, the more animal like we find ourselves. Because we are animals. I think people all around the world believe in God because people made up reasons why there was thunder and lightening or why their particular tribe was special. They made these stories up to explain things they could not explain, or to help their group psycologically. And I think the reason that so many educated people say they believe in God is because there are a lot reasons to benefit from believing in God. It makes you part of a defined community, it alleviates anxiety about death, there is a social stigma to not-believing and so forth. It makes sense to me that there is not God AND that most people believe in God.
Next, I had to consider the life of Jesus. He clearly lived on this earth. He clearly claimed that he was God. Reliable witnesses saw him perform miracles. He was crucified, died, and was buried. There is no question that the tomb was subsequently empty and many witnesses saw his resurrected body. His ministry lasted only 3 years in an insignificant country in the middle of nowhere. Yet, within a short time, his message had spread and is now one of the world's dominant religions. The mention of his name provokes reactions like none other. His disciples went from being afraid to even admit they knew him to boldly preaching his word and being willing martyrs rather than deny his deity. You ask for proof of God? Jesus Christ was that proof.
Becuase someone claims they are God, that doesn't make them God. Lots of people claim to be God. The witnesses that saw Jesus perform miracles were not reliable. There were a lot of incentives to make this up. There have been many messianic characters in history and many stories about them. That doesn't make it true. The reactions that people have about Jesus are real, but they have them for psychological reasons and not because Jesus himself is having some effect on them. Many scholars don't even think that Jesus ever existed. AND just because people like the disciples went from doubt to faith to preaching doesn't mean that it is real and true. Jim Jones also had disciples who went through the same progress in behavior and thinking. I don't think you understand what "proof" is, really.
I have seen people who were addicted to drugs or alcohol turn their lives 180 degrees after accepting Jesus as their Lord. I have seen people who have been homeless for years completely turn around after becoming a Christian. I have seen individuals who have attempted suicide because of depression and failed lives be healed of that sickness. Christ offers redemption and hope to those who are suffering or in pain, which is most of us at one time or another. I'm not sure what atheism has to offer those individuals.
You are right that the idea of God or of someone like Jesus can have a dramatic psychological effect on someone. But I think those people all had that strength to turn their life around themselves. I think humans are capable of the most astonishing transformations.
Finally, God offers the promise of eternal life to those who believe and that's no small thing.
Yes. And there you go. I think that the idea of God and eternal life alleviates a great deal of anxiety in us about death. This is potent and deep. But it doesn't make it true. It just makes belief effective in that way.
I have explained in part above what the God that I believe in is like. He is an intellect far beyond my comprehension and understanding. I may wonder why some women die in childbirth. However, to say that I cannot imagine a God who would allow that is to say that I know everything God knows, and, knowing that, I conclude that a true God would not allow such things. Job had the same debate with God and God's responses were instructive.
Hmmm... Well, I thank you for describing your faith and what your God is like to me. I think that your faith is really meaningful to you and maybe even psychologically necessary for you. In that case, I am glad that you live here in America where you can have your faith. In many areas of the world, you would not be able to have your faith. You would be forced into some other faith. But here in America, at least it still seems like it - you can believe this story as the truth and you can privately worship in your own way. I am so glad that this country guarantees that people can worship - privately - in whatever way they want to. I just get ticked when one group of believers feel that they must make me believe the same thing as they do.
It seems like you want to have it both ways. You want to believe and you want what you believe to have the facts and reason and science behind it. But I think you have to let go of that. I think you should just believe because you believe. Just have faith and I would say, don't even try to get into explaining it or proving it. I know you aren't asking me for advice, but that is my advice. I am mostly concerned about keeping our society a secular one where the laws are based on reason and science and a tolerance for people to have their faith that they can express privately. I have no reason to convince you not to believe in God.
Anyway, there you go.