Atheists, God and asking the wrong questions

Not all atheists, obviously – but too many – obsess over God. They ask religious people what their proof for God is, the religious people invariably reply that they are happy with their personal proof that God(s) exists. The atheist says this evidence is inadequate. No one is changed as a result of this exchange, in fact it may serve to entrench people in their positions.

As a Maybeist I find myself well placed to annoy deists and atheists in equal measure. As someone whose primary spiritual focus is finding inspiration sacred, I don’t fit the assumptions many atheists and deists have about what belief even means.

My personal belief is that I couldn’t care less who anyone does or does not worship, or why. I am in no place to judge what they get out of it, although I remain concerned about the devaluing of women in many of the world religions, attitudes to LGBTQ folk, and attitudes towards the wellbeing of the planet – sexism, racism and ecocide are just as likely to come from believers as non believers, I suspect. However, these are all things that can be dealt with by considering the words and deeds of the (non)believer, with no reference to any external agency.

We need to hold each other responsible for what we do, and do not do as a consequence of our beliefs, politics and prejudices. At the same time, we could also try respecting each other for the good things we may be inspired to do by our various beliefs.

I, for example, find the atheist habit of making it all about proving the existence of God both boring and at best useless. It distracts from the issue of discussing what people do and holding people to account. On the other hand, I celebrate atheists who’ve stopped with this pointless game and are asking much more interesting questions about the role of religion, the political power of religion, the things people do with religions that need examining. I have huge respect for Alain de Botton, author of Religion for Atheists.

We should be asking about the financial power of religions, about the prejudice religion can fuel. No religion should consider itself above the law or not obliged to hold up the rights and dignities of all humans. When we’re demanding proof of other people’s Gods, no matter how we frame it, we take attention away from what humans do in the name of their God – and those responses are diverse. Not all Muslims are terrorists. Not all Christians hate LGBTQ folk. Not all Satanists are evil – in fact from what I’ve seen, many are excellent examples of humanity when you look at what they actually do. It pays to ask better questions.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

7 responses to “Atheists, God and asking the wrong questions

  • Tracy Kruse

    There is scientific proof of an intelligent creator, called the “Positive Grassmanian” and it solves all the mysteries of quantuam physics. What you find after that is the separation of Church and State is contrived to keep us from being able to understand our world in a unified way and is simply another control tactic. The truth is coming out and if I do admit it, if I can understand it, anyone can!

  • Rick

    I completely agree with you here. Better questions are definitely needed. At the same time, while always extending kindness and respect to people as individuals and giving them the space to be at their best, it could be useful to examine whether particular religious doctrines command harmful behaviors, so that we can at least be clear about where those behaviors are coming from.

    • Nimue Brown

      Just because something is a thousand years old or more, does not make it a good idea… its funny because in many areas of life, newness is prized, but in religion, the older and arguably less relevant it is, the better many people seem to like it.

  • Pat G

    Interesting. Coming from an atheist perspective, I find that (some) believers also make it all about proving the existence of their particular god – which is as equally boring. 😉

    What has been occupying my mind recently is that belief in an Other has a very, very long history. As such, it must play some positive role in the survival and growth of our species. One can call this other God or Gods or spirituality or Gaia or an awareness of our genome or simply the universe. If this faith in an other serves a constructive purpose in someone’s life, then why deride them for holding that faith?

    Where the trouble arises is when faith is used to collect and maintain power in the hands of an Elect, when faith is used to define “us” and “them”, when faith determines what actions are “good” or “evil” rather than how those actions affect the people and the world around us.

  • Mike R.

    I’m curious: why do you contrast atheism with deism rather than theism?

    • Nimue Brown

      Hello Mike, blogs are invariably too small to properly explore a subject, so I tend to focus on one aspect, and always miss something as a consequence. My frustration with what atheists do with deity rather than theism is probably why I wrote this blog this way – but it was a while ago.

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