My two daughters go to a Catholic school. Earlier this year they came home with ash on their foreheads because they just celebrated the beginning of Lent. Lent is the forty day period where Christians count down to Easter. Both girls decided, as is tradition, to give up a treat each, in order to show appreciation for Christ having given up his life so that men can have everlasting life.
I am a completely atheist so I have to bite my tongue and not discourage my children’s child-like faith. I want them to have the freedom of belief, I want them to decide on their spiritual paths without my indoctrination, so I do not tell them how naïve I feel their faith is. We have discussed my atheism and I think they feel sorry for me for not believing. The youngest daughter said that not believing in God means that I will miss out on resurrection once I die. I am perfectly okay with not living twice. The idea of living for ALL eternity sounds utterly exhausting.
I know that sending them to Catholic schools might seem like indoctrination. I sent them to the same school I went to as a child. Exposure to religious instruction was never the primary reason for the choice of the school. I sent them there because the school has an excellent academic tradition. I appreciate how the school has an ideal teacher/child ratio. The fact that the school is Catholic is the least of its selling points. I went to the same school once upon a time, but I still turned out atheist. The school encouraged independent thought, and once I was out of it and really saw the world and how it functioned, I grew convinced at the utter absence of God.
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”
The statements above are words are by the philosopher Epicurus, and they concisely describe my issue with religion. According to theology in order for any being to qualify as God they need to satisfy three criteria. A God needs to be omnipotent: this means they must be able to do anything: no act should be too hard for them to do. Secondly God needs to be omniscient: this means that God needs to know everything, before it happens. God cannot be surprised by the actions of his creation. Finally, God needs to be omnipresent: this means that time and space are meaningless to God, that God sees the year 1652 as clearly as he sees 6052.
When I studied the Bible as a keen scholar, I realized that God failed in all these three aspects of godliness. He was not omnipotent. This I say because he did not have the ability to provide security to keep the snake out of Eden. Secondly, he was not omniscient, because he failed to know that Eve would eat the forbidden fruit and convince Adam to do the same. Thirdly, if God was truly omnipresent, he would have witnessed the snake come in to corrupt his people and then stopped the snake, surely. In Genesis, God is absent when the snake comes to Eden. Once Adam and Eve have eaten and then they hide, he asks where they are (he should know) and asks what they have done. Then he doles out punishment once Adam confesses.
So within the first book of the Bible God is shown as a being without control of his Eden. This disillusioned me. I felt that a God who fails to secure one garden and two men cannot be that powerful. I realized that the Bible was written by men who may have not been inspired by God, because God does not exist.
The vast amount of evil in the world suggests that there might not be a God. If there was, then surely his sheer power and goodness would counteract the evil in the world? But evil seems to spread in the world unchecked. There is death and disease, and men’s inhumanity towards men that results in the horrors such as genocide and famine and wars.
The only reasonable assumption we can make, given the world as evidence, is that God might not exist. I refuse to believe that there is a good all-powerful being who sees everything and CAN defeat evil but just chooses NOT to.
God was created by men in order to help regulate our most base instincts. God was created by people for good, in order to ensure peaceful existence by claiming that there is an ever-present, all-seeing entity that not only wishes for us to treat each other fairly, but one that rewards good behaviour and punishes bad behaviour. The creation of God was necessary, but it is a fictional story just as much as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was. The God that does exist is the creation of men.
This does not make religion bad. There are aspects of Christianity I love. There are many charitable organisations that are religion-based. These organisations feed the hungry and clothe the poor. I and fellow atheists do not get together to help out those less fortunate. Religion-based schools are also wonderful institutions of learning, and I truly appreciate the fervor in which they spread education throughout the world. Some American Catholics started schools that prioritised the education of the girl child in an era when education was mostly considered a male pursuit. In the early eighties during the height of apartheid, Catholic schools were one of the first schools who enrolled children from different races in their schools.
Faith is defined as the belief in things unseen. I respect all belief systems but I prefer seeing and then believing.
Tell us: How important is religion to you?