“There are no gods”

 

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One definition of the word believe is to “accept something as true.” Synonyms include credit and trust. A second definition is to “hold something as an opinion, to suppose, or assume.” Synonyms for that definition include reckon, figure, and guess.

In her book Writing Down the Bones, the chapter Make Statements and Answer Questions, author Natalie Goldberg advises, “So even though life is not always so clear, it is good to express yourself in clear, affirmative statements.” I leave no doubt and no wiggle room with my clear declaration (albeit, not stated affirmatively). I’m not assuming, guessing, reckoning, or supposing. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase, what part of no don’t you understand?

That’s how I choose to say it: “…no gods.” My reasoning is that saying I don’t believe in a god or gods is insufficient and could be misleading. I don’t need weak qualifiers to protect my position—nor do I need to prove it to anyone.

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I am not simply accepting anything as true or false. I am not supposing or assuming anything. I am stating my position as a fact. While some may use some esoteric scale (like the above) to argue that I must wear the label of gnostic atheist, as opposed to agnostic atheist, I disagree. I have one position that determines my point of view on many other things such as there are no ghosts, no devils, no angels, no unicorns, pigs cannot fly, and Mrs. O’Leary’s cow cannot jump over the moon, but may have caused the Great Chicago Fire.

I enjoy Halloween and ghost stories around a camp fire as much as I ever did. It’s unnecessary to believe in spirit-world entities to enjoy being frightened by them. Reality, however, should be frightening in some circumstances.

no-god5Picture this. You’re sitting quietly in a random crowd of 100 people in the United States. Suddenly one person jumps up and yells loudly for all to clearly hear, “There is a god!” Let us now assume that said person had a good, but personal, reason for this announcement. None of the other 99 know it. What happens next?

Perhaps 40 or 50 people will say, “Amen.” Even more will likely applaud. Everything is fine and the feeling of the crowd is positive. Right? People have every right to their beliefs. In a random group of the remaining 99, not everyone will have the same beliefs. But there would be no grumbling, no accusations, no death threats, and not one person of the other 99 will stand and say, “Prove it.”

Add one person to that crowd – me. What if I stand up first and announce loud and clear, “There are no gods.” Keep in mind that of the thousands of gods humans have believed-in and worshipped over thousands of years, at least 70 people in the crowd agree with me, with one exception – the god they happen to believe in. Despite this, what likely happens next?

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Even when people know of my atheism, if I make that statement, I’ll be challenged to prove it. They see no oddity in asking me to disprove something more than 70% of the people claim to believe, but are equally unable to prove. Even some agnostics and atheists would challenge me by asking if I know it for a fact.

I had the opportunity to spend time with my grandchildren this past summer. A friend wondered what I might say if one of them asked me if I believed in god. At the time, I wasn’t sure how I would answer. While it never came up, should it now, my answer is “No.” If a discussion or Q&A ensues, I would manage as honestly as I could. I am not afraid to use the words, I don’t know.

So, by stating that there are no gods, I’m establishing my position. I’m not a person who believes in god. I am not agnostic. While I have interest and curiosity about all religious beliefs, It’s not my intent to change anyone’s mind, unless I’m asked. But belief in god or not, I think religion is harmful. I am not trying to ruffle any feathers or destroy any fantasies. I agree with Ms. Goldberg and I’m thus making a clear statement – there are no gods. I’m keeping it simple.no-god3

Confidence and assuredness are good things, but we should consider all options.
Look both ways and mind the gap.

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17 thoughts on ““There are no gods”

  1. Belief is an opinion. Whatever we may or may not believe, that’s our opinion, not necessarily fact. We may believe it’s fact, but even that is an opinion until proven otherwise.
    Reading from a book well over three milliennia old, that has been transcribed and translated and revamped and misinterpreted hundreds of times, and calling it the true word of God is really pushing the belief envelope.

    But still, if they want to believe any or all of it, literally or figuratively, with excuses for strange behavior pencilled in the margins, (where DID all those ”other people” come from, after Eden)
    that’s still their privilege, as is ours, to have our own opinions/beliefs that head the other way.

    I do think that sometimes they seem to be working awfully hard to convince us that they’re right and we’re wrong. I wonder if maybe they might be trying to convince themselves, as well…

    When you were still a practicing Catholic, did you ever recieve the injunction from a priest not to watch magic shows or magicians? Our priest was adamant about it, and so much so that I made a point of doing just that. It took me a very long time to understand why he was against it. Most of what Jesus was purported to have done was stage magic, and still done to this day, one way or another. Father Dufour was afraid we would see this, at some point, and have some very very difficult questions for him. =)

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    • there was just a column by the rabbi side of the God Squad, where he tells a querent to apologize for daring tell his friends his doubts about religion which was Christianity. It is certainly necessary for theists to try to keep people from thinking about their religion. One would think it odd for a rabbi to defend Christianity but in the end, the failures of religion extend to all of them, and if one is shown wrong, then they all can be.

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  2. So true, the backlash of proclaiming “There are no gods” would be an unpleasant one, indeed. I wish it wasn’t so, but I know my fellow man.
    I love Writing Down to the Bones, by the by 🙂

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  3. Nice clear statement of your position. But to me, your certainty is disturbing – the mirror image of the certainty of those who state there is a God/gods.

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  4. As the resident mystic and crazy artist, I for one believe in unicorns! LOL. Even if they only exist in my imagination. I admire your convictions and respect your right to your beliefs. For me, I continue to believe all things are possible.
    I’m also a big fan of Natalie Goldberg’s, Writing Down the Bones.

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  5. Excellent post. I’ll never ask believers to “prove it” to me, because if someone believes differently (s)he will never change position from my debate. Often, I instead get the response, “How can you not accept the continuity of your soul?” I tend to wonder how so many people can’t see the beauty of a body dying, then integrating into new life. There is something far more amazing and beautiful and fantastic about a dead human body becoming a living tree and grass and bugs and maybe a cow and a bird. The idea of my soul flying up into the sky where I can live with all the dead people I’ve known in a castle in perfect paradise seems somewhat disturbing to me.

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  6. Ashes to ashes, yep. It has always alarmed me a bit that people work so hard to preserve the bodies of the dead, from Egyptian pyramids to embalming, when what is needed is not preservation (like a pint jar of jam) but a scattering, a return to the earth in some way. I love the idea of being a garden.

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