Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Beyond reason

"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty." Revelation 1:8

One of the many features of faith is that no matter how ridiculous a story or an idea may be, it is possible through faith and therefore doesn't require a rational explanation. As a believer I often came across nonbelievers who posed the question "if God made man then who made God?" I would often refer to the above texts or others that were similar to it. My defense was that God was not created that he just is. I could not think beyond God nor did it ever occur to me delve into the origins of God's existence.  

At the time I knew nothing of logical reasoning or philosophy and was completely unaware that by using the Bible and its contents as evidence was nothing more than circular reasoning. It never occurred to me to question the origins of the Bible, who wrote it, how was it composed, compiled, and edited etc. I simply believed that it was the inerrant and wholly inspired word of God. The Bible itself was a witness of itself and the many claims made within its pages. 

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 2 Timothy 3:16

When people questioned the Bible I thought of their lack of understanding as being due to the influence of demons clouding their minds making them incapable of grasping what I thought then was 'the truth.' The bible says that they desired the things of this world and of the flesh more than the things that are of God. 

A true fundamentalist as I once was is not moved by logic or reason and sees these things as inferior to the things of the Lord. 

8“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8-9

The Bible had an answer for philosophy and other such things that were put in place by the devil to lead mankind astray and keep them from ever obtaining knowledge of the truth that would lead to their eternal salvation. 

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. Colossians 2:8

I was amazed as a believer when I saw these texts and thought to myself back then that God through his word had an answer for everything. This combined with my "supernatural" subjective experiences were enough to confirm my beliefs and the surety of my faith. It never occurred to me at the time that the authors of the Bible were promoting an ideology and that the scriptures themselves were nothing more than propagandist writings used to propound yet another ridiculous mythical set of beliefs. 

Even apologists who claim to be using logic and reason to confirm their beliefs are completely unaware of their utter and complete condition of confirmation bias. Unlike the scientific method they never try to falsify their beliefs. They begin with the presupposition that what they believe is true; and then they look for "evidence" to support what they already have convinced themselves is true ( circular reasoning). 

A theist does not reason beyond his/her faith. They go to the edge of enquiry and when they reach that point they turn around. I remember how when I was stuck and did not have an answer to certain questions made to me I would refer to the scriptures and remind myself that there are mysteries that the Lord in all his wisdom has chosen to remain hidden from us. 

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12 

As Christian apologist William Lane Craig once pointed out:
"Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa." Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (Revised ed.). Wheaton, IL: Crossway. 1994. ISBN 0-89107-764-2.

Note: All biblical citations comes from the New International Version of the scriptures. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

God's eternal grudge

grudge: a strong feeling of anger toward someone that lasts for a long time

 5The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.Genesis 6:5-6

According to the Christian church as humans we are all born with an imaginary affliction called a sinful nature. The verse quoted above comes from just before the Lord decided to flood the earth and destroy mankind. It states that mans heart is always inclined towards evil.

What is sin?

:  transgression of the law of God
:  an offense against religious or moral law 

Both definitions cited above apply equally, but for our purpose here it is the first one that I'm most interested in. Because the second follows from the first. According to believers our morals come from God. Sin in its simplest definition is nothing more than living against the laws of god as outlined in the scriptures and dictated by the church. 

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned-- Romans 5:12

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23

The man that is being referred to is Adam; and it was his disobedience of God's direct command to not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil that brought sin (disobedience) into the world. Because of Adam's sin we have all inherited the propensity to sin and rebel against the dictatorial guy in the sky who wants nothing more than your total submission to his will. 

Basically, if someone offends me I have the choice to either forgive them or to remain angry at them for the rest of my life. But anyone who knows anything about life will know that holding grudges is not a healthy thing to do. There are people in my life that have done things that have been cause for me to hate and despise them to the death. But I believe that life is too short to bother with holding grudges. You can forgive and remember those offences for future reference but it is not healthy to hold on to the feelings associated with those offences when they first occurred. 

For instance my older brother is what we have termed the black sheep of the family. He is always mixed up in something negative like heavy addictions to alcohol and illegal drugs. Because of his chosen lifestyle he has been banned from the entire family. They do not accept him in their homes nor is he trusted by my other siblings. He has stolen from me personally on numerous occasions and yet I still talk to him from time to time, but I keep him at arms length. I don't hate or despise him but I am wary around him and don't trust him. I have forgiven him for all the things he has done to me personally but I keep a close watch on him and when he visits me (rarely) I keep him on a very short leash. 

Unlike the all powerful guy in the sky I can choose to forgive those that offend me. I don't require torture and a blood sacrifice ending with the death of the offering. I guess this is one of those many things that the omnipotent deity of the Bible can't do. He had to become flesh, dwell amongst us, suffer torment and torture at the hands of the Romans, and finally be crucified and die so that he could find it in his heart to forgive me for the sins of Adam. 

Unlike God I don't hold grudges, I just separate myself from the poisonous influences in my life. I have a live and let live policy and unlike the biblical deity I could care less what anyone does with their lives as long as it doesn't affect me or harm anyone in any way. God demands that you believe in his son (himself) and his sacrifice in order to be saved from his wrath which includes eternal separation from him and the tormenting of your soul which is yet another unproven religious concept. 

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. John 3:18

I don't believe in him (Jesus) or his so called message, nor do I believe without evidence in the existence of the biblical deity or any god for that matter. I guess God's grudge towards my person as well as other atheists, agnostics, and other believers in other deities is bound to last forever. 

Note: All biblical citations are taken from the New International Version and the word definitions are from the Merriam Webster online dictionary which I have linked to throughout the text itself.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The confirmation bias fallacy

As we all know we each have certain biases that influence how we think and feel about certain matters we encounter in our lives. This is nowhere more prominent and clearly demonstrated than it is in religious belief. Many refer to their religion of choice and it doctrines as the absolute "truth" about mans origins, life, and his purpose in general. Some go as far as stating that there are mysteries which science can never hope to discover but that are only explainable through the acceptance and belief in faith based religious explanations.

That being said, I would like to focus on the informal logical fallacy known as confirmation bias and how it is used and expressed in the lives of fundamentalist believers. As a former fundamentalist Pentecostal evangelist myself; I can attest to the power of faith and its ability to stifle the search for knowledge and it's rejection of reason over the acceptance of unprovable and irrational beliefs.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias: The tendency to look for information that confirms our existing preconceptions, making it more likely to ignore or neglect data that disconfirms our beliefs. For example, when we compare ourselves with others we are more likely to remember other people's mistakes and less likely to think of our own.

The Bible has many examples where the knowledge of men and faith in God are compared and defined. Of course the knowledge of men is often represented as imperfect and of course inferior to the knowledge of God who according to the scriptures is the giver of said knowledge.

 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. Colossians 2:8

Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, 1 Timothy 6:20

As you can see it is not prudent to question what one has received by faith. It is referred to as evil and an evil snare to lead believers into a rejection of belief. Ever since I can remember I was and still am today a very inquisitive individual. When I was an evangelist I often questioned to myself the many what at the time I believed to be divine spiritual experiences I had. I "felt" the presence of God every minute of every day and it often gave me goose bumps and was accompanied by a warm tingling sensation all around me. The air felt electric and I felt like I walked inside a shield of divine protection. I often held entire conversations in my head with the Lord which were usually one way but I liked telling him how grateful I was to have found his grace and have been saved by his sacrifice of himself. 

It was these subjective feelings coupled with other everyday experiences that at one time held me captive to the faith. There was no way back then that you could convince me that my God wasn't real. I would reply that I knew he was real because I felt his presence and believed he guided my every action. I spoke in tongues, prophesied, cast out devils, others claimed to have been healed through my ministry. I often cried like a baby when I was overcome with the presence of God and felt what I believed to be his love for me. I had recurring dreams where I often saw myself floating in the air and every dream brought me higher and closer to God. I would often wake up from these dreams and find myself speaking in tongues and overcome by the power of the Holy Ghost. 

As a believer I looked for signs everywhere. If I was about to preach and had a bad experience on the way to the church I took that as a sign that the devils minions were out to stop me from winning souls for Christ or hinder his powers from using me as a vessel through disrupting my focus on the Lord himself. If thing went well I thanked God for the blessings being bestowed upon me although I thought I was never deserving of such favor. I aspired to be a modern day apostle like Peter or even Paul. I wanted God to use me to the fullest potential. I wanted to do greater things than even He did in my ministry as he promised I would. 

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. John 14:12  

Confirmation bias became my friend and at the same time my worse enemy. I didn't care what so called arguments or evidence  you may have have that refuted my claims about the inerrancy of the Bible. My experiences told me otherwise. The only evidence I cared about was the testimony of a fellow believer who claimed to have been benefited in some way by my ministry. My evidence for my beliefs was the Bible and any and everything else were snares of Satan to deceive and lead me astray. If you did not believe in the scriptures as I did that was your problem and I could only help you if you humbled yourself and let Jesus into your heart to reveal to you as he did to me the truth of his gospel. 

Confirmation bias is the culprit in Christianity or Islam or any other religious beliefs that makes it seem like you are talking to the wall when dealing with believers. Their faith and subjective experiences trump whatever evidence you may have to the contrary. Prominent apologist William Lane Craig said it best: 

"Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa."

It takes determination and an open mind to break free from this cycle of ignorance that one succumbs to in the name of faith. It took me six years to completely overcome the effects that my faith and deep indoctrination had on me. But I can say that it felt like a great weight had been literally lifted off of my shoulders.

Note: All biblical citations are taken from the New International Version of the scriptures.

 Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (Revised ed.). Wheaton, IL: Crossway. 1994. ISBN 0-89107-764-2.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The hiddeness of God problem

21By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. Exodus 13:21-22

As an atheist one of the second biggest problems I have with belief in the Judaeo-Christian deity is the fact that his existence lies beyond the realm of objective or empirical proofs. The first problem for me is the problem of evil. In this post I would like to address the issue of the hiddeness of God and why outside of faith one cannot otherwise "know him."

Right out of the gate I would like to state that I personally do not consider faith in any form as a reliable source of information or evidence. Religious faith in and of itself is an entirely subjective matter accompanied by so called experiences that are equally irrelevant when it comes to providing evidence for the existence of the biblical god.

I also do not consider the Bible the word of God. In my opinion it is neither authored, inspired, or even a work of said invisible guy in the sky. Therefore, the Bible itself is not a reliable source of information nor a valid proof for God's existence. But since it is the foundational document of belief for Christians the world over we will use it here for illustrative purposes only.

First as you can see from the biblical text I used to open this post with God apparently had no problems with revealing himself to mankind. In this case in particular to the ancient Hebrews as he liberated them from 400 years of slavery in the land of Egypt. Wow! Talk about the wheels turning slowly! But according to this text God led them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Both physical proofs of his existence.

16And it came to pass on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of a trumpet exceeding loud; and all the people that were in the camp trembled. 17And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. Exodus 19:16-17

Apparently not only did God give visual evidences of his existence and presence amongst the ancient Hebrews, but he also gave them audible proofs as well. Unfortunately today the good Lord doesn't like to speak anymore. That is unless you count hearing either your own voice or other voices in your head the voice of God. Most likely it is the product of a very deluded individual or the symptoms of schizophrenia.

In the O.T. the Lord even took challenges from other competing religions and gods and true to his form came through with flying colors.

36At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
38Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
39When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!” 1 Kings 18:36-39

After challenging the prophets of the god Baal Elijah received a proof of God to his people and all present that he alone was god. Of course Baal did not respond to the prayers and supplications of the prophets and thus lost the challenge altogether. 

Anyone who reads the Old Testament in its entirety gets to see a God who was not only a tyrant but a moral monster in my view. He instilled fear in his people and demanded their worship and respect. According to many of the mythological tall tales found within its pages God often took a personal interest in disciplining and even executing his people who challenged or disobeyed his laws. The funny thing about it all is that even with all these proofs of his existence we constantly read that the Hebrews would often stray from his laws and at times even worship other gods from some of the foreign cultures they encountered.

This brings us to my current views on the demand for faith which is really believing without evidence. I see the idea of faith as a  rationalization for God as to why he doesn't personally deal with people anymore. The world is filled with evil people committing evil acts and the Lord remains silent to the suffering of a humanity that he allegedly created and loves! Children are raped, kidnapped, and murdered on a daily basis in this world and God does nothing to save or protect them. I often refer to man as the most brutal animal to walk the earth. We do things to each other that makes even the wildest carnivores in nature look tame and moral from a human perspective. 

People call out to God all the time from the most dire circumstances or even when in peril of death and he does nothing to save them. The biblical deity has become nothing more than a useless and abstract idea. There is no credible evidence for his existence today nor do I think in my opinion that there ever was. I see the stories in the bible as nothing more than a collection of ancient myths and superstitions with no basis in historical fact whatsoever. The world without gods makes so much more sense and requires no justification when bad things happen to otherwise good people. 

You would think that if this message of God's were so vital and important that he would go out of his way to make his presence and existence known to all those that request it. He would make it so that everyone who did request it all had accounts of their experiences that can be proven and are consistent with those of others. He would make it so that his existence could be proven both objectively and empirically by showing himself in times of need as he allegedly did in the Old Testament. For instance when the ancient Hebrews were fleeing from Pharaohs army and found themselves trapped between the army and the see he opened the see and led them across on dry land! He then drowned Pharaoh and his army when they attempted pursuit. Where my dear Christian, Jew, or Muslim is this god? 

The biblical deity has taken his place in my view in the make believe realm of mythology from whence all of mans imaginations have run wild creating and believing all sorts of insane and irrational beliefs without evidence. Fear has been and continues to be the driving force of all religions that bow down and pledge allegiance to some imaginary being or beings. As a nonbeliever in fairy tales and myths I refuse to bow down. Instead, I pledge my loyalty to logical reasoning and critical thinking. 

Note: All biblical citations are taken from the New International Version of the scriptures.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Absurd fundamentalist beliefs I once held

From 1990-1994 I had converted to Christianity; particularly, Pentecostalism. I joined a Hispanic church whose beliefs and practices were quite extreme. We took the Bible as the literal and inerrant word of God. We took every bit of information from the scriptures as absolutely divine and considered them facts that did not even require evidence because no matter how absurd the claims may be our faith and confidence made them true. We measured all other things about the world around us by the standards of the Bible. If science contradicted the Bible then science was wrong and that was the end of it. 

Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa.” William Lane Craig  ‘Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (1984). 

My beliefs were entirely based on emotions initially. I believed at the time that I was filled with the Holy Spirit and that "He" would confirm all truth to me as taught in the scriptures.

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26
Often when I read the Bible I felt currents of electricity coarse through my body when I came upon texts I believed were being opened to me by God or expanded upon by the Holy Spirit. I heard these new teachings in my mind in my own voice and took them as confirmation of their truth. I believed  that God spoke to me in my head in my own voice often in those days. I also believed that only our church had the truth. All other Christian sects were wrongly interpreting the scriptures and teaching lies whether they knew it or not. 

"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Matthew 5:14

I believed it was my mission appointed to me by God himself to save as many souls as I could from darkness and finally eternal damnation. If you did not believe as I did then no matter whether we believed in the same God or not you were already damned to hell. This is what eventually led me to become a Christian evangelist. I started out with my friend from church who used to preach on the streets of Brooklyn, NY on Saturday's and Sunday's. I joined his ministry and served initially as his Spanish to English interpreter as he preached his message of salvation. It wasn't long before he had me preaching as well. 

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

As Carl Sagans aptly titled book stated I once believed that I was living in a 'Demon Haunted World.' Everything in the world that was wrong in my view was wrong because of Satan and his minions (demons) attempts to lead man into perdition. Women dressed provocatively not because they liked showing what they had, but because the devil used them to entice men of God and even lead or distract men from seeking salvation. Gays were demon oppressed or possessed and made prisoners to the unnatural desires of their evil flesh. Basically, the Devil was always in the details and only Christ could wrest you from his grasp once you committed your life and soul to Jesus. 

Today just like then this church continues to proclaim that Jesus is coming back for his church soon. I honestly believed that he could arrive any day and at any time like a thief in the night unannounced and I had to be prepared and had to make others ready before it was too late. I believed in the rapture back then. The idea that Jesus would descend from the cloud with his angels and call up to himself both the dead and the living that he has saved from perdition. 

I sought guidance in my life through fervent prayer and often searched the scriptures for answers to some of my own personal struggles as a believer. I would pray before I went out to job interviews and often silently lay hands upon and pray over my resumes so that God would lead me to the right job. I prayed for him to cleanse my mind from impure thoughts that I knew to be sinful. 

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:28

Even something as natural as sexual attraction was sinful. If I looked at a woman and thought to myself that she was attractive or smelled good etc. I would mentally begin praying to the Lord to help me resist those evil urges and tempting thoughts. It was no way to live but at the time it was the only way I knew how. These are just a few of the absurd beliefs I held as a fundamentalist Pentecostal and I hope that this helps you understand how hard it was to leave. Luckily I have managed to pry myself from the clutches of religion and have truly found my way into the light of reason. 

The key element that held me prisoner to these beliefs was the fear of the Lord. The fear of eternal damnation and the fear of losing out on a life of eternal bliss and joy in the presence of the Lord forever and ever kept me bound to these absurd beliefs and unsubstantiated claims. 

Note: All biblical quotes are taken from the New International Version of the scriptures. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The pros of atheism

In 1994 I walked away from the Pentecostal church once and for all. I had decided then that those beliefs no longer were rational nor able to stand up against the many challenges of logical reasoning. My departure from the faith was a very long and often fearful process.

The fear was one of the greatest obstacles for me to overcome because of how deeply ingrained my beliefs had become. The Bible for instance is full of ominous tidings in the form of eternal threats for those that dare to leave the faith.

26If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Hebrews 10:26-27

It is my belief that the fear of death and the desire to live forever are the two driving forces behind Christianity. Taken to the extreme fundamentalist Christians tend to take this life for granted and neglect the many wonderful things it has to offer in the here and now. There is no evidence of the eternal utopia promised in the scriptures nor even for the existence of its Lord and ruler God himself.

The very first pro for my current atheist views is that I have overcome fear and have recognized it as irrational and unfounded. I now live a life based on reason and what can be known through science and logical deduction. Of course I am aware that there are some things that we may never know, but until they are finally discovered and proven I will live as if they don't exist. The idea of the existence of God as described in the Bible is one of those things. I no longer fear his imaginary wrath or contempt for my not believing in him when he (if he exists) has not given me reason nor sufficient evidence to do so.

The next positive thing I have gained from atheism is that I have learned to appreciate this life that we know to exist over the imaginary one presented in the Bible. I have found that I get more excited over a scientific discovery than I ever did over a so called divine revelation. The world we live in is a place of wonder and amazement with something new to teach us everyday. I find biology, astronomy, archaeology, and the many other scientific disciplines out there so much more interesting than the musings of an ancient and ignorant culture and society full of false beliefs and superstitions due to fear and a lack of knowledge about the world.

Being an atheist has taught me to be honest with myself. I know who I am and don't try to live by the hypocritical dogmas set forth by religion. I detest hypocrisy in all its forms and nothing disturbs me more than some stranger in the street telling me they love me in the name of Jesus. If that's not hypocrisy then I don't know what is.

The next thing I learned as an atheist is that I and only I am responsible for each and every action I take. For example if I were to strike my wife and when asked why I did it by the authorities, I cannot sit there and blame her for so called "provoking me," there are other courses of action that I could have taken. Everything we do in this life for better or for worse is entirely our responsibility and its results or consequences are entirely ours to bear. We don't have the Devil and his minions to blame for our behavior the only one we have to blame for our actions is ourselves.

I have learned that before I was a Christian I had morals. In fact, you don't need God or some commandments written in a book by those claiming to be his messengers to know right from wrong. Morals don't come from God but from our own cultures and the societies in which we are reared. If I was born in Iran I would most likely have been raised a Muslim it is what is taught to me by my parents and society that determines what I consider moral and correct.

As an atheist I continue to grow and learn as I go along but in the end I find that atheism and naturalism are far more reliable than any religion. I see religion for what it is: a creation of man and nothing more. There is no need for gods, angels, demons, or pie in the sky. This life has enough to keep us all quite occupied for several lifetimes.

Note: The biblical verse I have cited comes from the New International Version of the scriptures.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The imagined void or emptiness

My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Psalm 84:2

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? Psalm 42:2

The two verses cited above are two of many which refer to mans so called longing for God. Often you hear evangelists preach about the so called void or emptiness in ones being that can only be filled by Jesus the Christ. This is the general position of all theists of all sects and denominations regarding their basic beliefs. 

Some have gone as far as stating that there is a so called God gene that is built into our DNA that drives us to want and long for the Lord! This is one of the reasons that theists claim that without God (their god in particular) one can never find happiness or fulfillment in this life. 

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

Jesus is made to affirm this by stating that he is life! As a former evangelist and theist I too believed and held this position. I thought in those days that nothing that we could do on this earth would ever fill the so called void in our hearts and our being for God. Some define hell not as a place of fire and brimstone or burning torment but as a place where ones soul is eternally separated from the presence of God.

As an atheist since 1994 till the present I have come to believe that this position is false and not the result of a necessity for God, but rather a result of indoctrination and cultural influence. Many here in the states whether they are practicing believers or not in the Christian deity are taught that he is somewhat of a loving father figure. We are told from youth by family, friends, and even people in positions of authority in our lives such as counselors and school teachers that God is watching over us and that angels protect us from harm etc. 

Many people I know today are not practicing believers but claim to believe in God and acknowledge in their behavior that he exists. They wear crucifixes as you would a good luck charm, they bless themselves by doing the sign of the cross before stepping out of their homes every day. They thank the invisible guy in the sky for every small bit of fortune that happens to come their way. They don't do these things because they have carefully studied and considered their Bible's and critically analyzed their belief claims; they do it because they have been indoctrinated to believe. 

As you can see by the above definition you don't need a religious authority to teach you about religion. It is the beliefs that we are exposed to in our society and culture that influence how and what we believe in. The fact that many of us are surrounded by the religious and that their position is a majority belief in this country (United States of America) is sufficient proof of indoctrination and not no imagined longing for God in our souls or any other parts of our being. 

I found that as an atheist we as individuals are responsible for finding in this life those things that bring us joy and satisfaction. I myself have no need nor longing for the Christian God nor any other god for that matter. I have found through my life and experience as an atheist that this life has many things that can have meaning in our lives. 

I find joy in the fact that I have been able to work and provide for my family. The fact that I have two lovely daughters and a grandson and a pain in the ass yet caring wife is enough to make and keep me happy. I don't long for a better world because I have come to the realization that this world and this life is the only one I am going to get. My head is not in the clouds imagining some divine utopia after this life, but rather it is firmly planted on the ground and the reality that is this life. 

I love this definition because it is precisely what Christianity teaches: that there is a place where if we are obedient to God and submit to his will in this life we will be happy and abide in a perfect place where all of the failures and maladies of this life will not exist. God will be the ruler and there will no longer be sickness and death but eternal bliss as we rejoice in the presence of God forever. That my friends is the definition of an imaginary place. It doesn't matter if it is a spiritual place somewhere up in the clouds or space or whether it will be here on this earth in what is called in the scriptures "New Jerusalem" this place simply does not exist. 

Every once in awhile you will find some bits of fact in the fiction that is the Bible and the following is one of my favorites. 

The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Genesis 11:6

That last part is significant "nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them." All it takes is a change of mind, a mental shift to achieve all the things you plan to achieve including happiness. Life is truly what you make of it. If you choose to mope about your circumstances in life and do nothing to get out of them then you will die moping and in utter misery. I've always said that when you have reached rock bottom there is only one way to go and that is up. Or you can choose to remain at the bottom and do  nothing to better your situation. You can take a huge hit from life and choose to lay there like a helpless victim or you can get up, brush yourself off, and claw your way out of the hole you find yourself in. 

I find that even though I don't have everything I would have wanted out of life that I am happy and I have achieved a lot more than most. I have taken some heavy hits and my life has not been easy. In fact, I should have been just another story of a failed life, a statistic but I have managed to rise above all of that. I've done it with hard work and conscious effort which did not require a god or some spiritual being to guide me. There is no emptiness in my life or sense of something missing I have done and continue to do and make every second of this life count for something positive without gods and ancient myths, rituals, and superstitions, and so can you. 

Note: All biblical citations in this post have been taken from the New International Version of the scriptures. All word definitions have come from the online version of the Merriam Webster dictionary.