Life without God….REALLY???

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By Kenneth Justice

~ Raised in a conservative Evangelical Christian home, belief in God has been paramount to the very meaning and purpose my life. However, despite my upbringing I’ve always gone through seasons of doubt,

—) Does God really exist?

—) If God exists why do evil people prosper and good people die?

—) Where is God amidst tragedy?

One of the toughest issues related to my belief in God is the nastiness I’ve seen come from the very people (Christians) who purport to have a stranglehold on the doctrines and philosophies related to all things god. It’s tough to believe in God when Christians have been so evil towards me and in a more global sense; so evil to people throughout the world and throughout human history.

My podcast partner Kylie has recently abandoned her Christian faith (click) in favor of a more agnostic outlook on life. I empathize with her decision because it’s easy to get distracted by a faith in god when surrounded by so many Christians and Christian beliefs that are anything but loving and good.

I still enjoy Sunday mass. I enjoy the rituals, the liturgy, and the procession of seriousness that flows throughout the service. Of course, it’s easy to for me to understand why so many people say that ‘church is boring’; repetition can often feel monotonous.

Every morning after I wake up, I let my dogs out to run around for a bit, I then head to the café to write, read, and reflect. It’s a rather boring routine in many ways. As I sit here, it’s Saturday morning just after 6 A.M. After nearly twenty years of getting up in the morning to read and reflect it’s difficult for me to break from the monotony of going to coffee in the morning even when I’d rather sleep-in since I don’t have to be at work today.

Although my morning café experience is in many ways monotonous, I’ve come to love it very much. I enjoy smelling the aroma of coffee as I walk in each morning. I enjoy the peaceful quiet of the café early in the morning when there are only a few other patrons. I enjoy seeing the same familiar faces of other regulars, most of whom know that in the early morning I prefer to be left alone, and so they merely smile at me “Good morning” and leave me to myself.

Is going to the café every morning boring and monotonous? Yes, it really is, but I love every moment of it.

In many ways my faith in God is a similar experience,

—) Are there things that appear to be contradictory in Christian doctrine; yes

—) Are Christians often annoying, mean, and nasty; yes

Yet despite all that, I still find a sense of peace and joy in the midst of my faith in God. The world is a crazy place at times; war, conflict, senseless violence. It’s easy to be swallowed up by despair in the midst of all this death and destruction. I can totally understand why people turn to atheism and agnosticism in the face of all these senseless contradictions in life. Yet let’s be honest, there are just as many contradictions in any other world view as there are in Christianity. It’s not as though the deeper philosophies of life are as clear cut as so many people make them out to be; the true answers to meaning, purpose, and the origin of life are a little bit more gray than black and white.

The Internet has become a bastion for people to turn when they want to support their radical worldviews,

—) Are you a radical Christian; then the Internet will help you connect with people who will reinforce your ideology

—) Are you a radical atheist; then the Internet will help you connect with people who will reinforce your ideology

—) Are you a radical militant; then the Internet will help you connect with people who will reinforce your ideology

Suffice to say, the Internet tends to equip a great number of people with the ability to insulate themselves from having real dialogue with people of opposing viewpoints. Yet at the same time, if we find it in ourselves to chill out just a bit, the Internet also has the ability to give us the option of having peaceful conversations with people who view the world differently. In the course of the last year and a half, nearly 200,000 different people of varying beliefs have contributed to my blog with their comments, thoughts, and conversation.

It’s been a pleasant experience all around……thank you.

Just a few thoughts as I sipped my coffee this morning,

Kenneth



Categories: Culture & Society

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55 replies

  1. Internet does change the world

    >

  2. All things are possible in a world without G-d.

  3. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Another thought provoking blog from The Culture Monk – whatever belief system that we do have, it seems to me that trouble usually occurs when someone decides that he is speaking on God’s behalf. Like many things cutting out the middleman often opens up many more avenues of dialogue – that is not to say that I have not met dedicated, kind and sincere followers of religion and do not mean to offend anyone or their particular belief…

  4. “Repetition can often feel monotonous”…………and yet we all do it. Repetition I mean.

    I find it highly amusing how some people find repetition, work, social activity (even)…..boring. And yet all these people (old as well as young), DO IT. We all have routines and repetitious behaviour (good and bad).

    I think its Human Nature.

    So its not surprising how church-goers like the routine, the ritual……and the thought of how God is responsible for all that happens. Its a repetitious thought process. We like the idea of someone being ‘responsible’ other than ourselves.

    I don’t think it really matters what other people say, do or think. I don’t think it matters if other people are good or bad, live or die. I don’t think it matters which figure-head you follow, religious or political.

    What matters is what WE say, do or think. Everyone should take responsibility for their actions/words and acknowledge that they are responsible for them.

    Let’s face it, you can’t blame God, Allah, the US President or any other figure head for what happens. If God was responsible, then we’d all have the same outcome/life, because Christians believe in God’s innate Goodness. So therefore God would make everyone’s life ‘good'(surely).

    “If God exists why do evil people prosper and good people die?” The answer to that eternal question is that God is not responsible for your actions and life. You are!

    That still begs the question, why does a loving, kind young man with a lovely wife and 3 young children, die in a car accident? Surely the young Father wasn’t responsible. God wasn’t responsible, because God is Good.

    Perhaps there is no answer to life’s conundrums.

    • Vicki, dude you’ve posed so many great points and a TON of a good questions…. I do agree with you in your point about human nature, I think you’re spot on.

  5. Gods, our reasons and motivations for living, come in a multitude of forms. No one really knows if any of them are real. Belief in them is called faith. I choose to believe in things that are observable and predictable to a degree. The natural world and universe give me peace and motivation to live in harmony with them. They are real.

    • “I choose to believe things that observable and predictable to a degree”

      The reason I love philosophy, is because I’m becoming more reticent that when it comes to things that are observable; we are really only seeing them through our biased eyes (i.e. viewpoint), so what are we REALLY seeing? Are we seeing what is really there, or what we think is really there?

    • I come from the field of science. It is easy to know what you measure and observe. Interpretation of why and what is to come is a much larger challenge. That is where our bias can cause trouble. Making science open and repeatable by anyone with the skills and tools can help counter those biases. But, they don’t go away completely.

    • What the scientist observe from the backdrop of science is nowhere near as certain as what they tend to convey.

      For instance, consider how long scientists told us that the smallest particle in the universe was the atom….. yet it turns out that wasn’t true at all.

      The scientist’s observations are entirely limited to the limited information he/she currently possesses, and even that information is entirely cloaked within the biases of each scientist.

      Things are not nearly as black and white as we are told;

      —) What goes up must comes down; depends entirely on the context
      —) Water is made up of H2O, as well as a myriad of other micro-biological entities too small for the human eye to see
      —) scientists can’t prove the non-existence of anything
      —) Scientists can’t prove historical truths
      —) Scientists can’t prove experiential truths (whether or not your parents love you or significant other loves you)

      That’s a mere sampling of problematic issues related to knowledge and what we know or don’t know.

    • We seem to have very different views on the role of science. Proof is a very strong word seldom used in science. New information often leads to new understanding. Progress is made that way. Science does not deal with un-testable things like history or love.

      Are you anti-science?

    • I’ve always liked how Ken has taken a questioning posture. One thing that stuck out in this post today is he veered off the path a little. He made a seemingly harmless generalization “Yet let’s be honest, there are just as many contradictions in any other world views as there are in Christianity”.

      To me it’s a statement that invites a little friendly challenge. Jim, I like this particular exchange because I think you’re offering one.

      My contribution to this thread might be to suggest that we return to our only defensible position of “not knowing”. By this I mean we cannot claim 100% certainty. We can only add to the body of miniscule understanding that we have. This understanding will always be refined and reframed in the context to our ever deepening experience.

      What I appreciate about science versus theology is that it is designed to sacrifice the viewpoint in favor of experience. Theology seems to operate in the opposite direction. It is occupied with applying a particular viewpoint (mental contructions) or scripture (someone elses mental construction) as an explanation for the way things are.

      I’d offer the question: Can a worldview that is relatively inflexible to contradictory experience be considered more useful than one that accomodates all experience?

      My feeling is that mainstream religion, theology (and bad science) opt for a language of certainty that does a great disservice to our search for the divine. There is very little, if anything that we “know.” I think jjwalters’ advice (below) of being “silent and listening” is the best approach.

    • I appreciate your comments. It can a complicated issue. I don’t expect to change anyone’s viewpoint. As you correctly point out, science and religion have quite different ones. I was raised in the catholic church and all the while trained in science. I see both sides and their differences. The gap seems to be widening. I wish it weren’t so.

      Thank you for taking the time to offer your ideas.

  6. Kenneth, I didn’t become an atheist because “of all of these senseless contradictions in life.” I’m okay with contradictions, senseless or not. I realize that the world is not a perfect place and that people are from from infallible. In fact, quite the opposite. There is a lot of senselessness in the world and I don’t blame God or the lack of God for that. The reason I’m an atheist is because I have seen no evidence that God exists other than in the human mind and imagination. And for those who do believe in God, I’m happy for them that they have found something so profound to believe in. But the fact that I don’t believe, doesn’t make me a lesser human being, doesn’t make me an immoral person, doesn’t make me lost. So, please, Christians, don’t tell me you’re going to pray for me and, for crissake, don’t tell me I’m going to that fantasy land you call Hell.

    Okay, done with this morning’s rant. Time for coffee.

    • I totally agree with your sentence, “the fact that I don’t believe, doesn’t make me a lesser human being”

      I think that the issue really isn’t about whether there is evidence that points to whether or not god exists or god doesn’t exist; because everyone interprets the ‘evidence’ in their own way. Die hard Christians and die hard atheists both believe they are interpreting the ‘evidence’ correctly, but ultimately if we’re gonna be honest; its our biases that are leading us to interpret the evidence in the manner that we do

  7. I don’t have an issue with my belief in god. My issue is with
    Christian hypocrisy and assumed superiority.

  8. They say that you rather doubt your doubts than your beliefs 🙂 Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Kenneth!

  9. Nothing is real. You can believe anything you want to believe and then believe that whatever you have chosen to believe, is real. That’s all there is. Your friend decided to believe something else now, so that’s what she’s doing, she changed how she felt about her god, now she believes something new. We can change our minds whenever we want to because it doesn’t matter to anyone but us. People kill over what they decided to believe or were brainwashed to believe. How stupid is THAT? The things we are told are stories and lies passed down through generations, where they are constantly going through revisions and receiving tweaks here and there. All pretend. The bottom line is that no matter what anyone believes, someone else made it up. And the stuff that’s been made up favors the people who made it up. That’s something you can count on every time. We can believe anything we want, anytime we want and we can also change our minds about everything because doesn’t matter at all.

  10. Well I just don’t understand why you go to the cafe in the first place. Maybe that answers all the questions…hmmm, so wise me…

    What I really mean is we must have very different personalities. I can’t think of anything worse, growling at 7am with my pen in some steaming joint. I’m sure if I was you all my pieces would be:

    People…really? They make me sick, slurping their coffee with their stupid faces and foam on their idiotic noses makes me want to rip up this paper and I hate it, I hate it and have smashed the laptop now and will have to start all over again arrghhhh…however Suzie the barista is very beautiful x atb.

  11. Great discussion. Everyone wishes to fly the pragmatists’ banner, but no one will march beneath it. Maybe even pragmatism is too much if no one will use it.

  12. “Yet despite all that, I still find a sense of peace and joy in the midst of my faith in God.”…..
    *sigh*
    I cannot tell you how happy it made me to read that one sentence. I’m thrilled.

    For me, at the end of the day, after sitting and listening to so many people (Christians and Atheists) rant about what kind of God would allow this sort of suffering or whatever, I have to sit back and remind myself that He’s in control. If I didn’t have Him to give my questions to I’d be a mess. I start every day waking up and thinking He made me. I’m here because of Him. This confusing world…He made it. I don’t see any other explanation that fits. I have learned what I’ve learned of trust through my beliefs. The calmness I feel in my heart at the end of every day is Him. I’m thankful that I believe. I see God everywhere. I’m thankful I do.

  13. Good post. Finding a satisfying routine is like finding yourself.

  14. A man known throughout the kingdom as a fool one Sunday morning during mass walked into the town cathedral. He noticed the priest in all his holiness. He noticed the solemnity of the congregation. He heard the declaration of their sinful lives and pleas for forgiveness as they partook of the host . . . and being a fool, he laughed.

    The priest quickly had the fool cast into the street where he was berated for his lack of reverence and ordered never to return until he was willing to repent of his sin and plea for forgiveness as the others had done. Otherwise, they told him, he was doomed to hell and damnation.

    The fool walked off to his shack in the woods and the silence of the hills surrounding it, where he much preferred the babbling of the small brook over the babbles of the religious and their conflicting dogmas.

    He had not been laughing at the church, or the priest, or the priest’s congregation. He had been laughing at the absurdity of it all, for the fool knew that only by being silent and listening could one talk to God.

  15. This very neatly sums up my thoughts too.

    I love the fact that Google is so good at figuring out exactly what I want to see when I’m looking up recipes, places to visit, the meaning of a slang term, etc. It disturbs me that that same “this is what she likes to see” algorithm is also applied to political, religious, and media searches. So we can all see the stuff we agree with and think (“I Googled it!”) that we are right because we never see the opposing view. Because Google has figured out we aren’t interested.

  16. Culture Monk, when I let go of my catholic beliefs of fear that were instilled in me long ago, I came to realize that Gods creation is wild! I grew up with a sensitive nature and had to toughen up a bit in order to survive this place. When I reflect on nature and our very planet itself with it’s Ring of Fire, plate tectonics and molten lava down below, it often resembles our own human nature. Maybe the God I believed in isn’t so meek as I thought. My life is just a vapor compared to the wisdom and power of God! Today I view planet earth as a fun place to be – wild – but fun!

  17. I’m so happy you pointed out that there are certain flaws or contradictions in whatever belief system a person might have. Which means, in my opinion, it’s important for each person to explore their religion/beliefs, to acknowledge when they have doubts, to question the ideologies/practices and attitudes or actions of other members who share their beliefs. Nice piece Kenny. I have enjoyed reading all your posts this past year and a half, as well as commenting and reading other people’s comments. 🙂

  18. This is good stuff-we use technology to connect with like minded “radicals” (sports fans, dog lovers, religious fanatics…we are all believers in something!) of any flavor to produce a more concentrated form of ideology—-instead of using it to have meaningful conversations with opposing viewpoints that force us to understand each other.

    That is what I got from this post and it makes a ton of sense.

  19. I was also brought up in an evangelical Christian home, fundamentalist really. I began questioning everything when I was around 12, and ultimately my faith bears little outward resemblance to the way I grew up. But I’m not an agnostic, and I have kept the parts of Christianity that are meaningful to me and help me be the kind of person I’d like to be. My faith is deeply personal and I practice it in the many small choices I make each day rather than any kind of outward ritual or observance. I understand the comfort of ritual, but it’s not the only way to practice one’s faith. And my observation after many years of going to church and being around Christians is that they’re just like everyone else- some good, some not so good. Church is a social event for most people, I think.

  20. I shuffle between agnosticism and paganism

  21. Interesting Post Kenneth…as usual!

    I don’t think you lead a mundane life at all; I also enjoy things simple and uncomplicated.

    I’ll just say this…people of substance and who are well balanced usually know what they like and are unhindered by the ridiculous notions of religious fundamentalism. Personally, I think all religion is evil and is a poor representative of the character of God, period. That’s not to say I don’t believe in God because I do. Nor is it to say I think all religious people are evil because they are not. Seemingly, what isn’t obvious to a lot of people is that the institution of religion et-al, when it morphs into fundamentalism, is responsible for many, if not all, the barbarities recorded in history.

  22. I’ve always found it strange when PEOPLE (other Christians) are the reason people abandon Christianity. Other Christians are the reason why I don’t go to church, but that doesn’t shake my belief in God – not in the slightest.
    Why should God be judged by His followers when His followers aren’t living by his Word?

  23. I don’t think that atheists reject God because of senseless contradictions and hypocritical Christians. After all, Christians are fallible humans and free will leads to senseless contradictions. That’s all part of the religious narrative and shouldn’t be a reason for anyone to turn away from their faith. I think that atheists just know in their hearts that there’s no god out there listening, and also that they don’t need a god to explain their world and give their lives meaning. Life works just fine and dandy without a god – rather better in fact, because it removes the hypocrisy and contradictions.

    Kenneth, the way you write about your faith I wonder if deep down you also feel that too.

  24. There is good vs bad in just about everything. I think the key is to focus on the good and not on the bad, regarding Christianity.

  25. I love this.
    “Is going to the café every morning boring and monotonous? Yes, it really is, but I love every moment of it.”
    –Wow! Me too. I don’t get the chance to go to a cafe every morning such as yourself (and so jealous I am because of that), but the monotonous things, the routine, the so-called boring and mundane – I LOVE IT! I was just reflecting about that yesterday. Like you, I have a time for reflection after my end of the day exercise regime. The last part of my exercise is usually a run, and then I go for a ‘reflection’ walk after that. I was thinking about how extremely content I am with things that seem so monotonous and routine and ‘some would say’ boring. Like getting a certain excitement about cleaning my room (now that never happened when I was a teenager), or preparing a healthy meal for my family, or doing whatever my daily routine requires. I was so thankful to God, because He gives me satisfaction in my life. Made me think of Ecclesiastes (I love the book). That part that says that the gift of God is that one may eat and drink and be satisfied all the days of his life (which seems so meaningless, yet so fulfilling).
    Awesome post Kenneth.
    🙂
    p.s. soooooo excited you’re going to watch our film. will send the link soon. 🙂

  26. It’s always a thought provoking subject. Personally, my own thoughts are, if one is to believe in anything, their belief should be strongest when their challenge is greatest. But we conveniently throw our belief under the bus as soon as we become dissatisfied with our life situation. It’s easier to throw God away, than look at ourselves and understand the work we need to do to persevere, live to the fullest. The folly of mankind in the name of religion makes belief systems seem so shallow. But, it is mankind’s convictions and relationships that are shallow and we blame God for it.

  27. I swear I hadn’t read this before I wrote my blog this morning. 🙂 Great minds and all that.

  28. I love this blog post. I was raised In very Catholic New Orleans with the requisite 12 years of Catholic school. As an adult, I’ve never lost my faith or belief in God, but am bothered by the same questions that you raise and question some of its tenets. Yet, the thing that bothers me most are the hypocrites and those who commit atrocities while triumphing God’s name. For this reason, I totally understand why many are put off by religion in general. There have been many times that I’ve turned away from the ritual but appreciate the fact that I can go to almost any Catholic Church in the world and seamlessly join in to the familiar. It is incredibly peaceful and comforting. Yet, I’ve come to believe that I don’t need to attend church for a close relationship with God, but when I do, I never regret it. Thanks for raising the topic. Blessings, Lydia

  29. thanks for this, really thoughtful. I was thinking earlier about something I think Richard Dawkins has recently written- that all religion and all religious people are dangerous because they act as a seedbed for extremism. While his comment may be true, its not solely applicable to religious people- in fact its true of every group of people who gather around any shared value… although if the values of integrity and respect for others lie at the centre of a group, how would that work? the more you value those things, the more generous you become to others in your thinking and behaviour… or so it seems to me….

    Thanks for making me think.

  30. Another great post, Kenneth. As you know, so many points I could comment on here. I just make a few comments here…

    So true about the Internet. Something for every fanatic. 🙂

    I have no trouble with faith and science. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Actually, the two converge more and more with new discoveries. And these discoveries only show that we are all still mostly ignorant of all that exists. So to be dogmatic and inflexible about what you believe would not be wise. But that doesn’t necessarily disprove God, just our understanding.

    Our problem, from a biblical theological view, is poor interpretation. But people like Dr. Hugh Ross (Astrophysicist, professor at Cal-Tech) have really helped bring our understanding of the universe and faith together.

    Yeah, knot-headed fundamentalists annoy me too, and turn a lot of people away from Christ. The Pharisees did the same in Jesus’ day.

    I agree with Vicki’s comments. Why does God let bad things happen? Because He gave us the earth and seven billion people free will to do whatever they want. And people do evil things to others, to the environment, etc. And God did this because of love, because we know that love requires the object has free will to choose or reject. He wants love not robots. So, God risks our bad choices, our rejection, for love.

    It’s ironic to me that people want free will, and for God to butt out of their affairs when things are going well, but then blame Him for not forcing Himself in situations that are bad. We can’t have it both ways.

  31. “My podcast partner Kylie has recently abandoned her Christian faith (click) in favor of a more agnostic outlook on life. I empathize with her decision because it’s easy to get distracted by a faith in god when surrounded by so many Christians and Christian beliefs that are anything but loving and good.” Thanks for the mention. 🙂 BUT even though it may be too late, I really should clarify…

    Maybe you were not implying this, but I did not leave the faith because I got distracted and/or was surrounded by unloving Christians and Christian beliefs. Certainly some Christian beliefs I held needed work, and some friends are no longer friends because I left the faith, but I left Christianity for other reasons. I left the faith mostly because it simply did not resonate with me anymore, and I realized I did not believe in Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Then there are the three reasons I described in the following post: http://journeyofkylie.com/2014/02/27/the-3-reasons-i-left-christianity/ You don’t have to read; I just did not want to type it all here. We should talk about this on the podcast. I didn’t realize you might not know why I left the faith…it’s not for the reasons you seem to think. Thanks again for linking to my blog and allowing me to clarify.

  32. It’s a thought provoking post. I think everyone questions from time to time.

    I find so much more than peaceful ritual in my walk with God. In fact, often, my walk isn’t peaceful at all, but confronting, messy and painful.

    But there is peace too, in ways I find hard to explain.

    My faith does not make my life better in the sense of fixing ally problems. It is not a crutch I use to get through the day. Often, on a superficial level it would be easier and more convenient not to have faith.

    But I’ve looked at both sides…and nothing else makes ultimate sense to me.

    I would not swap the experience of knowing God for anything.

    and yes, I know, it sounds crazy to a non believer. I’m ok with that! :p

  33. Great post. With the kind of work I do and the life I’ve lived; with the things I’ve seen and experienced, I have to believe, nice to see you do too.

  34. This is why we should teach children critical thinking starting at a young age. I think people are uncomfortable questioning themselves. Something should be done so more people are happy to ask questions and don’t accept an answer just because it’s what they were expecting.

  35. “Yet despite all that, I still find a sense of peace and joy in the midst of my faith in God. The world is a crazy place at times; war, conflict, senseless violence. It’s easy to be swallowed up by despair in the midst of all this death and destruction. I can totally understand why people turn to atheism and agnosticism in the face of all these senseless contradictions in life. Yet let’s be honest, there are just as many contradictions in any other world view as there are in Christianity. It’s not as though the deeper philosophies of life are as clear cut as so many people make them out to be; the true answers to meaning, purpose, and the origin of life are a little bit more gray than black and white.”

    To say that christianity has an equal amount of contradictions as atheism or agnosticism is false. I will show you why.

    Imagine that there is this thing called sex. Some people believe it exists, some people say they have personally experienced it and it brings meaning to their lives. Then there are the sex agnostics who don’t really know what sex is and are confused about all the different denominations of sex such as heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and pansexuality. There are asexuals who don’t experience it or see evidence of sex outside of the opinions and beliefs of other people.

    Would you say that all of the sexuality worldviews have an equal amount of contradictions? Would you put them all on the same level and then say that sex is gray instead of black and white? I am curious to see how many people would do that with sex. They do the same thing with other religions and philosophies.

    • Be careful with your analogies. You’re argument is dependent on proving sex exists (which we’re all thrilled to have verified) for resolution. .The analogy can’t apply until someone verifies the existence of God. Something that will be subject to contention long after we’ve departed this life.

      It is hopeful and provides meaning to someone who believes in God (hurray), But to someone with doubt or disbelief it’s unhelpful. To an atheist it is simply a fallacious argument..

    • Actually, when you consider that I am an atheist who made up this analogy for the purpose of proving a christian wrong about a certain statement he made, it starts to make more sense.

      The point is that not all worldviews can really have the same amount of contradictions. They are much too different to be compared like that. I believe that atheism is actually much like asexuality. Both of them lack a great deal that is contained in other worldviews(or sexviews).

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