My religious views
I was raised in an Orthodox Christian in my early yars, and, before going to school, I finally approached my parents with questions about faith, and was told that they have none. I had grown out of any religion by th time I finished grade school.
It was until my marriage (which we held a religious ceremony for, for the sake of our guests and extended family) that I found out that i had in fact been baptized as a Catholic, at the insistence of my paternal grandmother. I like to tell this as a funny fact, as I have never practiced any Catholic rituals, as I did not even know I had been one.
I am now an atheist, and have been so for many years.
The soul problem
I hold no belief in any being that transcends this reality. I find that there is no verifiable evidence for any part of consciousness being separate, in any way, from the body. In fact, for every part of the definable consciousness which I had any interest in, I could find either studies on the effects of the material world on said part, or, maybe, a disease or condition that affects it. I consider that there is no "spiritual dimension" of human beings, thus the case for a transcendent being grows extremely weak.
Without the argument for the existence of a soul, any religious stance substantially weakens: since there is nothing to be in an afterlife, then all promises of such are basically either lies, or empty words. Even if that was not the case, there is still no compelling reason to undertake any current religion: no being other than us appears to be currently interested in blessing us with anything that would make our lives easier (or human life less miserable on average) and, since nothing survives after death, there is nothing to fear from any otherwise possibly more powerful being (please note the distinct lack of the adjective "superior" in this text). There is no reason for religion, and the heavy time taxed by religious rituals, as well as all the resources, can be better used for something else.
I have not been given any definitive proof that anything other than natural laws, a lot of which we have already discovered and coded in a way that is useful for us, are responsible for the functioning of the universe.
All areas in which there is not yet an explanation will most likely get one. History proves that where there are questions, there are also people that seek answers. In fact, I consider myself a cog in the grand mechanism of a society whose purpose is to evolve, understand, discover, and create, and take pride in knowing that whatever I strive to do will somehow benefit in either science directly, or indirectly through allowing for better machines, higher safety or simply by relieving the pressure of chores necessary to living, so that people might focus more on the endeavors mentioned above.
I appear capable to work with concepts of infinity, in both time or space, and do not find myself in need of anchor points. I also appear to be confortable with uncertainty or lack of knowledge, and, while I do tend to either infer or rationalize an explanation, I am also confortable with adjusting my view should new information be available.
In light of the above, I have concluded that atheism is the path that most logically follows.
The miracle problem
It seems to me that any major world religion has its miracle workers, and its fair share of miracles, but all of them suffer from the same fundamental issue: all fall short of true miracles.
A true miracle, as I define it, is a happening that so defies the laws of out world, that it could only have happened as a result of divine intervention, and in no other conceivable way. As such, I don't consider that getting healed from cancer might be called a miracle: there is so much that we don't yet know about cancer, that there is ample room for yet-unknown things to manifest, and have complete remission as a result. This, of course, has happened before, and not necessarily in the context of miracles.
To take another example, in the same medical vein: you get infected with the virus that causes poliomyelitis. It comes up in a scan, and the detailed medical analyses prove without a doubt that it's polio. You pray and do the required rituals to ensure that you don't get a serious case of polio, which might result in permanent paralysis. Some time passes with no effect and, after a series of check-ups, you are declared polio-free. At that moment, you can consider that divine intervention has occurred, or you may come to realize that only about 1% of infections ever progress to that stage.
It therefore follows that a true miracle must not be a happening with a result that may come from either yet-unknown or poorly understood sources, or one that may be ambiguous enough that pure chance might occasionally end up with the same result.
Of course, I am not the first to think along this vein, which is why the website whywontgodhealamputees.com exists. The titular question, "Why won't God heal amputees?", is, in fact, one that satisfies all the criteria for a true miracle. If an amputee is suddenly and visibly healed, then the following would hold true:
- There is no unknown or ambiguous happening; we may not know all about cancer, but we can say we do know all that's needed to about the human inability to regrow a lost limb
- There is no room for scamming; you can't fake regrowing a lost limb in a way that wouldn't immediately be discoverable
- There can be no doubt that divine intervention has occurred; there currently does not exist any medical or technological procedure that will allow a lost limb to be regrown, and you can be absolutely sure that in the first moment when one becomes available, everybody will know about it, and tons of money will be made
This kind of miracle, of course, has never happened, in any world religion, either witnessed or claimed through ancient texts. It seems to me that the writers of the ancient religious texts were acutely aware of the limitations of their own imaginary universe, which makes the proposition of religion so much weaker.
What about agnosticism?
I do not consider agnosticism to be an alternative to atheism, nor do I consider it to be a part of the array of possibilities of religius beliefs.
Agnosticism, as etymology implies, is a state of not knowing. The state of not knowing is a natural state of mind, and also a default state of mind. It can be applied to anything (although I will admit that it may be strange to express things like "I am agnostic about baseball", even though, in the technical sense, it is correct).
Religious views, however, do not tend to concern themselves with knowing, but, rather, with believing. We can have a perfectly homogenous account of the Council of Nicaea, and both historical and religious canons will agree as to who took part, what has been discussed, what the timeline was, what the conclusions were, etc. - in other words, a state of gnosticism towards the events. At the same time, religious views will go on and believe the guidance of a god on the proceedings, whereas the historical account cannot concern itself with this belief (other than noting that there was such a belief among people).
Therefore, I consider myself to be agnostic towards the question of whether a different plane exists, and my belief is that it doesn't. A belief that is adjustable given proper evidence, and which makes the question of agnosticism irrelevant to the topic of religious views.
Why not any of the world's religions?
I consider that the problem with the world's religions is that there is more than one of them, and that is a fact that severely weakens any one religion's position: since they all claim to be the one single truth, it follows that no more than one of them can be true. However, there is no argument that can be made to say that all of them couldn't be false. So, the problem of choosing one religion thus becomes a cosmic cups and balls game.
Considering today's major religions, I see no major distinction between them:
- They all claim to be the one and only truth, and all the others are false
- They all have some sort of central messianic figure
- They all have their holy texts, all of which completely fail any test of divine inspiration that may be seriously undertaken
- They all have places of worship, and their clergy, and in all cases said clergy is divided into multiple factions in disagreement as to what the details of the message of their religion should be
- They all have a history of violence, intolerance, reigns of terror and cruelty, and corruption
- None has ever come forward with any knowledge that might actually help humanity, that might be considered so radical, that it could not be achieved other than through divine inspiration
As such, I see no reason to follow any one of today's religions. Nobody that has ever prompted me to follow a religion has been able to give any definitive answer as to why I should follow their religion instead of any other (and, in fact, most have been genuinely surprised to learn that their religion is, in fact, not particularly unique in this world).
Last update: 21st October, 2022