Thursday, November 11, 2010

I wish I could believe in god

It would be great if the truth-claims of religion were true.  It would be awesome if the LDS church were true, the promised results from living a faithful life are pretty darn good.

But I just can't believe god exists.  At least not the god I've been taught about.  The world is not like the world that religions say it is.  It is not like the world one would expect to have been created by a powerful, benevolent being.  The evidence seems completely contrary.  For every person god supposedly helps, dozens of people are left to die by way of disease, violence, starvation, and other unimaginably terrible deaths.
I have been told over and over that god allows evil in the world for free will's sake.  However, this explanation seems weak to me.  If god is so powerful, he might come up with some other way.  I don't think the "best of all possible worlds," as Leibniz concluded the world must be if created by a benevolent god, is one where the prayers of a kid looking for his teddy bear or a woman for her car to start so she can make it to work are answered even as innocent children burn or starve to death elsewhere.  If god exists and is well-meaning, he really, really needs to rethink his priorities.

I've read many times that it takes more faith to be atheist than theist.  While I admit that someone who believes that there is no god and could never be convinced otherwise is probably dogmatically clinging to faith of a kind, I don't think that that's how it is for me.  Presented with the right evidence, I would believe in god.  But it seems more likely than not that there is no personal god, to me, because the world I find myself in is inconsistent with that idea.  So how am I clinging to faith more than a theist, if I interpret things in the most realistic way possible while being prepared to change my beliefs based on new data?

I'm sure there are those who would accuse me of not giving god a chance.  This is bull.  I served a full-time mission working every waking hour, seven days a week, for two years.  I rode a bike through the hail and in 110 degree 90% humidity, being rejected from dawn to dusk in a language I had to learn as I went.  I have always given 1/10 of my income to the church.  I have spent my life saying constant daily prayers, reading the scriptures, participating in church service, and forever ignoring any doubts that came my way.
I would say that 20+ years seems long enough.  If god were going to throw me a bone, I'd think maybe he would have done it by this time.  After all, I've probably lived more than a quarter of my life, and some of my most important decision-making years at that, in his service.

Even if there turned out to be a god who was even slightly interested in human affairs and the lives of individuals, I very much doubt that I was raised in his correct religion.  What are the odds?  Not good.  Ignoring the church's inconsistencies in teachings throughout the last couple of centuries, it occurs to me that maybe god would do a better job promoting the church that he supposedly endorses.

Maybe there is some kind of "first cause" or "creator" of the universe, but there is nothing to indicate this thing's characteristics.  Even its sentience is a completely baseless assumption.  This "god" could very well regard the universe as a toy, maybe it hasn't even noticed humanity in all of the vastness of space.  Or maybe it has, is malevolent, and brings suffering into the world for its own pleasure.  So the entire basis of a rational path to theism is groundless... if you have been personally convinced of god's existence, fine, but you can't use that to convince me, your conversion experience is not even consistent with the conversions of others!

Now I'm ranting, so I'd better stop.  But people say some dumb things about the way I think, and sometimes it irks me.


  1. ah the argument for free will. I ran across that one myself many times from others. It seems to me that free will is just an elaborate illusion because if God can't force you to do something against you will that puts limitations on God then he ceases to be all powerful. Free will trumps all powerful. Also the phrase "God will never give you trials you cannot overcome" (or something to that effect) would also invalidate free will because God according to that notion has predestined your path and he already knows beginning to end so he has a pretty good idea who will fail and who won't so knows exactly who will inherit the kingdom. Makes you wonder what is the point of existence then if the numbers of people headed to heaven are known so free will becomes an illusion and mortal existence pointless.

  2. I think you are a very wise person. I was also raised LDS, and all of my family/most of my friends are active members. I got out of it when i was about 11, because I just didnt understand it. It never made sense to me, I never got prayers answered, I always felt like my prayers were selfish anyway. I felt wrong in church. But now, im 19. My girlfriend is LDS and my friends and cousins are going on missions. I WISH SO MUCH, that i could believe in God, and feel what they all feel, and get married in the temple and have a great, god-filled life. But i cant. It's just not me. You are a very respectable man for sticking with it all the way until after your mission to decide for yourself how you feel about the religion.. I'm sure you've faced this same prediciment with your loved ones.. I hope you're doing well now. :)