I've come to the conclusion that a big part of being a spiritual person is thinking clearly.
(When I say "spiritual," I don't mean religious or supernatural; I mean finding meaning in life, the underlying spirit of one's life, so to speak.)
If we don't think clearly, there's a danger that our emotions, feelings, desires, intuitions, and such will lead us astray. I'm certainly not saying that thoughts are more important than other aspects of our psyche -- just that we need to find a balance between the rational and non-rational parts of ourselves.
Case in point: this You Tube video is a 24-minute example of how a deist caller to the Atheist Experience TV show is utterly unable to discuss in any sort of coherent fashion why he believes God, or any other supernatural entity, exists.
I watched the whole video, but in the first 5-10 minutes you can get a good feel for the discussion between the atheist guys and Jeff from Aptos, California.
The person who emailed me a link to the video yesterday said:
Hi Brian, I just listened to this call on the call-in program called The Atheist Experience. What is so unbelievably fascinating about this call is that the caller has absolutely no clue about what's being said.
I agree that many Church of the Churchless commenters display the same lack of understanding of what it means to believe in the supernatural, and not to believe in the supernatural.
Over and over, the caller, Jeff, is asked to explain why he is a deist, a believer in God. He's repeatedly asked to provide reasons, or evidence, to support his belief in God. But all of his explanations are either circular, or unresponsive.
Of course, there's no demonstrable evidence of God, or I and almost every other atheist in the world would believe in God. After all, us atheists typically are open-minded, as Don and Matt, the Atheist Experience guys, are.
As noted regularly on this blog, most recently in this post, atheism isn't a belief; it is the absence of a belief in theism, in God. Don and Matt keep pointing out that they aren't saying there is no God. Rather, they consider that because of insufficient evidence that God exists, they assume that not-believing in God is the wisest choice.
I liked how they interrupted the caller when he tried to answer their question about why he is a deist by starting out with, "But you..." They correctly said that when someone begins to answer a question about themselves with "But you...", it's clear that they aren't intent on providing an answer.
Asking an atheist to prove that there is no God is an example of how religious believers fail to think clearly. The burden of proof is on a believer, not a skeptic.
In a trial, the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone committed a crime. Fairly frequently, the defense won't call a single witness. Why? Because they don't have to prove that the defendant didn't commit a crime.
Likewise, an atheist doesn't have to prove that God doesn't exist. Atheists like me, and like Don and Matt, leave open the possibility that God or some other supernatural entity might exist. If there is sufficient evidence of this, we would believe. Because there isn't, we don't.
Of course, there are good reasons to believe in God, even if God doesn't exist. Here's some of them:
(1) It feels good to believe that death isn't the end of us, but the beginning of an afterlife.
(2) It feels good to be part of a religious community, given the social support that comes with this.
(3) It feels good to be provided a moral code, rather than having to decide what is right and wrong on our own.
(4) It feels good to consider that we're part of a "chosen people," instead of just being an ordinary person.
(5) It feels good to believe that a divine power is guiding your life.
Here's the thing though: just because something makes us feel good doesn't mean it is true. Fantasies can be fun.
I regularly get comments on this blog along the lines of, "Brian, why are you trying to take away an important source of support for people, their belief in God?" My answer: "I'm not trying to do this. What I'm trying to do is learn the truth about God and supernaturalism in general."
For me, the arguments in favor of believing in God or the supernatural are weak, too weak for me to accept. Yes, I used to believe in not only God, but in the existence of living masters, or gurus, who essentially were God in human form. Now I don't believe in either.
However, since I used to believe, I understand the appeal of believing. Life is hard. The Buddha got it right when he taught that life is suffering. We all need shoulders to lean on. I get why most people in the world believe in God and the supernatural. This feels good.
There's nothing wrong, and a lot right, with feeling good. I'm simply saying that feeling good because of a belief in God is one thing, and that belief being true is a very different thing.
Science was mentioned in the Atheist Experience video as being our best way of determining what is true. For sure. Here's a 4-minute video in praise of science that's well worth watching.