I found a blogger last week who made the most remarkable announcement. I suspect she has been thinking about this for quite a long time, and was reluctant to put her thoughts into words. When she finally found the courage, she chose the beginning of a New Year to make her thoughts public. She wrote, “I do not believe in God.”
What a brave thing to say! Believing in God isn’t normally a concept you inherit as a child, test as you grow, and discard when you are almost a rebellious teen. A child can believe in Santa Claus, and then question the belief when they discover Wal-Mart stickers on the Santa presents. A child’s faith in the Easter Bunny can be shaken for similar reasons. The Tooth Fairy can be easily forgotten after all the baby teeth have fallen out and been paid for. The Monster that lives under the bed is vanquished the first time the child safely reaches the bedroom door in the middle of the night.
But how does a person come to the conclusion they don’t believe in any God? After all, there are so many of them to choose from. According to David Barrett et al, the editors of the “World Christian Encyclopedia“, there are 19 major religions in the world, subdivided into 10,000 distinct religions. These groups teach the existence of thousands of Gods and Goddesses.
But what if, faced with the realization that the world can’t agree on one supreme God, you decide it is just as likely there is no God at all?
Stephen Roberts, a strong Atheist, talking to a theist about the thousands of gods and goddesses worshiped by humans: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”
– Source: Religious Tolerance.org –
There is not much chance there will ever be one World God. Most religious groups contend that their beliefs and practices are the only true ones, and all other faiths contain errors. Many religions are so sure of this, that they actively try to convert other people to their religion, or they try to destroy those who dissent. Religious oppression, discrimination and war are the result of the intolerance unleashed in the name of a God.
Imagine the results if more people accepted their religion as the best faith for them, but at the same time recognized that there are other religions which teach about other deities, other systems of morality, other religious practices, etc.
– Source: Religious Tolerance.org –
These are the major World religions and estimates of the number of adherents:
Of no religion: 1,100,000,000
Chinese folk religionists: 400,000,000
Primal religionists: 400,000,000
Buddhists: 375,000,000 adherents
Very, very rough estimates suggest that, in the US, about 25 percent of the population are actively involved with their religion. About 50 percent claim to belong to a particular religion, but they do not actively participate. The last 25 percent either don’t believe in a God, don’t believe there is any proof that any of the Deities exist or don’t really know how they feel about God. This last category isn’t a comfortable one to belong to if a person admits to being an Atheist. Many North Americans believe that Atheists are Communists, or that they are unable to lead a moral life because they don’t fear punishment in Hell.
Some people prefer to say the are Agnostic – they hold the view that any reality such as a God is unknown and probably unknowable. Other people profess to be Agnostic Atheists. This term means they don’t believe in the existence of any deity, but admit not knowing for sure that a deity might exist.
Which brings us back to our brave blogger. I hope ALL of her family and friends will let her choose the beliefs that work best for her.
NOTE: Regardless of your beliefs, I suggest you visit Religious Tolerance.org, a very remarkable website that tries to present a balanced view of Religion. It is written by an Atheist, an Agnostic, a Christian, a Wiccan and a Zen Buddhist.