One of my old dialogues with an atheist on an atheist forum. I was asked what I actually believe, which was unusual. I shared some thoughts I find worth repeating here.
I appreciate your interest. I’ve seen a lot of condemnation and criticism in atheist forums, I have not seen much interest to understand.
I believe, there is a force that “makes things happen” – in the physical world, but, most importantly, in our minds. There is “something” that drives us towards a better life – justice, love, etc. I think, it’s a simple human belief, and many atheists may believe the same thing. For me, it is hard to imagine the possibility of any social progress without such belief. I believe that we should seek to understand this force and submit to it. Christians may call it “the Holy Spirit”, atheists may say, it’s “genetic code”, but those are just words, placeholders for the concept. We are talking about the same thing, whether we want it or not.
We only understand what we can visualize. Some people visualize God as an old man with a beard in the sky. Some visualize the Holy Spirit as a dove, light, or water. I don’t think, any of those are correct visualizations. I may agree that “God” of the OT who writes with a finger on stone tablets and walls and speaks from a cloud or Jesus of the NT are fictional characters – attempts to visualize the concepts. You know wisdom when you see it. It may come from Tom Sawyer, Daffy Duck, Winnie the Pooh, Cat in the Hat, or Jesus. God is wisdom, not Daffy Duck. As for Jesus, even Christians believe, he was a man. If I think of Jesus in a sense that I described, it does not matter to me if he is fictional. I view the virgin birth and physical resurrection as symbols. The Bible is full of such symbols and metaphors. Such views do not contradict the idea that Jesus can save us (where “Jesus” is a visualization of the “force” driving us towards good).
“I see the Pope and many other religious leaders as scriptwriters and ventriloquists who push people around by saying “You had better obey because it is the word of God.”
I agree. I do not like this tone either. In a church where I go, there were several sermons on this very issue with the main thought “do not put your own words in God’s mouth, put God’s words into your mouth”. In NT, this was frequently an issue between Jesus and the Pharisees. They were trying to push their agenda on him using the letter of the law. So, your attitude is not “anti-Christian”. In fact, I find it Christian. We don’t need a performance of a ventriloquist. Frequently, it’s enough to step into a church to see such performance.
“Do you believe in a self-conscious God?”
I don’t think, I can make a coherent speech on this subject. Just to show the nonsense of this question, I will try. He is supposed to be conscious of everything. That includes himself, doesn’t it? Also, without self-consciousness, how can one feel compassion? Or how can one feel compassion without the ability to be hurt or harmed or feel pain? On the other hand, I’m not sure if being conscious of everything is different than being conscious of nothing. Both concepts are nonsense. It only makes sense to be conscious of something in particular. Once we say “I’m conscious of X”, we must be conscious of our consciousness. Being conscious of my consciousness makes as much sense as knowledge of knowledge, beliefs about beliefs, and reasoning about the reason. This does not make much sense, does it? As I said above, such questions are only useful to show the limits of our reasoning abilities. They simply short-circuit our logic machine. We have to step outside this logic machine to comprehend the issue.
“Does God have thoughts and desires? Is he a jealous and angry God?”
Can a force have thoughts and desires or be jealous and angry or be conscious of itself? We give these attributes to the forces with our metaphoric language (furious storm, calm weather). And we have to understand these forces to survive.
“Does he create things and destroy things?”
You can say, “things appear and disappear”, or “being created and destroyed”. It’s linguistics which reflects how we think about things. These two phrases say the same thing.
“Am I risking one of God’s lightning bolts by typing these insolent questions?”
We all are risking to die the next minute. We’d better do something good while we can.