For me, it all began with Pascal’s Wager.
I can’t remember exactly when and where I heard of it, but the wager as I remember it goes like this: If there is a God and He offers eternal reward for good behavior, it makes more sense to believe in Him than not to do so because you haven’t lost anything if it turns out there isn’t one.
The wager approached God and religion from a pragmatic angle and that made a lot of sense to me at the time. Growing up, I was taught to believe that God was a part of my life, that He would always be there to help me, and it was really nice to get that sort of logical, scientific affirmation that it made sense to believe in Him.
When I got to college, I started to attempt to incorporate everything I was learning with what I was taught about a Christian God and it didn’t seem to fit. If there is a God who said and did everything he’s supposed to say and have done in the Bible, why is it that other people have recorded those same events in different ways? If language shifts over time, how can we be certain that what we’re translating now is accurate to how it was written down, with the same tones and inflections as it was when the author wrote them? If the ancient Greeks used their gods and belief systems as metaphors in their epic poems and histories, could the early Christian writers have not done the same?
I may have mentioned this before to some of you, but there’s this gal I got to know around the same time I met Kelly. She’s a Southern woman, a Christian woman, and yet she didn’t mind that some of us didn’t share her faith. I don’t remember the context for this statement, but it struck me so much that I saved it:
The single most important commandment in the Christian (and although I don’t presume to speak for my Jewish brothers and sisters, I will note that Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5 in his response) faith commands God’s followers to love Him with all of their *mind*. All of their mind. To use your intelligence and your thoughtfulness to love Him. Not just to accept Him blindly but to *think* about him, to honestly search your thoughts and your knowledge and to love him with all of your mind.
This is tempered with the understanding that we are finite creatures who cannot begin to know Him fully and must exercise faith by loving Him with all of our hearts and souls as well, even when we don’t understand, but that’s still pretty powerful stuff.
The Christian faith doesn’t ask you not to use your mind. It commands you to.
See, the thing I love about this statement is that my friend doesn’t immediately discount people whose faith has taken a different form (“I don’t presume to speak for my Jewish brothers and sisters”). I don’t want to put words in her mouth, but I have a feeling that she’d feel the same about people like me who actively debate and question the existence of God as other people see fit to worship him.
However, I also can’t discount that there’s some merit to be had in being an atheist, either. There’s this country-western song called “Live Like You Were Dying” and while Wikipedia tells me that the song was written by a very Christian Tim McGraw to help him deal with the fact that his dad contracted cancer and died, I can’t help but think of it as one of the best atheist anthems I’ve ever heard, because with the exception of one line, every thing in that song is how my atheist friends have described to me as how they live their lives: one shot, no do-overs, no afterlife, no Eternity.
I am not a woman of the sciences, so what I’ll have to say next might not make any sense, but I leave you with this for now:
Because God is unknowable, no one can say with any certainty that he or she exists in a specific way. Also, because God is unknowable, to say that he or she doesn’t exist is also not logical because you just don’t know.
Therefore, it makes more sense to be an agnostic because it’s admitting that you just aren’t sure one way or the other because of a lack of “proof” on either side.
It’s not perfect, but it seems to be the approach I’m most comfortable with taking when it comes to God for now.
And I’m just fine with that.