Ok, let’s be clear, firstly I’m pretty ignorant in general. I don’t read much non-fiction, I’ve not had a classical education and I’ve not been privy to much involvement in any form of religion. So basically, I’m talking from a position of not knowing much but believing a lot. Inherently, that’s a bad position to be in. But at least I know that.
Secondly, I’m an atheist. I’m pretty confident there is no god, or any gods. I’m prepared to be wrong, but I’m still confident.
Thirdly, faith and religion are not the same thing. I fundamentally respect faith, I have serious reservations about religion.
So, with all that said, I can understand where belief in a god, the supernatural, or gods comes from. I’ve been outside and seen weather which I would attribute to magic if I didn’t have a greater understanding of the world around me. I know when I see a beam of light shine through a cloud several miles away, forming a tunnel of light from the sky to the ground that it’s a natural phenomenon caused by the position of the sun, the clouds and the weather. It’s no less awe inspiring to see it, no less moving to be there. But I don’t for a moment belittle people, thousands of years ago, for believing it was some otherworldly event (in some respects of course, it is). All around us, all the time are miracles of nature that are hard to believe and understand.
I watched a movie on YouTube a few months back of a dust-devil swirling it’s way across a baseball pitch like some crazy demented demon. How would I have viewed that same event 3000 years ago? Completely differently I can assure you. So I do understand where a belief in the supernatural came from (in my uneducated view). I also understand faith.
I look around like anyone else and wonder, is this it? Is there more? Are we here for a reason, is there some great plan. I can understand why faith originates, to answer those unanswerable questions, to provide hope in the darkness, to provide understanding of our place in the supernatural world. But on a personal level for me they don’t ring true, but I’m prepared to be wrong, and I think people who hold faith in something have a courage and a vision that maybe I can’t understand or reach.
And I can even understand religion, I just don’t like it. Religion takes faith and turns it into doctrine and then uses it to enforce a belief system that benefits the religion more than the members. Shared belief and shared faith is not religion. Religion is the imposition of how to have faith, of what form that faith must take, and more importantly, what the penalties are for not having that faith.
Common faith is wonderful, to share similar views with other people, to have a shared agreement about what life means, but it is tainted by the fist of religion at every involvement, and I can never respect that.
And the question I’ll never really understand is why only one God? If I were to belief in the supernatural, or take up theism it would certainly be a multi-deity version. If I was to have faith it would be in many forces, many gods. Why a single creator? Why one entity making all the decisions?
The best reason I can find is that with most polytheistic systems (is that a word?) the gods are capricious. Yes, the god of love may be happy with you all the time but there’s also a god of warts and he’ll be along sooner or later to curse your foot. Single god systems ensure that the god cares. It’s easier to be happy believing in a single god who cares than it is to admit that sometimes the gods don’t care, and are out for a bit of revenge or deadly fun. If we accept that people need faith, then we can also begin to believe that people are more likely to believe in a single caring god than a bunch of gods who might care only on Mondays.
And yet, the latter more accurately reflects the state of the world, surely that’s why those systems came about. If you don’t understand the causes of weather, and you’re a sailor, sometimes your god is capricious and sometimes they save your life. Sometimes the god of corn is nice and makes it rain and other times they’re nasty and bring you drought. That’s how the world is. A single loving god needs an excuse (free will!) to explain the badness that goes on in the world. A bunch of little gods need no excuse, they cover all aspects of how life is.
And so, for me, if I was to believe, it would be in a collection of gods. A committee maybe. A rabble perhaps. Why only one god? Because I think, it’s easier to believe in one god than many, and people need to believe in something.