I hate to post two religiously-themed articles back-to-back (the last was only indirectly religiously, actually).
It is with increasing disgust that I face believers of varying religions. Personally, I'm agnostic--I don't pretend to know if there is or isn't a god or gods, and at any rate don't believe the existence of such a god should determine how I live my life; I answer to myself and those around me and hold myself to a high moral standard.
What is increasingly tiresome is being urged to "just believe" instead of being "so logical". Really? Since when is being logical bad? Forgive me when I think through a problem before coming to a conclusion. I forgot this is America, where we slap one another on the back for instantaneous action instead of a reasoned response. "Ask for an apology after the fact, not for permission before the fact," or something like that.
It seems to me that if you are going to presume the existence of a god (a giant assumption, based on what we know from science and logic), the ball is in your court to prove such an assertion. There is no logical reason whatsoever for me to just "believe" the Bible because it's the alleged word of God (which god? Yahweh? Flying Spaghetti Monster? Who knows!). The Bible was written hundreds of years after the alleged events described within. Would you believe something I wrote about some dude fighting in the Civil War, based solely on the fact that I claim I received the information from the spirit of that very dude? Would you not call me crazy? So why do we not question believers? Moreover, why do we let believers get away with such nonsense?
Imagine this scenario. You're sitting in a living room: TV, couch, coffee table, etc. etc. Nothing special. Out of the blue I tell you my coat closet is full of little demons that will drag you to Hell if you open the door after dark. Here's the question: how do you respond? Do you believe me, because since I live here I should surely know "the truth" and have no reason to lie to you? Or do you ask me to prove it? Threaten to open the door and see whether or not I try to stop you?
The point is that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. You can't suppose there is a magical space being that created all that ever was, is, or will be without some proof to believe such a thing. How do you know your supposition is the true supposition? What about all those other folks that say you're wrong? Are they all wrong, or are you mistaken?
What we need in this country is a more questioning attitude. Americans seem to question their politicians almost as a point of pride, yet many dismiss religious questioning as heathen activity for godless morons. The truth is, when you have so many people preaching different versions of The Truth, it means (by logical terms) either we are all wrong or we are all right. Neither end result really tells us anything, and certainly doesn't give us any divine guidance.
Regardless of there being a god or not, do you feel more or less compelled to pay taxes? To not murder? To not steal? If the only thing keeping you from murdering, raping and pillaging as you please is the notion that doing so may prevent you from going to heaven (or avoiding hell), then get the hell away from me! I want to be surrounded by people that do what's right because they have an inherent sense of rightness. Like the old question goes, "Is it right because God commands it or does God command it because it's right?" The former leaves you with the untenable position that God makes arbitrary decisions based on nothing more than his/her fancy. The latter leaves you with a notion that there is a larger set of principles that are so righteous even God himself believes in it. In that case, why do you need to believe in a god? At this point god seems redundant or, at best, necessary to live a moral and good life.
Understand that if you believe in Creation or the Biblical account of the world, it is up to YOU to find a way to justify that. I'm not going to be persuaded by hearing "the Bible is the word of God" (unprovable) or "you don't want to go to Hell, do you?" (unprovable). Creationists say God put fossils here to test our faith, to see if we would trust the Bible or "evil" Science. If that is true, what makes you believe He didn't put the Bible here as a test? Maybe the true reward goes to those that live good lives regardless of their beliefs; maybe there is only Hell, and religion was devised by a god to see who would have the guts to enjoy themselves and who would live in fear of what they cannot see? The point is that none of these assertions are more or less provable than anything in any religious document, and you have no more or less reason to believe that then you do to believe in Faeries.
Religious folks will say "if you are so sure there is no God, then prove it!" Clearly they don't have a grasp on even basic forms of logic (which our entire understanding of the universe are based on and have been proven time and time again). You cannot prove a negative. You can never say something doesn't exist, because there's always an "out": Nessie may exist because when people search for her, she just "hides" in the forest (for example).
But you can prove a positive. If God does exist, there should be some proof somewhere. It is on the shoulders of the believers to present this evidence. If not, they should be prepared to acknowledge their beliefs are based on nothing more than faith. Not science. Not reality. Faith. And they therefore must accept that there's a chance they are wrong about it and there is no God, or they're worshiping the wrong god.
It's always quite amusing to hear a pious believer speak of the Absolute Plan of God, that "what will happen will happen no matter what mere mortals do to try and change it." Is that so? Then why do these same people look both ways before crossing the street? Why do they begin praying in airplanes? If God has predetermined it's your time to die (and you lived a life worth of Heaven, as you believe you have) then crying and whining and being scared seems silly. If you really believe what you say, you should fear nothing. Period.
To those that say "God makes us look both ways before crossing the street; that's part of His plan, too!" I say only, "HA!" Let's see where this takes us: if God plans everything down to the details of individuals looking both ways before crossing the street, then it's not unreasonable to assume he's determined your career, spouse, salary and breakfast too. There goes the notion of free will! And with the removal of free will we are left to question the value of faith. If God decides who will be faithful and who will not, we are literally nothing more than active little figures in his sandbox, made for the exclusive purpose of worshiping Him and for His entertainment. That's a depressing notion to me.
Instead, be accountable to yourself. Be accountable to each other.
That's something I hope we can all believe in.