This tirade was written shortly after I was set upon by a rather opinionated Christian. He offhandedly mentioned that he was a Christian. I offhandedly mentioned that I was an atheist. I was then plagued with the very reason for which I rarely admit to my specific ontological leanings. Many Christians are overwhelmingly disturbed by those who do not share their own beliefs. This disturbance frequently manifests itself in a form of mock compassion in which, for the sake of the atheist's soul, the Christian feels obligated to somehow convince the atheist of the error of his or her beliefs. Along with suffering through numerous meaningless, pointless, and ultimately groundless diatribes regarding the "obvious" existence of God, I have also suffered numerous insults.

An insult I find difficult to bear is the one in which the claim is made that only those with "true intelligence" perceive God. This translates as "You must be an idiot for failing to believe as I believe." I silently suffered through this insult this very week.

The insult that I find most difficult to bear, however, is assertion that I must be very unhappy and still looking for some Great Truth. Christians frequently take it for granted that a person who has not "found" God is genuinely unhappy. Quoting a baptist minister whose church I once frequented, "If you find someone who hasn't found God, he's [sic] unhappy. He may think he's happy, but he really isn't." Happiness -- so the story goes -- is unattainable without the "true intelligence" that allows Christians to "know" that God exists. Additionally, one's own doxastic state regarding one's own happiness is irrelevant to the actual equation. I have yet to devise a satisfactory explanation of how that can be true. I dealt with this insult as well during the same conversation. It amazes me how unhappy some Christians can become when they encounter people who do not share thier beliefs.

It was demanded of me to prove the non-existence of God. I fell into a trap. I thought that we were having a discussion. He wanted to have a debate. Note that he specifically wanted to engage in a debate rather than a philosophical argument. I neither wanted a debate nor was prepared for such an event. I avoid debates because the purpose of a debate is to win. I always prefer to find the truth even if it means changing my opinion. I was told that I did not know how to argue since I attempted to build my premises and end in a conclusion without allowing him to interject his objections before I was finished. This furthered the insult: clearly spending six years studying philosophy was a waste of time, especially in consideration of the fact that I lack "true intelligence." (I suppose he was right; if I had been possessed of "true intelligence," I might have avoided the discussion in the first place.)

I have thoroughly studied all of the classical arguments both for and against the existence of God and have spent some time exploring the more recent ones. All arguments to date are defective for one reason or another. I readily admit that if I am to fully follow the dictates of my reason, I am epistemically obligated to be agnostic rather than an atheist. I readily admit that my own argument for the non-existence of God relies on the completely unsupportable claim that the principle stated in Ockham's Razor is true (i.e., all else being equal, when two theories explain the same thing, the simplest of them is correct). The weakness of my own position is of no special importance to me since the issue appears to me to be beyond proof, and I have nothing to prove to anyone regarding the existence or non-existence of God. I have to wonder why so many obnoxious Christians seem to believe that they have something to prove to everyone else who believes differently from them.

My Christian (who, incidentally, claims also to practice white magick) insists that "they" have proved the existence of God using quantum physics. I find this to be a rather strange interpretation of the results of quantum physics and have been attempting to find reasonable material in support of this bizarre claim [Interjected later -- The claim appears to have been based on a misinterpretation of sloppy language found in John Gribbin's "In Search of Schroedinger's Cat"]. While I have found numerous articles weakly asserting that the results of quantum physics somehow support the belief that the universe was created by God, I have found nothing that even vaguely amounts to a proof. One of the strangest results of quantum physics is that if one is trying to prove that light is a particle, one can show that it is a particle, yet if one wants to prove that light is a wave, one can also prove that it is a wave, yet the two forms are mutually exclusive. Some people take this to mean that the desire itself to find a particular result causes the particular outcome.

I think that the observed "proof" of the existence of God might be a correlary of the experiment itself in that if one wants to "prove" that light is a particle, one can do so. The desire to find God in everything will result in finding what one takes to be God. I take this to be a desire to anthropomorphize reality. Many people take comfort in the belief that we are reflections of a Great Intellignece and that the universe automatically responds to our needs, wants, and desires. The mere fact that many of us want reality to work this way, however, does not constitute a good reason to actually believe that reality does in fact work that way.

An interesting sidenote is that if one believes that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, all-loving being, then one is also necessarily committed to the belief that this is the best of all possible worlds (We owe this to Leibniz who was lampooned in the Character of Dr. Pangloss in Voltaire's classic novel, Candide). That is, one must hold both beliefs provided one is committed to the use of reason. I have met a good many Christians who are not so inclined. In case any of my readers would like a clearer picture of what I am talking about here, I recommend cracking open a good text on philosophy of western religion and checking out the Argument from Evil.

One of the reasons I bothered to write this is to point out an egregious facet of the Christian faith, evangelism, the heartfelt belief that one is actively working to save human souls from eternal damnation. Evangelism is, in my honest opinion, one of the very worst practices ever invented by occidental culture. Christians themselves -- supposedly embodiments of compassion and all else that is good -- tend to alienate themselves from non-Christians by evangelizing. Through their overzealousness, Christians serve to sever themselves from a community that could benefit from their presence if it weren't for the fact that they demand that everyone believe as they believe. Only through patient and tolerant discussion are people capable of learning from one another. I must point out here as well that it is useless to attempt to convert a thinking person if one is unwilling to respect that person's beliefs. The respect must run both ways, or all is lost.

An unfortunate drawback of the Christian faith is that many Christians are convinced that the answer to every possible problem they could face is contained in that thick book they carry around (a book, I am finding, that many Christians have never read in a critical light). I have found that many Christians trade in their natural ability to reason for a dense, vague, and occasionally imparseable text. I suppose many people find this easier than thinking for themselves, but I think the world would be a better place if more people were capable of self-programming rather than insisting that everyone subscribe to an ancient -- and in many ways outmoded -- system of belief. Only through the dynamics of new input can the human race grow and prosper as a species.

A third unsettling Christian insult is an affront to the atheist's sense of honor and morality. It is unnerving to be around a person who, upon learning that one is an atheist, is incapable of believing that an atheist has any sense of moral decency. This is indicative of a sort of moral backwardness in the Christian -- who is incapable of separating morality from metaphysics. Many Christians assume that without the threat of eternal torment in Hell, people will invariably choose to be evil and to commit evil acts. I have always found this notion to be a defective one. I, like everyone else Christian or not, am a good person because I choose to be a good person and for no other reason. Indeed, 0ne needs to question the sincerity of the "morally good" Christian who is good only because of the threat of eternal damnation. I am always tempted to ask these people if they would become evil without the threat of eternal punishment. On at least one occasion, the person became angry with me because he had been insulted. Sadly, he failed to realize that his own expression of his views had been far more insulting to me.

I have always found the threat of eternal punishment in Hell to be rather unsettling in relation to the belief in an all-loving God. Punishment is revenge. While revenge is clearly a motive upon which the God of the Old Testament acts with regularity, the motivation of vengeance is not one that is in keeping with the more modern tenets of love and compassion. I have never understood how finite trespasses against the moral law committed during a mortal lifetime can possibly warrant eternal punishment. I have, however, seen the gleam in the eyes of Christians who were anticipating the eternal torments of those they hate.

Another relevant factor that I perceive to be a wide, gaping hole in the tenets of Christianity is that even the most heinous and wicked of sinners can avoid the flames of Hell simply by repenting and accepting Jesus Christ as a personal savior shortly before passing from this mortal coil. At least, I was told as a child that all it took to ascend to Heaven was a sincere acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah. There will certainly be Christians who disagree with me on that point. I only regurgitate what I was taught by other Christians. The point is that a Christian is still at liberty to practice evil while retaining reservations for tickets into Heaven simply by being penetant shortly prior to death. I am forced to question the rationality of any person who believes this to be a fair and reasonable system of rewards and punshments originating from a perfect being.

It is not my intention to denigrate those who obtain genuine joy and insight from their Chritianity. Religion at it's best is capable of enabling people to fully appreciate the awesome wonders of the universe and the ecstacy of human interactions. At it's worst, religion is used to endorse and commit the most heinous of debauchery. I have seen religion used to vindicate irrational hatreds of huge portions of the human race (Christian intolerance for homosexuals, for example). I have also seen religion used to bolster the spirits of depressed individuals who are enduring incredible hardships. I respect the heartfelt desire to share the joy brought on by such religous faith. All I ask is that Christians respect the beliefs, values, and motivations of others as well.

Alan Wescoat