So What Has God Done for Me, Lately?

I am getting tired of this whole God business. I used to regard God with a sort of benevolent patience, like a successful author might regard an English teacher that used to give him a hard time when he was in the eighth grade but has long since become a nuisance. That author really doesn’t need to reminded when not to split an infinitive and I am getting pretty damn tired of being reminded that I must behave this way or that, or I’ll not go to heaven.

Ok, God was a useful stepping stone in the long course of cultural evolution that has made us a uniquely successful species. He was a useful crutch that made people behave themselves and act for the better of their group even when they didn’t want to. Now that we know what we are and how we got this way we don’t need that crutch any more, we have a more reasoned and consistent basis for judging right from wrong. We obey the law of the land not only because we may go to jail if we don’t, but because we want to, we know we have to pay up to support a system we all profit from. We exist within a web of mostly implicit contractual relationships of that nature; we learn to navigate among them at an early age; and it is this willingness that provides the lubricants that keep the wheels of our society turning.

Modern politics is a discussion of how to make those wheels turn more fairly and more efficiently, and we don’t need God sitting at our elbows and telling us what to do based on some antiquated ideas about morality. When you look at the current uproar over the forthcoming elections it is pretty hard to identify God as helping, although it is easy to spot issues and situations where He is screwing things up. Need I get specific? Anyone likely to read this can easily fill in the blanks.

It is even easier to see how outdated and dysfunctional God has become when you look abroad, especially in regions where He is still telling people what to do and a lot of them are listening and obeying, or at least using His advice as justification. My special beat is the Middle East and I can assure you that God in those parts, usually known as Allah, has taken a situation that was difficult to begin with and made it much, much worse. Fifty or sixty years ago nationalism based on region and language and history was what divided people and that was bad enough, but somehow Allah got into the middle where he had no business and a lot of groups that didn’t much like each other but were learning to get along discovered they hated each others’ guts so ardently that all they wanted to do was get out the long knives. They have been hacking away at each other ever since. With a friend like God, out there you are guaranteed to have plenty of enemies, mortal ones at that.

What to do? I am coming to the conclusion that we humanists need to stand tall and enunciate clearly that we not only don’t believe in God, we believe everybody would be better off if our country and indeed the whole world tried harder to get along without Him. I’m not recommending we become Hari Krishnas and stand around on street corners dispensing pamphlets. But I’m getting tired of defining myself as someone who doesn’t believe in something, I’d prefer to tell people something I do believe in. And I do believe in the proposition that the old Gods have had their day, and should be retired.

We waste a lot of time arguing among ourselves whether it is a negation of our essence as non-believers to have faith in anything. Perhaps, if we can agree on believing strongly in the need to get our society past the old gods, some of us can take it from there. My own brand of progressive humanism has in it the concept of evolution-based direction, and that can furnish a science-based sense of purpose which in turn can give meaning to humanism for those who seek meaning in what they do. Maybe we can all talk about that a bit more, as we humanists shoulder our way into the mainstream of public discussion in our fractious nation.

Carl Coon


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5 Responses to So What Has God Done for Me, Lately?

  1. Deist_Humanist says:

    Hey there Carl,
    I must say you’ve made some very interesting points in your statements. I too agree that the concept of “God in heaven- do good and meet him, do bad and go to hell and burn forever in endless pain you peice of scum” was very effective in developing our superego when we were young.

    I believe that same concept is what resulted in the world’s major religions to still exist today. That’s because if one is to decide to leave one’s religion- and also let us note that we are still unsure of whether the existence of God is true or not- that would result in him burning in hell, should that religion’s prophecy be real. This results in many not bothering to take the risk and play it safe. It is an extremely successful and strong concept.

    First of all, my stance is that religion is simply a way of interpreting the uninterpretable, so to speak, and that religion is neither right nor wrong – in the THEORY of GOD HIMSELF. Our (arguably) most significant problem with believers for us humanists are not their beliefs themselves, but their ego-fueled attitudes towards outside groups and unjust equality within their own groups.

    My proposal and opinion is open for argument for all. The difficulty in changing the attitudes of believers is the fact that it may 1) go against their teachings, 2) cause an ego-defensive, emotional (usually aggressive) response or 3) BOTH.

    Here’s a firm example: the LGBT society. I’ll admit that my opinion is biased; I have no problem towards the stance for this small group in society and I support them, even though I’m heterosexual.
    The Bible says to love your neighbors, but the Christian God considers homosexuality a sin. Humans have discriminated against gays for as long as we know. The point? – Christians are quicker to hold on to prejudicial attitudes against gays because they are “sinners” than to obey God and love everyone regardless. What’s tougher is that without the superego, humans would naturally repel against same sex attraction.

    My argument is to progress into two forms of actions. Some of my terminologies are from my psychological background as I study this feild in uni, btw:

    Firstly is to lead by example. Let us come together as humanists and be the people we want to see in society. Let us show love and to refute from individualism(to be more specific, refute from selfish materialistic gains and desires for status and fame above others) and have more social roles that benefit others such as in prosocial behaviour and with moral altruism. Let’s also be more open minded and accept others opinions of God just like what we may want to see in religious cultures if they would not give up their beliefs( which is fine if they give up their various forms of discriminations)

    Secondly we can fight fire with fire. Just as we are aware of the contradictions of the Bible, we can have these arguments in discussions with non-believers who may practice or agree to unjust inequality amongst out-groups and in-groups. The difficulty in this is what I would predict to be the counter argument of this procedure; where a believer may claim that we humanist or atheist do not follow their way and so we would not know (or something like that, but there will be counter arguments)

    Be sure to know that my opinion and stance is subjective and open for argument. I am not saying that this is the way or the most effective of that. It’s simply what I have to say. I strongly encourage however that we must proceed, no matter what movement we engage in, with strong ethics and morality. We must be accepting of opposition and backlash and to expect these things, yet to stand without judging those who judge us. Otherwise we’re just going to be another crusade of close-minded people trying to persuade others into our beliefs through either force or discrimination. See where I’m getting at?

  2. Carl Coon says:

    Serious comment here. Would you go for a moral compass based entirely on science and reason that gives a sense of direction on complex issues? On many issues it might well advise the same behavior that existing God-based moral codes do. But it would not require any punishment/reward factors based on assumptions of either God or an afterlife. I think you can derive such a compass from the AHA book I wrote last year, A Brief History of Evolution.

    • Deist_Humanist says:

      I’ll check out your book, Carl.
      The mere nature and concept of morality is not found in nature or in hard sciences. Has any scientific feild or reasoning out of its purest state (which is to survive) dictate what we call morality? If reasoning is to be based on pure logic, then isn’t it ‘logical’ to gain as much as you can in order to survive ?
      I understand your perspective which would encourage a social structure without discrimination or inequality. Thing is, almost every major religion also have the same goals; however some are more forced while others are solely passive-aggressive against out-groups.
      So my question is: what is the difference between your ideological philosophy than a religious doctrine in terms of persuading others to join you, should it be labelled as a religion in and of itself?
      I do wish our society was built more on realistic reasoning and taking responsibility for self instead of relying on “sky daddy” to provide everything that they’re too lazy to do themselves which in fact is within their capacity to materialize; however, one cannot curb the ego without learning and the best way for a human to learn is through punishment – Hence I claimed the effectiveness and permanence of religious beliefs in modern society. Morality is developed through the superego- super ego is developed by our role models and desire to save face – these are sustained only after reinforced motivation to escape death (hell/punishment)
      Yes I would go for a moral compass based on science and reasoning, however there is more to life than to act and to survive- Art has no real benefit to humans, yet it is all around us. Why is art a part of us? Why do we see patterns not only in nature but through our findings in all of the universe? What is the nature of love and emotions and why humans developed this exclusively, yet cannot be understood through logical fact?
      These are all subjective no matter how hard we try.
      Everyone’s emotions and perception is different from one another and there are still many things that us humans are incapable of perceiving. That’s why I believe in God, but religion is not necessary since it’s only trying to interpret that which is completely subjective and only holds value depending on the interpreter. As with not interpreting or believing in the concept of art to hold value to you would not affect you in any way really, same would be your decision to believe in God or not.
      Thing is though, even when it doesn’t affect you in your own survival when you don’t believe in art, when you do hold value to it, it brings many many rewards. I’m sure anyone who listens to their favourite song would feel better, but does it feed you, give you water, do anything to you? Nope, but it makes you feel good, though.
      Trust me, many has a story to tell for the reason why they believe in God under their religion and if you say that that doesn’t exist… It’s like saying their art is trash, which triggers an ego defensive mechanism.
      I don’t tell God to do anything for me, to bring things into my perspective; I don’t ask for money or to be successful or anything like that as I take that as my responsibility to make those decisions; I just appreciate how the world and the universe is created to be so beautiful and I use God as my reason to be thankful.
      I definitely would not tell you to do what I do and force you into my ideology, which is where I disagree with religion. Everyone is equal and deserves peace, happiness, justice and equality, that’s my humanist perspective that contradicts what religious practitioners would believe as ‘logic’ or ‘reasoning’ based on their theology.
      That’s the ideology I would like society to practice more of though. To be more accepting of differences. I wish that religions were not so critical about other religions because they all teach that its religion is true. Which is bs. There’s no ‘true’ way of interpreting something that is subjective.
      I’m not sure that I’ve answered your question, Carl, for which I apologize. I’m only presenting another way of dealing with our society instead of initiating action that goes against the beliefs of others. I do understand however that with this practice, inequality may still occur with in-groups of religious practices. I would like to know what would be your way of taking action towards such activities and attitudes in order to curb them?

      • Hooker (rugs) says:

        ‘if you say that that doesn’t exist’— why can not Christians understand that atheists are NOT saying ‘that doesn’t exist’.

  3. Carl Coon says:

    The humanist doesn’t say God does not exist, unless pressed to give a short answer. The longer one is that there is no evidence that God exists and we believe it unlikely there ever will be. Until and unless we reach that point we do not support existing belief systems when they evolve into glue that not only binds individuals together but poisons whole groups against other groups. There is enpough strife in the world anyway, who needs more?

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