Could God…

Before I had let go of my religious conviction, when I realised it wasn’t rooted in anything tangible, I always thought that people knew, deep down, that God was literally real. Rather than being honestly uncertain about His existence, they rather wanted to live their own way and didn’t want anything to do with Him.

Standing now in a place I didn’t think it was possible to stand in a few years ago, I have found myself reflecting on what I used to hold as true, in regard to both God and people’s choices to follow Him.

There is a very famous passage in Jeremiah 31:33 which says ‘But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.’ (ESV) It is also quoted in Hebrews 8:10 and used to examine Israel’s history in light of the revelation of the Messiah having arrived in a very unexpected way, in the form of Jesus.

These verses are usually used to express the idea that God is real and has written his law and presence on the heart of every individual. This falls into the idea above, that He has made Himself known and we only have two choices, to either follow Him or to reject Him. Christian’s say that God writing Himself on our hearts and that this looks like an ‘instinctive morality’, which seems to be with us from very early on in our lives. Or that God writing Himself on our hearts looks like our desire for eternity, or maybe even the consistent yearning for a purpose greater than ourselves.

Throughout history, Christians have used these things as proofs that God has written Himself onto every human’s heart and we, therefore, have no excuse not to know God is real and that we are called to worship Him.

I used to think this. But time changes a lot of things, and hindsight is 20/20. I can see why I would want to invoke that ‘purpose, morality and the desire for eternity’ are pointers to the existence of God, but what I actually seem to be doing here is taking three things that most (not all) of us experience and then also taking portions of Scripture that I have interpreted in a certain way and matching them together.

In reality, purpose, eternity and morality don’t tell us that the Judeo-Christian God I used to worship is real, or in fact that any God is real at all. What it does tell us is that there are depths that probably reside within our genetics, social structures and consciousness that we have yet to fully understand. I was reflecting on this very early on in my deconstruction, wondering if I have a purpose without a God. Or how I could know where to focus my time to make the most of my life without a belief in a God.

Now, this obviously doesn’t exhaustedly address the subject, it doesn’t even touch on morality either. But what it does do and did do for me is to help me realise that there are things within us that can’t be explained easily, but that these things can still be used and examined as we make meaningful steps forwards. Using our time wisely and allowing a self-made purpose direct us as we make steps forwards.

As I was thinking this through, I slowly began to realise that God could very well write His existence on everyone’s heart, leaving no room for doubt, and we could still have ‘free will’ (the idea of ‘free will’ is also arguably a false claim which I will address much later on the blog) for us to make the decision to follow Him or not. That wouldn’t be hard for God – He is God.

He could tell us as plain and undeniably as is possible that ‘I am here’ and we could then literally be left with deciding to follow Him in his completely revealed reality or to reject Him and live for ourselves. Of course, there will be some who doubt anything they experience because they don’t believe that the reality around them is real, but putting aside those few nuanced cases, God could tell us each, to our own required levels of required convincing, that He is here and that He is real.

Game Changer – that would be a completely different situation that would turn the tides of Christianity. I reflected this on the podcast a while ago (when we recorded the show), that God could start to heal anyone who walked into a Church – this is what I mean by ‘Game Changer’.

Now the list of things God could do to convince us that He is real is very long, and the specific ‘Game Changer’ might very well be different for all of us. These ‘Game Changers’ would have to be far more objective than the current subjective convictions or situations that have convinced Christians today that God is there and real. Many Christians will claim that this makes them more Holy or impresses God more because they have made a decision to follow Him when the evidence isn’t as strong as it obviously could be with specific ‘Game Changers’. But that could just be a way to bring about comfort in unfounded claims of truth and reality that people have to decide to live within.

When we invoke ‘God’ as the reason for anything, we could just as easily say that there is a naturalistic explanation, that we have yet to fully understand, but which we can actually examine and understand to a certain level today. Say morality as a biological and social evolutionary construct. There are a lot of books, videos and podcasts on this subject, but we find it much easier to invoke God and claim that He is the answer.

Could God tell us all, in our own required way, that He is real and that He is calling us to follow Him and also allow us to have free will to make the decision for ourselves? If He can do this, then we need to be asking why He hasn’t done this.

Maybe we think God only wants those who are convinced enough to follow Him with the current ‘revelation’ at hand? Matthew 7:13-14 ‘Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.’ (ESV). The Bible seems ok with the destruction of those who are not aligned with God’s will and purpose. Could it be that a more determined Calvinistic Christianity is the reality? Maybe we think that God doesn’t love the whole world enough to bring us all into His purpose for us and this planet?

It seems strange that the God I worshipped on a Sunday would happily grant special revelations to Paul, Moses, the twelve disciples or certain people within the early church, whereas He won’t grant special revelation to those who are asking these questions today. I don’t want to disprove God, rather I want to know what is true and real. We thank a God who is kind enough to make us feel better when we are struggling, yet we don’t see that most of the people to have lived upon this earth are destined for destruction because they didn’t get the information they would have needed to be convinced of His reality.

Some people, God does give this revelation to. But for the many, He does not.

Could it be that the Christian narrative isn’t true? That these ideas and scriptures are not correct and have missed the point? If God is real, does that mean the Bible is also infallible? Could the words we have within the Bible be written on incorrect information? We will come back to this in a later post as well.

Whatever your resting place on this subject, we need to make sure that we are asking these questions honestly and being real with the answers or questions that come out from it.

_End of Blog Blurb_

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. It has taken me a few years to get to a place where I am able to share my loss of faith and to start writing about the journey that I am still on for you all. I hope you find it useful.

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Podcast: If you like what you read then you could always check out the podcast ‘When Belief Dies’, it is available on all major podcasting platforms or you can listen/watch via YouTube. I upload and publish via Anchor FM each Wednesday at 7 am. For early access, support me on Patreon.

Grammar, spelling, capitalisation and punctuation: I am massively dyslexic. It has taken me years to get to the level I am currently at with writing and I have done this mainly through reading. I want to be better and ask you, reader, to please forgive any errors in my writing. I hope you notice improvement upon improvement over the coming years.

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I’ll see you back here at the same time next week 🙂

-Sam

When Belief Dies #45 – 'Theoretical Bullshit' with Scott Clifton When Belief Dies

The video version of this conversation can be found here. Sam is joined by the legend that is Scott Clifton (aka Theoretical  Bullshit). This week is a long one, full of honest reflections on the different journeys that both Scott and Sam have been on and why they are wanting to have these kinds of conversations. They talk about America, reason, purpose, life and Hugh Laurie. You can find/follow /contact Scott: Twitter YouTube Email We hope you enjoy our show. When Belief Dies aims to honestly reflect on faith, religion and life. We blog and podcast. Your support on Patreon enables us to cover the costs of running this show and look to the future to make things even better as we build upon what we already have in the works. Please take a look and consider giving. Alternatively, you can support the show with a one-off gift via PayPal. Use this link to navigate to the website, to find us on social media and anywhere else we might be present online. #Podcast #Deconstruction #God #Agnostic #Christian #Atheism #Apologetics #Audio #Question #Exvangelical #Deconversion #SecularGrace #Exchristian
  1. When Belief Dies #45 – 'Theoretical Bullshit' with Scott Clifton
  2. When Belief Dies #44 – 'A Humility to Life' with Julian Baggini
  3. When Belief Dies #43 – 'Will Truth Win Out?' with Randal Rauser
  4. When Belief Dies #42 – 'An Honest Pursuit of Truth' with Barrett Evans
  5. When Belief Dies #41 – 'Christ or Bust' with Glen Scrivener

4 thoughts on “Could God…

  1. Hi Sam
    I listened to a couple of different interviews you did and I really like your approach on these topics. I hope to learn from your temperament and charitable attitude. I love the way your goal is to have a place where people can share their own views on these issues. That is the goal of my blog as well.

    So for whatever it is worth this is how I view the hiddenness of God.

    First there is no question we are born into a world we know very little about. I mean I have often thought what the heck is going on? Is there a God or aliens or are we in a dream, or did all this happen after matter was bumping around for a long time? Is this the only time it happened? Is there something I am supposed to be doing in life? If so how do I find out what it is? If there was some intelligent being that placed us in this spot they definitely left us in the dark in many ways. Why would they do that?

    I have often wondered how I would have acted at various times in history. So for example if I lived in Jesus time would I have chanted to “crucify him”? If I lived in the 30s and 40s in Germany would I have risked my life to be a rescuer of Jews in Nazi Germany? Would I have tried to save escape slaves in the underground railroad? etc. I think if I were to know what I know now and simply got in a time machine tomorrow I would act rightly in those cases. Likely many people would. But the question is whether I would have done that then. And I don’t think we can say that just because I would have done that now I would have done that then. Why not?

    I think it is because our knowledge we have now really makes it very hard to know what we would have done then. So Imagine we always have perfect knowledge of God. Or as you put it this way:

    “He could tell us as plain and undeniably as is possible that ‘I am here’ and we could then literally be left with deciding to follow Him in his completely revealed reality or to reject Him and live for ourselves.”

    Well if we completely understand God then that seems to imply we have almost perfect knowledge about what we should do. And so we would all do the right thing. But perhaps we can only get certain types of knowledge by living/experiences and perhaps we can only know certain things about who we are if we are put in certain positions of ignorance. So if we all know the entirety of moral truth and God’s path we would all be like Peter saying of course I would never deny you Lord! But God knows something about us that we don’t. Just like Jesus knew something about Peter that Peter may have only learned by denying Jesus 3 times. He learned something about himself.

    And if Christianity is true I think this life is a way of revealing something about ourselves that we otherwise couldn’t know. It is not for God’s benefit that we have to go through this process. It is so we learn about ourselves. This idea that judgment day will be a very revealing occurance is common in scripture. Just for example: “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.”
    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Corinthians+4&version=NIV
    And “…There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs….”
    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+12&version=NIV

    Now couldn’t God reveal himself a bit better? I am sympathetic. But I do think there is a reverse correlation between me acting as myself and how sure I am God is standing over me. Isaiah 63-64 indirectly gets at this notion of God hiding leaves us to our sins.

    We do have the NT accounts of Jesus’s Miracles. I am not interested in arguing whether they are “good evidence” or “bad evidence” because others can do that better than I can. But I would argue they are “some evidence.” Jesus did give us some very good information about how we should live. No it wasn’t a list of millions of dos and don’ts for every conceivable situation. But he certainly gave us direction. So when we say God should have given us more information I don’t think we can say it should have been perfect information because then we really wouldn’t learn about ourselves. We needed some ignorance and then it is just a matter of degree.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Morning Joe,

      Thank you for the comment and your kind words at the start.

      It’s an interesting line of thought – understanding the revelation of God.

      I don’t have any answers, but something I keep coming back to is the reality that any one of us could pass away at any moment.

      We could and do die having more or lesser of a ‘revelation’ than someone else. Infants died at such a high % for so many millennia that they never stood a chance of ‘knowing’ a God.

      If it comes down to a heart condition (the condition: searching and seeking for the One who made it all), then we can’t get there with our mind, as it’s what our heart says. If it’s a mental condition, then we can create arguments and constructs that we feel are watertight and able to confirm a God. But what if it’s both, and neither is enough to grant a level of certainty (say 51%) that tips the scales and so, you don’t believe?

      I don’t think we need perfect information to know He is real. When I listen to Queen on Spotify, if you download and look at the audio file, it isn’t perfect, but I know it’s Queen and I like it. God could reveal Himself in a plethora of ways to enable a variety of sceptics (at different levels of scepticism) that He was real. He could also allow us to reject Him completely.

      A classical view of Satan is as an angel who was in the presence of God, (fully aware of His existence) and then decided to do his own thing. If it’s possible here, then it must be possible elsewhere. The same goes for Adam and eve, it also goes for various other Biblical accounts when the person in question didn’t doubt in God, they doubted in His way or desired their way more.

      Maybe it isn’t possible to decide with the information we have today, but that then raises questions about the Kingdom of God as Jesus taught (mainly in Mark, but a bit of Luke and Matthew as well), how can one be ‘in’ if one doesn’t know if they are ‘out’.

      Again, no answers, just thoughts.

      Sam 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “I don’t have any answers, but something I keep coming back to is the reality that any one of us could pass away at any moment.

        We could and do die having more or lesser of a ‘revelation’ than someone else. Infants died at such a high % for so many millennia that they never stood a chance of ‘knowing’ a God.”

        Great point. I think there are actually 2 points. One is some people know more about god than others and some people die before they know anything. So how then would this notion of life is a way to learn about ourselves work.

        I think on the first issue (that we have different *degrees* of information about God or about his plan) is not such a big problem. I think some amount of ignorance is necessary but I think we can learn about ourselves based on the knowledge we have. So it would be more immoral for someone today to go back in time and not support the abolition of slavery, or help save Jews in Nazi Germany. But even there we would vary in how selfless and moral we would act. So I think the bible makes it clear that lack of knowledge will be included in the calculus and understanding of how we are to be judged.

        “But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”
        Luke 12:47-48

        As for the second problem I agree it is a bigger problem. I mean some people are pro life but even after a child is born they often die soon after. What would such a child learn about himself if it died right after birth? I admit my explanation of this life doesn’t apply there. Maybe the children who died properly knew who they were so they didn’t need to learn from this life? Maybe they live through some other experience to learn? (I am Catholic so believe in purgatory and generally open to the idea that life heaven and hell are not the exclusive possible options) On the more radical side we can imagine other logical possibilities such as that they are not real in that they do not have souls or not real as in a Cartesian sense of a dream. Of course Descartes would say this means God is deceiving us. But I am not sure I agree with Descartes because I don’t think God ever really said one way or another on what is real or not. But that is a whole different issue. But in any case yes I think infant deaths show my view can’t apply to everyone.

        Why were they born at all? I don’t have that answer but just because my view about why God remains hidden doesn’t apply to everyone that doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply to anyone. God’s hiddenness can still have good reason.

        “If it comes down to a heart condition (the condition: searching and seeking for the One who made it all), then we can’t get there with our mind, as it’s what our heart says. If it’s a mental condition, then we can create arguments and constructs that we feel are watertight and able to confirm a God. But what if it’s both, and neither is enough to grant a level of certainty (say 51%) that tips the scales and so, you don’t believe?”

        I think here there are two issues. Are we to blame for our beliefs -especially since we seem unable to control them? And second do we need to say a belief is more likely than not true (51%) to act on it.

        Both are questions I have spent quite a bit of time trying to sort out.

        As to the first one I do not think we are to blame for things we have no control over.
        So it is irrational for God or anyone else to punish or reward someone for something they can’t control. But I think we have *some* control over our beliefs. This is why the Catholic Church has never declared that atheists necessarily commit mortal sin. For many people Pope Francis saying there will be atheists in Heaven seemed odd. But it didn’t seem so to me and I am glad he made the point.
        https://www.catholic.org/news/hf/faith/story.php?id=51077

        As the passages I quoted earlier show all will be revealed. If you honestly did all you could and still didn’t see you should live a Christian life that will be revealed on judgement day. If however you are not being honest with yourself or are unjustly complacent in believing your are righteous in your beliefs and actions that will be revealed as well. I have my doubts and I have my sins. But I *try* to live and think in ways that I am not afraid to share with all on judgment day. So I *think* my conscience is clear but it is something as a Christian I need to be mindful of and not complacent. I don’t know just like Paul didn’t know if he was “in”. He talks of running the race and persevering and trusting that God will sort it out properly so we all know his justice.
        “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.”
        1 Corinthians 4:3-5. And by the way I am not quoting from scripture with the idea that because it says so you should believe it. But rather to sort of show that my own philosophical views are at least consistent with Christianity. Some Christians make philosophical arguments that seem ok but also seem to contradict Christian views.

        As for the second question I address what it means to “rationally believe” in many different blogs. I did one specifically on whether we must think something is more likely than not true if we rationally believe it. And it ended up more as a question than an answer!
        https://trueandreasonable.co/2019/12/06/two-aspects-of-rational-belief/

        I would love answers to that question but would also settle for thoughts.

        I think the term “belief” encompasses many attributes and sometimes one attribute applies but others don’t. Do we then believe? How do philosophers understand what belief is. What did the writers of Scripture think the word “belief” or “faith” meant? There we need to look at what the Greek words may have meant as well as how they should be interpreted in light of the text. I have spent quite a bit of time reading and thinking about what it means to “believe” something and what it means to rationally believe something. Like you I am not sure I have “answers” but I do have many thoughts.

        “I don’t think we need perfect information to know He is real. When I listen to Queen on Spotify, if you download and look at the audio file, it isn’t perfect, but I know it’s Queen and I like it. God could reveal Himself in a plethora of ways to enable a variety of sceptics (at different levels of scepticism) that He was real. He could also allow us to reject Him completely.”

        I think God does reveal himself in a variety of ways. There is some evidence. But it is not necessary that every skeptic needs to be convinced. I am Catholic so I do not think Atheism is a mortal sin. As a Catholic I also think sin is just a rejection of God and hell is separation from God.

        So I do think God allows us to reject him and judgment day is not some big argument. We will all see yes some people really do not want to live with God. BTW I also think Jesus often uses hyperbole including when he talks about hell. I think he is trying to communicate in very strong terms that people can understand “you know you really really really want to be with God and live like he wants” but I don’t think hell is literally a garbage heap south-west of Jerusalem. Just like I also don’t think heaven is literally up for people in the northern hemisphere.

        I think hell is a place where people get what they want instead of God or God’s way of life. I think it is full of various things people choose over God. Is there torture? I suppose some people want to torture. There may be other things that may be ok in themselves or maybe even good in the right context but only wrong when they are sought after improperly.

        Everyone changes their mind about what is important and what they desire. Some for the better some not. But I do believe in purgatory so I am not sure everything is resolved here. I also think it makes sense that heaven wouldn’t be heaven if it just let everyone in as they are now. Heaven would be allot like earth. What would make heaven heaven? Not doing the things or believing the things that would make hell hell. So the separation.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hey Joe, thanks for another great comment.

        I don’t think there is much more to be said other than it sounds like you’ve got your answers, which is great, and I have my questions, which I am yet to find answers to.

        There is a large gap between your answers and my questions, though I understand why your answers feel like they nestle into my questions given your worldview.

        There seems to be a lot assumed or presupposed about God and His revelation, which makes sense within a catholic perspective on the situation.

        Two final points:

        Firstly, I don’t have the capacity to respond at length to specific worldviews in a back and forth manner, this blog is an exploration of the worldview I left and the stepping stones to God if He is in fact there.

        Lastly, if you include links in your comments they get ‘held’ for review, which is totally fine as I will review and approve them. This is why it might take a bit of time for them to appear on my blog.

        It must be noted that I appreciate your reflections, your worldview and your explanation of these, this is NOT me asking you to stop. Just that I don’t know how deeply I can respond at any given time.

        Sam 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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