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.
Support: The podcast and blog will always be advertisement-free, and your generous support on Patreon will enable us to continue doing this effectively and to a higher standard over the years to come. Please consider supporting the work we do.
Alternatively, you can support this work with a one-off gift via PayPal.
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.
Time Frame: This blog is roughly twenty-four months behind where I currently am at in my journey out of religion. It’s important to remember that when reading and commenting.
If you want to get every post straight to your inbox then you can do that by either following directly via WordPress or with your email address, whichever you prefer. The links for that and social media are to the right if you’re on a computer, or at the very bottom if you’re on a phone or tablet.
I’ll see you back here at the same time next week 🙂
When Belief Dies #53 – 'Contours of Hope' with Jim Thring – When Belief Dies
- When Belief Dies #53 – 'Contours of Hope' with Jim Thring
- When Belief Dies #52 – 'An Old Perspective' with John Goldingay
- When Belief Dies #51 – 'Manuscripts and Ancient History' with Bart D. Ehrman
- When Belief Dies #Bonus – 'An Inquisition' with Daniel Kelly & David Ames
- When Belief Dies #50 – 'Magnifying Glasses & Big Pictures' with Esther O'Reilly