Monday, November 21, 2005

There is No God.

I had heard that Penn Jillette was going to have an entry on NPR's "This I Believe" series and really wanted to hear it. I missed it but found it was posted on their website.

Penn Jillette is my new hero.

He starts out with the bold statement, "I believe there is no god." He goes from there and eventually hits on some of the same things that I believe but with a simplicity and clarity that I never bothered to sit down and compose.

"Believing there is no God means the suffering I've seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn't caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn't bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future."

These aren't new ideas, of course. J. Michael Straczynski (one of my other heroes) had his Ranger character Marcus say very much the same thing in "Babylon 5" many years ago:

"You know, I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn't it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe."

I've been paraphrasing those sentiments since then, remarking that I much prefer living in an uncaring universe. Because if the universe does care, then all the hate and evil and seemingly random misery inflicted on us are being done by someone TO us for a reason.

I was raised something of a Lutheran. My family went to church on all the important holidays and occasionally went on other Sundays. I went through and passed the Catechism classes. I went through the motions of belief. But I don't think I ever actually believed in God enough to consider myself to have "lost faith." The Catechism class was little more the memorization of some psalms and the books of the bible. Important questions of faith were never addressed and my specific questions were never answered. And certainly there was nothing about what Martin Luther was really talking about.

So, when I went off to college, I merely left the trappings of belief behind. I didn't even consider myself an agnostic or an atheist. I would say that I hovered somewhere in between but I never really thought in terms of the possibility or the need for a god. God simply didn't exist and trying to define how much he didn't exist with terms like atheist or agnostic didn't seem necessary.

I can't say I've been in a conversation for a long time in which I've had to proclaim my theological beliefs but now I have the right words: I believe there is no god.

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