What do you have to lose?

What do you have to lose?


After Thanksgiving, when I wrote about Pascal’s Wager, I meant to follow-up on the question, “What do you have to lose?”  Because when I set aside talk of probability and evidence for God, it was a question that gave me pause.  What, exactly, do I have to lose; why not just say, “Ah, screw it, I believe in God.”  It would make my husband happy, it would make it easier to have a social life, it might even make me happier.  Why is atheism so important?


First of all, truth is important– truth as best as we know it.  If the truth as best as I can tell is that there are no gods, then I have a duty and obligation to that.  I have a duty to hold to the truth when faced with persecution and scorn, and one might even say that I have an obligation to test it and make sure it holds up against rigorous testing and investigation (i.e., the scientific method).  Generally speaking, without truth and conviction, or at least an opinion that one prefers, I’m not sure what sort of life a person can have.


Second, what I have to lose.  My self-respect and my intellectual integrity were the major factors that decided me on atheism.  When faced with the absurdity of Christianity, I could have gone to spirituality, or Buddhism, or some similar agnostic fence-sitting position: the “Well, there might be something out there that we don’t understand” or “the source of life” or “energy” or whatever.  My dad chose that path.  He also smokes a lot of pot, though, so I don’t put a whole lot of confidence in any intellectual rigor that might be behind his spiritual life.  🙂  And that was what I couldn’t get past: my own mind, faced with the evidence, coming to a clear conclusion that I had no choice but to accept.  To betray that would be a rejection of my very self.  To try to convince myself out of a position that I feel to be true and right would be so schizophrenic!  I would have to have some serious evidence before I did such a thing– and then, being convinced by evidence, there wouldn’t be any faith or hedge-betting involved. 


I tend to think that Richard Dawkins has it right when he says that the existence of God is a scientific question; either God does or does not exist.  If a person was truly curious about God’s existence, I suppose the best course of action would be to hypothesize that God does exist, and try to disprove it.  This isn’t too hard, in theory. 


But then, consider that according to most accounts, God is invisible, unalterable, immortal, omnipresent, and all the rest, including the fact that God does not like to prove his own existence.  Fine.  But this makes God, by definition, un-testable by practical, scientific means.  How convenient.  But that wouldn’t keep you from trying anyways.


Then we can test the claims of various religions to determine whether or not they are accurate; for this, history, logic, and archaeology would be useful.  But even that would not prove God’s existence since the veracity of certain claims does not establish the cause of those claims.  Once you’ve exhausted all those means of discovering God, you can begin to interpret the data and determine whether God 1) probably does or 2) probably does not exist.


That was a really long way to say that I’ve come to the conclusion that God probably does not exist.  This is not the final word on the matter; I’m not closed-minded to arguments or evidence.  But for me to abandon my conviction for no better reason than fear of my soul’s eternal suffering would be to give in to intellectual terrorism.  And I have a no hostage policy.


Besides… who’s to say I have a soul, anyways?  How can I possibly survive my own death?  I am conscious; but does that mean I existed before I was born?  Based on my understanding of the soul, it is basically the claim that there is an ultimate Alice that is manifesting itself in this body.  Is that really necessary?


Think of this.  I suffered from mild depression recently.  I wasn’t responding to life the way I usually did.  I didn’t see that something was wrong, until one evening, when I found myself thinking about death.  This made me realize, “Whoa!  This isn’t me!  Why am I so down lately?”  I was seen by a doctor and prescribed a low-dose of anti-depressants.  And within six hours of my first dose, I felt like my normal self.  What a relief!  But isn’t it a little disturbing that so much of one’s identity is dependent on and alterable by chemistry?  Doesn’t that seem like evidence against the idea of a soul?  If I have a soul, what do you suppose the drug did to it?  As for people who undergo brain surgery and lobotomies and whose personalities are permanently changed, what has happened to their soul?  Does an amnesiac have a soul?  Where is a brain-dead person’s soul; is it in the afterlife or is it hanging around in the body waiting for the body to die?  What does a soul do? 


Anyways, I will be seeing a counselor and working on myself so that I don’t have to be medicated.  I’d rather understand what is making me depressed and work on changing it than go on living a medicated life where I continue to ignore whatever is wrong.


So perhaps it is my separation from God that is making me depressed, and if I go back to Christianity, I will cheer up again.  I know my husband thinks so.  But if so, why is it then up to me to betray my self and go back to God like everything is okay?  In other words, if God really wants my belief and service, couldn’t he give me a little hint?  Would I really benefit by believing in God against my better judgment?  And if so, how would that be different from living a medicated life in ignorance of what my issues really are?


So the short answer to the question, “What do I have to lose?” is: my self-respect, my identity, my ability to trust myself, and my intellectual integrity.


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3 Responses to “What do you have to lose?”

  1. teambaby Says:

    Hey, there’s a reason religion is so persistent in the face of all we know–it’s like the most awesome placebo ever! Humans too aware of own mortality? Feeling small and scared in this big crazy universe? Take the cure!

    Trouble is, placebos only work when you don’t know they’re placebos. It’s kind of why I bet homeopathy does work sometimes, but not for the reasons homeopaths say. It’s the placebo effect. Since I don’t believe in god or homeopathy, I have to find my cure elsewhere. 🙂

  2. Sisyphus Fragment Says:

    “So perhaps it is my separation from God that is making me depressed, and if I go back to Christianity, I will cheer up again.”

    Your husband thinks God made you want to kill yourself so you’d come back to him?

    • notreallyalice Says:

      LOL… I think it’s more like, of course I’m sad, it’s because I don’t have God. It does make a sort of sense. I am actually quite certain that the loss of my religion was a big factor in my depression. Christianity was my life. It’s where I got my identity, my way of seeing the world, how I understood my purpose… the loss was hard to adjust to. That doesn’t mean there’s a God, it just means religion works as long as you believe in it (as teambaby said). We all knew that, though, right?

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