INTRODUCTION

An Atheist's 
& Agnostic's 
Guide to God

 

One might well ask whether we really need God and religion, considering all the trouble they have and continue to cause. 

I believe we do.  At least, the kind of God and religion I have in mind - both for our spiritual well-being and, because of the situation on board Spaceship Earth, for our physical survival as well, i.e. as the best, probably the only, way of creating a sustainable society on our finite and vulnerable planet, before a ruthless mother nature does it for us.

The word, religion, is derived from Latin "re ligare", meaning to "tie or bind together".  It is in this sense that we need religion, a Religion of Sustainability, comprising individuals and groups of individuals (households, residential communities, work communities (cooperatives, companies, etc.), political communities (parties), educational communites, etc), bound together " by values, morals (rules of right behaviour), attitudes and aspirations on which an alternative, more enlightened - above all, sustainable - socio-economic order can be based. The most suitable generic name that I can think of for such a religion is "Society of Friends of the Earth ". "Generic" because it needs to comprise a multitude of diverse sects and societies, i.e. people bound together (re ligare) by more particular, morals and attitudes, as well as perhaps shared beliefs, location, history, race, etc. We need religions (religious societies) to suit everyone. Those who cannot find what they are looking for among those already in existence should be free (indeed, encouraged) to create their own.

We are all bound to and dependent on the society in which we live - even the self-made man and the rugged individualist, who still have to buy from others much of what they need. Money provides apparent, but not actual independence (see  Money . . . ). Modern, mass consumer society is based largely on the amoral and fundamentally unsustainable use of money within the framework of a socio-economic order rooted in our "more animal than human " nature. I envisage it being replaced - gradually, democratically and non-violently - by a large number of diverse, but sustainable, (religious) societies rooted in man's more enlightened human nature.

The kind of religion I have in mind does not require a belief in God, although the concept of God can be very useful. For me it puts a handle on and helps me relate to a far deeper sense of personal and external reality than would otherwise be possible. Just as I create images of atoms and molecules which help me to understand and deal with the physical world, so I also create for myself an image (concept) of God which helps me cope with life and the fundamental questions, problems and fears associated with it. I need (a concept of) "God" just as a child needs its father, as a higher power and authority to guide and take care of me. I also need "someone" to thank for all my blessings. To an atheist who insists that there is no God, I reply: if I imagine him to exist, then (in my imagination, at the very least) he does exist.

Exactly what the Reality behind my concept of God (and atoms) is, I cannot be sure, but although I cannot grasp or know Truth and Reality, it is a great comfort to remind myself that they exist.

The Bible and Judaeo-Christian concepts of God have had a profound influence on western civilisation. However, the ancient author of Genesis could hardly have got it more wrong when he wrote that God created man in his own image. As the Greek philosopher, Xenophanes, pointed out about 400 years before the birth of Jesus, quite the contrary is true: it is man who creates the gods (or God), i.e. his concept of them, in his - that is, man's - image. This insight, which has been tragically neglected, when not ruthlessly suppressed certainly by Christianity, is a cornerstone of my religion.

The Judaeo-Christian concept of God has evolved and improved over the centuries, becoming a lot more rational and "humane" than Yahweh (Jehovah) of the Old Testament. Nevertheless, the Christian doctrine of God having a son (literally rather than in the metaphorical sense that we might all be considered children of God) is an example of the ridiculous extremes to which God's personification can be taken - and of human gullibility. 

Why is it that even today,  even in some of the most technologically advanced and educated nations, so many people still  profess to believe such obvious nonsense? Not just that Jesus was the "Son of God", but that he was born of a virgin, performed all kinds of miracles and was raised from the dead,? 

Probably it is because so many others believe it, and we are genetically programmed and conditioned to give credibility to authority and majority. 

Notwithstanding Christianity's and the Bible's immense historical and cultural importance, as a source of knowledge, spiritual strength and moral guidance, they are "holy" inadequate today. Worse, they are a hindrance, standing in the way and obstructing the view of more truthful, enlightened and useful concepts of God.

I am not suggesting that Christianity is all bad. It has played such an important role in the development of western civilisation that it is impossible even to attempt an objective assessment. From the little that is known about him, Jesus seems to have been a remarkable person, who said some wise - and some not so wise - things; and certainly there have been and still are many good Christians, whom I do not wish, but perhaps cannot avoid offending. 

We need new religions, based on more truthful assumptions and more enlightened concepts of God than those portrayed in the Bible, which when believed to be the authoritative "word of God", rather than of fallible men, has been a source of terrible folly, suffering and injustice.

This section of my homepage is an attempt to provide a basis and an example for such religions, based on my own experience and concepts of God, my view of the world, and on my own sense of morals (right behaviour). Thus, I call my own particular sect of the "Society of Friends of the Earth" Roger's World. I have had no visions of God, his angels or anything like that, but I do feel a calling, one which was a long time developing and in the past few years has matured and become quite well established. Not that I don't still have my doubts from time to time, that perhaps I'm just deluding and making a fool of myself. I don't think so, but you will decide for yourself, of course. There's no threat of damnation or hell fire if you think I'm nuts. You can make fun of my religion and my (concept of) God if you like. Perhaps I will even laugh with you. If there is one thing I hate it is a religion and a God which take themselves too seriously. The crime of blasphemy, I am sure, was invented by men (always men!) of little faith, in order to defend inadequate concepts of God and religion, and their own vain, unfounded authority.

The most important festival in Roger's World is the Sunturn, which I claim back from Christianity, where it is known as Christmas. 

My starting point is the story of Adam and Eve.

**************

Religions of sustainability should be "open source" religions (their sources of inspiration being open to scrutiny, critisism and alteration), in contrast to traditional "propriety" religions, whose sources of inspiration are given supernatural and unquestionable authority.