A Letter to my Dad
So I wrote this letter to my Dad in hopes of him understanding me and my mom who do not share his beliefs.
You asked me why I don’t respect your beliefs. I will try to answer you as best I can. First and foremost I respect people, not beliefs.
Do you respect the beliefs of Muslims, Hindus, or Pagans? If not, why not?
Let’s consider a non-controversial example. Let’s say a man named Jack walks up to you and says that he believes that there exists an elephant with 6 hands and 2 legs. Would you believe him? I would hope not. All of the elephants we know have 4 legs only. Now his right to believe that is perfectly fine, but the moment he decides to share that belief he opens himself up to criticism or ridicule. In other words, he has to come up with evidence that such an elephant exists. Jack may say he saw a picture of one or a painting of one. Jack may argue that people don’t just make stuff up and that these pictures must have represented an elephant that could have existed in the past. He might even say that you can’t prove that an elephant like that didn’t exist, so who are you to question it. Let’s say Jack pulls out a gun and says “I will kill you right now if you don’t believe me.” Do you all of a sudden believe him? You might tell him that you believe because you are under the threat of death, but threatening you with death doesn’t make his point valid and can’t make you actually believe.
I hope you can see how this analogy extrapolates to the issue of God. I was taught by both you, mom, pastors, priests, friends, congregants and society about God, but this belief is an untenable assumption.
In the example above I gave a description of an elephant with 6 hands and 2 legs. This creature is one of the depictions of Ganesha. This god is an important and a beloved god in Hinduism. Just like Jesus is in Christianity. My problem is I have no way of telling the difference between their truth claims or yours. Both Christians and Hindus claim that their holy texts are divine revelation. Do we go by the oldest surviving religion? Hinduism is much older than even Judaism. Do we go with the newest? I doubt that someone using the age of religion will convince you to become a Scientologist or a Hindu. Do we go by holy texts? Every religion has a body of texts that claim to be the truth or divinely inspired. They too have prophecies that they say are fulfilled, have instructions on how to live a moral life and believe their texts for the same reason you believe in yours.
More specifically regarding Christianity; How many different denominations are there? (18 extremely broad categories contain 33,000+ denominations of Christianity alone, many of which are mutually exclusive in their theology – meaning they believe that everyone who isn’t them is going to hell). Everybody thinks they have the truth. How can this be? More importantly if “God’s Word” was clear there wouldn’t be this much confusion. This is just Christianity. It gets worse if you look at all religions globally.
Regarding the Bible itself, it is full of horrors, inconsistencies, mistakes, morally repugnant advice and nonsense. If you believe that the new testament is divinely inspired, do you believe slavery is divinely inspired? Do you believe that a “supreme being” needs animal sacrifices to feel better about humans? Why is God so angry if he knew exactly what was going to happen and did it anyway. Freewill only muddles the issue because if we have freewill in heaven, then why didn’t God just create that universe at the outset. I know that some will say that I am asking questions that are mysteries, but I think this to be false equivalence on mystery. A paradox or contradiction is not a mystery. There is nothing wrong with saying “I don’t know,” but there is something wrong if you say you know something that doesn’t make sense. That’s not a mystery, it’s a dodge and at that point evidence is needed to make a proper determination. Some may say who am I to judge God? My answer is simply by the same reason you judge God. What does it mean to say God is good? Is that not a judgment?
I hope you see that I personally have nothing against someone believing whatever they want to believe and that includes you. I find issues with proselytizing, in general, as that introduces conversation in strange way. It’s kind of like someone coming up to me and saying “Hello, let me tell you how many ways you are broken and how I can fix it.”
So at this point, it should become apparent that I am skeptical of religious claims. That doesn’t mean I believe god doesn’t exist, but rather I don’t know if one exists and I highly suspect that the Judeo-Christian-Islamic god does not exist, but I still don’t know, but I am open to real evidence for it.
You mentioned that you don’t believe in evolution. That is both wrong and mistaken. We know more about evolution than we know about gravity. Evolution doesn’t mean we came from monkeys and anyone telling you that either doesn’t know what evolution is or is deliberately lying to you. Evolution is simply descent with modification through natural selection. We know this is true because: fossils that show features in intermediary states; genetics that show that we have common DNA with our cousin creatures on earth; we have observed the process of new species evolving from other species in the laboratory. The beauty of evolution is that you can test scientific theories to see if they work.
What scares me about religion in general is the certainty in which they say the things they say. Just like you know that if I blaspheme God, something bad will happen to me. As I tried to tell you, I don’t think God, the supreme being, cares what a human has to say or if I even register on God’s radar. In particular to Adventists, I’m afraid of their world view. They believe the world is going to end any minute and God is going to destroy most of humanity. Do you think such a belief is healthy or worth having. I asked you if you were voting for Ben Carson, who is a SDA. You said no, but for me, I wouldn’t vote for him because I am not comfortable with someone like that with authority to launch nuclear weapons. Another thing that bothers me about SDA-ism is its anti-science approach. It’s troubling to see a group of people who want to deny reality because they believe they already know it.
Lastly, I believe you have a right to be SDA-ist, but understand that not many people share your beliefs. If you decide to share a belief then you will open yourself up to criticism. Religion does not deserve respect, it has to be earned just like everything and everyone else. Regardless, I love and respect you, even if I don’t necessarily love or respect your ideas.