The Christian Noob (n00b)

born & raised Catholic, now going to a Presbyterian church & still learning

why I (need to) believe in God

It’s simple.

  1. I don’t want to be wrong — to live without believing and dying to find out He exists. Isn’t it easier to believe, be good and be rewarded?
  2. I don’t want to think that there’s nothing after this life. It’s clear that I want immortality whether the latter means good or bad.

Before I continue, I want to point out that I started writing this post before I read two-week old email from one of the pastors at church.

“It is no longer a radical thing to suggest that the United States is a post-Christian nation. Some voices declare that the Church is on its deathbed, wheezing its last, piteous, irrelevant breaths before making a quiet exit from the world stage.”
http://www.sharpaboutyourprayers.com/2013/01/19/exiled-in-america/

I had never heard the term “post-Christian” and, of course, I had to find out if this term was real or made-up.

“Postchristianity is the decline of Christianity, particularly in Europe, Canada, Australia and to a minor degree the Southern Cone, in the 20th and 21st centuries, considered in terms of postmodernism. It may include personal world views, ideologies, religious movements or societies that are no longer rooted in the language and assumptions of Christianity, at least explicitly, though it had previously been in an environment of ubiquitous Christianity (i.e., Christendom).”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postchristianity

I was shocked to know that such a term existed. I guess the takeover by apathy, disinterest and disbelief was much stronger than I’d expected. This nation was founded by men and women who wanted to worship God in their own ways (Protestantism, Reformation, Counter-Reformation, etc), but now it’s become a land of men and women too busy to care and/or believe in the same God (apatheism, atheism, agnosticism, etc).

The worst part of it all is feeling like I walk barefoot on a razor-thin line between belief and none whatsoever often losing my balance to the bloody wrong side.

16 responses to “why I (need to) believe in God

  1. nonprophetadam 01/28/2013 at 15:42:03

    The problem for atheists is that we truly don’t believe. This [is] hard for a Christian to understand. But we truly do not. So why go around pretending to. If god is a supreme being wouldn’t he know I’m faking to get into heaven. Of course he would! He’s all knowing right?
    As for your second reason this is probably what scares people about atheism the most. The fear of nothing after death. Its terrifying. I just tell people that you don’t miss the years before your birth you’re not going to miss the years after your death. If you focus on living you’ll be OK.
    I hope it was alright to comment.

    • Frank Olvera (aka "The Christian Noob") 01/28/2013 at 20:02:22

      Of course, it’s alright to comment. Life (and faith) is a learning experience. We should never stop learning.

  2. zanspence 01/28/2013 at 15:45:05

    Unofficial reason 3: You love God too much to not want to spend enternity in his presence. Happy seeking. -zan

  3. April K 01/28/2013 at 16:15:01

    Christianity *as we have know it to be in the past 100 years* is definitely declining in this modern age. However, there is a new Christianity quietly emerging that seeks to return to the faith and practices of the Early Church of the New Testament. It’s a faith that rejects the brash, politically manipulative, self-absorbed, legalistic, “turn or burn” dogma that has kept God’s people in a stranglehold. Those of the old way will indeed say (and lament) that their form of Christianity is dying, because it is. But the religion itself is far from its deathbed. In fact, it’s about to be reborn.

    I would encourage you to read some of the writings of those on the forefront of this revolution, starting with Frank Viola. He has a wonderful blog over at Patheos and is the author of several books. Look him up.

    • Frank Olvera (aka "The Christian Noob") 01/28/2013 at 20:13:16

      Thank you, April, for this information. I found his website and I’m taking a look at it.
      http://www.frankviola.org/

  4. chicagoja 01/28/2013 at 17:43:31

    Religion is becoming irrelevant because it doesn’t answer basic questions related to the needs of man. As Voltaire said, “If God didn’t exist, we’d have to invent him” and so we have. But there is a pathway to God that doesn’t include religion, even if the secret is found in the Bible. The answer is that God lies within each and every one of us. Even science is starting to admit that man is connected to the very fabric of creation (e.g. non-local phenomena and the secret power of DNA). We each have to search our hearts and walk our own path of life which may eventually lead you down many roads.

    • Frank Olvera (aka "The Christian Noob") 01/28/2013 at 20:21:21

      I guess this is what I’ve heard several times as the need to believe in something more than us, whether called “God”, magick, craft or whatever other supernatural belief.

  5. yourgodisanatheist 01/29/2013 at 00:47:49

    Ever heard of Pascal’s Wager?

    • Frank Olvera (aka "The Christian Noob") 01/29/2013 at 09:21:05

      No, I hadn’t heard the term before. I read the translation, which I’m including here for others who might not be aware of Pascal’s Wager.

      Pascal’s Wager
      A Selection from Pensées

      If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible, since, having neither parts nor limits, He has no affinity to us. We are then incapable of knowing either what He is or if He is. This being so, who will dare to undertake the decision of the question? Not we, who have no affinity to Him.

      Who then will blame Christians for not being able to give a reason for their belief, since they profess a religion for which they cannot give a reason? They declare, in expounding it to the world, that it is a foolishness, I Cor. 1. 21. ["For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe."]; and then you complain that they do not prove it! If they proved it, they would not keep their word; it is in lacking proofs that they are not lacking in sense. “Yes, but although this excuses those who offer it as such and takes away from them the blame of putting it forward without reason, it does not excuse those who receive it.” Let us then examine this point, and say, “God is, or He is not.” But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up. What will you wager? According to reason, you can do neither the one thing nor the other; according to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions.

      Do not, then, reprove for error those who have made a choice; for you know nothing about it. “No, but I blame them for having made, not this choice, but a choice; for again both he who chooses heads and he who chooses tails are equally at fault, they are both in the wrong. The true course is not to wager at all.”

      Yes; but you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose. This is one point settled. But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. “That is very fine. Yes, I must wager; but I may perhaps wager too much.” Let us see. Since there is an equal risk of gain and of loss, if you had only to gain two lives, instead of one, you might still wager. But if there were three lives to gain, you would have to play (since you are under the necessity of playing), and you would be imprudent, when you are forced to play, not to chance your life to gain three at a game where there is an equal risk of loss and gain. But there is an eternity of life and happiness. And this being so, if there were an infinity of chances, of which one only would be for you, you would still be right in wagering one to win two, and you would act stupidly, being obliged to play, by refusing to stake one life against three at a game in which out of an infinity of chances there is one for you, if there were an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain. But there is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. It is all divided; where-ever the infinite is and there is not an infinity of chances of loss against that of gain, there is no time to hesitate, you must give all. And thus, when one is forced to play, he must renounce reason to preserve his life, rather than risk it for infinite gain, as likely to happen as the loss of nothingness.

      For it is no use to say it is uncertain if we will gain, and it is certain that we risk, and that the infinite distance between the certainly of what is staked and the uncertainty of what will be gained, equals the finite good which is certainly staked against the uncertain infinite. It is not so, as every player stakes a certainty to gain an uncertainty, and yet he stakes a finite certainty to gain a finite uncertainty, without transgressing against reason. There is not an infinite distance between the certainty staked and the uncertainty of the gain; that is untrue. In truth, there is an infinity between the certainty of gain and the certainty of loss. But the uncertainty of the gain is proportioned to the certainty of the stake according to the proportion of the chances of gain and loss. Hence it comes that, if there are as many risks on one side as on the other, the course is to play even; and then the certainty of the stake is equal to the uncertainty of the gain, so far is it from fact that there is an infinite distance between them. And so our proposition is of infinite force, when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and of loss, and the infinite to gain. This is demonstrable; and if men are capable of any truths, this is one.

      “I confess it, I admit it. But, still, is there no means of seeing the faces of the cards?” Yes, Scripture and the rest, etc. “Yes, but I have my hands tied and my mouth closed; I am forced to wager, and am not free. I am not released, and am so made that I cannot believe. What, then, would you have me do?”

      True. But at least learn your inability to believe, since reason brings you to this, and yet you cannot believe. Endeavor, then, to convince yourself, not by increase of proofs of God, but by the abatement of your passions. You would like to attain faith and do not know the way; you would like to cure yourself of unbelief and ask the remedy for it. Learn of those who have been bound like you, and who now stake all their possessions. These are people who know the way which you would follow, and who are cured of an ill of which you would be cured. Follow the way by which they began; by acting as if they believed, taking the holy water, having masses said, etc. Even this will naturally make you believe, and deaden your acuteness. “But this is what I am afraid of.” And why? What have you to lose?

      But to show you that this leads you there, it is this which will lessen the passions, which are your stumbling-blocks.

      The end of this discourse.– Now, what harm will befall you in taking this side? You will be faithful, humble, grateful, generous, a sincere friend, truthful. Certainly you will not have those poisonous pleasures, glory and luxury; but will you not have others? I will tell you that you will thereby gain in this life, and that, at each step you take on this road, you will see so great certainty of gain, so much nothingness in what you risk, that you will at last recognize that you have wagered for something certain and infinite, for which you have given nothing.

      A note on this text:
      This is a selection from Pascal’s Pensées, translated by W. F. Trotter in 1910. This translation is now in the public domain.

      taken from http://web.mnstate.edu/gracyk/courses/web%20publishing/Pascal_Wager.htm, thanks

  6. Julian 01/29/2013 at 04:41:30

    A few comments:
    About being “wrong”, or better “believing and being rewarded”. This is the old Pascal’s Wager and assumes that the Christian view of God is right, this is a good that rewards people for believing in him and punishes people who do not believe. I never liked this idea… assumes a deity with low self-esteem behaving like a spoiled brat.
    Of course, any religious belief will assume things of which we have no way to know anything about. For example, it could be true that there is a god (or gods) and that somehow we “meet” them after dying, and him/they reward us for our behaviour (or our beliefs). But it also could be true that the god/gods do not care at all about us. Or him/they are beings with a dark sense of humor and after we die they laugh in our faces. My point is that any religious system is arbitrary and only works because it provides the answers that people need/want (an explanation of our origins, an answer to the fear of death, a sense of community and shared destiny, an ethical system, etc.etc.).
    I do not agree with you that atheism is “apathy, disinterest and disbelief”. Would you say that you lack of belief in, say, Zeus, is born of apathy and disinterest? Or you are “too busy” to worship Athena? Of course not. It is simply that the ancient Greek religion is as meaningful to you as Christianity is becoming to many people. Many people leave theism and embrace other sources of personal growth: art, literature, science, and family life. There is nothing wrong with that… religions come and go.

    • Frank Olvera (aka "The Christian Noob") 01/29/2013 at 07:53:01

      I didn’t say that atheism is apathy, disinterest and disbelief. I said that apathy, disinterest and disbelief have taken over the place where religion once stood. These three terms are more likely to describe agnosticism (not sure about God)

      agnosticism (n.)
      1870, from agnostic + -ism.

      The agnostic does not simply say, ‘I do not know.’ He goes another step, and he says, with great emphasis, that you do not know. [Robert G. Ingersoll, 'Reply to Dr. Lyman Abbott,' 1890]“

      http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=agnosticism

      agnostic (n.)
      1870, “one who professes that the existence of a First Cause and the essential nature of things are not and cannot be known” [Klein]; coined by T.H. Huxley (1825-1895), supposedly in September 1869, from Greek agnostos “unknown, unknowable,” from a- “not” + gnostos “(to be) known” (see gnostic). Sometimes said to be a reference to Paul’s mention of the altar to “the Unknown God,” but according to Huxley it was coined with reference to the early Church movement known as Gnosticism (see Gnostic).

      I … invented what I conceived to be the appropriate title of ‘agnostic,’ … antithetic to the ‘Gnostic’ of Church history who professed to know so much about the very things of which I was ignorant. [T.H. Huxley, 'Science and Christian Tradition,' 1889]

      The adjective is first recorded 1870.”
      http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=agnostic

      Gnostic (n.)
      1580s, ‘believer in a mystical religious doctrine of spiritual knowledge,’ from Late Latin Gnosticus, from Late Greek Gnostikos, noun use of adj. gnostikos ‘knowing, able to discern,’ from gnostos ‘knowable,’ from gignoskein ‘to learn, to come to know’ (see know). Applied to various early Christian sects that claimed direct personal knowledge beyond the Gospel or the Church hierarchy.
      gnostic (adj.)
      ‘relating to knowledge,’ 1650s, from Greek gnostikos ‘knowing, able to discern,’ from gnostos ‘known, perceived, understood,’ from gignoskein ‘to learn, to come to know’ (see know).”

      http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=Gnostic

      than atheism (no God).

      atheism (n.)
      1580s, from French athéisme (16c.), from Greek atheos ‘without god’ (see atheist). A slightly earlier form is represented by atheonism (1530s) which is perhaps from Italian atheo ‘atheist.’ Ancient Greek atheotes meant ‘ungodliness.'”
      http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=atheism

      atheist (n.)
      1570s, from French athéiste (16c.), from Greek atheos ‘without god, denying the gods; abandoned of the gods; godless, ungodly,’ from a- ‘without’ + theos ‘a god’ (see Thea).

      The existence of a world without God seems to me less absurd than the presence of a God, existing in all his perfection, creating an imperfect man in order to make him run the risk of Hell. [Armand Salacrou, 'Certitudes et incertitudes,' 1943]“

      http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=atheist

      • Julian 01/29/2013 at 09:45:41

        Still my comment stands. “Apathy” has a negative connotation. According to Wikipedia (the source of all knowledge), apathy “is a state of indifference, or the suppression of emotions such as concern, excitement, motivation and passion. An apathetic individual has an absence of interest in or concern about emotional, social, spiritual, philosophical and/or physical life.”. Disinterest and disbelief may be more neutral words, but clearly you are not using them as positive terms. Still, I do not think that these words describe most people that do not embrace nor actively reject the idea of a god/gods. I live in one of the most religion-free regions of the planet (Scandinavia) but trust me, people are far from apathetic!
        I think that some of the people that say that are agnostics is because they agree with the philosophical position that is not possible to know anything about the existence or non-existence of god(s). Some may be “atheists in the closet”, that do not reject religion because of, say, family reasons or sense of belonging. But I feel that most people call themselves “agnostics” simply because religion does not satisfy any of their needs, and they simply have other interests in life. And that is totally fine.

  7. Julian 01/29/2013 at 09:55:02

    BTW, this side is not the “wrong” side. It may be an honest side, where you can simple be without have to battle cognitive dissonance. It is also a side with profound love of life and other human beings. May be worth to take a stroll… :)

    • Frank Olvera (aka "The Christian Noob") 01/29/2013 at 14:14:37

      It’s funny you mention the wrong side, the opening line of my next post starts with

      “a chord on both sides of the “god or no god” (believers vs. atheists, right vs. wrong, wrong vs. right, wrong vs. wrong, sort of Spy vs. Spy) discussion”

      that I wrote hours before you made this last comment. So do you think I’m a closet atheist? If so, I know some places in this city that make great Kosher food (latkes especially) and others where you can pig out on Halal food too. :)

      • Julian 01/29/2013 at 17:23:52

        Ah, my friend. Food and religion do not mix! Food is too important. It may be true that there is a god up there who is very worried about what I have for lunch. But I will let him/her worry about it. In the meantime, I will enjoy every kosher/non-kosher/halal/non-halal food I can get my hands on. So next time I am near NY I will give you a call and we will go for some latkes, or better yet, for an epic pastrami sandwitch like the one I had the last time I was on a kosher Deli!

      • Frank Olvera (aka "The Christian Noob") 01/29/2013 at 20:09:50

        I don’t eat pastrami. I’m a vegetarian. :)

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