- Religion and Philosophy
Viewing Gods as Fictional
An atheist is someone who holds no belief in deities. I go one step further in that I believe that there are no gods. Please don't confuse this with Gnostic-Atheism, I am not declaring that I know for certain there are no gods but merely that I suspect and BELIEVE that there are no gods. I readily admit it is possible that I am wrong and that somewhere in the cosmos a god exists but currently I feel confident in viewing each god presented to me by any myth or religion as a fictional character. I find it highly unlikely that any deity humans have conceived of exists and the total lack of evidence is one of the biggest objections to these characters. Many Gods also have things stacked against them such as logic and observed reality making them even more unlikely.
Disclaimer on the Bible?
Are Gods Fictional?
The question of whether or not god(s) exist is one that has been with humanity for a long time. It seems as if for the longest time the believers have outnumbered atheists. Even during times when god's demanded human sacrifices and barbaric practices such as circumcision more people believed than chose to question. There have been a great many gods and goddesses but most have been abandoned over the centuries and new ones have replaced them. These old gods have changed a great deal over the centuries, adapting as the religion itself adapted and thus avoiding the same scrutiny that gods such as the Greek gods underwent. No one believes in Zeus anymore and thus Zeus, and a myriad of other ancient gods, are considered fictional mythical characters.
We may not be able to know for certain whether there are or aren't gods. We may also never know for certain whether Zeus was or wasn't real even though we highly suspect and accept that he was mythical. So one doesn't need to entirely disprove a God (something very difficult indeed) in order to accept that deity as fictional. We understand that there is no evidence for Zeus, we know how lightning really works, we've been to Mount Olympus and Zeus wasn't there and thus we feel justified in viewing Zeus as a fictional character. My view of deities such as Yahweh, Krishna and Allah is no different.
So gods in general may be fictional or they may be real but we can reach a fairly confident conclusion in regards to specific gods if they are well enough defined.
Fictional Until Proven Actual
When it comes to extreme claims I prefer to be skeptical and the existence of a deity is indeed an extreme claim to make. When a god is claimed to be real I would like to see the evidence, just as I would when told that bigfoot is real. If there is no evidence to be found that your god exists than to me your gods is a fictional being until proven actual. Why should I start with the assumption that your god is real? Even if I did start with such an assumption it would quickly collapse when I find that you have no solid evidence to present in support of your favorite deity. Thus the default position, in my opinion, is one without belief.
The Rabid Fan-Base
While in internet discussions about religion (primarily Christianity) I have often referred to God as a fictional character with a rabid fanbase. I am often accused of attacking God or even attempting to lead people away from him and I use the idea of God as a fictional character to explain to people my intention. Yahweh is, as far as we can tell, fictional. There is nothing distinguishing god's like Yahweh from the imaginary. Thus when I attack Yahweh I am actually attacking the character as he has been described to me from the Bible and by believers. I don't actually believe this character is real but I know that other people do and I feel that Yahweh is undeserving of this rabid fanbase.
We all know what fans can be like, the word itself is merely a shortened version of fanatic. There is a current internet meme going around in which trolls attack Justin Bieber on internet forums and in youtube discussions even when the discussion prior had nothing to do with Bieber. This provokes fans and defenders of the teen pop-star who irrationally defend Bieber and their taste in music. It doesn't matter how you feel about Justin Bieber, the point is that a rabid fanbase often reacts irrationally to defend what they are a fan of. I think part of it is ego, we all want to believe we've made the right choice, this applies to a great deal of things from music to what kind of car we drive to what deity we serve. Theists have a vested interest in their beliefs being correct and thus have a hard time dealing with criticisms against this God character. One might encounter similar opposition when pointing out how stupid the characters in the Twilight movie are, rabid fans would rise to defend the story and characters from criticism.
Furthermore, and perhaps most disturbing of all, is that they believe this God character is entirely real as they are defending him. Imagine if those aforementioned Twilight fans behaved in the same manor and believed Edward Bella and Jacob were all real. Is that sort of an irrational belief one that should be opposed? I would like to think so.
So not only are many religious people fans of this God character but they are also deluded enough to believe that he is real. Now don't go getting all up in arms about the use of the world deluded. I don't mean to insinuate that the religious are stupid or crazy, they've merely been lied to. Some are self-deluded, meaning they've tricked themselves and others were convinced long before they had the skepticism and critical thinking necessary to stop the intrusion of absurd religious thoughts. Those indoctrinated a young age cannot be found guilty of any true offense, as I said they've been lied to.
It seems we lived in a world where more and more people are being led into believing in something for which we have no evidence. Something that is approximately (meaning near as we can tell) imaginary and appears to be no different from the myriad of other fictional deities and demigods who all went the way of the Dodo.
Would you argue against adults who still believed in Santa?
Faith as an Enabler
Belief without evidence, or Faith, is the thing that enables people to hold these beliefs. I have sometimes imagined Faith as the suspension of disbelief without justification. I'm not referring to what you engage in when you watch a movie or read a novel I'm referring to suspending the natural tendency to disbelieve an absurd claim. Religion accomplishes the breakdown of this disbelief in various ways, emotional manipulation is one of their favorites but so is blind faith. Jesus himself said he wanted people to become like little children and the idea of childlike faith has remained popular within Christianity for a long time. Childlike faith is the same thing that lets children believe in Santa and the Tooth Fairy and the boogeyman.
Faith enables the absurd to be believed in without the encroachment of skepticism or doubt. Ego, the desire to defend one's own positions as true, usually crops up when doubt is introduced. When God is questioned the believer springs into action denying the claims of the skeptic in order to keep disbelief suspended.
The ability to doubt one's beliefs is paramount in skepticism and anyone who values truth and seeks to find it must realize that they might be wrong.
What if someone told you reptilian shape-shifters rule the world?
I Might be Wrong
There might be a god out there, hell there might be hundreds of them, millions even. I don't know whether they exist or not but currently there is nothing distinguishing them from mere fiction. I might be wrong in my disbelief but until provided with evidence that Gods exist I feel that my unbelief is justified. But those who hold that these characters called gods are real, those who believe, are they justified? Are they anymore justified than someone who thinks that Zeus and Athena both exist?
I hold that all deities are fictional until proven actual. Just as in a court of law one is innocent until proven guilty, gods are nonexistent until proven to exist. It cannot be healthy for our society and our species to hold to beliefs in these beings and it cannot be healthy for every new generation to have these ideas planted in their heads. For these reasons I remain an atheist and, to some extent, an anti-theist.