Does God Exist?
Last night, at Everett Community College two people, Gary Jensen of the Zion Lutheran Church in Snohomish and Jim Corbett speaking for Humanists of North Puget Sound, got together to discuss this topic in front of about 50 people. It was a fairly small crowd but it was an active one and not the usual passive Seattle crowd. For many people, this is a deeply personal topic. It’s hard to listen to someone else saying, “No, there is no evidence that God exists” when you have always believed it. Or vica versa. My personal position has changed quite a bit over the years so I understand the conundrum.
I’d say it was a respectful crowd until the Q & A. One man who asked a question about evolution was very upset that evolution is taken seriously. .
I went with a fellow atheist to the discussion. It was 2 1/2 hours long. We weren’t sure we’d be able to hang out that long but we stayed for most of it. We were a bit late to the discussion even though we arrived early. Forewarning: parking at Everett College is tricky! I hadn’t anticipated that at all. Parking is only a hassle in Seattle, right? I forgot you can’t park anywhere you please on a college campus. You have to have passes.. and stuff. Anyway, after we found a spot, we sat down in the back to listen. It didn’t stay as on topic as I would’ve liked, nor as the two people discussing would’ve liked, but it was still very amusing.
Here are some of the highlights (and please forgive me for paraphrasing. Some of these are not exact since I was taking notes quite fast. Some of the ideas spoken were a bit too long to get down approximately without taping it. I should’ve done that instead):
“Faith is an invitation to turn off your mind. As soon as anything goes against our conclusion that we have faith in, we can’t accept it because have already invested faith into it.”-Corbett
The pastor stated we live in a moral universe. Naturally, Jim Corbett disagreed and said that morality is cultural and that morality is something we instinctively know because of human learning over thousands of years. Gary Jensen’s response was,
“Moral sense is not knowing what feels good and what feels bad. It is doing the right thing no matter if it feels good or bad.”
Jensen later asked,
“Is fact limited to what can be defined? If there is no such thing as anything outside of fact then conversations are meaningless. You say that truth cannot be based on an authority. I don’t understand why reason is in opposition to revelation.”
“A robust sense of morality happens when we believe there is a law giver.”
“You don’t have to believe in God to be a good person.”
My favorite bit of the night is when Jim Corbett likened God to an abuser after the pastor said, “God used sinful people but that does not mean that God is sinful,” after discussing the bad deeds God has endorsed like war, murders, incest, rape.. etc. I mean sheesh, if you think about it, the whole Virgin Mary debacle is about a woman who was raped by an angel in the name of god to give birth to his only son? Pretty barbaric but if you mention god it becomes a sacrifice. Wow. The pastor later accused Jim Corbett of completing dismissing the core character and goodness of the Bible and by extension, Christianity. This is when Jim Corbett piped in with,
“That sounds like what an abused victim says. He hits me yes but really he is a good man. You just don’t understand him.”
When you put it that way..
Kind of.. rings a bell, doesn’t it?
I never personally agreed with Dawkins when he said religion was abusive. I thought that was far too extreme but now I’m nodding my head. Yes, that.. actually does sound like an abused victim doesn’t it?
The discussion, I feel, did a fairly decent job at bashing either side. Even the people who came up to question later were very polite about it since it did seem like it was more an atheist crowd and we all want to be fair to each other. My compadre stated she was a bit disappointed the discussion wasn’t more scientific. Like, the question “What is the evidence for God existing?” was never truly answered. There was a lot that wasn’t answered but you don’t come to these discussions looking for answers, really.. do you? I don’t know. It seems to me the question of God’s existence is purely.. philosophical. God is an idea. I’m not sure there is anything outside of that.
I look forward to the next one.