Justifying Belief

What I don't understand when arguing with christians is that they have been pushed back so far that they can only reasonably argue for a deistic god. Since a deistic god is so non specific as to be almost completely meaningless, it makes me wonder if they don't wonder whether it is.

I don't say this without experience. I used to consider myself a deist before I transitioned to atheism. I did not surrender easily. I was pretty dumb in some ways. I did not read up on a position until I held it, and I did not consider reading any positions against those positions either. I would awake at night and think really hard about what my beliefs meant. I've always enjoyed contemplation like that. I did have some outside influence, but mostly I stubbornly refused it, because I felt as though I had to find answers myself.

The eventual reason I left deism, and consequently identified myself as an agnostic was this: If there is a deity who created the universe, but has no other effect other than the creation of the universe, and was undetectable, what is the purpose of holding the belief at all? Such a deity does not care if I believe, and so it makes no sense to believe in it. I had also concluded that the deity of deism must not be like us at all. Who says it must be a bearded man? What gives us any reason to suppose that this deity was like us? I guess my deism kind of melded into pantheism a little, but not for long. After about a year or so I became an agnostic.

This was comfortable to me. Some part of me felt like I could hold on to the comfortable idea because I was on the fence. The most shattering day in my life was probably the day I finally read something that I couldn't ignore. Someone was claiming that atheism simply meant without belief, and since agnostics do not believe, they are atheists. I mulled over this and reread the paragraph over and over. Some random person on the internet had just thrown my comfortable worldview on its head.

After days of contemplation I was shocked to realise that I was in fact an atheist. I realised that the agnostic label was just something that was giving me comfort, that I knew the idea of fence sitting could not actually work, and that was not what agnosticism meant anyway. If a theist asks me "what if you're wrong" they are totally ignorant of the painful process of turning your entire world upside down. I kept asking myself that question. Sometimes I felt trapped, unable to believe, but if I was wrong I was destined to hell. I knew that I had come too far. I had stepped off the precipice. There was no way I could believe again unless all my reasons were wrong. In such a long arduous thought process, that was not likely.

It took me a long time to calm the panic, but I did it with the belief that if there were a god, he would not be so cruel as to give me the mental ability to relinquish my faith with no way of regaining it and then punishing me for it. I even imagined that god welcomed atheists in heaven, congratulating them for not believing something without evidence. I just did this to calm myself down. Eventually the panic started going away and I felt comfortable, no, happy, no, better than bloody ever!

Ghosts, demons, spells, heaven, hell all melted away. I was free from invisible threats. It is an amazing feeling, an indescribable relief, a new freedom from intellectual barriers.

Let me loop back to the first paragraph. When someone gives me arguments for deism, but actually believes in christianity, I find it bizarre to think how they can think that arguing for a deistic god makes sense. Not arguing for their own god, but their own god is still the one true god. In other words, with so many gods to choose from, they probably know that their specific god does not have a very good case. This is similar to a criminal who faces evidence of his wrongdoing, but he chooses to argue for a reduced sentence. He knows that denying the evidence will fail, and he is therefore willing to admit wrongdoing to a lesser extent. I just don't understand how someone who is honest with themselves can possible conclude that it is okay to argue for something that they don't personally believe in, and ignore the defence or arguments for their actual beliefs.

In that sense I can admire the guy who rants in capital letters about hell fire, or who promises to pray, or who pleads with me to get down on my knees and feel jesus entering me, but someone who is intellectually sharp enough to realise that there is no evidence for that religion but still believes it does not deserve any kind of respect, because it is an intellectually dishonest position.
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