I am slightly jealous of people who can live without any religious belief at all. I still carry about the shadows of introjected beliefs from my fundamentalist childhood and, irritatingly, they tend to be the darkest ones. I find it much easier to believe in eternal Hell, for example, than in a loving and benevolent God. It’s a childlike fear of demons in the night that makes it unwise to watch a horror film if I’m alone in the house. Satan is easier to picture than God. I imagine that’s because it was really scary and traumatic to be afraid of these things as a child. I really think that it’s helpful to question internalised beliefs and subject them to rational examination and evidence. So I found it really refreshing, interesting and genuinely hilarious when I found myself asking my pragmatically minded atheist husband for his views. Here they are. I hope they prove helpful to someone out there who struggles, like I have, to shed beliefs that no longer serve them.
Me: How do you know that there isn’t a God? How do you know that?
Tim: He’s just a mythical being like werewolves, vampires, ghosts and other things like that.
Me: You must know that Christians don’t believe that God is the same as werewolves, vampires and ghosts.
Tim: I know they don’t believe it’s the same but still – they’re all mythical things and God is too, you know. They don’t see God. They tell themselves that they feel his presence or… did I say him? I don’t know whether he’s a he or a she or a they but for some reason they seem to refer to him as him which is probably because men ruled the church for millennia and they think God is shaped in their image. But it’s really just a mythical thing. It’s all made up. All made up for the convenience of answering these questions for people who don’t know anything else.
Me: So how do you know that God didn’t create the world?
Tim: Because we know all about the bloody Big Bang and the explosion in the universe and that there are many universes and we are just a tiny bit of it and over millennia the planet has cooled down and life forms have evolved and then we have evolution and we have evolved as part of that. We probably won’t be here forever, the rate we’re going anyway. We’ll probably wipe ourselves out like the dinosaurs went – although they didn’t wipe themselves out – or like the film we watched last night; there’ll be a 10 kilometre meteor hit the world and that’ll be it, bye bye. But then something will spring out afterwards.
Me: You must know that some people contest The Big Bang theory
Tim: Well I know they do but there’s a lot of science and scientific evidence to support it. Whereas there isn’t any scientific evidence to support God. It’s all stories. Dinosaurs aren’t stories. We found dinosaur skeletons.
Me: How do you know God didn’t create the dinosaurs, the same as he created people?
Tim: Well, if he did, then they need to re-write all their books and things, don’t they? And their stories. The Bible and so forth.
Me: How do you know that there isn’t an afterlife?
Tim: Why would there be? We get buried or we get incinerated.
Me: So that’s our bodies. How do you know we don’t have a soul?
Tim: I think we do have a soul while we’re alive but then it expires – disappears – gone. I mean who would want to be going on in an afterlife? It would be dreadful. It would be like eternity. Sounds like a real punishment sitting around in clouds and things forever.
Me: What do you think the soul is if you say we’ve got one while we’re alive?
Tim: I suppose it’s character really. Some people are described as not having a soul or having a good soul or ‘he’s a good soul, she’s a good soul’ or ‘that person is soulless’ because it’s the way they behave; it’s their character.
Me: So you think it’s a figure of speech? It’s not a natural part of the person?
Tim: It’s not a physical part of the person, no. It’s part of what makes us who we are individually.
Me: How do you know that we don’t get reincarnated into another animal?
Tim: Because it’s just a fucking silly idea. It’s like kids’ stories. I mean, if we get reincarnated into other animals, why not into buildings or a lettuce leaf or something?
me: Because buildings and lettuce leaves don’t have souls.
Tim: Well, how do you know animals have souls?
Me: Because they’ve got personalities. Mia has a different personality to Heidi. Oscar had a different personality to Tilda.
Tim: There’s a lot of people who say buildings have got a soul. Some buildings, not all buildings.
Me: I’ve never heard anybody say a building has a soul.
Tim: You have. You’ve heard of people walking in somewhere and saying ‘it was so soulless in there’ or the opposite when they walk into a building and they feel it has a soul because it’s magical and wonderful and whatever; it has a presence, an aura.
Me: How do you know the religious people aren’t the ones that got it all right?
Tim: Well obviously they haven’t. Completely mad. They make it up as they go along and they all contradict each other and they’ve all got different versions of the same thing. Which religious people have got it right? There are loads of different religions as well. Before things like Christianity and Islam and so on you had all the bloody Greeks and Romans and all their myriad gods and things and the Aztecs – they had a whole load as well, and the Mayans had a whole load and the Vikings and the Druids. They’ve all got different gods and different things they worship. Primitive people worshipped the land and the sun and the sky and the sea and the trees.
Me: So why do you think modern people still believe in God?
Tim: Probably partly as they’ve been brought up that way and it’s been passed down generation after generation but fewer and fewer people do believe in God. Congregations are shrinking. There are many that do, especially in churches like the Church of England; it’s a very kind of casual relationship with God – more for convenience and conforming and being part of society and sometimes the good side of it is that it gives a sense of belonging and getting along to the various activities and things that are associated with churches: whether it’s a mother and toddler group or a choir group or a reading society or whatever. So I don’t believe churches are bad; in fact, churches are wonderful places to go into – the atmosphere in there and the peacefulness.
Me: But you know evangelical churches are growing so why do you think that is?
Tim: Because the world’s going mad. Because of people like Donald Trump. People are becoming more extreme and becoming more divided so they look for a more extreme answer to things. I mean, the evangelical churches in America are just multi million dollar businesses. The pastors or whatever they’re called that run them are just ripping off their congregations. It’s obscene. I mean, if you want to believe the stories of Jesus and things like when he goes into the temple and the money lenders and all that – imagine if he came on earth today and saw all this in his name!
Me: So do you think Jesus existed and all the stories are true?
Tim: I think Jesus existed yes. I don’t see any reason to disbelieve that he existed.
Me: Do you think he did miracles?
Tim: I doubt he did miracles. He probably did some good deeds. I suspect the feeding of the 5000 was more likely feeding for 50 or 500 and there was probably a bit more there than was suggested but the story wouldn’t have been as good, so it’s been made yeah like one crust and a fishtail shared amongst 5 million.
Me: You know the Bible says that Jesus brought people back from the dead?
Tim: Well, I don’t believe that. I should think what happened if anything would be that they were not very well when he came to see them and he cheered them up and they said ‘ooh; thank you very much! I’m alive now!’ and then he went onto his next next duty or whatever he was doing and everybody left.
Me: He was a carpenter
Tim: He didn’t do much of that though, did he? He was on tour like a rockstar. He was busy going around preaching to people. I don’t see when he’d have got time to make anything. And you know after he’s brought people back to life or whatever supposedly and goes onto the next thing they probably find that person just would have croaked it and it was just a momentary respite because they were so pleased to see him. He was a nice bloke.
Me: So how do you think this whole religion built up around him?
Tim: Because people liked what he was saying. There were probably a lot of people disillusioned with the Jewish faith and the temples. I’m not very good on all these Bible stories but I believe that he thought it was all a bit corrupt and they had lost their way. Certainly I believe the story about the money lenders in the temple. Can you imagine today if he just popped along to check up on things and found people being charged money to go into cathedrals and things and evangelists raking it in off the congregation? Obscene.
Me: What do you think Mohammed is then?
Tim: He was a very very good boxer. Very entertaining… Mohammed was a prophet like Jesus.
Me: what do you think a prophet is?
Tim: Someone who comes and prophesises and declares how they think things will be or should be.
Me: Do you think they were deluded when they talked about God then?
Tim: Probably but then that’s how they were brought up. I mean Jesus was brought up as a Jew, wasn’t he? So that’s what he knew and what he believed.
Me: Do you have any respect for people’s faith?
Tim: Yes. that’s what they want to believe that’s what they want to believe – as long as they’re not harming anybody. Unfortunately, historically they have harmed people – seriously harmed people – butchered and massacred people in the name of Jesus and God. Those people – no I don’t have any respect for their faith. Used as a tool to destroy people who they disagree with or who disagree with them.
Me: How do you know people don’t go to hell?
Tim: Because I don’t believe in hell. I think they get incinerated or buried just like everybody else. Heaven and hell are used just like so many other things in religion to threaten people to get them to toe the line. They had to make hell sound like a dastardly place so that people would fear it and then that was the threat: ‘If you don’t do this this and this you’ll go to hell. Fall in line’. And they do.
So there we have it. I think the man has some fine theology and that it’s worthy of a share. If you are an aspiring atheist, like me, feel free to take notes!