Why I Don’t Think Anyone Truly Believes In God

Before I jump right into this hypothesis of mine, I want to make a few things clear.

First, Godless Mom is not an authority on either psychology or any sort of science. If I had to pick a topic to say I am any sort of an authority on, it would be the accumulation of drool while Google image searching Alexander Skarsgård or maybe how to use the retweet button on Twitter. Something like that. I’m not an authority on anything. What follows are simply my own assumptions, which I base on my own experiences.

Second, if, after I’ve admitted to not being an authority on the topics that follow, you still feel threatened by what I say, it will only serve to prove my points.

I don’t think real theists exist.

That’s right. I do not think anyone truly believes in god. Not a one of us 9 billion meatballs.

But, Godless Mom, how can you think that? The religious trolls are everywhere!

Right. But stop and listen to them, really assess what they’re saying and you might see what I see: pure doubt.

Every morning, I wake up to a swarm of trolls pressing me with such questions as, “so, how can you not believe in God?” and “what do you know about Islam?” and random bible scriptures that are completely irrelevant to anything at all, said with the air of a boisterous “ABRACADABRA!”.

These religious people seek me out, of their own free will, and choose to engage with me simply because I call myself Godless. They don’t read my blog, they rarely scan my tweets, they just simply see “Godless” and start firing.

Why?

Well, think about it. Take the one thing you’re sure of about yourself. For me, it’s that I’m pretty smart. Not a genius or some foremost thinker or anything, just pretty smart. I have no doubt whatsoever about this fact, and everyone who really knows me agrees. What is your one thing? Think about it. What is the one thing you truly know about yourself, that you never question, never doubt? It could be anything. You love cheese. Maybe you’re a great singer. You’re 6 feet tall.

Got it?

Now imagine a stranger randomly coming up to you on the street and telling you it’s not true.

In my case, this total stranger, who’s never said a word to me, nor me to him prior, approaches me and says simply, “You’re not smart”.

Now, right off the bat, you might respond without thinking, saying something like, “How do you know?” or “That’s not true” but given a moment or two of reflection, your ultimate reaction will be something more along the lines of, “whatever” and then walking away. You most certainly would not engage in a debate about the truthfulness of your cheese love, great voice or 6 foot talledness, would you? No, that would be an exercise in absurdity. Obviously, the stranger knows nothing of you and therefore, his opinion is really just background noise. You’d go about your day and forget the whole thing ever happened in moments.

On the flip side, think of something you’re very self-conscious about, something that causes you a whole lot of doubt. Let’s say maybe you’re not in the kind of shape you want to be, or you think you have a really big nose. If that stranger had come up and said something to that affect, like “You’re so fat!” or “Nice nose, Pinocchio!” it’s gonna sting a bit more, and depending on how sensitive you are, it could even reduce you to tears. You will walk away thinking about it all day, echoing those words in your head over and over, in spite of the fact that the stranger didn’t know anything about you at all and should not matter.

The point is, when we’re confronted with doubt or denial about something we already question, it invokes a far more powerful reaction, than if we’re approached with doubt or denial about something we accept as undeniable fact.

It’s why the worst homophobes are closeted homosexuals. It’s why many outspoken pro-lifers have had abortions in their past. It’s why, when a religious person sees someone living a god-free life, they get their back up.

The word “Godless” has been described to me as many different things since I started doing this: as a direct assault on religious people, as offensive, as obscene, as impossible. It is, however, none of these things. What Godless truly is, is a truth that awakens a long buried doubt deep inside the theist.

That tiny ball of uncertainty has been skillfully buried for a long time by indoctrination, the threat of betrayal, shunning or the crippling fear of just looking like a fool that fell for god. So when something or someone makes that little ball of doubt stir, the theist often feels he needs to lash out.

Calling myself Godless on a public forum triggers these fits of defensiveness as a method with which to rebury the awakened doubt within the believer.

Their questions to atheists, are really the questions they, themselves struggle with.

Their insults are signs that you’re making sense, and as a result, causing them intense fear.

Their spewing of nonsensical scripture is their way of attempting to make themselves stop doubting.

In essence, they are arguing with us as a way to argue with their own doubt.

We are the personified reflection of their own doubt in god’s existence.

But one thing is for sure in my mind, and that is that the idea that any one human on earth fully believes the mythology surrounding the major religions, without any shred of doubt, is absolutely and undeniably absurd. It’s simply not possible. There is no such thing as a theist.

Religious leaders bury their doubt to keep their jobs and make money. Political leaders deny their doubt to remain in control. Religious lobbyists deny their doubt to push an agenda that barely even ties into the scriptures. Everyday people deny their doubt out of unparalleled terror.

Make no mistake, These people are terrified. The more angry they get arguing with atheists, the more terrified they are. They’re scared to death that they’re wrong. The idea that their whole world, everything they’ve ever known is all based on lies is absolutely crippling. Some fear the loss of family, as in the cases of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Some fear persecution and even death, as in the case of apostates in Muslim countries. Some fear the loss of their jobs. Some fear judgment from other religious people. Some fear a life without god will be empty. Some just fear they will look like a fool.

It’s not always easy to argue with these people because such intense fear can cause humans to say and do atrocious things, sometimes even ending in death. It’s not easy to argue with them because they seem to lack all clarity of thought. It’s hard to debate with them when they sling shit as much as they breathe. The key to a religious-indoctrination-free world, however, is to just keep doing it.

Try to be patient. Try not to appear frightening. Try to be clear that an atheist’s life is not missing anything, and we find just as much joy and wonder in our world as a theist, if not more. Even though it’s hard as hell and we’ve all done it at one point or another, don’t sling that shit back.

And never, ever stop questioning their faith. Normalize the questions, normalize the criticism. Make it so that criticism of religious ideas is commonplace and get rid of that violence-causing shock value.

Just keep poking that ball of doubt. It’s got the potential to become a proud atheist one day.

As Dan Dennett said once,

Professor Daniel Dennett

I think it may be easier than we’re supposing to shake peoples’ faith. There’s been a moratorium on this for a long time. We’re just the beginning of a new wave of explicit attempts to shake peoples’ faith. And it’s bearing fruit, and the obstacles it seems to me are not that we don’t have the facts or the arguments, it’s these strategic reasons for not professing it, not admitting it. Not admitting it to yourself, not admitting it in public because your family is gonna view it as a betrayal, you’re just embarrassed to admit that you were taken in by this for so long. It takes, I think, tremendous courage to just declare that you’ve given that all up and if we can find ways to help people find that courage, and give them some examples of people who have done this and they’re doing just fine, they may have lost the affections of a parent or something like that, they may have hurt some family members, but still I think it’s a good thing to encourage and I don’t think we should assume that we can’t do this. I think we can.

So, get out there atheists. Get out there and shake their faith.

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  • Andy Hobson

    Top work 🙂 Nothing screams doubt louder than ardent, spurious arguments.

    • Thank you! It’s so obvious they have doubt when people have to throw fits about it.

  • I think there are people who really believe in God – they’re just not the ones who troll around twitter spewing religious vitriol and spittle while they turn purple trying to rebutt our arguments. I think there is a large contingent (maybe a majority?) who just don’t even think to question the idea of a god. Those are the people who go to church (or not) out of tradition, respect, and sense of community. They don’t think too hard about what they’re being asked to believe, but they enjoy all of the peace and love sermons and they think that the community is good for their kids. I think my family is mostly like that. No one ever goes to church, but I think if you asked they would agree that there’s probably a god and we should all be good because of it. Milquetoast Christians. They don’t want to hear arguments against because to them, religion is fairly benign and why shouldn’t we believe in something? I am a scientist and I have a lot of friends who are scientists. I was always surprised to learn that they were getting their kids christened or baptized because they never seemed religious and they most certainly agree with science. But it’s tradition, and everyone does it, and it’s a milestone so they show up at church for the last time until Christmas or Easter and dip the babies and smile and get pictures taken. Believing is just a tradition for them, and they won’t rock the boat by looking too hard at it and asking too many questions.

    • Jenny

      I think all the people you describe fit perfectly into the group of people not really believing in god. They do “the christian things” out of tradition, a sense of community, love for their families – but not out of real, pure belief. Sometimes people like that don’t even feel threatened by atheists anymore because they already know they are right – they just still like the songs and services.
      Here in Germany there are (thankfully) very few fanatics and very many of those tradition-loving types. They don’t see a reason to fight against theism because most churches are basically nothing more than places to sing at christmas anymore. Why would you fight against people who make your kid sing and laugh and play theater? Why would you fight against the institution which brought you 8 or so public holidays and work-free sundays? If you don’t really mind praying to an invisible god in between because Reasons (= you didn’t ever think that far), you wouldn’t.

  • Dawndee Nicole

    Love this topic GM! When you really get down to it, the words faith and hope get used and those words leave me with a feeling, like you said, that no one is a theist. We have the mainstream and twice a year Christians like Kristen mentioned, they couldn’t argue their way out of a paper bag, because all they know is what they have been told.

    I agree with you, the table bangin, bible thumpers that fight with us are just arguing with themselves. They have a lot to lose. They label us as being angry, when they are the ones red in the face. While they call us horrible names, we head to the library to understand the topic we are debating even more.

    With the religious, they are at the end. 6,000 years of instruction and that is all there is. The incredible advancements, scientific facts, things the bible doesn’t mention. It’s a scary thing to look at science because it goes beyond, there is no end.

    So they beat it, argue it, protest it, try to kill it but in the end all they will have is faith and hope.

    BTW, have you ever read Debbie Ford, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers?

  • Jane

    Totally enjoyable article. I’ll be thinking on it and on Kirsten’s remarks.
    I still can’t tell if my mom is a true believer or not. I think she is just so shocked by the thought that I was brought up ‘right’ with 12 years of Catholic education, and became a godless fallen person when I went to college. She truly can’t see that religion is being forced down our throats daily, even on our money, national anthem, and opening every public meeting with a prayer, to say nothing of swearing on buy-bulls. Some day, when she’s a captive audience in the car, I’ll try to find out if she can be honest about it. For the last 40 years, she’s acted as if she’s afraid for me. lol

  • Another Oz Atheist

    Absolutely agreed that the worst anti-gay haters are closeted homosexuals, I know a few of them. They are usually the reborn christians. I prefer to use the term anti-gay hater instead of homophobe because it is really not a phobia, it is pure unadulterated hate. The anti-gay bigots are my personal bugbear, which is why I vent more about them than their religion itself. I’ve always found that the completely straight non-religious guys are very comfortable around me.

    @francosoup has a very true and funny phrase that I’ve seen her use a few times:


    Whenever some dude says “homosexual acts are degrading/unnatural”, what he really means is “dicks are delicious & I’m sad I can’t have any”.

    I also agree with the rest of your post, a doubting Thomas is more likely to be insulting and the true believers will try to convert us without using foul language. They are probably those who won’t be worth our time trying to deconvert, although you never know…

  • Keri Masse

    I was forced to go to church until I was 16. I started to hate it around the age of 9. My mother is no longer religious and never attends church, though she still believes in god. She knows that I’m an atheist and sometimes we have good discussions on religion. I’ll never forget when she told me that when she was an avid church goer (we now call them the churchlady days) she was always trying to be the perfect christian yet it was never enough for her peers. She says that in essence she was always trying to be something she was not and never could be. Nobody is perfect yet religions demand you to be. It seems like all the people who are “antis” are trying to out christian, islam, Buddha, etc. each other. They need to be seen showing their disapproval because of the reasons you just gave and also to prove their worthiness to religious peers.

  • Dominic Wright

    Hi Godlessmom, I enjoyed your reflections. I certainly agree that bigotry, like bullying, is most often born out of insecurity and fear, I would want to add that the dominant culture, or more often than not in the case of religious faith the dominant subculture, becomes the dominant abuser when it feels threatened. During the decades of communism in Europe, institutional atheism was the insecure abuser in those countries. Now that the EU has opened up the UK to Eastern Europeans, my observation is that many people from former communist countries have a stronger faith identity than many British people, with Polish and other communities swelling the ranks of churches that would have otherwise closed. I am a Christian, and I have doubt. The apophatic tradition in Christianity paradoxically searches for God by seeking out the places where it overwhelmingly feels like God doesn’t exist. For me most atheisms expressed today are too binary. People flip from fundamentalism to atheism which seems like the easy way out. Personally speaking, the creative space between faith and doubt is the exciting and profound place to be. In my teens and twenties my faith had fundamentalist tendancies, but this led to a conflict between my honesty and evidence which contradicted some major parts of it. If you can hold that place of tension without giving up and simply flipping to one side or the other, it forces your mind into a bigger paradigm rather than simply to the flip side of the same paradigm i.e. God or no God.

  • Asta Kask

    Thing is, you don’t hear those who have no special defensive reaction. There may be ten times more of them on that forum, but if they don’t make a noise when challenged, you will never know about them.

  • Durinn McFurren

    I have to disagree. When I was religious, I sincerely believed in god. That didn’t mean I never doubted, of course. But there’s a difference between ‘zero doubt’ and ‘not believing.’