Why Do People Believe in God? This Story Explains Everything.

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Why Do People Believe in God? This Story Explains Everything.

Why do people believe in god when there is no evidence for his existence?

Why do people create evidence for god’s existence to justify their beliefs?

Why is religion — something that should provide hope and joy for the future — so often something that creates upheaval and hurt?

And why is it so damn difficult to leave religion?

This is my story of abandoning religion — from pastor to atheist — which I think provides some answers to those questions, and some hope for those who are trying to do the same.

How I Became Addicted To God

4th grade was the first time I realized that I was going to die.

My friend’s father had passed away unexpectedly.

It made me realize that my parents were going to die, I was going to die, some day, everyone I loved was going to die.

Despite my parent’s gentle guidance and midnight reminders that they weren’t about to “die anytime soon,” I didn’t get much sleep for the next few months.

It’s all I could think about.

Over time, though, the fear faded, or perhaps, I learned to distract myself.

But it was always in the back of my mind.

It wasn’t until 7th grade, when, at church, I learned the concepts of heaven and hell, that I thought I might have discovered a solution.

If the afterlife is real, I thought to myself, then death doesn’t matter — all that matters is following god as best I can so that I and everyone I love will go to heaven.

Problem solved!

I started Googling for “proof that god exists” and “proof that Jesus died for our sins” — Google phrases that receive thousands of searches every single month.

I became obsessed with wanting to find some sort of guarantee of the afterlife.

And I found quite a few articles trying to give it to me — some told the story of a watchmaker, others used scripture as evidence, and still others pulled from archeological discoveries that somehow “proved” a piece of The Bible.

But I still wasn’t satisfied.

So I went to my Dad who I thought must have the answer, and I asked him: “Is there proof of god?”

He said, “No, son. That’s why you have to have faith.”

I was disappointed.

The next 10 years of my life had a lot of twists and turns, but one theme stood tall — a burning desire to make sense of heaven, hell, and god.

It was my obsession.

I started a bible study group at my public high-school.

I wrote a book about theology for my senior project.

I went to a Christian college.

I proposed to my wife after dating for three months because she wanted to be a pastor’s wife.

And I even became the co-pastor of a small “startup church”, read hundreds of books about religion, led countless community service projects, and gave more than a hundred sermons between the ages of 19 and 24.

My mantra became, “If this stuff in the Bible is true, then there IS no middle-ground.”

I couldn’t half-believe… I had to do everything in my power to prove to god that I deserved to get into heaven, and that those I love also deserved it.

And the truth is, my belief wasn’t a choice.

I HAD to believe.

If I didn’t believe, then death was real, life was temporary, and everyone I loved was going to die.

Looking back, the simple truth is that I didn’t have the fortitude to accept those sorts of truths.

I couldn’t do it.

I wouldn’t do it.

So I played pretend.

Like an addict lost in the high, I refused to consider that there might not be a god.

Until, that is, tragedy forced my hand.

Crossing The Chasm: “I think he’s just dead.”

It was noon on a Monday when my cell rang.

“Hey, Dad. What’s up?” I said.

“Hey — have you heard about Travis? He’s missing.”

The previous night, my good friend, Travis, had driven off a 100-foot cliff.

We found the car on Monday, but we didn’t find the body until Friday.

I remember that night, I turned to Micaila as she tried to comfort me, as she tried to tell me that Travis was in a better place, and I just said, “No. I think he’s just… dead.”

When confronted with my friend’s death, something clicked.

For a few more weeks, I tried to convince myself that I was wrong.

But I knew.

And once I knew, I couldn’t un-know.

The simple truth was before me, at face value, and to deny it would have been to reject a fact.

His body had died, and every shred of scientific evidence indicated that Travis, as I knew him, was also dead.

There is no evidence for the human soul.

There is no evidence for heaven and hell.

There is no evidence for the validity of any of religion’s claims about god and the afterlife.

There is hearsay, there is personal experience, and there is marketing with thousands of Christendom’s dollars backing it.

But there is no real evidence.

So I finally accepted that I’d never see my friend again. He was dead. One day, I’m going to die, too.

And thus began my journey of accepting the beauty and hope of a temporary life.

My Road To Recovery

It took me 6 months to admit my lack of faith and leave religion.

This was mostly logistical.

I’d been the co-pastor of a Church for four years and I had no idea how to break from those relationships — I knew that when I did, I’d lose friendships… I’d become just another “lost soul” who “lost the faith.”

I’d be abandoned.

So I took time to figure out what I was going to do when I did leave — where I was going to work and what relationships I’d still be able to rely on.

Then, finally, I left.

And it was the best thing I ever did.

I realized the freedom and joy of being the decider of my own fate.

I realized that I’m totally capable of creating my own morals.

I realized that I’m a blank slate with no divine expectations or requirements — at last, I could be who I wanted to be without guilt or second thoughts.

I could finally become my best self without caring about whether god or the church approved.

I was free.

But not everyone is so lucky.

Why Reasonable People Believe in God

I always had doubts.

The truth is that I was never totally able to shake my Father’s words about having faith even when there’s a clear lack of facts.

It just didn’t sit well.

If god exists, shouldn’t there be evidence of his existence? If an afterlife exists, shouldn’t there be evidence of that, too?

If we lived in a world where those things were true… then our world should BEHAVE as if those things were true.

But our world doesn’t.

Just the opposite — it explicitly behaves as though there isn’t a god and there isn’t an afterlife.

Innocent children die from mindless diseases, disaster strikes whenever it pleases, and despite scientific efforts to find the “soul” of a person, the same answer keeps staring us dead in the face: dead is dead.

It’s the end.

Flowers die. Trees die. Animals die. And we die.

Life is Temporary Graphic | Get Your Gusto Back

It makes sense.

But no matter how much science a person examines, no matter how much clear-cut evidence they are shown, one simple statement keeps them clinging to their beliefs by a thread: “But you can’t prove that it’s not true.”

And that illustrates an important point.

People don’t believe in god because it is logical, they believe in god because of the emotional support it offers — it gives them an escape from death, a way to deal with loneliness, a moral compass, or a feeling of belonging.

And in that capacity, it’s not such a bad thing.

If it helps people become the best that they can be, then why not continue believing, regardless of scientific evidence?

For some people, I don’t have an answer… it simply is better for them to believe in a god who doesn’t exist because of the hope it provides.

In the same way that people take meds to manage their anxiety, some people might embrace god as a comforting illusion.

Sadly, most people just feel stuck.

They don’t believe in god because it benefits them — in many cases, it harms them — but because it’s what they’re used to, because it’s what their family and friends believe, or because they are afraid of what would happen if they stopped believing.

Religion is great at keeping its followers afraid. And fear is great at keeping followers, following.

That’s why it was so difficult for me to leave and it’s why so few people ever even consider leaving.

But, to close, let me explain why you don’t need to depend on god…

… and why a temporary life is more meaningful than a permanent one.

Why Life is More Meaningful When it’s Temporary

All things that matter are temporary.

Laughter with friends, the birth of a child, a great work of art… it’s meaningful BECAUSE it’s temporary.

Doctors who watch childbirth every day are no longer amazed by the sight, janitors who clean the world’s most beautiful buildings are no longer stricken by their magnitude, and even prolific artists burn-out of doing things they love.

That’s because the temporary is more beautiful than permanent.

You gasp at the Grand Canyon because you’ve only seen it once before. You laugh at a comedian’s joke because it’s the first time you’ve heard it.

Repetition, permanence… it makes life dull.

Religion Is Not Truth Graphic | Get Your Gusto Back

You see, death is a gift.

Death is what makes life beautiful.

Death is what makes YOUR life meaningful.

And death can be what drives you to make an impact while you still have time.

But many of us pretend it isn’t, because we’re afraid of its implications — that we aren’t permanent, that we aren’t being watched over, that we aren’t loved by an all-knowing god.

What we fail to realize, though, is that we have been “god” all along.

The answered prayers, the moments of inspiration, the self-love, the feelings of wonder and hope… those have all been you, not god.

And you are a fitting replacement.

Don’t believe in god… believe in yourself.

Believe that you can build an exciting life and make an extraordinary impact.

Believe that you can spread love and create remarkable pieces of art.

Believe that you can build any business, pursue any dream, and accomplish any goal.

Because in the end, god might not exist, but you do.

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Mike Blankenship

Mike is the founder of Get Your Gusto Back. He has a passion for traveling, he LOVES to write, and he’s been mentioned in Forbes and Entrepreneur for his expertise as a marketer and personal-development expert. He currently lives in Hawaii with his wife and two-year-old daughter.

9 thoughts on “Why Do People Believe in God? This Story Explains Everything.”

  1. Michael – Thanks for sharing so profoundly. It could not have been easy moving through those spirit and soul changing moments. Your desire to help yourself and others is evident by the way you open yourself up and give insight to the journey you’ve taken. It’s quite genuine and brave 😉 I really do appreciate the share!
    XO
    XStacy

      1. Great article Mike! Yep, that’s pretty much it. You said it all. Its temporary and fleeting. Embrace the moments and let go when it’s time to go. All ths best to you Mike!

  2. Hi Michael, I didn’t realize how much Travis’ death affected you. Thank you for sharing your journey as I was curious about it. I’m sorry you were in an environment where you felt compelled to be something you weren’t. Life on earth is short, so it seems a great waste to be pressured into being something you’re not and it takes courage to step out of conformity.

    I’ve given some thought to your post and there’s a lot to explore. I wasn’t sure quite how to take your post at first but I’m guessing you wanted to encourage people, which I believe you have. You’re not alone in your journey. I wanted to address one of your main thoughts, however, concerning evidence.

    In 1961, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human into outer space. As part of the USSR’s anti-religious campaigns of that era, Nikita Khrushchev took the opportunity to propagate the idea that Gagarin stated that he did not see God in space. In 1963, C.S. Lewis wrote a response to the idea that God was not in outer space with the essay, “The Seeing Eye.” Lewis makes a clever analogy with the works of Shakespeare.

    If God, as creator of everything, does exist, why should we relate to him the same way we might as with the rest of creation? Wouldn’t he exist outside of creation and outside of the space-time he created? Lewis writes:

    “Looking for God—or Heaven—by exploring space is like reading or seeing all Shakespeare’s plays in the hope that you will find Shakespeare as one of the characters or Stratford as one of the places. Shakespeare is in one sense present at every moment in every play. But he is never present in the same way as Falstaff or Lady Macbeth. Nor is he diffused through the play like a gas…”

    If God created us, you wouldn’t relate to him by searching the universe and finding him as an observable created being. You would relate to him the way Hamlet relates to Shakespeare. Hamlet only knows his creator when he writes himself into the play. No number of scientific tests and experiments performed by Hamlet could ever yield empirical data about Shakespeare (except perhaps, what Shakespeare allows Hamlet to discover).

    You write that “…there is no real evidence [for the human soul, heaven, hell, and claims about God].” Is your reasoning something like this? Since humans cannot devise a scientific experiment to gather empirical data about the metaphysical or a god that might be beyond the physical and into the spiritual/supernatural, god cannot exist. If so, I wonder how would you describe your commitment to truth and reason.

    I concede that there are no iron-clad, slam-dunk arguments for God’s existence (the situation is the same for non-existence). Nor are there repeatable experiments in which one might observe the supernatural. What Christianity offers instead is a person. I am sincerely wondering, who do you say Jesus is?

    I’m also wondering what you would accept as evidence. In law, oral or written testimony is considered a form of evidence. Surely in your encounters with Christianity, you came across one person with a life you suspected was truly transformed. Why is their testimony dismissed as a personal experience, but your journey is counted as authentic and the real truth? Also, on what basis do you discount the Bible as hearsay?

    Jesus observed, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit,” (John 3:8). The spiritual world cannot always be detected directly, but its effects can be witnessed. Christians often respond to God’s goodness by blessing others. Isn’t a changed life evidence of an unseen reality? That’s probably one of the reasons you led countless community service projects.

    I’m guessing you’ll find the intellectual arguments concerning the reasons for God from people with limited influence in your life uncompelling, although there are answers for your assertions. Tim Keller has an engaging message on this in his podcast episode “432. The Reason for God: An Open Forum.” He submits that the reasons for our belief or unbelief are primarily influenced by intellectual arguments, emotional experiences, and social/cultural norms, each of which you’ve referenced in your post). He also argues that your position of unbelief takes an equal amount of faith (and perhaps even more in some ways).

    One thing I tried to do when I was your youth leader was create a space where young people knew they were valued. I hardly remembered anything concerning the Bible from my own youth group, but I remembered when people really cared about me. I hope that came across in our short time together. I still care about you and hope that you would always welcome truth, reason, and cordiality in your life.

    1. Hey John,

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

      I think the biggest trouble with finding “evidence for god” is the starting point.

      If you start by assuming that god exists, then it’s easy to find ways to justify that belief (just like it’s easy to find justifications for buying a pair of pants you actually don’t need). If you start by assuming that the Bible is inerrant, then archeological finds that confirm small parts of biblical stories become evidence for god, even though they don’t actually confirm any more than a few sentences of scripture. In the same way, coincidences become a “blessing” or an “answered prayer” and people’s testimonies become depictions of reality.

      (Look into some stats about the validity of most testimonies and you’ll cringe… us humans are remarkably bad at remembering things… especially 60 years after the fact)

      For better or worse, we humans are exceptional at justifying illogical beliefs and ideas because of how those things make us feel.

      But if we start from the most honest and humble place — that we don’t know whether god exists or not — then we won’t find a shred of evidence for his existence.

      Sure, there are testimonies and stories of people who’ve been transformed by his impact, but there are ALSO a lot of people who belive the world is flat and who swear they’ve been abducted by aliens. In fact, we would have just as much scientific justification to believe in those claims as we would to believe in god.

      And ultimately, I think the C.S. Lewis argument you mentioned is just a clever way to explain why there isn’t any evidence for god… but again, it doesn’t prove anything or provide evidence unless you START by assuming that god exists.

      Hopefully that clarifies my claims a little bit.

    2. Dear Mike:
      Thank you very much for your candor. To be honest with you I came across your website for the sole purpose of learning more about copy writing. I wanted to learn about website content and format. As well as reading some examples of copy writing in hopes of gaining some inspiration that can march me to my goal of being a professional copy writer.
      I can’t help notice your testimony being a heart felt one, and one of sincerety. I never argue apples and oranges since one premise differs from the other. The wrong premise can lead to a valid argument and a false conclusion.
      The problem with our sin nature is that it wants the glory. It doesn’t want to give God glory. To say we deserve to go to heaven means we diminish the impact of Christ’s action on the cross. God is purposeful He doesn’t do things for show. If an all knowing God humbles himself to the point of death on the cross than can we demand the entitlement of heaven?
      To be humble is God’s nature and it should be ours.
      What did the serpent say in the garden? You shall be as God’s.
      One of my good friends was an atheist and I asked him this question. Something happened when you were younger that caused your distrust God? You had a demand or expectation that was not met. He replied, “Yes”. And I asked him what it was. I’ll with hold his name for the purposes anonymity.
      He replied, “My father who has been excommunicated for purposes he did not disclose, was also not allowed to marry, nor would he be allowed a memorial mass. This had caused much bitterness over the years which he suppressed. I don’t know if he even had thought about it but he was open and honest with me. This is how God wants us to be, open and honest.

      When people ask for proof God they fail to understand that we are walking miracles and that what God is evidence of His existence.
      I lost my grandmother when I was 21 back in 1986 from leukemia, compounded by heart disease and senial dementia. I know what it’s like to lose someone so close, than hit the skids on the way to what seemed like my own destruction. Right at the moment when I had no fight in me, God, in his infinite mercy reached his hand down and saved me.
      His proof is in his mercy and the miracle of his timing. Sometimes God doesn’t answer prayer right away. He may take 10 to 15 years, but He does answered them.

      Michael we love you here and wish you the best

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