This is a petition to all the God Slayers out there. I will not ask you to stop slaying the Gods who live in the homes of your relatives, peers, or neighbors. I only ask that you think about why they exist.
Like you, I am free from the tyranny of Gods. My fate is something I control. I am grateful for this freedom. I imagine you are too. I don’t think you are the warmongers the media make you out to be. You do not slay Gods for sport. You slay Gods because Gods are delusions. They do not exist. They are excuses for events and phenomenon that have real causes. You believe the idea of God and magic robs the individual of agency over his or her own fate. Gods are tyrants of fate. You want people to be free. After all, if “Sam” didn’t explain everything with that one silly delusion, she might be able to see the actual causes. She might be able to change her fate.
The rejection of God and other forms of magic is agency, control, and autonomy. It’s freedom. The question I raise, is what allows us to take this freedom.
I think the common assumption is that our freedom from God is taken through knowledge. That through rationality and empirical evidence we can coolly assess that God do not exist. The belief in God(s) is then seen as stemming from ignorance. In our information driven society knowledge equates to (some) social mobility and power. From this perspective, belief in God (sustained ignorance) limits individual growth, progress, and is detrimental.
I want to suggest an alternative theory.
The problem I see with tying a belief in God to a state of ignorance is that it ignores function of supernatural explanation in human life. Supernatural explanations serve to provide psychological relief in the face of uncertainty. For example, prehistoric humans see lighting; it is terrifying, random, and completely unknown. So they create a God/supernatural force to explain it.
Now this is where you kick in and say, “but we can actually explain it.” Yes—in that case—but what other sources of uncertainty in human life? What about Death. Gods provide psychological relief for the phenomenon of death and its uncertainty. You are able to cut ties with Gods and other forms of supernatural explanation, not because of a higher level of knowledge, but because of a higher level of affluence. You do not actively grapple the uncertainty of death, thus you have no immediate need of Gods or other supernatural explanations for protection.
If you are reading this, the assumption I am making is that you: live in an affluent country, have a high degree of education, nutrition, and economic opportunity. If all these things, or even some of them, are true, then Death is not immediacy in your life. You don’t worry about your death or the death of your loved ones on a daily basis. Life divorced from death is pretty much a novelty of the 20th century. A novelty afforded to those with significant privilege. I expect to live into my 80s, if not much farther. I do not worry about dying tomorrow, or in the next five years. I imagine you don’t either. Our lives lack the all encompassing uncertainty that demands supernatural explanation.
Now try to imagine the type of people who need Gods. Their lives have limited agency. They are old, seeing death potentially looming over the next decade of their lives, or young and lacking the education or material resources to see socio-economic progression as possible. There are people who must eat fast food daily. There are people who must work jobs of hard labor for decades. People whose life expectancies will reflect these limited opportunities. If a person grows up in an environment where friends, children, and community members dying is a common occurrence, where living to 50 is impressive, Death is a constant reality, a reality they must in someway grapple with.
My petition to God Slayers is not to embrace God, but to understand why other people do.
It is not that they are waiting to be pulled from ignorance. God and supernatural explanation are necessary given the circumstance of their life. You might find someday, when you are old and dying, or if your community suffers the unexpected residency of death that you too demand an explanation. God gives some control to people whose lives afford them little other options for control. It is unfair to ask people to abandon this explanation when you have no alternative to give them.
The rational/empirical explanation is not an alternative, because it does not provide comfort. What it provides is a potential for transformation. For some people that is comforting, but it can also be a tremendous burden trying to actualize that potential. One more thing to fail at. Also, we must accept that some situations are beyond immediate transformation. In such situations, it’s cruel to tell people their suffering is due to their own ignorance/inefficiency, because ending that suffering is a historical rather than personal endeavor.
What is the harm in believing in Gods? I agree that Gods and other supernatural forces are delusions, fictions of various cultures. But fiction isn’t irrevocably harmful. We tend to conflate “Truth” and “Goodness” but the two are separate entities. Having the truth doesn’t mean you will not do harm. It does not make you good. There are plenty of people who posses correct explanations and use them for immense harm; there are plenty who live in fiction and are tender, loving, agents.
If your parents, children, friends, believe in God or other supernatural explanations. Why is it so bad? In most cases these explanations are not actively harming people. They provide the comforts of nostalgia and routine to the chaos of life. The cases where they are harmful are extremes that should not be used as representations of the whole. If you really think your friend’s belief is hurting them, I guess that is a different matter, but I would be careful about making such a judgment. It is impossible to know the screws and bolts that hold another person together. I know for a fact that without a great deal of fictions I consume on a regular basis I would find it hard to motivate my life. God may be a delusion, but not all delusions are bad. Before you brandish your sword, use that gift of rationality to weigh the actual costs and benefits.
Lastly, I would encourage you to reflect about why you are a God Slayer. I used to be God Slayer. The reason I attack Gods was not to help people, it was for an ego boost. It made me feel secure about myself and powerful to think I could slay Gods. I am not saying this is your motivation, but I would ask you to think about it. The hardest thing to do is to sheath a sword. We gain wondrous weapons, and feel compelled to use them. It can seem that if we put them down for a second they will rust. I say this not just about intellect and reason, but muscle, and charm as well. There are many skills that make a person powerful. These skills become weapons to attack the ideas and meaning of others. There are times when attack is necessary, but to attack everything is not the pursuit of truth, it is violence.