Proof of God: Context

I used to own this little Palm device. The thing was a decade old when I got it, and the on-screen keyboard was scarred by the continual tap-tap-tap of a stylus. I had to find just the right pressure to register a letter; sometimes, it would register the wrong one and I’d be forced to stop, try to reposition the cursor with the stylus, delete the offending letter without adding more, and finally right that wrong. As the screen required manual calibration, typing the wrong letter was unfortunately common. It made writing tedious.

And yet, during rare moments of downtime, I would solemnly tap away at the thing. Some days I could manage a hundred words, and in the evenings I would pop out the SD card (the docking station was broken, if I recall) and copy those hundred words into their proper place in Proof of God.

If my timestamps are correct, I started writing that book on December 21st, 2009. I’m a bit surprised it was so recent, but maybe the Palm distorted my sense of time. Back then, I thought there was a hole in the atheist literature; while a decent number of books on apologetics existed, they struck me as shallow. No one seemed interested in gathering a comprehensive list of counter-proofs, and everyone assumed that Christianity was the only religion out there.

I think I was also trying to better understand religion. Weird fact: I didn’t believe in belief until well into my adulthood. Don’t get me wrong, I’d briefly see preachers on TV when flipping to cartoons, and I’d been in churches and read a few Bible stories. But the stories were too fantastic to be taken seriously, so I thought they persisted because people wanted to ground themselves in the past. If times were tough, remind yourself that you’ve survived a lot worse before and you’ll feel better. None of my circle expressed religious belief, so I thought society had long since shed those false beliefs and moved on.

It was only when I spent time with a true believer outside my bubble that I realised I’d been in one. Naturally that led to a desire to catch up on what I’d missed, and that led to the study of why people believed in their religion. And once my head had filled with arguments and counter-arguments, it made sense to start typing them out to clarify things.

While the date I started Proof of God is murky, the date I stopped is not: August 4th, 2013. I’d decided to leave the boring parts until last, which sapped my desire to write. The citation-heavy style I prefer created a maintainence headache. But above all, my answer for why people believed was leading me to an unsettling conclusion: people believed in religion to discriminate against others and get ahead in life, albeit unconsciously. The arguments for belief were just a conscious smokescreen for that discrimination, which made a book devoted to them seem useless.

In hindsight, I was also getting cynical about the atheist community. The odd beliefs of the devout seemed far less shocking when I started running into skeptics who doubted climate change and couldn’t wrap their heads around consent. Atheists could pick apart the finer details of the Watchmaker argument, yet struggle to understand feminism. Believing in nonsense seemed to be a fundamental part of being human, and wouldn’t go away if every religious person deconverted. The revelation took more wind out of my sails, and seeded a complex set of feelings about the skepto-atheist community.

If I seem somewhat dour, take heart. Proof of God also led me to some novel atheist apologetics, which I quietly continue to pursue. The introduction and conclusion we’re the first time I expressed those ideas in writing. I’m proud of other chapters too, and several years ago vowed to blog them should I wind up on FtB.

Well, here I am. And here it is, in small bits twice weekly. To make random access easier, my next post in the series will be a table of contents that’s updated as I go.