There's Probably No God.

The photo in this post is of a piece of graffiti I pass on my way to my studio every morning. Every time I see it, I chuckle. I love how undecided it is, while being so dogmatic. I find statements of religious ambiguity to be the most honest statements that can be made about the whole concept of higher powers. Because no one actually knows.

And so, as with most things that make me chuckle, I decided to share it. I posted it as my cover photo on Facebook, and for the most part, people liked and laughed.

But I got some email... Oh boy, did I get some email. And I think it's most telling that no one on Facebook got up in arms over it publicly -- probably because there tends to be a pile-on effect when people post contrary things on my statuses.

Of the 7 messages I got about being offended or angry about my posting a photo with a "stance on God", one email in particular really stung. It was from a very long time reader, who at one point lauded my "How to Actually Talk To Atheists (If You're Christian)" article. I won't share it here, because I just don't feel it's appropriate, but the gist is that she always thought I was tolerant of other faiths until she saw that photo, and she decided to never read me again.

That's her choice. And I respect that she has the right to make it. But I think that it's heavy handed, mostly because I didn't state there is no God, nor did I post a photo stating that.

The sentiment shared here is not that there isn't a God. The idea is that, in terms of odds based on current information, there probably isn't one. It's a theory based on the fact that there is not only a ton of evidence that points to the fact that a creator did not in fact create us, but that there isn't enough evidence to refute that concept.

You cannot prove there is a God, and meanwhile, many people can provide many fact and evidence based reasons why there isn't one.

It's the White Raven paradox, as explained by William Poundstone in Labyrinths of Reason (which, by the way, is one of my favorite books ever -- it's free on Google Books from the link I posted, and if you're even barely interested in logic, reason and paradoxes, you should tear through that book at lightning speed).

The general gist: Say that you believe that all ravens are black. Every black raven you see reinforces your statement. You've never seen any other color raven, so the more black ravens you see, the more valid your point.

Let's say that over the course of 30 years, you've seen a raven a day, every day. 10957 ravens have passed your field of vision, across as many days. And every single day for 30 years, you say to yourself, "Yep, another black raven. Every raven is black."

Then one day, on the 10958th day, you see a white raven. Boom -- 30 years of evidence is thrown out the window. The idea is that it doesn't matter how much evidence you pile up, one bad sample will invalidate the entire theory.

That's the statement on the wall. There's probably no God. Based on the evidence, it's 100% correct. There probably isn't.  Also based on the evidence, there's probably no way to travel at light speed. There's probably no cure for cancer. There's probably no way for a human to land on Mars. There's probably no white ravens.

And yet, there are white ravens:

Well, there's one "probably" blown out of the water. Just like the probability there wouldn't be a black President of the United States, there would be no way to carry the entire internet in your pocket, or the idea that there'd even be an internet in the first place. History is built on every new plateau where someone thought "probably" a thing that just happened couldn't happen.

That's what beliefs do to you when you allow them to cap off the vents of thought. They stagnate you. They stop you. I always go back to a quote I read on the inside of a Tool album cover: "Beliefs are dangerous. Beliefs allow the mind to stop functioning. A non-functioning mind is clinically dead. Believe in nothing…"

Except I don't. I can't believe in nothing. I'm not a robot. No one is. But I temper every belief I have with that sentiment, such that I remember always it's something I believe, not something I know. I believe my wife is at work right now and not cheating on me with a bread delivery guy. I have faith in our vows and her love for me, or else we wouldn't be married.  I believe I won't get into a car wreck every single time I get behind the wheel. I have faith in my abilities not only to pilot my own vehicle, but that everyone has at least a modicum of ability to pilot theirs, or else I wouldn't drive. I believe I will be mauled and eaten by tigers if I approach them, which is why I don't approach them.

Faith is the dotted line between two points of fact, where no fact exists. You base a connection to another point on the conclusions drawn from other factors. When that conclusion is drawn from logic, it's not so great a leap. But when it's drawn from emotion, it's a crapshoot whether or not it's even remotely right.

The idea that God will smite you if you don't go to church on Sunday is drawn from at least 100 other factors, most if not all of them based on ceremony and emotional delusion. First, you have to believe there is a God. Second, you have to believe this God created you. Third, you have to believe this God has within it the desire to subjugate its creations. Fourth, you have to believe in the concept that there is a Sunday mandated by this God, and not by the math derived by ancient civilizations who govern farming and hibernation seasons based on a pattern. And so on.

Look: if you even remotely understand math, you know that in terms of probability, there's probably no God. And it doesn't matter how much I, or you, or anyone believes there is one, there probably isn't. And yet, I still have my beliefs. And so do you. And so does everyone, regardless of how analytical their mind. Because there's no way to prove there is or isn't a God. But we work from the evidence we're given.

The difference between me (and, I presume, tons of others) and people who blindly state there is or isn't  a God: I acknowledge that my feeling there is a higher power and a higher consciousness is a BELIEF. I don't know there is a God just because I think there's something beyond the here and now. I just feel something greater than myself. And just because you feel something doesn't make it so. And I cannot say that there isn't a God, because to prove there is no God requires an amount of evidence humankind is incapable of gathering. But of all the data we have gathered throughout the whole of human civilization, every single religious phenomenon ever witnessed, written about or conceived has some basis in either science or deception (illusions, Michael!).

And every single raven I've ever seen personally is black. But in the big huge world outside my particular field of vision, there exists white ravens. Outside your field of vision exists possibilities you've never considered, because they "probably" don't exist.

Challenge your beliefs, always -- otherwise, how can you know why you believe them, much less if they're worth believing? Who the hell walks on a frozen lake without at least testing if the ice will hold their weight?

Idiots, that's who. Usually cold and shivering idiots, at that.