Seek And You Will Find

Bordeaux ObservatoryI have been debating on Fallen & Flawed again. This time myself and a couple of other skeptics have become engrossed in a long conversation with guest poster Rob, who has shown considerable determination to answer our questions and protests, despite moving house over the past few days. I expect he is a competent juggler too.

My most recent comment became so long that I thought it worth making an entire post out of it. It’s also a theme that I’ve heard before but never directly addressed. The quote below is Rob touching on a subject of some interest to me, that of divine concealment. (Unsurprisingly we’d deviated significantly from the topic by this point).

I personally find myself not seeking Him more than Him hiding from me. Something about if you seek you will find.

I think I understand what Rob is saying. If he believes something with certainty, it must look like laziness or stubbornness on the part of non-believers not to see what seems so obvious to him. However, I think there are some problems with the claim “seek and you will find”.

Firstly, many atheists have spent a good deal of time seeking and never finding anything more than our own feelings, fellowship of others – nothing that could fairly be called “God”. That’s why we ended up atheists. A few of us have never believed nor tried to, but most have given at least one religion a go. To the believer perhaps this means they “Weren’t truly seeking”, but to me it shows that “seek and you will find” is often false.

Secondly, this kind of justification can be used for pretty much any belief system.

Imagine you’re a Sihk who is doubting their path. Perhaps the Sikh religion is an interesting idea with some worthwhile moral lessons, but also falsehoods and irrelevancies that can put unnecessary divisions between people when they disagree on points of doctrine. Another Sikh gives this advice.

“At the end of the day, Guru, Shri Guru Granth Sahib [Sikh holy book] is the door to Waheguru [God/Wonderful Teacher].”

Muslim woman at prayerWhat if you’re a Muslim who isn’t feeling Allah’s love? Maybe Allah isn’t there at all? No, apparently you’ve just got to take the time to study harder.

Say you’ve tried Buddhism, but you’re struggling with meditation and still experiencing a life of suffering.  Perhaps Buddhism is not the answer to everything? No, apparently you’re just not doing it right. Obviously it’s because you still have an incorrect understanding of your own person and have not yet eliminated the negative actions which are affecting your Karma.

You’re not trying hard enough

The same thing seems to happen with prayer. When it doesn’t work this can’t, for some reason, be counted as evidence against the chosen deity, despite what the Bible says. No, when it doesn’t work it’s not that the god simply isn’t there. It’s because you’re doing it wrong in some way. I’ve already covered why I think intercessory prayer is a ridiculous idea, so I won’t get started on that again.

Now, I’m not saying that the near-universal, “It’s your fault” response to religious failures is necessarily wrong. If there’s anything to these world views it’s perfectly possible that people are just not getting it right.

My point is that it is definitely not the only possible explanation and to suggest otherwise indicates bias.

However, it is a very convenient explanation and, as we’ve seen above, it’s a great way to justify something whenever the evidence contradicts your claim. It’s like a Joker/Get out of jail free card that religious believers of all stripes can deploy when their claims fail.

The Zealots Of Open-Source

uce-desktop1It’s about time I owned up to being a zealot and an evangelist… for open-source software. I’ve been using Ubuntu Linux as my main OS for about 4 years now along with Firefox for web browsing and OpenOffice for all that tedious work stuff. I’ve even managed to convert my technophobic mother to using Ubuntu, which ensures she doesn’t end up with viruses or other malware.

Now one of the benefits of open source software is choice and the ability to customise everything. As a result, there have recently been a number of religiously-reworked Ubuntu distributions created for and by people with particular beliefs. This started three years ago with the released of Ubuntu Christian Edition (CE). This includes custom wallpaper, bible study program GnomeSword and a filter to block unsavoury web content. In other respects it works exactly like your plain vanilla Ubuntu, just with Jesus lording it over your desktop. The people involved mesh their theology with open source philosophy via Matthew 10, “Freely ye have received, freely give”, showing that the Bible really can be used to justify anything. Sadly Ubuntu CE has now been discontinued so that its authors could pursue another religiously themed project that judging by the merchandising will be a lot more lucrative.

Not to be outdone, open-source zealots who are also followers of Islam have brought out their own ubuntu-mecustomised distro – Sabily. Again it has a custom theme, Islamic calendar, prayer time reminders and even a console that allows users to type from right to left for that Arabic feel.

Previously nothing more than a rather unfriendly joke, there now seems to be a genuine Jewish edition of Ubuntu, cleverly named Jewbuntu.

However, those with darker philosophies, a taste for the ironic, or simply a desire to wind up Christians, there’s “Linux for the damned”, Ubuntu Satanic Edition. ubuntu-seThis comes with a suitably dark, malevolent desktop theme and a collection of free metal music. Judging by some of the comments it has generated, Ubuntu SE has already succeeded in getting on the wick of some uptight believers, although it’s not clear if they are disgruntled Satanists who are complaining that it’s not the “right” kind of Satan worship, or Christians on a mission to save the damned.

So what about atheists? With all this choice, surely there is an Ubuntu distribution for us? Well, not really. The nearest thing is probably Buddhabuntu, which predictably caters for Buddhists and includes AI software for machine learning, so your PC can become enlightened too.

Choices

The main complaint about these distros is that there’s very little additional content to justify burning an entire CD. The same effects could be achieved by adding the desired programs and themes to an ordinary Ubuntu install with little hassle.

On the other hand, I’m all for choice, be it philosophically or in software. I think in both cases the majority of people are sadly ignorant of the vast choices that are available to them. Instead they tend to stick to what they know and never explore outside their comfort zone. If these distros encourage religious people to “get” open source, then that’s all to the good in my opinion. Plus, actually taking the time to read their holy books is one of the major factors in many people’s de-conversion, so Bible or Qu’ran verses poping up on people’s screens may have edifying consequences.

How about you? Are you a fan of open source? Are they any religiously-themed distros that I’ve missed?