I am the only authority to which my mind is subject. I would argue that this is also true for everyone, in a practical sense. No matter which god you may believe in, your ultimate authority is your own mind and your own senses.
In social contracts such as morality, government, and business, there are necessarily relationships in which some people have authority over the actions of others. We have such relationships because they help us maintain a more orderly society, but they do not extend beyond actions.
People often claim that I will be tortured for infinite time if I don’t submit my mind to their god’s authority, but what authority does he really have if I’ve never interacted with him? The concept of authority necessarily involves interactions between people, but as far as I’m aware, my private thoughts have never interacted with another sentient being.
I’d like to meet this god and find out why he’s so mad at the awkward naked apes he created despite knowing that they’d sin and cause infinite suffering…and despite being perfectly capable of creating people who would freely choose not to sin (unless he isn’t omnipotent).
If something that is done intentionally increases suffering, and the perpetrator knows it will increase suffering, we call that thing wrong. In the case of the Christian god who offers an eternal hell for unbelievers, his actions would have increased the overall amount of suffering from zero to literally infinite. He would be directly and knowingly responsible for the eternal suffering of huge numbers of sentient beings. And not because of anything they may have done in their lives, but merely because they didn’t think a specific god was real.
There is no defense for this, especially when the only evidence for the god being proposed is an ancient book of myths, which offers nothing valuable that hadn’t already been contributed by other religions and legal systems predating it, some by millennia. There are numerous religions with equal evidence as Christianity; that is, they all have old books.
So I devised a simple way to test whether the claimed god is real: I want to meet him.
In the case of the Christian god, this should be simple. I should be able to interact with this god in a way that can be verified as real. When we interact socially, we are obtaining direct sensory information. We can double-check our experiences against the experiences of other people to help us verify if the phenomena we observe are likely to be objectively true. It also helps to be able to reliably detect, measure, and record them.
Recently I was called a fool for rejecting the “truth of God”. This arrogant dismissal of everything I have to say as “foolishness” must be based on an unstated assumption that their god is somehow a self-evident truth, but I’ve never met him.
One of the most important moments of my deconversion happened a couple years ago, when I was struggling with serious mental issues related to a couple undesirable symptoms of autism. I felt severely isolated, and suffered daily from a fight-or-flight response dialed up so high that I felt physically sick and exhausted from the constant barrage of anxiety. I was still a Christian at that point.
One lonely day, I invented a complex personality very different from me and interacted with it for a few days. The resulting friendship with a figment of my imagination was far more vivid and had a much greater long-term impact than any previous mental experience that I thought was a god. I asked it questions and it answered. I asked it about religion; it was agnostic. It felt just like meeting a new friend.
I have always had a strong imagination. It’s most powerful with audio; I instinctively memorize and mentally replay complex pieces of music in such clear detail that I feel like I’m actually hearing it. I invent new music almost every day, and sometimes I write it down or improvise (click here to hear some improv). When I write fiction, I often struggle to visualize the scene but I hear dialogue as unique and seemingly audible voices, which is why I tend to write stories heavy in conversation.
I always was and still am aware that my fictional person with a detailed life and a unique personality was an invention of my own mind. So were the experiences that I thought were god. As far as I am aware, I have never interacted mentally with any other sentient being. I have only interacted with them physically.
My thoughts are not subject to any authority beyond me because no other sentient being is capable of interacting with my thoughts (though this may change in the future thanks to technology). Unfortunately for the Christian god, there doesn’t seem to be any way to physically observe or interact with him, thus he has as much authority to claim my allegiance as Allah or Zeus.
Image: The Human Connectome Project