I can't even render a guess on how many Internet videos I've watched over the years showing atheists and people of faith debating God's existence. Each side always offers some compelling and some not so compelling evidence; but no matter which way the conversation goes, both sides steadfastly stand their ground without managing to influence the other one iota. I'm especially amused by those videos that claim, just in their title alone, to have articulated one particular argument that unequivocally crushes the other side with a powerful use of words or incontrovertible facts. Only after watching do I learn it's just another chimera.
While I love those supposedly infallible arguments, I still find myself taking neither side, regardless of how many videos I've watched. To be clear, I'm confident in God's existence and believed in Him even before I spoke to the spirits. I can't explain how I knew but for a very palpable feeling, one that simultaneously provided me with the understanding that organized religious movements are not a natural spiritual path. One that atheists would regard as a falsity triggered by my mind. One that religions would urge me to embrace so I could become part of what they considered the only truth. So where does this all leave me? With strong, immutable feelings that I've had personally confirmed, yet still stuck in the middle between religiosity and atheism with no allies to speak of.
People of faith will say that while it's swell I believe in God's existence, my ways are in conflict with the teachings of their religious book. Atheists, on the other hand, agree with my views on evolution, yet refuse to accept any arguments demonstrating God's existence. Why even bother with these petty arguments anyway? Why this constant need to prove which side is right and which is wrong? I know this will never stop. I, for one, would love to have my beliefs left alone; I believe whatever I want to believe and you do the same. So why not leave religion and atheism be? After all, they have the freedom to do as they please, right?
Unfortunately, it's not that simple. We can't stop the argument until some serious changes are made. Why? Consider the following scenario. If you were to erase your own belief in God, including all your discoveries and experiences, who would you side with? Religion or atheism?
Admittedly, I would choose to join the ranks of atheism for a few simple reasons. First, I can't accept the argument that one book written long ago holds all the answers as well as evidence to dismiss irrefutable scientific discoveries made by people around the world. Second, I can't bring myself to realize God's plan for us through the constraints of one book, one way, one path, where my sense of reality says otherwise. Third, I can't agree with a religious system that emphatically forces itself on others.
I know I'm going to hear a lot from religious followers on how faith was never forced upon them and how they take part in their religion by their own free will. Regardless, they can't deny the effect past and present actions have had on advancing religions to their current state. Past actions include Emperor Constantine the Great's conversion to Christianity, the Crusades, the Inquisition by the Roman Catholic Church, and the spread of Islam through violent jihad. Current actions include the constant fear each religion puts in the hearts of its followers, all of which are subconsciously rooted deep within since birth, such as the mythical hell that awaits if they do not comply with the religion's established rules.
If you still find it surprising that, under this hypothetical scenario, I would side with the atheists, consider another argument. There are those who excuse the atrocities of the past (and present), particularly those killed because of a refusal to convert or the forced conversion of those who fear dying, as some master plan devised by a merciful, loving and omnipotent God. If that's true, I'd rather have no God. Although atheism shuts the door on God, it still provides an adequate opening to a path of discovery.
That all said, I'm quite glad I don't have to join the ranks of either side. I've found my path and the God I've come to know. So then, back to the original question: Why should we not stop the debate? Why must we change the status quo? Because the established belief systems infringe on every aspect of our lives. Because powerful religious movements dictate to government how we must behave and act. Because there are still places on earth where people like me are prosecuted and killed for their beliefs. Because my beliefs are mine to keep. Because "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
My mother taught me to respect all religions and beliefs, no matter how different they are from mine, and I think it's time for the whole world to embrace such thinking as well.