I stopped believing in God

"Whoever believes it will be happy!": This is what some people say when they find something absolutely unbelievable. Belief, it is said, is actually something absurd. After all, 71 percent of people in the old federal states still believe in the existence of God.

In the new federal states it is only 30 percent, among the 20 to 50-year-olds only one in six. According to an internet source, 3.5 million people have lost faith in God in the past five years.

It seems to have gone out of fashion, and many believe that if you use your mind, you can't believe at all. This is of course nonsense, because there are many very intelligent people who believe in God. Just like there are stupid atheists.

And vice versa: stupid believers and intelligent atheists. It certainly does not depend on intelligence whether a person believes in God or not. But how did something like belief in a higher being, in God come about? Who "invented" religion? Where does she come from?

Where the origins of religion lie

Belief of the prehistoric men? Of course, we cannot answer this question exactly. But we can say that from the very earliest beginnings of mankind, people were religious. Wherever the paleoanthropologists, i.e. the researchers who research the prehistory of mankind, came across traces of humans, they found not only weapons, tools and leftover food but also evidence of religious activity, of belief in some powers that are greater than us People.

This religious belief of the primitive man had a lot to do with the everyday life of these people; we can partly study this on the few peoples and tribes that still live in the Stone Age today. The religion of these people is called "animism", from the Latin word "anima", soul. This religion assumes that everything is animated, every plant, every animal, every place, every stone. Everything has a soul, everything has consciousness. You can connect with anything. Yes, everything is connected with everything.

That is why, for example, a cave drawing that shows a hunting scene helps with a real hunt. That is why a shaman can transform himself into his totem animal. Everything is connected with everything, that is the conviction that is present in all simple and in many highly developed religions. Everything is alive. Everything is animated, imbued with spirit, with an invisible presence.

Knowing God in nature

A few weeks ago I was in Namibia, on a farm, and when the nights were clear, there was an overwhelming spectacle in the sky: the air there is very dry and therefore transparent, there are no street lamps and therefore no stray light, and when the moon is was not in the sky, the stars could be seen in the sky with an incredible clarity, density and beauty.

Just looking at this, I think, is enough for many people to get an idea that our little human life is not everything - that there is a greater power, a creator, a world spirit, whatever.

When Paul writes in Romans that all people could know God by his works, he is starting from exactly this observation: Nature is so great that it points to a great Creator.

Existential question about death

In addition to this experience of the great outdoors, everyone faces a problem: death. What about a person who dies? A moment ago he was still alive, breathing, able to speak, move, and now it is irrevocably over. He will never move again, never speak again, nothing more to eat or drink, nothing visible has changed in the process. He just stopped breathing.

The idea is obvious, yes it is almost inevitable, that something is no longer there that was there before, a force that moved and animated him.

And what will become of it? This power cannot simply have disappeared. So those who stayed behind think to themselves: This power has left people and has gone elsewhere. Thus, at the same time as human consciousness, the conviction arises that humans have a soul that will outlast their death. It goes to the other ancestors and it can continue to work. That's why you have to please your ancestors.

One god or several gods?

This is how religion comes about, viewed historically. The more people's consciousness develops, the more differentiated the picture becomes. The many, many spirits that populate every tree and every spring become gods with their own responsibilities: Poseidon or Neptune for the seas, Ares or Mars for war, Aphrodite or Venus for love and so on.

But these gods have moved further away. You can be present anywhere and are no longer tied to specific locations, mountains, trees or springs.

And finally, in all religions, when they reach a certain stage of development, there is a tendency to believe in only one single divine power, which may manifest itself in different forms. Ultimately, however, there is a god behind all goddesses and gods. Socrates was one of the first to think of this idea in the West.

But also in Hinduism with its many main gods and millions of secondary gods, the thought is widespread that these gods and goddesses are expressions of the one god. So, to use the technical terms, the tendency goes from animism to polytheism to monotheism.

People of Israel with first monotheism

The people of Israel were the first to express theoretical monotheism, that is, the idea that there is only one God at all. Around the year 550 BC, during the Babylonian exile, a prophet wrote: "Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I am the first and I am the last, and besides me there is none God "(Isaiah 44: 6).

That was an unheard of thought at the time, and in Israel, too, it had never occurred to anyone to simply deny the existence of other gods. Until then, the prevailing belief in Israel was that Israel only had this one God, the other peoples had other gods. Their existence was not denied, but Israel was only allowed to worship this one God.

Christianity finds its character and content in Jesus

For Jesus there was only one God, whom he called his Father. For the followers of Jesus and for the first Christian communities, however, the following applied: In this person Jesus from Nazareth, God showed himself what he really is.

Christian faith arises not from the great starry sky, not from the seemingly animated trees and springs, not from speculation about what inspires people and leaves them in death, but from the encounter with Jesus Christ, in whom God reveals himself.

For this reason, the Swiss theologian Karl Barth has even denied that Christianity is a religion. Even if we do not want to follow this radical approach, it should be noted that the Christian faith is based on the life, death and resurrection of the historical, unique person Jesus from Nazareth.

The basis of our faith is not a general human, religious feeling, but the encounter with this Jesus Christ. It is through them that the religious feeling that Christians share with other believers gains its intensification, its content and its truth.