I WANT TO BELIEVE HIM
After many months of this, I thought, "Here are the people who say they believe in God, but no one knows why!" It became obvious that God was completely fabricated. Maybe some people needed to believe in God but clearly there was no proof. No objective evidence. I came to the most stark conclusion...God did not actually exist.
I WANT TO BELIEVE HIM
I held this belief for years, not expecting it to ever change. But then I met someone who caused me to become interested in the possibility of God. She was caring, kind, and very intelligent. It bothered me that someone that intelligent could believe in God.
So, I wanted to believe in God on one hand, because I admired her life and her love for others. But I couldn't believe in something against my intellect, against my better judgment. God did not exist. A nice idea, but that was all. Wanting something to be true, doesn't make it true.
I was challenging my friend with every question that came to mind about God. I would find myself writing out questions late in the evening. This went on for well over a year. One day she handed me a book1 that briefly answered questions like, is there a God; is Jesus God; what about the Bible. It presented facts. No comments like, "you have to believe."
And I immediately knew she was right. I was playing around with a very important decision. So I went home and decided that I was going to decide. I was going to either believe in God or I was going to end the subject forever and never allow myself to consider the possibility of God again. I was tired of dealing with this decision. I was tired of thinking about it.
After a few hours of thought I addressed God, "Ok you win. I ask you to come into my life, and you may do with it whatever you'd like." (It seemed reasonable to me, that since God exists, God had every right to influence and direct my life, if he wanted to.)
The next morning I still had tons of questions, but now they were about God. I felt I had just taken the first step and now wanted to get to know this God in whom I now believed. How does God view our lives? What does he value? What does he want me to know about him?
In the same way, the objective reality of God--the logical, historical, scientific reasons to believe in his existence, are important to me. There are people who don't seem to need that. But I hate being fooled, and I have little regard for wishful thinking. The substantiating reasons for God's existence mattered to me.
So I got out a piece of paper and pen, and asked God: "Just tell me what you want me to do, and I'll do it." I was fully prepared for shouldering 100% responsibility, and was basically asking God to just set the priorities, tell me how to approach it all, and I would.
I read it again. Jesus asked: "What do you want me to do for you?" Rather amazed, I picked up my pen and began writing an entirely different list of concerns that I would like God to act on. This, I have found, is characteristic of God. Reminding us that he is there. That he cares, he's capable and he wanted me to rely on him.
This isn't something I learned from other Christians. It's just how my relationship with God operates. I ask a question, with an attitude that I really want to give him freedom to tell me whatever he wants to....to correct my thinking, to point out an area in my life that isn't right, to show me where I'm not trusting him, whatever. And he always graciously speaks to me.
2. Similarly, when I need direction for a decision, he gives it. I believe that God cares about our decisions. I believe he has a plan for our lives, that he cares about who I marry, what kind of job I have, and some decisions smaller than that. I don't believe he cares what toothpaste I buy or lots of mundane decisions. But decisions that will affect my life or what he wants to accomplish through my life...I think he cares.
Because the pathogen first emerged in Wuhan, China, President Donald Trump and others have claimed, without evidence, that it started in a lab there, and some conspiracy theorists believe it was engineered as a bioweapon.
Why People Believe It: Initial reports suggested hydroxychloroquine might be a potentially promising drug, and people are most likely to believe the first things they learn about a topic, a phenomenon called anchoring bias. And because Trump has repeatedly claimed that the drug is effective, his supporters may be more likely to believe reports that confirm their views rather than those that challenge them.
Why People Believe It: They want to get back to normal life, and without a widely available COVID-19 vaccine, the only way to achieve herd immunity is to let a substantial number of people get sick. Some have speculated that we may have already achieved herd immunity, but population-based antibody studies have shown that even the hardest-hit regions are far from that threshold.
"If mere pretense is enough, why can't we just decide to see our lives as meaningful in the first place, and skip the positing of god in whom we don't really believe."It seems to me that it would be a lot more natural to imagine that a meaningful fiction is true than to imagine that an objectively meaningless universe has a meaning.Pretending that there is a god on the Christian model, e.g., gives you all sorts of contentful meaning built in (my life is significant in the eyes of an awesome eternal being, "I" and those I love will not be annihilated at death, etc.). This kind of pretense seems at least natural to me; I can relate to a fictional story like that.Whereas pretending there is godless meaning of life without actually giving content to what that meaning is supposed to be is so narratively unnatural as to be meaningless. Fiction is supposed to have a point, and if the universe is by narrative stipulation pointless, I can't imagine what it would mean to pretend that the universe as described has a point, or a meaning. (For one, if you could give a narratively compelling account of its putatively fictional meaning, then by my way of thinking you would have described the actual meaning!)
Perhaps, finally, the only place where god need exist is within the person, as phenomenology. If one believes, life long, subsequent to a history of rearing, education and religious practices, the experience and presence of god may be well established within the person, if only as canalized brain processes. Then as life ends one may be truely with god...and perhaps even have a beatific vision in the final moments. For example, it is reasonable to speculate that Pope John Paul was with god as consciousness faded into death.I'm reminded of this passage from Wittgenstein's Tractatus: "6.4311 Death is not an event of life. Death is not lived through. If by eternity is understood not endless temporal duration but timelessness, then he lives eternally who lives in the present. Our life is endless in the way that our visual field is without limit."Subsequent to a well established history of faith and belief, being with god in life or eternity is forever present, if only in a final moment, when "Death is not lived through."
Hey Ken,Here are a few comments from a believer?s point of view drawing from what has been called recently ?Reformed Epistemology? (i.e. Plantinga, Alston, & Wolterstorff).It certainly seems correct to say that most believers do not believe in the existence of God based on reasoned arguments (or evidence). They may have a ?reason? in the singular sense but believing in God based on an argument is mostly likely uncommon.You say;?As a philosopher, I tend to want my beliefs to be based on either direct experience or reasoned arguments?And I'd like to think that if it were to be decisively settled that some belief of mine could not be so , I would more or less spontaneously surrender that belief, more or less without regret or remorse or wishful thinking of any kind. It seems to me one could and should have much the same attitude toward religious belief.?The general principle then is one ought not to believe in things that are not based on arguments or direct experience. As for the former it seems that this has been shown to be an overly stringent view of rationality. If we have learned anything in our introductory epistemology courses it is that arguments for other minds, induction, the external world, that the world wasn?t created five minutes ago and so on and so on are not knock down winners and the dark shadow of skepticism constantly looms. Still this seems to most to be a problem for those arguments and our need for them not for belief in other minds, etc. If our belief in other minds, etc. is rational then it?s not based on arguments, rather most likely experience (or rather it is a basic belief).The latter then is most likely where I would place belief (rational belief since it seems rationality has extended beyond ?reasoned arguments?) in God, it?s a matter of perception and experience. Your objection here seems to be that the experience is not great enough. That experience is not enough to ?dispel doubt?. This seems arbitrary at best. How much experience is enough to continue on in belief? If there is something else that we have learned in our intro courses its when you find that most of the arguments run out pretty much everything is in the realm of doubt. It seems pretty stringent (Descartes stringent!) to rule out a belief because doubt can still creep up.As for pure faith, the ?I believe because its ridiculous?, it seems to me that the fideists were trying to get to something like rational belief based not on reasoned arguments but on experience and that has been the project, to a large degree, of Reformed Epistemology. I think Pascal, Kierkegaard, and Turtullian would have liked Plantinga and his cohorts.One last point. You say;? And I'd like to think that if it were to be decisively settled that some belief of mine could not be so , I would more or less spontaneously surrender that belief, more or less without regret or remorse or wishful thinking of any kind. It seems to me one could and should have much the same attitude toward religious belief.?This seems unlikely, if this standard is held I would love to hear your arguments for belief in other minds, induction, the external world, that the world wasn?t created five minutes ago. Assuming you?re not a solipsist I doubt you would cease to believe in your loved ones if your arguments were refuted. Most likely your belief in other minds is based on experience and perception. What if, like your account of the experience of God, that experience just isn?t good enough. Who gets to say that? Especially when all of the evidence or arguments for other minds, etc. probably just aren?t good enough to dispel doubt. Again this doesn?t so much seem like a problem for your beliefs in ?other minds, induction, the external world, that the world wasn?t created five minutes ago?, instead it seems it?s a problem for your views on rationality.