the faith hope

an ongoing exploration of a thankless subject

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Location: Adelaide, Australia

Founding secretary of the Urbane Society for Sceptical Romantics, a club I take very seriously indeed.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

the wearisome battle continues

Would it be necessary to refute the 'twenty compelling evidences' and the massive quantity of other texts and arguments justifying god's existence before attempting to understand why gods are invented? The task might seem impossible due to the sheer volume of justifications out there. However, any inspection of these 'evidences' or justifications will uncover a lot of repetition and rhetoric, and little argument worthy of the name.

Again using the method of googling keywords, this time 'evidence existence god' I'll comment on on the first website to appear, which again is a Christian website.

The first paragraph of the site is interesting, as it runs counter to my remarks in the last para of my last post:

Does God exist? I find it interesting that so much attention is given to this debate. The latest surveys tell us that over 90% of people in the world today believe in the existence of God or some higher power. Yet, somehow the responsibility is placed on those who believe God does exist to somehow prove that He really does exist. To me, I think it should be the other way around.

I won't question the percentage mentioned above. I also recall reading, in Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate, that the majority of Americans believe that the miracles described in the Bible actually happened, and that a very small percentage of Americans believe that evolution provides a convincing account of life on our planet. The majority believe that god created humans in their present form (that is, that humans didn't evolve at all).

The truth of a proposition can't be a matter of popular vote, for then science could never get off the ground and there'd be no need to investigate anything. Suppose there are two conflicting views about the shape of the Earth, with two thirds of the people believing that the Earth is flat and plate-shaped, the other third believing that it's more or less spherical. According to the above argument, the onus would be on the minority to provide the evidence to refute the majority view. Why? Wouldn't it be better to test the evidence? Through a rigorous process, science has arrived at a coherent account of the physical world, an account that would've been inconceivable to people living at the time the Bible was written, an account, in fact, that a vast majority of the people currently inhabiting the Earth don't believe in, largely because they're not even aware of it.

The issue, to me, isn't about which side should provide the proof. It's rather about justification of all beliefs, whether positive or negative.

It may be that none of our beliefs can ultimately be justified, and so we should stop worrying and just live. That might be one interpretation of Hume's remark about reason being a mere tool of our passions. The fact is, though, we're obsessed with justification, even if we're not much good at it. We're destined - at least some of us - to go on worrying about why we have particular political views, and whether they're truly justified, just as we worry about a perceived lack of justification for the views of others, whether in politics, science, aesthetics or whatever.

The mentioned website goes on to give extremely summary accounts of the arguments for god's existence, ontological, cosmological, teleological and moral, but I surmise that he's not much interested in any of these, being already convinced. He prefers this sort of argument:

People claim to not believe in God because it is “not scientific” or “because there is no proof.” The true reason is that once people admit that there is a God, they also must realize that they are responsible to God and in need of forgiveness from God (Romans 3:23; 6:23). If God exists, then we are accountable for our actions to Him. If God does not exist, then we can do whatever we want without having to worry about God judging us. I believe that is why evolution is so strongly clung to by many in our society - to give people an alternative to believing in a Creator God. God exists and ultimately everyone knows that He exists. The very fact that some attempt so aggressively to disprove His existence is in fact an argument for His existence.

This, again, connects the Judeo-Christian belief system with that of the North Koreans. Key to the popularity of both is the 'Great Leader' to whom they must be devoted and accountable, who watches over them, looks after them and judges them. They're part of his family, and they enjoy the fellowship of other family members, bonded as they are by their devotion to him. The mockery and disdain of others is somehow further proof of the Great Leader's bounty and perfection.

Do people detect traces of contempt in my wondering about religious belief? A smug superiority? An underlying positivism, a la Richard Dawkins? This might be worth exploring further.


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