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.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


same as the old world ....

The vast majority of people on our planet believe that there is a god or set of gods, or some sort of supernatural force that affects their lives. That these gods, spirits, forces are part of life, even creative of life, and can be influenced by our own thoughts and behaviour. Most people believe this, regardless of evidence. Why?

I've just googled three words - why believe god - to see what crops up. Unsurprisingly, the first link is to a Christian site, as are five of the eight links on the first screen.

This first link tries to help young Christians find justifications for belief when confronted with such claims as 'evolution disproves god'.

The first argument put is that humans have a longing for something beyond themselves. Ecclesiastes 3:11 states:

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (NIV)

This yearning for eternity, and the sense of a vast gulf between human spacial and temporal smallness and the universe's amplitude, was powerfully evoked by Blaise Pascal, who wrote of a 'god-shaped vacuum' in every human being.

Of course, the existence of such longing, our desire to be so much more than what we are - exhibited from an early age, when children invest themselves with magical powers, superhuman strength and an ability to 'come alive again' at will - doesn't constitute any sort of proof in the existence of deities, even if it points to something psychologically vital in what I call 'the faith hope'. All the other arguments on this web site - that it's impossible for life to have arisen by chance, that the Big Bang provides proof of a creator god, that universal moral law also provides proof of a universal creator, that god showed his love for us and closeness to us by making his own son just like one of us - are contestable, to say the very least. In fact, the arguments of most theists - insofar as they engage in argument - are almost invariably as inept as their faith is strong. For this reason, it seems pretty obvious that 'the faith hope' can't be understood in terms of reason and evidence. Better to examine it in terms of culture and psychology.

We know that there are whole nations, especially in the Islamic world, where non-belief is simply not an option. Non-belief, in such nations, may place an individual in mortal danger, but it's rarely an issue as it wouldn't occur to people there not to believe. Is there something inherent in Islam that gives it such compelling force, or is it more of a cultural phenomenon? Think of North Korea, nominally an atheist nation. Its Great Leader, Kim Il Sung, is, to all intents and purposes, a god, lending credence to the instant deification of ancient Roman Emperors, and any criticism of him would meet, in that country, a fate more deadly than that of a cartoonist of Mohammad. It's true that this uniformity of belief and worship is orchestrated from above (and was carefully manipulated by Kim Il Sung during his lifetime), but it's also true that the emotion that swirls around the Great Leader, and his Dear Successor, is powerful and genuine. The North Koreans, almost to a person, must be counted amongst the world's Faithful.


Blogger Stewart said...

Thought I'd comment to see if it works

10:21 PM  
Blogger Stewart said...

Thought I'd comment to see if it works

10:22 PM  

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