Pardon the double post (please read that one before this one if you haven’t noticed it was there), but I kind of promised this post in the last one. Besides, nobody has answered the other post yet, and it had slipped almost to page 2.
A little different perspective on the whole “God” thing
First, an analogy.
Let’s say that one evening, to get where you have to go in a reasonable time, you have to take a short cut through an old and very large graveyard. It’s late, maybe near midnight, and ragged clouds keep letting the moon peek out for a moment then disappear into darkness. It’s late enough in the year that the trees are bare and the branches look like bony hands clawing at you. A wind is gusting, making muffled howls and coming and going from different directions, making the trees, white papers, and various other unidentified objects move suddenly and unpredictably.
So you’re feeling a knot in your stomach and getting really jumpy, especially when something moves on the periphery of your vision. Then you say, “This is nuts. I am a 21st century man of reason and science, and there are no ghosts, zombies, or spooks.”
That’s what faith is like for me. It’s holding on to what I decided I believe during what I consider to be my saner moments, even when what I see and hear around me, and even what I feel inside is telling me different. It’s kind of like the word “faith” in the sense that it is used in the phrase “to keep faith” with someone, or to “be faithful”. It’s not blindly believing something contrary to facts; it’s just not being fickle.
What we have repeatedly demonstrated in our many debates on this subject is that logic, history, science, all these are inconclusive on the subject of g/God in general, and of the God of the Bible specifically. Sure, from time to time some young Christian fresh from his evangelistic Bible study will start a thread like “Logic dictates…”, and frequently the atheists will talk like “Christians must be ignorant to believe…”, but when pressed we both end up admitting that we can’t prove our position.
What I am saying is that we all actually make our decision whether or not to believe based on something other than reason. Once again, I am not saying “contrary to” reason, just “something else” since reason is inconclusive on the subject. Now the atheists here on the forum will be happy to agree that the Christians and other theists do that, but historically, they have insisted that their decision is still based on reason or logic, and I disagree. The decision not to believe is made on grounds other than reason just as much as the decision to believe is.
The assertion that non-belief is more logical than belief, as far as I can see is related to one or more of two principles: 1. The idea that “you can’t prove a negative”, and 2. The related concepts of “burden of proof” and “Occam’s Razor.”
First let’s deal with the idea that “you can’t prove a negative.” Who says? Actually, that statement is itself a negative, and therefore by its own admission, you can’t know for certain that it is true.
Also, in symbolic logic, if you prove A, you thereby disprove (not A), so if you disprove A, you prove (not A). Actually, proving a negative may be easier than proving a positive. All you have to do is prove the existence of a condition with which A is not compatible, and you have proved (not A).
Here is a kind of weird example. When I was a Kid, I was given for Christmas a puzzle/game called Soma, invented by Danish scientist/philosopher/poet, Piet Hein. Besides making a cube, people make different sculptures with the 7 irregular combinations of cubes.
In the Wicki article about Soma http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soma_cube
it mentions that it has been logically proven that the “T”-shaped piece can only go in one particular place to make the cube. This could be re-stated that no other place that it could go exists – a negative.
Hein’s son, Jotun proved that a particular theorized sculpture, called “The Basalt Rock” was impossible, by means of a pure-logic argument having something to do with alternating black and white cubes. Honestly, being just a kid at the time, I didn’t understand the proof, and I can’t find it on the internet, but here are some other proofs of things being impossible, by aficionados that mention Jotun’s. http://www.fam-bundgaard.dk/SOMA/NEWS/N001203.HTM
Now maybe you can find holes in these particular proofs, but the point is that they show the statement “You can’t prove a negative” to be highly suspect at best and at worst, clearly untrue.
So we move on to the ideas of “Burden of proof” and Occam’s razor. Neither one is really a dictate of logic, but both are ways to deal with uncertainty. They are biases for one kind of assumption over the other based on what kind of results you want to get in the event of that uncertainty.
For example, in the U.S. Court system, supposedly at least, the burden of proof is on the prosecution because it is preferable for many guilty people to be acquitted than for one innocent one to be punished. It is a bias for one kind of assumption, innocence, over the other, because of the kind of results desired, not a way of determining which assumption is more likely.
Occam’s razor, similarly, makes no pretentions of saying that the assumption that satisfies its requirements better is actually more likely or more logical, simply that it is more productive to proceed on, or further examine such an assumption. My son-in-law, a skeptic, tells me that Occam doesn’t work well for physics. He rattled off a list of things, like “dark matter” and one-dimensional “strings” that are the either the prevailing theories or actually proven, but do not conform to the razor at all, being fraught with complications and unanswered questions.
All that is leaving aside the question of whether “It just happened” satisfies the razor better than what I believe does.
So what? I’ve said before that I am not so delusional that I think I’m going to post something and suddenly the atheists on the forum are going to declare, “Oh now I see the light! I now believe in Jesus!” The best I really hope for is that some will say, as at least one already has, “OK it’s not proven either way, so this is what I choose to believe, and not believe.” In a case of exceptional honesty, the person I’m thinking of actually said something like, “I guess the difference is that you want to believe it and I don’t.”
That’s what I’m getting at. I’ve said before that to a large degree the intellect is the whore of the will, telling it what it wants to hear and performing the tricks that it requires. To a large degree, what makes perfect sense to you depends on your preconceptions. Whichever way you choose to believe, the facts fall into place to support it.
A great example is how some have posted as “proof” against the existence of the God of the Bible, pictures of starving children. I see that as proof that what it says in his word is true. He has commanded us to feed the poor and not to store up for ourselves treasures here on earth. He also said that the human race by and large has turned their backs on him and his words, including those who call themselves by his name, and as a result the world is in the hands of the evil one who seeks only to “steal, kill, and destroy”. Imagine if a significant number of us in the economic top 10% of the world started taking his words seriously. So for me a world filled with tragedies caused by selfishness, apathy and cruelty of people is far from proof that the God of the Bible doesn’t exist; it’s evidence that he does. It all depends on your point of view.
God makes his call to the whole person, intellect, will, emotions, desires, etc.; the intellect is not excluded, but it not a majority shareholder. When you hear his call and it starts to make sense to you that he is there, and is worthy of following, the debatable facts fall in place, if not right away, then with some study and examination.
This is a good segue into another issue. Many have mentioned that they couldn’t believe in the God of the Bible because there are many places in it where he seems cruel or unjust. (We could include history, current events, and our own lives, but for the sake of clarity I’ll stick with the Bible here) There are a number of such things that I have come to understand better, and they are actually examples of how wise and good he is. I’m not going to go into them specifically, because part of my point is that for every one of them, there are more that I don’t understand, and still seem cruel or unjust. So you could rightly ask me “Does that answer for this, or for that other case?” and I’d have to answer “No.”
I've come to the conclusion that I have seen His wisdom and goodness in enough things which I have come to understand, that I can trust Him on the ones that I don't. So it's faith, but not "blind faith". Every once in a while, as I study or ponder on them another one gets moved from the "don't understand" pile to the "understand" one. So no. it’s not just “ Oh well, It’s a mystery.”
Once again, God makes his call to the whole person, not just the intellect, and that call is the only thing that is really going to change the heart. My hope is only to use reason to remove stumbling blocks. In other words, when you hear God calling to you, you might say something like “That’s just an unreasonable feeling, or an attempt to not deal with the reality of my situation. I could never accept that because ‘X’.” My hope is to remove the ‘X’s and get people to acknowledge that the choice not to believe is also really just that – a choice based on what seems to make the most sense at the time. Then you are free if you will to change that choice and accept the call.
Let me pre-field this one: “Good. I feel I am called by Buddhism, or Thor, or the Spaghetti Monster.” My answer is the same as that of Paul Giamatti’s character to Edward Norton’s in The Illusionist
(excellent movie btw. Highly recommend.) “Then we would be having a different sort of conversation.”
In other words, the question of whether there is “something” beyond what is perceived by the 5 senses, and explained by science, is one thing. Exactly who/what that is, is a related, but different question. One of my frustrations in these discussions has been an illogical sloshing back and forth between those things. I demonstrate (not “prove”) one, and they say “That doesn’t prove the other,” then I deal with the other, and they say that it doesn’t prove the first. Thus we go round in circles and never really deal with anything.
There’s a lot more I was going to say, but let me just get this posted, and deal with the other things as they come up.
The right answer to the wrong question is still the wrong answer to the real question.