• dclements
    228
    In sort of response to a thread where another forum member asked how someone could be agnostic since they believe it to be self defeating, I thought it might be worthwhile to start a thread asking how some people can believe in 'God'.

    A few things just to get them out of the way and not waste time on them (or hopefully not too much anyways), I'm not asking how or why people can speculate on either gods, God-like beings (be it through technological, 'magical', or other means) or even why people believe in gods or 'God' because of psychological or anything to do with the human condition (ie. such as 'no atheist in a foxhole' type of stuff). I'm talking about 'logical' type reasoning for believing in 'God', if such a means even exists.

    To try and point this discussion in the right direction, I would like to note that C. S. Lewis in his Lewis's trilemma pointed out that one can only believe that Christ (if he even existed) could of only been the son of God or a lunatic when he claimed he was the 'son of God'. The odd thing about C.S. Lewis's trilemma is that although believing Christ is the son of God isn't exactly like believing one is the son of God (since one's belief may not be that strong), it in and of itself has many of the same problems as ONE who CLAIMS THEY HAVE ACCESS TO GOD the same way that Jesus claimed he had DIRECT access to God. As a rule of thumb to avoid confusion, I'm separating those Christians who either can't or don't understand what this even means since it is pretty easy for one to say such things if they can't even understand the significance of such a statement. Anyways, my point is that many Christians who believe they have some direct access to 'God' are about as crazy as C.C Lewis said about someone who tried to claimed they where a fried egg; and in addition to that I believe there is some historical records that showed that religions where often CAREFUL in order to not say such things because they knew the implications of what might happen if they tried to make such claims (ie. a society potentially full of crazies)..

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis%27s_trilemma
  • jkop
    533
    I'm talking about 'logical' type reasoning for believing in 'God', if such a means even exists.dclements

    The reasoning should be valid and sound, i.e. 'logical' type reasoning is not enough, the premises must also be true.
  • T Clark
    3k
    believing Christ is the son of God isn't exactly like believing one is the son of God (since one's belief may not be that strong), it in and of itself has many of the same problems as ONE who CLAIMS THEY HAVE ACCESS TO GODdclements

    Why is it crazy to believe that you have direct access to God? What would keep you from having direct access? Why would God restrict access? What's the point of religion if we can't have direct access?
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k


    If you're asking "why do people believe in God?" And then proceeding to say that you're only interested in logical reasons, then I don't know if you'll get far; the average Chritian or Muslim or Religious Jew doesn't necessarily have a conscious logical proof in their mind that allows them to participate in their religion. So unless you meant "theist philosophers" instead of "people", then I'm not sure what the use is of the discussion. The fact that average believers haven't logically reasoned through their beliefs in great depth does not delegitimize their faith, nor is it an argument against the existence of God.
  • Waya
    900
    If I may ask for further clarification, are you asking 1) Why do some believe there to be a God ? 2) How do Christians know that they believe in the right God? and 3) Why do Christians believe Jesus to be the Son of God?

    @dclements
  • Brian
    88
    If you're asking "why do people believe in God?" And then proceeding to say that you're only interested in logical reasons, then I don't know if you'll get far; the average Chritian or Muslim or Religious Jew doesn't necessarily have a conscious logical proof in their mind that allows them to participate in their religion.Noble Dust

    Agreed, I do not think most people's reasons for believing in God are based in logic. As you say, there may be a few philosophers out there who believe in God BECAUSE of the ontological argument or because of a cosmological argument, or what have you.

    But I doubt that is why the vast majority of people believe in God.

    I think human beings have certain psychological needs that lead to the belief in God. Probably the biggest one is that we fear death and we need to find comfort in the fact that we are going to die.

    After all, what could be more comforting to someone fearing death that, in a sense, you don't really die, but that you instead live forever. With God, that become possible.

    So that's the psychological aspect. There's also the faith aspect, which I think complements the psychological aspect. We are raised, largely, in a culture of faith in God. We are taught from a very early age in church (or your house of worship of choice) that God does in fact exist. We are socizlized to this belief, and we are told that we ought to have faith in it, which means believing in it regardless of any reasons that may go counter to this belief.

    A strong psychological need coupled with a culture of faith, and bam. Belief in God becomes very natural for a vast majority of people.

    So why do other people NOT believe in God in the same culture? I think for many people, myself included, the culture of faith is ultimately intellectually very dissatisfying. It is very important to me to have reasons for my beliefs. When I have sought reasons to believe in God, I have found the belief to be lacking in justification.

    I suppose to me the main argument that would back up a belief in God for me, would be the testimony of the scriptures. But to me, the testimony of the scriptures seems rather unreliable. They describe a world that seems very different from the one we actually live in. The Bible is filled with supernatural events: miracles, communications with God, and what have you. None of this happens in our reality to my knowledge, at least nothing that has been verified beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Science and historical research do not seem to find any further evidence that such miracles occurred in history or could have occurred in history given what we know about the natural and historical world.

    I think to change my atheistic belief, I would need very strong contemporaneous empirical evidence that the testimony of the Bible was possibly true (i.e. miracles started happening all over the place again, Jesus returned, etc.)

    Lacking that, I very much doubt I will ever change from an atheistic viewpoint to a theistic one.
  • andrewk
    1.6k
    my point is that many Christians who believe they have some direct access to 'God' are about as crazy as C.S Lewis said about someone who tried to claimed they where a fried eggdclements
    Why do you think that? I am not a Christian now, but I was one a long time ago and thought then that God listened to my prayers and communicated back in some vague way. I don't think I am any more or less rational now than I was then. It's just my life experiences that have changed.

    I don't think any of us are in any position to judge other people's rationality, because we cannot know what experiences they have had and IMHO, in the end, all judgements are based on experience.

    Also, Lewis's so-called trilemma ('Lord, Liar or Lunatic') is not a trilemma because there are at least two other options:

    1. The claims that Jesus claimed to be God are false. The historical Jesus never made such a claim ('Libelled'); or
    2. There was no historical Jesus ('Lack').

    More about that here.
  • Cuthbert
    216
    I don't think Lewis's trilemma works. He's trying to show that Jesus can't have been merely a great man, wise prophet, wonderful teacher etc. Some of the things he said were just too crazy. So either he was crazy - or an outright liar - or he was the son of God.

    The problem with Lewis's argument is that somebody can be crazy and can also be a great man, wise prophet and wonderful teacher. Craziness comes and goes. Prophets can be profoundly wise one moment and stupidly dumb the next. Wise teachers can have funny episodes when they go completely weird and then go back to being wise teachers. Maybe Jesus was one of those.

    I imagine lots of great people have been crazy when they are not being great. I don't think craziness makes you any more or any less great or that greatness is likely to make you any more or less crazy.
    ____

    By the way, I'm a Christian who believes that Jesus was the Son of God. I'm making the point that Lewis's argument does not establish what he wants it to.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    I thought it might be worthwhile to start a thread asking how some people can believe in 'God'.dclements

    The word 'Bible', as I'm sure you know, basically means 'book' (same as 'bibliography'). The point being, 'the book' was the collected wisdom of the whole tribe - the annals of what had happened, collected and recited over millenia, beginning in pre-literate times, and finally written down.

    Before a couple of hundred years ago, there wasn't any distinction between religion, law, science, and so on - all you had was 'the law' which was handed down by the tribal elders as it had been since time immemorial.

    That's how.

    Anyways, my point is that many Christians who believe they have some direct access to 'God' are about as crazy as C.C Lewis said about someone who tried to claimed they where a fried eggdclements

    I know a lot of Christians, but I have never heard them use the term 'direct access to God'. Also, notably, none of them were crazed.
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k
    Prophets can be profoundly wise one moment and stupidly dumb the next. Wise teachers can have funny episodes when they go completely weird and then go back to being wise teachersCuthbert

    Where are you getting this from?
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k
    I think human beings have certain psychological needs that lead to the belief in God. Probably the biggest one is that we fear death and we need to find comfort in the fact that we are going to die.

    After all, what could be more comforting to someone fearing death that, in a sense, you don't really die, but that you instead live forever. With God, that become possible.

    So that's the psychological aspect.
    Brian

    Psychology is a development of the past couple of hundred years, and it's a constantly changing field like the other soft sciences. So if you're going to talk about a psychological need for God in a broad way, you would need to use that idea as a metaphor, because you're applying it to ancient (and even pre-historical) peoples that had no conception of the world in that way. You would be consciously using the metaphor of psychological need as a way of imagining how those ancient peoples were interfacing with reality and their experiences. Or you would need to argue just how the psychological principle you're referring to is an objective principle that applies to all of humankind throughout history, without exception. Otherwise it's a projection of a modern way of thinking on past peoples, and it't not a sufficient argument for why "people need to believe in God".

    I think a more accurate approach would be to read ancient texts, interpret them, try practicing the practice, read literature about the texts and the traditions, study how language interfaces with meaning and how it shapes how we view experience...in other words, a wholistic approach that takes everything into account; a study of how human thought has unfolded, instead of using modern ways of thinking to try to extrapolate some answers about what people in the distant past were doing. In other words, we can't know the "zeitgeist" of that time in the way we may be familiar with our own, but that's what we should be trying to get a glimpse of. Using limited psychological ideas, logical arguments about God's existence, and the rest, all fall short of trying to create a picture (via creativity) of what existence might have been like, and so, to begin to address the question of why a belief in the divine (or similar concept) is so prevalent in early history.
  • Mariner
    314
    People don't believe in God based on arguments, because arguments are not the proper tools to establish the existence of anything. Arguments only unpack what is present in their premises. The premises bring with them, implicitly, the stuff whose existence is being "proven".

    Of course, many people are not aware of this, and perhaps there are a sizeable minority of believers who thinks that they believe "based on arguments", but they are mistaken.

    To "believe in the existence of X" is a movement of the soul that rests on two legs:

    1. Experience
    2. Discourse

    If you want to explore why someone believes in X, these are the fields that must be explored. "Argument", of course, is a kind of discourse, but the discourse being singled out here is more akin to poetry. How to express experiences. I have no doubt that some 99% of the disagreements between believers and non-believers are based on disputes about that.
  • Galuchat
    482
    I'm talking about 'logical' type reasoning for believing in 'God', if such a means even exists. — dclements

    Belief is an attitude which accepts a proposition as true without evidence. As such, there is no premise which supports, hence; no argument which proves, anything about God.
  • dclements
    228
    Why is it crazy to believe that you have direct access to God? What would keep you from having direct access? Why would God restrict access? What's the point of religion if we can't have direct access?
    --T Clark
    And if 'God' asks someone to kill their only son or perhaps someone else you don't see any problem with that? Perhaps there are people who can speak to God but I think it is pretty much a given that some of the crazy people who claim they can talk to 'God' are merely crazy people who are not talking to God but instead suffer from some sort of mental problem. Hopefully this is enough for you to realize some of the issues with this problem.
  • dclements
    228
    If you're asking "why do people believe in God?" And then proceeding to say that you're only interested in logical reasons, then I don't know if you'll get far; the average Chritian or Muslim or Religious Jew doesn't necessarily have a conscious logical proof in their mind that allows them to participate in their religion. So unless you meant "theist philosophers" instead of "people", then I'm not sure what the use is of the discussion. The fact that average believers haven't logically reasoned through their beliefs in great depth does not delegitimize their faith, nor is it an argument against the existence of God.
    --Noble Dust

    But can't you see that your argument is part of my point? If theist (or perhaps someone who is anti-agnostic) claims that "agnosticism is self defeating" when theism can not be supported by logical/rational reasons then it is a double standard for anyone that knows this to expect that ideologies other than theism to do so.

    One can accept that ALL ideologies have logical/rational inconsistencies which make them not exactly logical/rational, or they can be upset that they all have this problem (even if doing so is kind of naive IMHO) but being upset with some ideologies that do this with not being upset with others would mean that one is applying a double standard. Although one could also not be aware of how all ideologies are flawed, but this position would be one of ignorance so it would have it's own problems as well.

    I hope you can see what I'm getting at..
  • T Clark
    3k
    I think human beings have certain psychological needs that lead to the belief in God. Probably the biggest one is that we fear death and we need to find comfort in the fact that we are going to die.

    After all, what could be more comforting to someone fearing death that, in a sense, you don't really die, but that you instead live forever. With God, that become possible.

    So that's the psychological aspect. There's also the faith aspect, which I think complements the psychological aspect. We are raised, largely, in a culture of faith in God. We are taught from a very early age in church (or your house of worship of choice) that God does in fact exist. We are socizlized to this belief, and we are told that we ought to have faith in it, which means believing in it regardless of any reasons that may go counter to this belief.
    Brian

    In your arrogance, you've left out the most obvious reason people might believe in god - they have experienced the presence of God in their lives. I assume you've never experienced God.

    I think to change my atheistic belief, I would need very strong contemporaneous empirical evidence that the testimony of the Bible was possibly true (i.e. miracles started happening all over the place again, Jesus returned, etc.)

    Lacking that, I very much doubt I will ever change from an atheistic viewpoint to a theistic one.
    Brian

    Fine, I'm not asking you to change your mind. Who is?
  • T Clark
    3k
    And if 'God' asks someone to kill their only son or perhaps someone else you don't see any problem with that? Perhaps there are people who can speak to God but I think it is pretty much a given that some of the crazy people who claim they can talk to 'God' are merely crazy people who are not talking to God but instead suffer from some sort of mental problem. Hopefully this is enough for you to realize some of the issues with this problem.dclements

    Let me see if I have the logic right:
    1 - some people who believe they can have direct contact with god are crazy.
    2 - therefore, believing you can have direct contact with god is a symptom of craziness.
  • dclements
    228
    Why do you think that? I am not a Christian now, but I was one a long time ago and thought then that God listened to my prayers and communicated back in some vague way. I don't think I am any more or less rational now than I was then. It's just my life experiences that have changed.

    I don't think any of us are in any position to judge other people's rationality, because we cannot know what experiences they have had and IMHO, in the end, all judgements are based on experience.

    Also, Lewis's so-called trilemma ('Lord, Liar or Lunatic') is not a trilemma because there are at least two other options:

    1. The claims that Jesus claimed to be God are false. The historical Jesus never made such a claim ('Libelled'); or
    2. There was no historical Jesus ('Lack')
    --andrewk

    I agree that moist of the time none of us are in a position where we can judge the sanity of someone else than our selves, and most of the time when we reflect on ourselves it is because we have to for our own sake and for the sake of those around us. But part of my OP 'IS' about the times we HAVE to judge the sanity of others much as the way we have to judge our own sanity. As I have mentioned on a few other posts on this thread, in other thread on this forum it was asked if "agnosticism is self defeating", and much like a courtroom case where certain subject matter is to be ignored to protect/ or for the sake of one side (unless of course they choose to open up that can of worms themselves) since it can be incriminating, this can of worms HAS been opened up and it is unfair if some asks if agnosticism is rational but then to turn around and say that it is IMPROPER to ask the same thing of theism.

    Also if Jesus didn't exist or if he never claimed he was the son of God, than I'm pretty sure that would be a major flaw with Christianity. I think an aspect of my argument is that you are trying to argue for and protect what some hard core Christians claim to be 'fake' Christians (ie. Christians who just go through the motions but in many ways do not really believe). My argument is focused on the hard core Christians who believe strongly enough that they believe they have a direct connection with God and if God commands them to kill one of their kids (or perhaps kill someone else) there is a very high probability that they would try and carry out his wish. I'm talking about one of Kierkegaard's true 'knights of faith' not about someone who might like to be one but doesn't really have the stomach for it and what would be required of them to become one.
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k


    I'm just responding to your thread about belief in God; I'm not saying anything about agnosticism. But I agree with you; I think it's important to acknowledge that all beliefs have an irrational element, each to varying degrees. So again, I'm therefore unclear what this thread is about. It doesn't seem to be about why people believe in God.
  • dclements
    228
    Belief is an attitude which accepts a proposition as true without evidence. As such, there is no premise which supports, hence; no argument which proves, anything about God.
    --Galuchat
    But if that is true, than why is it not acceptable of any other belief that doesn't have to do with God? When certain people start living in their own fantasy world, which can not be supported by the facts of the world around them, much like the people who we consider to be daydreams, space cadets, romantics, etc. While it is normal for our beliefs to NOT be EXACTLY in tune with reality, it is another thing when our reality is so out of tune with reality that we might be willing to kill our own kids in order to satisfy some requirement of our fantasy world.

    In the western world we are use to dancing around this elephant in the room, but this elephant is still there even if we have gotten use to just walking around it. If what you say is true in your post than why should someone be upset if they think that agnosticism is self defeating? Is it perhaps that he as well as the rest of us are use to giving a free pass to theism, but are unwilling to walk around the issues for other ideologies as we do for theism?
  • dclements
    228
    I'm just responding to your thread about belief in God; I'm not saying anything about agnosticism. But I agree with you; I think it's important to acknowledge that all beliefs have an irrational element, each to varying degrees. So again, I'm therefore unclear what this thread is about. It doesn't seem to be about why people believe in God.
    --Noble Dust
    One of the tasks of people who study and debate philosophy is to point out fallacies when they see them. My point is that much of the acceptance of theism (and the rejection of other ideologies which are different than it) is that theism uses a combination of "proof by assertion" along with "appeal to authority/antiquity" and as people who study philosophy we should be aware of such issues/fallacies in order to not allow our thinking to be clouded. Although it is a given that there are almost so many OTHER fallacies we have to contend with it almost makes one more fallacy kind of moot; this fallacy in and of it self touches on perhaps the BIGGEST one held by western society, so yes there may be reasons why I should point it out and it should be noted by others.
  • dclements
    228
    People don't believe in God based on arguments, because arguments are not the proper tools to establish the existence of anything. Arguments only unpack what is present in their premises. The premises bring with them, implicitly, the stuff whose existence is being "proven".

    Of course, many people are not aware of this, and perhaps there are a sizeable minority of believers who thinks that they believe "based on arguments", but they are mistaken.

    To "believe in the existence of X" is a movement of the soul that rests on two legs:

    1. Experience
    2. Discourse

    If you want to explore why someone believes in X, these are the fields that must be explored. "Argument", of course, is a kind of discourse, but the discourse being singled out here is more akin to poetry. How to express experiences. I have no doubt that some 99% of the disagreements between believers and non-believers are based on disputes about that.
    --Mariner
    Nice to see you again Manier! :D :D I don't know if we have debated since the old philosophy forum but regardless or not it is always good to see old friends for the first forum we were on. :)

    In reading your post the word that come to my mind is "paradigm" : some people experience the world through one paradigm and for others they see it through a different one. However the one wrinkle that kind of remains; are these paradigms (which may be created through experience and discourse as you say and/or through other means) supported merely through "appeals to authority"/"proof by assertion" or is it done through something else?

    I don't think theism is "evil" in and of itself, nor are all of it's ideas "wrong"/worthless (after the last two thousand years, I'm sure there has to be at least one or two diamonds somewhere in the ruff), but I don't think it is all that better than many of the other religions or system of beliefs that are out there.

    Perhaps another way to put it, during the cold war the western world and the soviet union both thought themselves as the 'good guys' and the people on the other side as the 'bad guys' merely because they were more familiar with their own ideology/culture than their own. I guess my argument is the western world/theism (as well as other major cultures in the world such as Islam) suffer from being blind sighted just as the super powers in the cold world where blind sighted by their own ideologies (which are partly created through "appeals to authority"/"proof by assertion" fallacies) and I believe it is worthwhile to point out such issues since as people who study philosophy we should be aware of such things.....and of course this in and of itself is not a failure of Christianity/theism itself since it is a problem created by the human condition and it happens pretty much in ALL ideologies. Or at least the ones that can get big enough to be believed by a lot of people.

    Also it may be worthwhile to note that Christianity TOO suffered from the same bias. Before Christianity was accepted as a rational ideology it's believers were persecuted by Roman and other civilizations until it could be accepted/assimilated into western civilization and various cultures.
  • S
    6.2k
    Nah, I wouldn't say that someone who believes that they have direct access to God is about as crazy as someone who believes that they're a fried egg. I don't think they're that crazy. I'd say that they're about as crazy as someone who believes in tin foil hats. No, actually, on second thought, I think that someone who believes in tin foil hats is a little less crazy based on that alone, but about as crazy if you factor in typically related beliefs.
  • S
    6.2k
    In your arrogance, you've left out the most obvious reason people might believe in god - they have experienced the presence of God in their lives. I assume you've never experienced God.T Clark

    Yeah, and maybe those tin foil hat wearing folk have experienced the presence of extraterrestrials. I assume you've never experienced telepathy from extraterrestrials. Oh, and I see dead people, by the way. Do you?
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    We are raised, largely, in a culture of faith in God. We are taught from a very early age in church (or your house of worship of choice) that God does in fact exist. We are socizlized to this belief, and we are told that we ought to have faith in it, which means believing in it regardless of any reasons that may go counter to this belief.Brian

    I completely missed out on that. So it's possible to be raised in the U.S. (and surely elsewhere) so that you have just about zero exposure to religious ideas until you're already pretty far along. I didn't run into religious beliefs in any detail until I was in my mid teens.
  • T Clark
    3k
    I think an aspect of my argument is that you are trying to argue for and protect what some hard core Christians claim to be 'fake' Christians (ie. Christians who just go through the motions but in many ways do not really believe). My argument is focused on the hard core Christians who believe strongly enough that they believe they have a direct connection with God and if God commands them to kill one of their kids (or perhaps kill someone else) there is a very high probability that they would try and carry out his wishdclements

    You're not really saying that there are two types of Christian - fake Christians who don't really believe and hard core Christians who will kill their Children, are you?
  • T Clark
    3k
    I know a lot of Christians, but I have never heard them use the term 'direct access to God'. Also, notably, none of them were crazed.Wayfarer

    I certainly am not a religious historian, but it is my understanding that the Protestant Revolution was about the belief that you didn't need to go through priests to have a relationship with God. That you can do it yourself directly. That doesn't seem crazy to me at all. It seems almost self-evident.

    Atheists complain that believers put all their faith in authorities, priests, old books. Now you're complaining when they put their faith in their own direct experience. Heads I win, tails you lose.
  • Galuchat
    482
    Belief is an attitude which accepts a proposition as true without evidence. As such, there is no premise which supports, hence; no argument which proves, anything about God. — Galuchat

    But if that is true, than why is it not acceptable of any other belief that doesn't have to do with God?...If what you say is true in your post than why should someone be upset if they think that agnosticism is self defeating? — dclements

    I have not read this "agnosticism is self defeating" thread you keep referring to. But it seems to me that you are the only one in this thread who is upset. Why do you care so much about what other people believe, or what they think of your beliefs? Wouldn't that be a sign of weakness in your own beliefs, or of mental fragility in general? Wouldn't being a philosopher on a mission require possessing a worldview with conviction?
  • T Clark
    3k
    Lol. Yeah, and maybe those tin foil hat wearing folk have experienced the presence of extraterrestrials. I assume you've never experienced telepathy from extraterrestrials. Oh, and I see dead people, by the way. Do you?Sapientia

    This is a serious discussion about belief in God. Your post doesn't contribute anything to it. It just makes you seem thoughtless.
  • S
    6.2k
    And that was a serious point. Either address it properly or don't bother replying. That should be a rule of thumb. Whenever you get the urge to do nothing but protest about - or otherwise draw attention to - the tone of what I say, please resist the urge. More substance, less personal irrelevancies. I'm not going to stop making relevant points just because you fail to see the relevance or disapprove of my style of writing.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    certainly am not a religious historian, but it is my understanding that the Protestant Revolution was about the belief that you didn't need to go through priests to have a relationship with God.T Clark

    Sure - it was just the phrasing which I was remarking on. they talk in terms of a [relationship with the sacred but that has a different connotation to what I took to be the sense of the phrase in the context of the OP.
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