It All Takes Faith

The following was a comment I left on a blog in which many athiests, agnostics, and believers were discussing belief in God.  One believer made the usual statement that we all rely on faith, but the non-believers wanted to know how those of us who use that argument reach that conclusion.  This is the clarification that I gave, I thought it would be appropriate to post it here: 

confusedchristian-
You wrote, “But in the end, it’s hard for me to be religious because God’s existence cannot be proven.”

And, yet, it is not hard for you to be non-religious even though God’s non-existence cannot be proven either.  If God’s existence can neither be proven nor disproven (I am assuming, from your posts/comments, that you agree that God’s non-existence cannot be proven…afterall, you said, “Anything is possible in this large and vast universe.”)…where does that leave us?  Why choose non-belief over belief?  Seems that that would make it an arbitrary, unfounded decision…and if unfounded and arbitrary, then why attack those who believe in God?  Why not just let people go about their business of making an arbitrary decision?

And, yet, the very fact that you attack belief in God shows that you really don’t believe it to be an arbitrary decision.  Your 8 Reasons for not believing tell us that you at least think that the question of God’s existence, while perhaps not proveable one way or the other, is at least a question that can be answered to a degree of certainty based on a preponderance of evidence.

So, now we have non-believers claiming that their evidence leans towards the non-existence of God…and we have believers claiming that their evidence favors the existence of God.  How does one decide?  If both positions are unproveable, then we have reached the point of faith, either way you go…belief in something that cannot be proven.  It does not mean belief in something for which there is no evidence…simply belief in something that cannot be proven.  But, how many things are there to believe that can be proven?  Some would say experiential beliefs, “Seeing is believing”…but then how do you prove that you can trust your senses, that you have an independent mind, that this “reality” is not all some Matrix-like illusion, that every thought you have is not controlled by chemical reactions in your brain, programed responses to stimuli?

So, here we are…We all believe in something, many things, that cannot be proven.  Like axioms in Geometry, beliefs that can be tested by their use, but must be accepted before we can work any problems.  We all establish our world-views based on some basic, unproveable beliefs.  We all rely on faith. 

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12 thoughts on “It All Takes Faith

  1. Good point. I’ve also engaged Confused Christian and have found it trying – enjoyable, I like debate – but trying. I’ve wondered if it’s not a waste of time. What is meant by “casting pearls”, a phrase I have always bucked? Aren’t we all swine? Your tags seem to indicate a real heart for the unbeliever. I keep encouraged by remembering we are called to cast the seed, He’ll cause the growth.

  2. Michelle,
    Thanks for the comment. I think you are absolutely right…it is God that gives the increase, all we can do is get the message out.

    I don’t know that we would all be swine. I think the point is not to keep handing over information to those who trample it, twist it, distort it. Perhaps confusedchristian is there, perhaps not. I haven’t had enough experience with him to make that judgment…but he does seem to be searching. And, there may be others who read his blog who are ready to hear.

    So, as you said, I just try to get the seed out…don’t get too wrapped up with those who reject, but don’t stop telling it.

  3. You make a very good point. By some definition, we all rely on faith. In my opinion, everyone needs to stop arguing about who’s right or wrong. It’ll probably never be proven that god does or doesn’t exist and we all just need to accept that.

  4. atheistgirl,
    I agree…in a sense we’ll just have to accept that we cannot know with 100% certainly whether or not there is a God. But that doesn’t mean we cannot be 100% convinced based on evidence that points one way or another. There may not be conclusive proof, but there certainly is convincing evidence. And, as far as arguing goes…I would like to see less of this and more calm, reasonable discussion. Of course, from my perspective it is eternally significant whether or not you believe in God, so I think the discussion needs to continue. Everyone should know what they believe, why they believe it, and at least some of the alternatives beliefs and reasons for them.
    Thanks for your input. Keep searching.

  5. And, yet, it is not hard for you to be non-religious even though God’s non-existence cannot be proven either.

    The burden of proof is on the claimant. If you claim something, you have to provide evidence. It’s no different then anything else in your life. If your friend told you he could fly, but only when no one was looking and with no recording devices around, you would dismiss him. Does it matter whether or not he really can fly? Nope. If it’s impossible to document or observe in principle, then you might as well assume it’s false. It doesn’t impact you. It doesn’t impact anything else.

    On a slightly different note, I want to point you here. Witness the miracle savior of the 21st century. A prophet with millions of followers, hundreds and hundreds of which claim he can perform miraculous feats such as changing wine into water, levitating, walking on water, and raising the dead (sound familiar?). Unfortunately, the guy refuses to be subjected to scientific inquiry to prove his powers. Huh. Who’da thunk?

    If Sathya Sai Baba can fool so many people in the 21st century, you must admit how ridiculously easy it would be for a claimed prophet to fool citizens of a backwater Roman province called Judea some two or so thousand years ago, a time with no access to the Internet, electricity, mass-publications, public education, etcetera. For a shrewd charlatan it would be a cake walk.

  6. Jon,
    I would have to agree…at least in logical principle…that the burden of proof is on the claimant. But who is the claimant here? If both sides of the claim are unproveable, then both sides share the burden of proof…showing the evidence that supports their side. Confusedchristian, to whom I made the comment, was claiming that there is no God (or at least not one that can be understood from the Bible or any other text). It would seem to me that he has a burden of proof to fulfill by claiming that there is no God. In other words, if both sides are unproveable, then “no-God” is not a default view to be adopted when believers do not prove God’s existence. God’s non-existence cannot be proven, either, so the evidence must be offered and examined, from both sides, to make the choice.

    As for Christ’s miracles…He did allow Himself to be subjected to public scrutiny. It was not just followers who witnessed His miracles, but the masses, the Jewish opposition, the Roman opposition. I have heard of this Sathya Sai Baba that you referred to, and I would imagine he is in the same class as many in the present day like him who take pains to only perform “miracles” in front of believing audiences, or when they can’t be properly tested. Jesus did not do this…He left Himself open to scrutiny.

    A cake walk? Hardly. There were plenty of skeptics then, just as there are now. And there were plenty of skeptics who witnessed the miracles…saw them with their own eyes. But, just about the only thing His enemies did not question was His ability to do miraculous things. Show me a “miracle-worker” from any other time in history whose believers and enemies all admitted that He could do the miraculous. If even the hardened skeptics believed, when they were looking for anything to bring Him down, that tells us quite a lot about His authenticity.

    Thanks for your comments.

  7. Confusedchristian, to whom I made the comment, was claiming that there is no God (or at least not one that can be understood from the Bible or any other text)

    I thought he said that God just couldn’t be proven to exist. At least, that’s all you quoted of him in your original post.

    My position isn’t that a god doesn’t exist. My position is that no one has ever shown that a god exists. Countering with “well, you haven’t shown that a god doesn’t exist” doesn’t help your position in the slightest. That’s like telling me that I can’t prove Gandalf doesn’t exist, or Huck Finn. Well, if that’s your response, then anything that can’t be disproven must necessarily be a rational belief. Which means that anything and everything is true.

    Now, you make a lot of unsubstantiated historical claims in the rest of your post. I grew up a Christian, and am quite familiar with the myth in Christian circles that secular Romans wrote about Jesus’ miracles. I challenge you to name me a single non-Christian historical account of the miracles of Jesus. You’ll find historical accounts of his crucifixion, of his preaching, but nowhere will you find anything about his miracles. The only thing you will find is Josephus’ writings, and almost all historical scholars consider Josephus’ writings on Jesus to be forgeries. Even if they aren’t forgeries, it’s quite clear that Josephus never met Jesus or witnessed any of these miracles (he was born after Jesus’s death). So there you have it.

  8. Jon,

    Thanks, again, for your comments. It is an important matter, and I am glad you are willing to discuss it.
    I did include one bit of information about confusedchristian’s position…that he doesn’t believe God’s existence can be proven. This was actually a quote from my comments to him rather than from him. Anyway, his was a list of reasons that he lost belief in God, which included the position I claimed for him in my post.
    Now, here’s my point (which you can gather from the title of the post on which we are commenting): whether you are an atheist, agnostic, or theist, you rely on faith. Since none of these positions can be proven, they require faith. This does an incredible amount for my position because many atheists (and some agnostics) take that position that since you cannot prove God’s existence then we must by necessity revert to non-belief. But non-belief cannot be proven valid, either. So they are only leaving one faith for another. And, if we all rely on faith, then we are on the same level…theists are not at a disadvantage, as many atheists and agnostics claim, because of faith.
    I hope you understand that by saying that we cannot prove God’s existence I am not saying that there is no evidence for God. I believe there is convincing evidence…and the evidence must be weighed to determine which “faith” we will adopt: atheism, agnosticism, or theism. I will post more on this later.
    As for unsubstantial historical claims: I never claimed that Roman historians recorded the miracles of Jesus. We have historical events recorded in the New Testament. You would discount them because they were written by Christians. But, do we discount Josephus’ history of the Jews because he was Jewish? Or Livy’s Roman histories because he was Roman? Absolutely not! So dismissing the NT for this reason is unfounded.
    The New Testament records a wealth of historical information: first century rulers, cultures, economy, diet, clothing, etc. Those who discount the NT often do so because the writers record miracles, but they throw out all of the historical information as well. But, why discount all of it just because you don’t like part of it…especially when all of the historically verifiable details are 100% accurate?
    Keep in mind, also, that the NT documents were circulated in the first century. This means that the people who actually met Jesus and witnessed his activities were alive to discount the NT writings. But, we have no record whatsoever of anyone from the first century, or even the second, making any efforts to falsify what was written in the NT. We do have some sources (especially the Jewish Talmud) that try to explain away the events, but they do not claim they never happened. And, in fact, by calling Jesus a sorcerer or some other label, they admit that the events of the NT occurred (not necessarily admitting they were miracles, but admitting that, in a historical sense, the events took place. And, even if there were reason to dismiss actual miracles a priori (and there is not), there is no reason to dismiss the historical details surrounding the events…including the fact that Romans, Jews, believers, and unbelievers were all there to witness the events. Hence my claim that Jesus did not perform His miracles in a closet, but for even His enemies to scrutinize.
    Well…I am taking a lot of time and comment space. I would be happy to discuss this issue further through email. Let me know if you are interested.

  9. Jon,

    One more thing…check your sources about Josephus. I don’t believe your statement “almost all historical scholars consider Josephus’ writings on Jesus to be forgeries” is accurate…but I could be wrong. In addition, even though Josephus didn’t live to see Jesus’ miracles, as a historian he had reason to believe what he wrote (assuming the statements in question are his), just as present-day historians have reason to believe what they write about the 19th century, although they didn’t witness it.

  10. …enjoyed the post here and atheistgirl caught my attn. Reason being is because one of my good friends, who was a preacher on TV for years and a church of Christ preacher has turned from his former teachings and now has turned to an atheistic mind-set/view. This man helped me very much with various doctrines, and it was a real let down to see him leave the faith. He was wrapped up in a very legalistic group, often condemning people for having car washes, bake sales, and many other things. They often went into other churches filming the preachers and posting them on TV for all to see…he wised up, but sadly went to the extreme and left totally. Please pray that he return to the Lord.

    Randy

  11. Randy,
    Those kind of stories make me sad…but they also motivate. I don’t want to turn out like that. I don’t want to give up on God because some who claim to follow Christ have got it wrong. I will pray for him.
    You know, someone like atheistgirl scares me more than a flat-out, opinionated atheist. And it’s because she reflects a trend in modern culture to say, “It doesn’t really matter.” And when people get to that point, dialogue shuts down. I hope we can convince people that it does matter.
    So, are you a preacher?
    Clint

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