I’ve been a christian discussing belief with atheists and agnostics on the internet for about 7 years now. Many times I’ve been asked why I believe, what possible evidence could I have? These discussions have led me to re-examine many things that I believe, and while I haven’t changed all that much, I have certainly researched, pondered and developed my beliefs.
So what is my faith based on? What do I really feel I “know” about God and the universe?
1. Science tells us truths about our universe
I believe science gives us true insight into the universe, evolution, neuroscience, archaeology, medicine, ecology and much more. I know science makes mistakes and our knowledge is provisional, but it self corrects and gets closer to true understanding all the time. Some scientists draw conclusions that go beyond science, and reflect their own opinions, and I don’t need to accept those conclusions. But overall, I believe in science.
2. Only God can explain the universe
Science tells us the big bang occurred 14 million years ago and produced a universe amazingly well-designed to allow life to occur. I can’t see how the universe could have just appeared out of nothing, or caused itself to appear before it was even there to do anything – that idea seems beyond ridiculous to me – and the ‘fine-tuned’ design is statistically impossible by chance. So one result of believing in science is that I am forced to conclude that God created this universe.
3. I trust Jesus
The historians affirm the reliability of enough of the stories of Jesus for us to be confident he lived and did and said certain things. That is enough of a basis for me to trust him. For some people, that isn’t enough, but I feel confident putting my trust in him. I believe he was divine and was resurrected, two things it would be difficult to believe if I didn’t trust him. This belief in Jesus is something basic I feel I ‘know’ about God.
4. Reason and ethics
Human society depends on us being both rational, which enables us to think, converse, do maths and science, etc, and ethical – we have a sense of what is right and wrong, and we know that some things (e.g. causing unnecessary pain and hurt, harming children, genocide and rape) are deeply wrong. We are fallible, and sometimes our conclusions about logic and ethics are mistaken, but I believe our deepest insights are generally really true.
5. The world is not always a safe place
People suffer pain, hurt and loss, sometimes terribly. Sometimes it is too hard to bear for those suffering, and even those who are aware of it. So often we want to shout out “Why?”. Our moral sense tells us something is wrong. I believe this is a true insight, and a terrible feature of our world.
6. People are capable of great good and evil
There is much that is admirable and beautiful in the human race, but we know that there is always the dark side – and that too often the dark side wins out. Much of the suffering in the world is caused by people. This is another thing I ‘know’.
7. People experience God
People seem to experience God, and sense his presence in times of need, healing or doubt. Not everyone does, but many do. Not all experiences are genuinely of God, perhaps most are not, but some seem definitely to be true. My experience of God is not often clear or obvious, but it does happen. I believe it is a fundamental fact, impossible for me to ignore or gainsay, that people experience God.
So what … ?
So that is my basis, these are the things I believe on the basis of evidence – science, history, experience – things that I am as certain of as anything can be certain in this life. They are my starting point.
But some of them appear to be contradictory. Many difficult questions can be asked about these conclusions. Can all this be resolved into a consistent and reasonable belief? That’s my next post.
My reasoning on most of these matters is presented elsewhere on this site. You may be interested to read some of it:
- The universe and its fine-tuning
- Jesus existed, what the historians say we can know about him and why I think he was divine.
- Evil and suffering
- Divine healing
- Why believe? (summary)
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