Suspended between belief and disbelief

December 10th, 2018 in clues. Tags: , , , , ,
Doubt

Over the years I’ve talked to a number of people who find themselves unable to commit to belief in God, but equally unable to reject belief. They say they would like to believe, for they cannot think atheism is true, but they find themselves unable to give assent to a particular religion or set of beliefs about God. God may be there, somewhere, but maybe she’s unknowable? We can be sure of scientific information, they may think, but spiritual matters are somehow beyond our ability to know.

For some, their belief can depend on their mood or circumstances – some days they believe, some days they doubt.

I was wondering if there is any way forwards for these people when I realised there are at least some things they do feel we can know. Radical doubt doesn’t necessarily permeate their lives, it may only cripple their ability to feel sure about God, and it may only be temporary.

And that started me thinking ….

What spiritual or ethical things do I ‘know’?

There are many things fundamental to being human that almost all of us take for granted. We believe, generally without thinking about it, that the external world is real, and there are other people, other minds out there. Life isn’t just a computer simulation or a dream.

But what else?

Perhaps one of the most prevalent of beliefs is that some things really are wrong and other things really are right. Most of us believe that, deep down, even if we don’t feel sure about the right answers to many ethical questions. For example we feel quite sure that pedophilia is “wrong” and caring for helpless babies is “right”.

(There are some people of a more philosophical mind who deny the objective reality of any ethical statements, but it is difficult to see them carrying this belief consistently into everyday life. Their head may say we have no way to say genocide is wrong, but their feelings will likely find this difficult to live with.)

So I started to think about what else I or others might believe is both true and important.

10 things we can all believe?

In the end, I came to a list of ten:

  1. I am therefore I think?
  2. We can know truth and reality through science, history and experience.
  3. Some things really are right and others are wrong.
  4. Only God can explain the universe.
  5. The world is sometimes beautiful and sometimes ugly.
  6. People are capable of good and evil.
  7. Some people seem to experience God.
  8. Religion can be good and bad.
  9. Jesus really lived a life we can know about.
  10. No-one has all the answers.

I wonder what you think of that list?

I’m guessing you’ll find some of these statements quite obvious, but a few of them rather questionable, if not outright impossible to believe.

Perhaps #4 will be the hardest for some to accept, but there is good reasoning behind it. If the universe is everything material that exists, then any worldview that is materialistic or naturalistic is saying that there is nothing more or “outside” the universe. Which means there is nothing else to cause it, no reason for it to exist, no explanation for its existence. The only non-material external cause that seems capable of being the explanation is God, so it seems it is either God or no explanation for the universe’s existence. Of course this doesn’t prove God’s existence, for many people are quite happy to say the universe is a brute fact with no explanation, but statement 4 is still true for them.

You may like to read how I justify that whole list, in 10 things we can all believe?.

I’d be interested to know what you think about that list, and what would be YOUR list.

What difference does it make?

But how does that list help us move from doubt to some belief (whether positive or negative) about God?

If we agree that we can know some abstract things such as what is on that list, then we have a little solid ground to stand on. Some of these “facts” have implications about the existence of God. Some are hard to explain if there is a good God, others are hard to explain if there’s not.

Perhaps a list like this is a window into a reality that you have been wondering about for a long time. Perhaps if you follow the trails you’ll reach some sort of conclusion that had eluded you previously. Perhaps defining some important things we believe we can know will help in better defining the questions we have about God.

What do you think?

Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash

3 Comments

  1. I’ve always been a christian nominally, but I doubted so much that I was stuck in a agnostic-christian purgatory. I started reading 3 blogs recently that have been a tremendous help. Edward Fesser’s blog, Aron Wall’s blog called Undivided Looking, and the quantum thomist blog. They are all heavy on philosophy and logic. I’m not trying to advertise them here, but I wanted to share them; I’m not particularly influenced by the emotional factors that can lead to Christianity, I recognize they are a vital part of the faith, but I needed to find an intellectual basis to build my faith before I can fully appreciate the emotional components.

  2. Hi Sean,

    I’m glad you find those blogs helpful and you are welcome to advertise them here. I also read Aron Wall’s blog and always find it informative and encouraging. I hope you may find something on this site that helps too.

    I agree with you about emotion and evidence. Some people tend to believe for more emotional or spiritual reasons, while others believe more for intellectual reasons. It is good to have a bit of both, but like you, I need the evidential base before I can engage with the spiritual side.

    All the best on your journey!

  3. I have the intellectual answers for you.
    now 1 was the beginning of Big Bang.
    I think therefore I AM
    Now 2 is created on our desire or HOPE for a continued now and future now 3 to continue to exist when now 1 becomes past .
    These three remain .. FAITH we have NOw in our memories of past nows forever gone … HOPE we have NOW for future NOWs that do not exist yet and LOVE or our Desire to continue to live NOW the only time that does exist. In terms of firing of synapses we get…
    ZERO=past and future NOWs which do not exist and ONE = present NOw which is the only now that does exist. Ones and Zeros are the simple binary system used to create the computers virtual reality.. ON and OFF are the simple binary system used by our synapses to create PERCEPTION of a physical reality that actually only exists as subatomic electro magnetic energy forces. The OFF does not exist making us a singularity of ON or ONE that exists or does not exist.. the FREQUENCY of this existence is decided into perceptions of Angstroms, Decibels and the like to create the perception of Sights and Sounds we define into the perception of a physical reality that does not exist, anymore than that star 43 million light years away that has not existed for the 43 million years it took for the light to reach what we perceive to be our eyes. That is why the observer makes the difference in quantum physics, because by the time we realize we have perceived something it is already gone into the past which no longer exists. Because all that exists is the NOW that we LOVE to experience on a now to now basis.. the sights and sounds and tastes and touches and successes we DREAM of in the virtual reality we are creating with our binary system and imagine as a physical reality…. THAT is the reality of the I AM. But do not think our physical perception is not real just because it does not really exist on a physical basis. I believe it is time to reveal the truth based on our current enjoyment of the virtual reality games we create with computers. To understand that we can and have been creating a physical reality means perhaos we can now use that understanding to create a better physical reality using LOVE in the NOW or only time that exists. That would require us to define love which was also done in the same chapter.. love is patient and kind not envious boastful or proud etc. And we know the truth of this definition based on not a book but on PERSONAL EXPERIENCE. The golden rule. The great I AM or god that told Moses who He really is. The god man is created in the image of. The spirit of God that unto those he gives the power to become SONS of God even unto those who BELIEVE on his name or spirit of LOVE… just connect the dots. reread this until you GET IT!

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