Degree of Belief

Anything related to the concept of “God” is a belief, since there is no definitive proof either for or against.  And the degree of belief varies from absolute certainty in God to absolute certainty in no god.  In the middle part of this range are those who do not hold any belief about God.

Those who believe that God or gods exist are generally referred to as “theists” (or occasionally less polite terms).  Those who do not believe that any gods exist are generally referred to as “atheists”.  This latter group is sometimes further separated into those who believe there are no gods (sometimes called “strong atheists” or “gnostic atheists’) and those who do not have any beliefs about God (sometimes called “weak atheists” or “agnostic atheists” or even just “agnostics”).

It seems like it might be human nature for “all” beliefs, but certainly, when it comes to God beliefs, the stronger the belief, the more the inclination to “preach” that belief.  Many who are absolutely or fairly certain that their God exists, seem driven (at the insistence of that God, of course) to convince everybody else that they are right.  Some who have the belief that no god exists also seem driven (for the good of humanity, of course) to convince everybody else that THEY are right.  The problem is, that neither side has yet validly (or at least universally) been able to do so.  Any gods which exist have been very good at not leaving any concrete evidence.  This could mean either of there are no gods, or that gods have a reason they find adequate to hide concrete evidence of their existence.

What sort of “soft” evidence does the atheist present in support of their belief?  Several points which are certainly indicative, but so far none which are irrefutable.

– Science has a theory for “everything” and cannot detect anything in support of God.

The problem is, a “theory” is not “fact”, it is merely an explanation which has not yet been proven or disproved.  Just because something could have happened one way does not mean it did.  Also, it can be postulated that Science has the capability to detect everything in this “natural” world (that which COULD have happened without external influence) but this actually meshes with the concept that a “supernatural” world might exist, which may have at least some different laws than this world cannot be perceived by Science, which is grounded in the laws of this world.  Does this supernatural world exist?  It is likely that those living in the natural world will never know for sure.

– God is not as described.  He is claimed to be omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient and can be shown to not be one or more of those.  He is claimed to be all loving and can be shown to be the opposite; supporting slavery, genocide, human sacrifice, murder, rape, anger, jealousy and numerous other acts of non-love.

No, I don’t think any lack of “omni” anything can be shown.  I have yet to see any presentation of this which has any merit; all have merely shown a remarkable lack of understanding of the powers which it is theorized that God possesses.  If you look at the Old Testament of the Bible, a case can be made that God allows or even encourages under circumstances, activities which at this point in time we find utterly reprehensible.  If someone wanted to argue that God was a really crappy excuse for a human being, then a case for that might be made.  But I doubt anyone seriously thinks God is just another human being.  Things which He does or commands or supports may seem “bad” to us, but allegedly He knows more than we do, and these things might serve a greater good elsewhere or have desirable results at the time in which they are alleged to have happened..

– The Bible is provably “wrong”.

In order to successfully prove this, one would have to show an internal contradiction in the Bible, that someone involved in writing it deliberately falsified something or was incontrovertibly unreliable, a contradiction with another (validated) source, or find something in it which could be shown to be contrary to known facts.  There are a number of apparent internal inconsistencies, but all I’ve heard of can be explained.  There is very little in the way of contemporary other sources, and what there is actually seems to support the Bible, although the validity of these sources is not guaranteed.  Archeology has verified some of the things in the Bible, but not everything and particularly not some of the things which are hardest to accept.  Some archeologists claim to have “disproved” things in the Bible, such as the whole Exodus story.  Those that I have seen use “lack of proof” as proof, and this is not valid.  There are a number of theories of how things “were” or “came to be” which contradict the Bible, but unless one of these is proven, they also do not disprove the Bible.  Some geologists claim that they can show that the “Flood” never occurred.  If there is no supernatural world, then this might actually be valid.  Of course, the whole basis for the Bible is that the supernatural world DOES exist.

– People who believe in God are silly, stupid, delusional, weak willed, unrealistic, unreasonable and/or pains in the rear.

Some are, some aren’t, and this has nothing to do with whether God exists or not.

– People who believe in God don’t behave like they claim they are directed to behave.

This sometimes is completely valid, but it only has implication about human beings, not about God.

– People who believe in God want to impose their morality on everyone.

This is also often valid, but again, it only has implication about human beings, not about God.  Oh, and some people who don’t believe in God seem eager to impose THEIR morality on everyone.

Now, what soft evidence do those who believe in God present?

– Logical argument

This would be good, if valid.  I’ve never heard a valid argument for God, though.  Every single one either has invalid assumptions or uses invalid logical structure

– The authority of the Bible

The difficulty of proving the Bible true is even more difficult than proving it false.

– Personal experience

Now this is very powerful evidence – to those who experience it.  It is of little or no validity to anyone who did not share in the experience.

Because each side really seems unable to make a compelling case, the typical methodology is to state beliefs as facts.  And perhaps make derogatory comments about the person who disagrees with them.  This tends to be quite distressing to those who believe differently.  Perhaps the antagonism could be minimized if everybody did not do these.  Instead, imagine if instead of “X is so”, each person said “I believe X is so”.  Moving from something which may or may not be so, to something which is undeniably so, leaving the forum open to discussion of differences rather than personal invective.  Even better would be “I believe X is so, because of investigateable evidence Y”.  But most people won’t, and the snarling back and forth will continue….

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7 thoughts on “Degree of Belief

  1. There is no definitive definition of what god is. As for theories, I’m fairly sure that you’re all down with the theory of gravity, germ theory, and many other ‘scientific theories’ … I’d advise you to carefully use the word ‘theory’ when explaining things. The Christian bible is internally inconsistent and contradictory. There are over 400 contradictions. Some of those are on very important parts of Christian dogma such as creation, 10 commandments and so on, never mind the tomb and resurrection. That is the problem.. theists do not want to read, never mind understand, their holy book. Having to process all that information is painful and takes a lot of work. It’s much easier to be lazy and listen to the pastor.

    • There are many definitions of what God is. Since some are contradictory, you are right, there is no definitive definition. In fact, it may even be that each person has a different definition. It might even be intrinsic to the whole concept of “belief”.

      I’m aware of things which Science can prove, and don’t consider those things “theories”. There are other things which fit all the known facts, but cannot be “proven” (or disproved) and these things I consider theories, by definition. I’m not clear how I “screwed up” in my use of the word “theory”; please explain.

      As mentioned, you are making a statement of “fact”, that the Bible “is internally inconsistent and contradictory”. Since I have not seen any incontrovertible proof of that, it encourages a childish engagement (yes it does, no it doesn’t, ad infinitum). You go on to state there are 400 contradictions. If only you had given some examples or even one, then we could look at it and see if your “facts” hold water. Otherwise, we’re back to “yes it does, no it doesn’t”.

      Then you “insult” all theists. Some are as you describe, some aren’t. Wouldn’t you think that both types would be discouraged from joining you in investigation of the topic? Would you make generalized statements about any other group based on individuals in that group?

      Thank you for helping to illustrate what I’m talking about. Not whether God exists or not, but how conflicting beliefs clash in a manner not conducive to resolution.

      • Here are some links. There are lots of incomplete lists: http://infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions.html
        This one is impressive: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/08/19/an-incredible-interactive-chart-of-biblical-contradictions/
        Here is the interactive one: http://bibviz.com/

        With that not even being the tip of the iceburg I didn’t think it necessary to point out. It’s not even in question. If you can go through those links and perhaps seek out some for yourself and still believe the bible is not inconsistent and contradictory then I guess religion is your calling, as it were.

        You talk about how conflicting beliefs clash in a manner not conducive to resolution but seem oblivious to the obvious chinks in the believer’s argument. How is that conducive to resolution?

      • Thank you. At last, some potential contradictions/errors which actually can be investigated.

        Of course, both sources listed have “feelings” parts, where things which we, as humans in this day and age, should or do abhor, are attributed to God, who is not human, does not live in this environment, and whose alleged “crimes” were in a different time and place. That is, we don’t have enough information to validly “judge” Him.

        For instance, one of the sources has a section on “discrimination against homosexuals”. Really? That is “proof” or even a “significant indication” that God does not exist or is not worthy of worship? It might work to convince those who have homosexual desires that God is “bad” or just a bad idea, but it is obvious propaganda, not proof against God. Same with claims that God is down with war, violence, cruelty, suppression of women, genocide and slavery.

        I don’t need to look at any of these , because it makes no useful difference whether the claims have any validity or not.

        Even if a significant part of each of these sources can be disregarded as incapable of being “proof”, both do list things which appear to be fact based and not feeling based. Such things need to be seriously looked at, because if they can hold water, they might actually prove what is being attempted to be proven.

        The whole point of conflict of belief is that there is a large emotional aspect on both sides. One side sees what they think is a “chink” in the other side, and makes snide comments or just flat out contradicts it. That is not conducive to resolution. Approaching it with what logic and facts are valid, as well as compassion, has a greater chance of leading to resolution.

      • Ok, that Bibviz site is a really neat presentation. Content appears not to be of much use, though. So far, of the 20 “contradictions” I checked at random, 19 of them appear not to be valid contradictions. One seems like it could actually be a contradiction; will need to research that one further.

        A “contradiction” often needs to be both “yes” and “no” or something equally binary. David killed Goliath with a sling and David killed Goliath with a sword might well be a contradiction. Rahab being honored for telling lies about the Israeli spies, and a requirement that one does not provide “false witness” is almost certainly NOT a contradiction.

        This site could be a real boon to biblical authenticity analysis if it cut the “400” mostly “desperately reached for” contradictions down to those which are truly contradictory.

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