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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Proof

Most people would really like to ‘prove’ that their version of God exists.  So far, no one has managed it.

There are 4 types of proof which can be attempted.  First is ‘scientific proof’, where a repeatable ‘experiment’ has reliable results which proves the premise.  God(s) are supernatural, by definition, so do not follow the laws of science we are constrained by.  This type of proof has never been successfully used.  Will it ever be?  I doubt it.

Next is ‘logical proof’.  This is where you start with provable assumptions and use valid logical arguments to prove your viewpoint.  This has been used a lot – invalidly.  In every single case I’ve run into, either one or more assumptions were not provable or even valid, or at least one step of the logical argument was invalid.  Perhaps the most obvious (and annoying) instance of this is the ever popular “The Bible is the Word of God, because it says so in the Bible”.  Sorry, the rules of logic do not permit the premise to prove itself.  Another is the attempt to just prove that God exists.  “Every design has a designer,  The Earth has a design.  Thus the Earth has a designer”.  In this case, the logic is valid, but let’s look at the assumptions.  “Every design has a designer” is inherently true, so no problem there.  “The Earth has a design”; now this one is problematical.  It sure does seem like it has a design, the way everything fits together in just the right way, but ‘seem’ does not guarantee ‘is’.

Then there is ‘personal experience’.  This is where you know something to be true because you personally experienced it.  This is a very powerful proof to the person with the experience, but much less so to everyone else.  Some may accept it as true because they trust the person claiming the experience; others likely will not if they don’t know or trust the person.

Finally, there is ‘legal proof’, where something is so ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.  As you can tell by a brief glance at the history of our legal system, this is just an indication, not proof.

What it comes down to, is ‘faith’; ‘belief’.  And this may very well be by design.  In the Bible, it is made very clear that belief is very important to God.  Why?  I have no idea, but it does seem that God set things up so that it would be impossible to ‘prove’ Him; you would HAVE to have belief to interact with him.

Before I was saved, I was amused or annoyed at the attempts made to ‘prove’ anything to do with God, but I’ll tell you, once they used invalid logic, unproven assumptions or just stated things as facts which they could not back up, I tended to discount everything they said.

How then can you share God with others?  Forget scientific or logical ‘proof’, it can just make you look silly.  Don’t state your beliefs or theories as facts; state them as YOUR beliefs or theories.  If the people know you well, personal experience may be accepted, but don’t rely on this alone.  Showing that your view of God COULD be true or even better, is LIKELY to be true, is a first step on the path to showing someone the light.  Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to show, by your everyday actions, your relationship to God.  Nothing will ruin your attempts to share God faster or more completely than having your actions be at odds with your words.