Monday 6 November 2023

"Evidence" that God exists...

Most people in the West "know" that God does not exist; and they think they "know" this from the "lack of evidence". 

They may ask some variant of - "If God is really-real; then why doesn't God communicate with us?"

But of course there are countless people (now and in the past) who state they know that God exists, have seen or heard or reasoned-out evidence of this. 

What "most people" in the West actually mean is much more like "I, personally, don't believe those people who say that God exists, and I don't believe that the evidence the believers provide is real". 

What is really meant is something more like "I choose to believe the people and institutions that state God does Not exist; and I choose to disbelieve anyone who claims God Does exist."... which is a very different thing from there being "no evidence". 

That's a first line defense. People choose who to believe - what "authorities" to trust. But they then pretend that they have not made this choice! - they claim that their choice was not a choice, but was objective reality; to deny which is irrational self-deception... 

To make a choice, then to deny this was a choice, is surely the very worst kind of self-deception - because impossible of correction?

It also goes deeper than that... 

"I personally do not know of any evidence that convinces me that God exists" is the kind of phrase - and what this actually means is that no such evidence of God is possible, because "my" understanding of "reality" excludes the possibility of God - my understanding of The World has no space for God

Someone who says they personally know of no "evidence" that God exists is therefore in truth saying something about himself - not about reality. 

Because his grounds for claiming there is "no evidence" are rooted in many chosen-assumptions that might be otherwise; and these assumptions were themselves chosen. 

(Or else the assumptions were passively-accepted at first, and then later defended as being necessarily true - defended by personal choice.) 

"I know of no evidence that God exists" actually means something-like: 

"I deny the possibility that there could be any evidence of God's existence - because I already have decided there is no God, and therefore any supposed-evidence cannot be true".

Yet such convictions, like all convictions, are ultimately chosen; and therefore we are personally, and ultimately, responsible for both our beliefs and for our disbeliefs, equally

And "responsible" means that we personally will take the consequences for the life we choose to lead - which life is most deeply and essentially our thought-life: that of our lives over which we have the greatest choice, and in which our agency is manifested...

We have little or no direct control over the material context of our lives: we don't choose the physical world we inhabit. 

Yet, our thinking is free - if we choose it to be free. 

In particular; we can choose to affirm the ultimate truth, goodness and reality of whatever we want; and to deny the reality of whatever we want*. 

By That we make our life, and judge our-selves. 

*Note - Believing "whatever you want" does Not means that all alternatives are equally true; and choosing to want-to-believe that which you judge to be false or evil will have consequences. 


Skarp-hedin said...

Excellent. Thanks. Edifying.

Unfortunately (?), I have come to the point where I just accept that "free-will" and "choice" (as with "Angels" or "Angelic Beings") are things that are above-my-paygrade.

Anselm called these people "Fools". And I think he was absolutely correct. It's just the height of foolishness: a total lack of seriousness.

They consider themselves "logicians" yet dismiss minds like Anselm and Aquinas and Pascal without a thought. And, they're like moths to the flame with second or third-rate thinkers. They're ridiculous and un-serious people. Fools.

It brings to mind the image I see posted on twitter of the IQ Bell Curve with a brute on the far left and a wizard on the far right and a frustrated crying person in the middle. The extremes, of course, agree that God exists in reality while the middle or mid-wit cries in frustration.

I'm not an IQ guy myself, but there is something very much like a "dead-spot" going on in the distribution of thinking ability.

To paraphrase the German General: "one simply cannot have stupid and hard-working people in one's army. Anything but that."

Sorry for the long post.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Anyone who says there is "no evidence" for any widely held belief is being lazy or dishonest. People don't just randomly believe things for no reason. If people believe a thing, then either (a) there is evidence for it or (b) it is a metaphysical assumption for which it would be a category error to expect "evidence."

william arthurs said...

It is said that Napoleon asked the Marquis de Laplace whether God was mentioned in Laplace's great work, the Mechanique Celeste. Laplace replied wittily "Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis."

It just occurs to me that Laplace was wrong because one of the metaphysical assumptions underlying his astrophysics was that the universe is intelligible under the category of number, ie. through physics. Such an assumption is implicit in the first chapter of John's Gospel but isn't capable of being evidenced.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Skarp. I am (or rather I was) an IQ guy; and I wrote a somewhat influential paper about "clever sillies" - the particular and causal ways in which above average intelligence leads to stupid beliefs.

But from a Christian perspective, I think we should assume that (for each individual) intelligence is neither an advantage nor a disadvantage in terms of prospects for salvation and ability to learn from that person's actual life.

The life we get will (as far as God can make it) the life we personally need; and it is up to each person to make the best of it rather than wanting to have been differently made.

@WmJas - Agreed. And guilty as charged. It took several decades before some remarks by Rodney Stark made me realize fully that it was exclusionary metaphysical assumptions that I was mistaking for 'lack of evidence'.

@william a - "Such an assumption is implicit in the first chapter of John's Gospel but isn't capable of being evidenced."

I don't see it that way!

Alexeyprofi said...

I myself did find a logical proofs of God's existence, although I hold panentheistic views. When you explain them to atheists, agnostics they are like "No. It's not true. This *logical conclusions* does not prove God's existence". Well, sure. Because you dont want to believe in God, nothing will prove his existence to you.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ap - I became a Christian before finding a convincing proof of God - but I later found Aquinas's second 'way' or proof to be convincing:

That is, that in order to avoid an infinite regress, there must be a first cause (prime mover) of everything that happens.

But I later realized (or, at least, came to believe) that this is also necessary for humans to have free will/ agency - therefore that there is Not a single first cause, but as many first causes as there are free beings. (All Men are capable of being first causes.)

In other words, all things that happen have a primary cause that is (in effect) 'divine', but this ability to initiate primary causation is a property of all 'beings'; so, in a sense, all beings are gods (at least potentially).

Alexeyprofi said...

My insights were that mechanistic universe cannot contain conscious beings in itself, because that will be a logical contradiction, and other is that space, time, gravity etc must have common nature within themselves, otherwise universe would've just fell down. This common nature that is present in everything and makes it connected is basically God. It's like a constructor - details fit with each other only because they belong to the same constructor and reflect it with their own structure.
I actually agree with the idea of first cause but what it's missing is explanation of what caused God. I think that God caused himself and is the reason of his existence, this is called self-causation.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ap - "mechanistic universe cannot contain conscious beings in itself, because that will be a logical contradiction, "

I also find that a convincing argument - but I don't really understand your other argument, probably because I don't properly or fully understand the nature of a Constructor.

To me, it is trying to explain some-thing by positing another-thing which is actually *harder* to understand!

"what it's missing is explanation of what caused God."

No, that isn't missing - it is just that you are (presumably) assuming everything that is must have been caused, and you solve this (to your satisfaction!) by positing self-creation - which, to me, is nonsensical, incoherent!

Whereas my different assumption is that Many things, including all Beings, Always Existed (from eternity) - and I don't find this at all weird or abstract, since it is what I used to believe spontaneously as a young child.

To my way of thinking, the only alternative to at least some-thing/s existing from eternity is some kind of infinite regress -- which "explanation" I regard as an artificial abstraction (however mathematically/ logically coherent is may seem to be), and Not a genuinely understandable or coherent explanation.