A significant unifying element between faith and skepticism, between belief and unbelief, is that both parties in this debate DO NOT ACTUALLY KNOW THAT A GOD EXISTS. A minority of believing Christians and people of other faith’s do claim to know to some degree or another that God exists, but I estimate that this is not representative of a large majority of people who believe in the existence of God.
I think that this common element is quite telling. The honest answer for so many people all over the world is that WE DO NOT FUNDAMENTALLY KNOW IF GOD EXISTS. If God isn’t a person that we can get to know and relate with, THEN WHY CALL GOD A PERSON? We don’t know God like we know other persons, the personhood of God becomes indistinguishable from an abstraction. An abstraction that looks like this.
Many Christians, Muslims, and Jews do view their devotional lives as an interaction with God on some level, but this is a transaction between God and people that is entirely done in faith.
It is being done in a Hebrews 11:1 fashion.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
People are praying to God, reading their Scriptures, writing in their journals, and living in their communities with a deep conviction that God is leading them and guiding them. I’m of the view that conviction and knowledge are two separate things. WE CAN HAVE A FIRM CONVICTION ABOUT ANYTHING AND STILL BE WRONG ABOUT IT. So it is that THE REWARD OF HAVING FAITH IS NOT THE SAME AS HAVING THE REWARD OF KNOWLEDGE AND RELIABLE EVIDENCE.
Take away the rewarding feelings that accompany faith, and what are these people left with? They are left with the admonition to act as if God exists without even knowing it. If you can’t act as if God exists, you won’t feel rewarded and it may be the beginning of a new search for a more reliable form of assurance.
It may bring one to recognize just how strange and peculiar it is to act as if they are in a relationship with God, without actually knowing it. I mean, think about it, isn’t this a most odd way to talk about a seemingly real relationship? Why must it be so, as in, why is this the normative or dominant way that people relate to God?
It’s as if a large black curtain rests between people and their God. Is He on the other side or not? God is believed to be behind the curtain pulling the strings. He is thought to be listening but He doesn’t talk back. He is thought to be present but He doesn’t put His hand on your shoulder. It is assumed that He loves us, but let’s be honest, feeling alone and waiting on God are sometimes one in the same.
Believers in God, of course, learn to accept this, and it even gets further explained as being a necessary component in the journey of faith. If we can keep acting as if God exists, things will get better in time. “Let patience have its perfect work.” There’s a reason for everything and “God knows those reasons.” “His thoughts are higher than your thoughts, and His ways are higher than your ways.”
These are promises, right? God will fulfill them later in life. Oh, but wait, that’s often too early. Don’t worry, God will show you His ultimate purpose for everything that happened, the good and the bad, the thick and the thin, and He’ll do this AFTER YOU DIE. For what is this life but a few fleeting moments to endure?
If we start acting like this existence is the only thing we truly know of for sure, our faith might be in trouble. “Don’t act like that, friend, remember the promises of God. These promises are reliable, you may not actually know that a God exists, but you can trust Him. He’s reliable. Just keep acting like He is there, He’ll reward you. Just wait and see.”
Faith is a very important component for believing in something without knowing it is true. My friends, just imagine yourself in a world where having faith is a foreign mindset. In other words, instead of advocating faith, most people just honestly respond, “I don’t know,” when asked if God exists.
It’s clear, straightforward, and upfront. It is acceptable for people to simply say, “I don’t know.” They say this without flinching and they instead structure their time and their lives around what can be known.
I say this because if God exists, and if it was evident that God exists, I suspect that there would be a lot more driving that hypothesis than culture. At this time in history it is still culturally normative to believe in God. In other words, it is still culturally normative to act as if God exists without knowing it.
GOD LIVES OR DIES WITH CULTURE, NOT WITH EVIDENCE. If God was evident the debate wouldn’t rage on as it does. Between Theists of all stripes people are arguing about which God or gods to believe in, and between Theists and those who are skeptical we’re still trying to establish if this being even exists. There’s two issues that I see.
- If God exists, who could it be, and how many are there?
2. Does God even exist at all? Or will God die with the whims of what culture accepts as normative at the time?
Evidentially speaking, our world situation may well be what one could expect if religion is made up. Made up ideas tend to fall out of favor over time. Greek Mythology is outdated for a reason, am I right? So are many other ancient religions.
Believers of course are going to keep hedging their bets, they’ll say, “well, you can’t prove that God doesn’t exist.” Yes, they’re right about that, I can’t prove without a doubt that there is no God.
I can, however, make the point that 1) Most people, believers and skeptics, do not actually know that God exists. This is very much to the disadvantage of the believer because evidence can’t be used to put this matter to rest, only arguments in the form of wagers and alleged best guesses.
2) Without evidence that translates into knowledge, we are unable to differentiate the God of classical Theism from all other mythical beliefs. I don’t know about my readers but I find it highly important to separate myth from fact.
3) Since faith involves acting as if God exists without actually knowing it, it becomes apparent that truth isn’t the main objective of faith. After all, truth is able to be identified and bring people of vastly different viewpoints into agreement. Does belief in God work like this? I don’t know. Find me an apologist for Christianity, an apologist for Islam, and an apologist for Hinduism and let me know what they figure out?
If God isn’t known in this world in such a way that people from every culture can rally around the clearly known facts about this being, then what does this say about a God that is thought to intervene and make Himself known in the world? Why be so secretive? So hidden? Why keep billions of people guessing and erring about how to properly define and understand the most basic aspects about Him? Bear in mind, religions like Christianity and Islam attach very heavy penalties upon people for getting this information wrong.
Worshipping the wrong God, and even thinking about God in the wrong way isn’t taken too kindly by all three of the worlds largest Monotheistic religions. I am at the end of the day challenging how reliable “faith” is as a method for determining what is true? In my opinion, it breaks down, especially when trying to discern between fact and fiction.