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Old 03-27-2009, 02:21 AM   #31
Samuel Dravis
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Why do you not believe there is a God? What prompted you in your personal life to believe that no creator of the universe exists?
What prompted me into disbelief? I was Christian until about 17, when I discovered I could no longer call myself one in any meaningful sense. Why was that? There are many reasons, I suppose.

I loved science when I was younger. I was homeschooled and my mother had gotten some science book for me published by Abeka. Abeka is a protestant homeschooling curriculum resource; I wasn't protestant. The books contained, among other things, various creationist doctrines and ideas. Their correctness I wasn't really clear on, but I knew one thing: they irritated me. Those ideas just didn't fit with the rest of the content of the book and it was easy even for me to see that they didn't.

Later I encountered people who wanted to know how I knew that God even existed. I had never thought much about it before, so I looked up proofs. The proofs turned out to be inadequate for my purposes, though: they never ended up showing that God necessarily existed, and I knew it. I wasn't stupid, or so I thought. Because of these kinds of discussions, I began identifying the justification of my faith with the need for a rational proof of the existence of an being that has the attributes normally assigned to God.

I didn't find any such "rational proof", of course. After a while I stopped associating myself with those ideas and decided I was no longer a Christian.

Now, though, I think I misunderstood all the talk about God which led me to think of the problem in terms of proving the existence of a "man-in-the-sky." Relatively recently (well, the past year or two) I've been thinking of belief as more of a sociological/psychological phenomenon, and one of the expressions of this phenomenon is to talk about God.

So, instead of looking to see what people say about God and taking it literally, I've been looking at it a bit differently. "God created the world" --> "Part of the concept of God in this religion is that he created the world." This immediately defuses problems associated with creationist and other controversial standpoints, insofar as they are seen as assertoric propositions instead of as belief-expressions. It's no longer necessary to debate these expressions since they are self-evident; it would be like debating whether a person enjoys Coca-Cola or Dr. Pepper better. It would be trivial to find out: just ask them what they like.

By continuing in this way, taking the all the various invocations of God into account - praying to God, thanking God, praising God, religious ritual, the behavior associated with belief, belief-influenced kindness, blessings, etc. - we begin to come up with a concept of God quite different from the one usually spoken of in philosophy. It's true that God is said to be the Good, etc, by believers -- but do we need to take everything they say at face value?

Consider this case. A man (Mr. A) is talking to his friend (Mr. B) about how fast a ball will come down from the sky if he throws it up at such-and-such an angle and speed. The other explains to him it will be like this. A says, but how do you know it will come down like that? B: --Because of the law of gravity. A: Prove that the law of gravity exists so that I know it will be as you say. Okay, watch this: --and B drops the ball to the ground. A: But that's not proof; I want logical proof, not an example. What's true once doesn't need to be true again; you should know that. --But you're asking the impossible, it can't be proven like that. You have the wrong idea about what the law of gravity is. A: How so? --You think of the law of gravity as a prescriptive equation, a metaphysical entity in itself that forces the universe to be like it is. Really, though, the law of gravity is a funny way of saying: things fall like this. And he drops the ball again.

It's true we often talk of things in ways superficially confusing. The above is just one example: we have this idea of a law as something that prevents things, and we carry this idea over when we hear of the "law of gravity." Yet that mistake can be fixed easily by saying, --Look and see how we use the "law of gravity" in our life. How much more confusion can be ended by saying, look and see how the concept of God functions in the lives of believers? Their speech is deceptive but their acts are not.

So you can see why I'd think less of those arguments which seemed quite reasonable to me at 17. I was thinking of God as a metaphysical being, and everyone else told me it was true. Like many things I've discovered, though, the things I think and the things I'm told are not necessarily the case.
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