“Do you believe in God?” This is a question I get asked constantly. There are basically two meanings to this question; a question, after all, is never just a question. You can’t possibly believe in God, is one version, when science has answered most, if not all, the questions religion and/or theism used to supply. Moreover, what of the doubts surrounding the existence of such a being, let alone the atrocities committed in Its name? They’re so pervasive and refined that the slightest indication of belief seems laughable. The other meaning implied in the question is basically: give me the answer because, despite what’s just been said, I really do want to believe.
Let’s back up a little and consider a context. Let’s seek to do justice to both perspectives. Why? A question is never just a question, remember? What’s more is that this particular question, however bothersome (and I must admit it is to me), is quite special. It’s rarely, if ever, raised dispassionately. It is a question of meaning. Somehow, in our minds, to answer this question “objectively”, in the negative or the positive, would be to settle life’s conundrums. Putting it in these terms seems hyperbolic but the ferocious growth of the industry surrounding this question suggests it. Punch our question into Amazon.com, if you don’t believe me!
In the context of meaning, rather than that of proof or of faith, our two proposed connotations above, an interstice emerges—everything is about the interstice on this blog! There’s no privileged position here. None, in fact, exists that settles this issue either by a resounding yes or a deflating no, as Kierkegaard knew so long ago. Probability scales never settle a question of meaning and that, quite frankly, is what “objective” evidence, pro and con, supplies. Unconvinced? Look again at your Amazon.com search results. No, reader friend, this question isn’t settled by science or faith supported by science. And here’s the clincher: it never should be settled!
I don’t make this matter of belief in God one of proof for that reason. It misunderstands what proofs achieve and how that achievement is to connect with “reasons” for living or believing. A philosopher’s use of science to convince people either way is crafty but finally, in my opinion, ineffective. The importance of this question, at least philosophically, consists in its debatability. Not simply that it can be debated philosophically but that the question itself is interminably debatable. We exercise the mind this way. Huh? Yes, you heard correctly. We exercise the mind by thinking what by definition is unthinkable; by pushing the boundaries, as it were; by stretching our minds in directions of possibility, not certitude—as if we ever attain certitude about things that really matter to us. The question of God is never answered definitively intellectually because the term “God” itself is a vista, not a villa.
Am I in any way prejudging the validity of such a belief? I think I’m saying that believing in God is “sensible” without committing myself to a specific definition or argument. Am I hinting at the possibility that such a stance is reasonable and hence legitimizes belief? I don’t think so. I prefer to think of it in terms of inciting the ability to develop one’s decision to believe daily. Don’t fall prey to simplistic ideas about the need to demonstrate such things before belief can take place. That particular game involves a category mistake that’ll only breed cynicism about objects that need to be transcended in your quest anyway.
So, do I believe in God? Yes, but that’s debatable.