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Why believe in a God or gods?

by Diane Vera

Copyright © 2003 by Diane Vera. All rights reserved.

Below is a concise summary of what I consider to be a reasonable basis for at least a tentative, limited belief in a God or gods. The following is only an outline, not a complete argument. (For more complete arguments, see The existence of the supernatural and Reasonable (though not completely rational) theism.)

  1. It is highly likely that a supernatural realm exists -- "supernatural" being defined as that which is beyond even the potential reach of science. To say that the superatural does not exist is equivalent to the positive universal statement that everything that exists is, at least potentially, within the reach of scientific understanding. And it is highly unlikely that everything that exists is, even potentially, within the reach of science.

  2. At least some people, especially those who have had paranormal experiences, may legitimately perceive a likelihood that a supernatural realm not only exists but impinges on at least some people's lives. Therefore, simply ignoring the supernatural may not be the wisest course of action -- at least not in our daily lives (even though ignoring the supernatural is necessary in science).

  3. Gods and other spirits are humanity's main traditional way of conceptualizing the supernatural -- or, at least, the unknown and possibly supernatural -- insofar as the unknown is believed to impinge on people's lives. These concepts may well be incorrect. Indeed, given the track record of human pre-scientific thinking, they very likely are incorrect, or at least inaccurate. However, we have no sound means of arriving at any better ideas. And, given the near-universality of the concepts of gods and spirits, they probably are a good enough approximation for most practical purposes. After all, instincts and folklore are key human survival mechanisms, even though they are vastly inferior to science as a means of seeking truth.

    But instincts and folklore should, at least, be tempered by reason. To the latter end, we can (1) reject beliefs that are obviously nonsensical, (2) survey the variety of religious beliefs worldwide and make our own best guess as to which beliefs seem to us most likely to be at least somewhere near the ballpark, (3) read skeptical literature and educate ourselves about any relevant scientific findings, (4) remember always that our knowledge is extremely limited, and (5) avoid making an inordinately large number of assumptions.

For details, see:

  • Reasonable (though not completely rational) theism

    1. Scientific methodology vs. everyday life
    2. Theism as a pragmatic assumption in everyday life

      My approach to an argument for theism is radically different from the traditional arguments for the existence of God. In my opinion, most of the traditional arguments are not very good. Atheists have made valid critiques of nearly all of them. (See, for example, the Secular Web (Internet Infidels) site.)

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