Are you capable of belief in God?

Can you imagine yourself believing on faith? For instance: If Richard Dawkins or perhaps a couple of atheists you know and trust personally were to describe first hand knowledge of God, could you believe? Or would you require your own first hand evidence?

Posted: September 8th 2008

Dave Hitt www

Atheism doesn’t have a leader, so atheists wouldn’t be swayed by prominent atheists getting all silly for some strange reason and reverting to theism.

It’s not impossible for me to believe – after all, I did once – but at this point in my life I’d have to see some impressive evidence, evidence that couldn’t simply be a technology more advanced than ours.

He could, for instance, give me his power, just for a few minutes. I’d use it to do things he wouldn’t like (based on his historical inaction) like eliminate disease and hunger and make everyone more rational. But he could undo that as soon as the time limit expired.

But unless something miraculous like that happens, discarding a life based on logic and reason to return to a life of superstition and fear is not very likely.

Posted: September 27th 2008

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George Locke

I am very interested in religion, and find wisdom in religious texts. I am fascinated by paradox. I actively seek 'visionary’ experience. I meditate and do yoga. I occasionally perceive everyday occurrences as guidance for me. At one time, I believed in god. I continue to believe that prayer and communication with 'spirits’ can be valuable. In many ways, I am an ideal theist candidate.

However, I don’t believe in god.

Unlike most atheists, I have actually had 'first hand experience’ of the supernatural. I have seen things which are in every respect spirit-like; in these experiences, I gained insight into my life and choices. However, I do not believe in the supernatural. I believe in the power of the unconscious.

Posted: September 24th 2008

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John Sargeant www

Belief in god being a product of the human mind – yes more then capable of belief in god. But that road I left long ago.

Personal revelation is by definition applicable to one person, and even then there is nothing objective they can give to anyone else to draw conclusions.

The conclusions that I have, that make me an atheist, are dependent on the argument rather than the people making it.

New evidence or argument may change my mind.

Posted: September 22nd 2008

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I believed in the past. I believe that I can believe now, but I’m a different person than I was in the past.

I’ve learned in my 40-odd years on this planet that lots of people believe things that are untrue. So I rarely base my belief on what a person tells me. I do place more credence in some people than others, but it depends on what they’re claiming. If my wife says she saw a coyote on her walk this morning, I’ll believe her. If she says she teleported to the coffee shop and back, I won’t.

If I saw some of those good old-fashioned biblical miracles (part a sea, raise the dead, turn water into wine, walk on water), then I’d certainly have to re-evaluate my beliefs. But you don’t seem to see those these days…

Posted: September 18th 2008

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Though brought up by a devout Catholic mother, I never believed in the supernatural. Besides skepticism (no evidence for the supernatural including god belief), I clearly did not need the belief. The reality in which us 'meat machines’ inhabit is rich, intriguing, and captivating enough for me.

Why is reality enough for me? I suspect it is the way nature and nurture became expressed in my being. A genetic biologist once said, nature/nurture is similar to a cake, you may be able to slice it, but you can’t un-bake it. Perhaps someday we will have a better grasp on why some can take the faith leap and others just can’t. And why some can lose faith and others can’t.

Because I have never believed in religious faith, I truly doubt I ever will. As soon as the idea comes to my mind, I counter it with the lack of evidence for its existence and my life experience counters it for the lack of need.

Will I ever be in a situation where need trumps evidence? I could imagine pretending to myself that god exists to help myself survive an unbearable situation (one of great isolation and pain). But I would realize at the same time that I am only doing it as a temporary crutch, a consciously self-initiated mind game, so to speak.

Posted: September 18th 2008

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Akusai www

I find the suggestion that I might re-believe (to coin a new word) on the authority of some kind of converted “big atheist,” so to speak, mildly insulting. It is also a window into the mindset of many theists: knowledge comes from authority and consensus. Notice who you appeal to that might cause atheists to believe:

(1)Richard Dawkins – a perceived “authority” among atheists

(2)“A couple of atheists you know and trust” – friendly consensus

The first suggest that atheists might believe if one of their “luminaries” begins to believe. This is a strange suggestion. Dawkins is not the Atheist Pope. He’s an atheist with a public platform from which to express his ideas, nothing more. I enjoy his books and speeches, but if he converted, the reaction among atheists would be more like “Another one bites the dust” and not “Maybe there’s something to this.” He has no authority over our minds.

The second suggests that we can be convinced of something that is not at all self-evident on the testimony of close friends. Somehow this often works to convert theists to other religion, but they already believe in the basic tenet (a god exists) and have laid the metaphysical groundwork themselves. I suspect that any atheist who has thought through his or her stance will meet close-friend converts with the same skepticism as anyone else. Just because we trust them doesn’t mean we think they’re right 100% of the time.

In the end, I would believe only with first-hand evidence, and only with good first-hand evidence. But even then, if I was the only one to see this evidence and nobody else believed me, I would question my own perception and sanity long before I grew a belief in God.

If God is only going around showing himself to individuals, one at a time, what good is he? What good is that to me? How can I differentiate such an experience from a mental disorder? Just because such an experience converted Dawkins or some friends of mine doesn’t mean it would convert me.

If God wants a convert, he should do something amazing and wide-ranging, like he apparently did in the old days, but hasn’t done for a long, long time.

Posted: September 16th 2008

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Reed Braden www

Barring a shovel to the back of the head, I don’t believe I can believe again. Faith just isn’t impressive anymore. Trust me, I spent a lot of time impressed by faith. I revelled in joining big mosh pits of Christian youths at concerts and rallies and just letting “the spirit” take over. But now that I’ve discovered the joy I get out of scepticism, I could never go back to faith. It’s like playing 1940’s Victrola records for years and then switching to an MP3 player. You can’t go back without some serious brain damage first.

At least, that applies for my case.

Posted: September 16th 2008

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brian thomson www

Though I don’t recall ever Believing (with a Capital B), I certainly don’t think I’m immune to such a common human foible. I can imagine something “flipping” in my head, making it acceptable to believe things that have no evidence behind them. I imagine it would be a bit like being drunk.

Not sure I understand the part of your question about Dawkins. Being an atheist means that you’re not a “follower”, and that you don’t do things just because others do, or tell you to. That would apply to Dawkins too, in the highly unlikely event that he “flips”. He’s only human, as are we all.

Posted: September 16th 2008

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SmartLX www

Yes, I’m capable of belief in God. I believed once, after all. I could be convinced again, but probably not through the personal experiences of other people.

If Richard Dawkins were to receive a private revelation and emerge convinced but without evidence beyond his own testimony, I suspect that he would not even ask atheists to believe him. It would be an act of hypocrisy. He would also realise people would think that, like Antony Flew, his powers of reason had become more suceptible to weak arguments and dodgy evidence in his old age.

Other atheists’ personal experiences might convince some atheists through sheer trust, but all would keep in mind that personal experience is not evidence to those without it.

In the absence of first-hand personal experience of God, Jesus, Shiva or some kind of after-the-fact evidence, it would take a logical argument to convince me of a deity’s existence. When I realised I was an atheist, I came to sites like this (and apologist sites, of course) looking for the best of such arguments, and I think I’ve found all the major ones. I’m still not convinced.

Posted: September 15th 2008

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