Why is it so hard for some people to believe in God? The answers would probably be linked to personal, social, and possibly some intellectual reasons. Let’s explore this in more detail…
Bringing a person to a belief in God is a process. This process consists of three steps:
- It takes as much faith to not believe in God as it does to believe in God.
- It takes more of a leap of faith in the dark to disbelieve in God than to believe in God.
- While one can reason to a point of probability that there is a God, it takes personal commitment to get to know that God exists as a certainty.
If one progresses through these three steps, they can come to know God. Last month, we explored the first step. This month we will consider Steps #2 and #3.
2) It takes more of a leap of faith in the dark to disbelieve in God than to believe in God.
The 18th century English poet William Cowper, wrote: “The absence of proof is not proof of absence.” It is a logical fallacy to say that because one cannot prove there is a God, it means there is no God.
There were those who sought to prove that the earth was flat with a similar argument. That line of reasoning was eventually disproved and is considered irrational. Furthermore, good science can only offer hypothesis and theories based upon data currently available to explain phenomena. Therefore, by the very standards that science uses, the burden of disproof of the existence of God must be borne by the atheist.1
The argument people will make is: “Until you prove there is a God; until you show rational empirical proof, I don’t have to believe in God. Therefore, until you prove there is a God, there is no God.”
The problem is that the stance requires a big leap of faith. (Even those people who believe that our reality isn’t “real” still look both ways before they cross the street.)
How can one prove that God who created the universe is not somewhere in the universe?
In the above argument, one could say they believe that Manhattan does not exist if they have not gone to Manhattan themselves. Why then does God have to be so inside the world that He can be provable?
The very argument also requires a leap of faith. One is actually assuming something about the nature of God in order to say He doesn’t exist.
C.S. Lewis wrote an article in 1961 that addresses this issue. The Russians were the first country to send somebody into space, Yuri Gagarin. After his flight, Gagarin came back and a few months later the Premier of the Soviet Union, Nakita Khrushchev, was giving a speech at the plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU.2
In talking about atheism he said, “Gagarin flew into space, but didn’t see any god there.”3 (It is interesting to note that Gagarin himself was a member of the Russian Orthodox Church.4) In response, C.S. Lewis wrote this:
If there is a God who created the world and created us, I could no more “meet” Him, than Hamlet could meet Shakespeare. If Hamlet wants to prove there is a Shakespeare, he’s not going to be able to do it in a lab, nor is he going to be able to find Shakespeare by going up into the top of the stage. The only way he will know something about Shakespeare is if Shakespeare writes something about himself into the play.5
What that means is if there is a Creator God, you can only prove His existence if He injects Himself into his own creation.
If one can’t prove that there is no God that also means there may be a God, just One whom we can’t prove exists. If one is living their life as if there is no God because His existence can’t be proven, then there is a risk.
Disbelief is an act of faith. Disbelief is as much an act of faith as a person who gives themselves to God and the one who does not believe is taking their destiny in their hands.
The Anthropic Principle
One of the most compelling evidences supporting a theistic worldview involves the anthropic principle. The anthropic principle observes that the earth is fashioned so precisely that life could not exist if the earth were even minutely different. Atheists acknowledge this and then argue that, although the universe is incredibly complex and wonderfully ordered, one should not be surprised that life came into existence through random process, because the very fact that we exist demonstrates that evolution occurred.
The fundamental problem with this argument is that it is merely a philosophical statement that relies on circular reasoning. It assumes that chance accounts for the origin of life and then states, because life exists, there is proof that life came to be by chance.
The value of the anthropic principle, as a support for God, lies in its recognition that life can exist only within very narrow margins.
For example, if the earth was located closer or farther from the sun, life could not exist due to excessive heat or cold. If the chemical composition of the atmosphere varied only slightly, the air would be poisonous to life. If the sea-to-land-mass ratio, depth of the oceans, and the earth’s cloud cover were different, the earth’s ability to store and release heat would change dramatically. All such events could result in the absence of life on earth.
Rather than all of these variables being the result of accidental processes (luck), it appears much more probable that the earth was specifically designed to sustain life. And if it was designed, there must be a Designer—God.
Alan Dershowitz in his book, Shouting Fire, has a chapter on the origin of human rights. Dershowitz says human rights is the belief that human beings are so worthwhile that regardless of age, regardless of ethnicity, regardless of gender, regardless of social status, or regardless of how much wealth you have, every human being is of great worth and has certain rights that can’t be exploited or trampled upon. Now the question comes, “Why should we believe that?”
The first possibility, Dershowitz says, is that we believe that God created human beings and therefore they are sacred; they are made in the image of God.
The second possibility is, “Maybe we find this in nature.” If we look out at nature, do we see that human beings as individuals are valuable?
“No,” Dershowitz says, because all you see out there is the strong eating the weak. That’s how you got here; it’s called evolution.
To believe in human rights is to say everything else in nature is wrong, but why would it be wrong unless you believe in God or a supernatural standard by which to judge? How can you judge that nature is unnatural? Where did you get your idea?
The third possibility is that human beings form human rights ourselves. Legislative majorities create human rights. They’re not discovered, they’re legislated. Morality is something man creates, so we created it.
Society, through a legislative majority, decided human rights make society work better and therefore it is more practical to believe in human rights. So man creates human rights, but Dershowitz says that will never work.
What the argument is advocating is a belief, for example, that genocide is only wrong because man says it is. Therefore if 51% want to vote to take away the rights of 49% and destroy them, nobody can say, “How dare you!” because genocide is wrong only because man says its wrong and now a majority doesn’t say it’s wrong. By this argument, the whole value of rights is to say to the majority “you have to honor the rights of others.”
Human rights are discovered. They can’t be created. They don’t come from nature, they aren’t created, they just exist. So if one doesn’t believe in God why does one believe in human rights? The answer would be, “They’re just there. We don’t know why they are there—they probably shouldn’t be there—but they’re there.”
So, do human rights prove there is a God? No. The point of the argument is that human rights make sense. If there is no God, human rights don’t make much sense, since one doesn’t know where they came from. If this is true, then a belief in God makes more sense than non-belief.
One can’t “prove” God, one can only show that in issue after issue, the existence of God makes more sense than the absence of one.
If there is a God, then the idea of justice and injustice and the idea of genocide being wrong make sense. If there is no God, it takes a leap of faith to say, “I don’t know why it’s wrong; I just feel it’s wrong.”
It’s a bigger leap of faith to believe in human rights if one doesn’t believe in God than if one does. It is a leap of faith to say somehow human beings are valuable if there is no God, than if there is.
So why would one say they do not believe in God? Why is it so hard to believe in God? The reasons would probably be linked to personal, social, and possibly some intellectual reasons. All of the above arguments only takes one through the realm of possibility. It only goes to prove that it is more likely that God does exist rather than not exist. It does not mean one can’t be certain.
3) It takes personal commitment to know that God exists as a certainty
Ultimately, the issue becomes one of personal commitment. Weak faith in something strong is infinitely better than strong faith in something weak, because it is the object of one’s faith, not the strength of that faith, that saves him. One can rationalize all they want, but until one makes a personal commitment, one can’t really know.
As was previously written, C.S. Lewis said that if there is a God the only way one would know about him is if he was like Shakespeare; he would have to write some information about himself into the play.
That is what the Bible attests to. Christianity says God wrote Himself into the play!
Therefore, if personal commitment is the key to certainty, Christianity has an advantage because one has a powerful argument; one has a powerful person, Jesus Christ, against whom, in the end, there can be no argument.