There are many reasons why we either believe or not believe in religion. Reasons higly personal, often heavily influenced by emotions and things we’re not able to precicely define. It is very personal why we make the choices we make. Here you get a very brief sketch from some of my own walk between faith, disbelieve and doubt. I think of myself as the rational type, but can see how important emotions are also heavily impactin in my spiritual journey.
I’ve always been fascinated by the natural Sciences – particularly cosmology and astronomy – and of history. Typically I remember how I in second grade in elementary school tried to explain classmates that stars are stars like our sun (but I had little success so good I didn’t became a teacher). I am curious by nature and seeks to understand the context of things. Someone could perhaps think my apetite for science was a threat to a faith in God. But that has never been a conflict in my life.
Rather the contrary actually. For me it has to do With recognizing what is science and what is metaphysics. The socalled new atheists sometimes try to stretch Scientific soundig theories, or even actual science, to disprove theism. But this is just as easy to pluck asound as the fundamentalist trying to disprove science without any Scientific knowledge. Specially thoughts from cosmology and biology have been misused. For instance Hawkins model With imaginary time. Several models of multiverses is strictly speaking unscientific (becaurse they are non-falsifiable) constructions to try to explain the beginning of Our universe while dealing whit the anthropological principle in a non-theistic way. I love to read about string theoryand more, but it has little inpact on my belief or non-belief in a God.
For me the Sciences and what it has shown us of the extremely fine tuned conditions which are essential for Our existence, has been a strength and supplement to my faith. For me the thought of a God that is the initiator of all, is more logical than Cosmos starting by itself. If God does not exist, what caused the process we call “the big bang” 13,82 billion years ago. Why started it just then and not 40 billon years ago if the possibility to exist lies in nature itself? Yes, I have read about fluctuations, and infinitively creation – but I to me its not well defined and metaphysics as well. And “answers” with models of circular thinking or multiverses are only pushing the problem further back in time or prosesses after my opinion. If we think that the big bang occurred after a big chrunch from a previous universe, how then did it all start the first time? We can talk about the infinite future, but it does not make sense in my opinion to talk about the infinite past without it beeing “turtles all the way Down”. Ultimately, I believe we will have to end with a cause outside the Cosmos. I would say that the cause is God, which is of course beyond time and Space.
Man’s history is interesting and strange and I find ammunition to both my faith and disbelief here. To begin with my disbelief, it get ammunition from both the problem of evil and the church’s lack of shall I say holiness in many cases. Why is there so much suffering and wickedness? We destroy creation, are selfish and many People lack Security and love. When I see pictures from orphanages in Iraq or hear about pedophilia rings or raped women, then God feels to be quite useless. It is said that he has given us the freedom to manage and take care of each other, but when he sees how selfish we are, why does he do it anyway? Should he not say enough is enough, I can not let the innocent suffer that ye may learn to take responsibility for and love one another! Could he not have done what he promise will happen in heaven now at once? And about sanctification: The Bible promises that those who seek God shall be filled with His Spirit, but men of the Church has done so much wrong along With much good throughout history. Some clergy men have been real §##! (In fairness obviously also church history shows us many outstanding people who have sacrificed everything for others and for the belief in a loving God.)
Okay, the Bible is impressively honest and clear on how frail the people God uses are. It is after all some of the essence of why Jesus had to come and die for us or what? We remember Peter who denied Jesus three times, and was later fought of as a Foundation of the curch. David committed adultery and was a killer! Thomas doubted the resurrected Jesus, etc. This is actually strengthening my faith because it’s so true and human. Many of the world’s religious writings depict the spotless; religion managers and / or founders and their pure church. The Bible is so outspoken about human weakness and stupidity that I think it is not forged. Would not then the authors, in line with other ancient writings, have glorified themself or at least dropped the most ugly parts?
There is another faith-strengthening thing for me with history, and that’s the story of Jesus. Some people are speaking about Jesus just being on of several healing preachers at his time. But hes radically different in many ways. The most provoking think is pherhaps that he claims to be God, and a God who suffers and dies to stand up again! This was so unheard of in both Jewish and Greek thinking. That the distant and majestic God should do something like this was blasphemous Speech. In Jesus time it could not have been easy to be lukewarm to him; people must have been “forced” to either believe in him or dismiss him as crazy or worse, cf. also a separate article on Jesus.
But a far more important historical argument for my belief, is what happened after Jesus was killed. If Jesus did not rise it pops up two very important historical question: How and why. How could the disciples, a very marginal and small group, be able to carry out such an action under the nose of both Jewish and Roman leaders? And more importantly; how could they claim that people had seen Jesus after (“over five hundred, and of whom the greater part yet live”), though it did not happen? I’ve read some alternate explanations for this but in my opinion they are bery unlikely.
The aforementioned reasons my to believe and to disbelieve is important for me and has at times in varying degrees been crucial for the development of my ambivalent life of faith and doubt. But equally important are the following two reasons, which are pro and contra. My biggest problem in relation to believe in God, is the fact that he is so far away from my life. Why can’t He be more available and accessible? Respond more clearly to prayer? I know that God is not like a vending machine. That christians claim he is more easily sought in silence or in community with others. And that we usually rarely take the time to tune into God, but still… This is a serious objection to me in relation to God. Many of accusations and arguments against belief in God in general or Christianity in particular from atheism is for me essentially hollow and With more rhetoric than substancial power. But for one who experiences God as distant or absent we are talking about a felt reality and not theories and arguments.
My last argument for still clawing to belief With all my doubts, is really trite but still part of me. I have faith because I need something to believe in. Not in a way like that I ignore what does not fit my needs, I have in a period of my life been a philosophical naturalist though I did not want to be it. Parts of me can join the earlier Bishop Odd Bondeviks words “I have faith because it’s true.” But also when in great doubt I choose my to believe. Not as a way of denying reality and life but as an integral part of me as a man with faith and doubt. Faith gives me meaning, comfort, community, and not least the hope abouth the Things we don’t know about. It also give me a glimmer of hope, one possibility in relation to my inevitably meeting with death.
If the situation had been 50-50 regardomg reasons to believe or not, I personally feel that it would be foolish to opt out of faith. There are many logical and emotional reasons for believing and not believing, and the decision can surely not only be taken from a mathematical calculation of pro and contra. Perhaps one must do as Kirkegaard said; throw yourself to the 70,000 fathoms?