CAN WE KNOW GOD IS REAL?

What is this religious belief blog about?

The subject of this religious belief blog is whether we can know God is real. The answer it will give is, “Yes.”

It is intended for those who believe in God but are confused about their intellectual right to that belief, and for those who do not believe in God but are willing to inquire as to whether there is more to it than blind faith. It will also be of interest to anyone who is simply curious about the subject.

A Religious Belief Blog is not Popular

Neither the question posed nor the answer that will be defended is considered a topic for polite conversation these days. Religion seems to have changed places with sex as a taboo subject in public. It’s all right to acknowledge that there are such things as religious beliefs, but only so long as we don’t go into any further detail. The least acceptable form of going into further detail would be a discussion such as the one that will take place here – that is, a consideration of how to tell which, if any, of those beliefs are true and which is false.

In fact, even the thought that some may be true and others false is regarded by many people nowadays as reprehensible. People who know very little about the tradition they are most familiar with, and absolutely nothing about other traditions, are nevertheless certain that all religious beliefs may be true at once and that no one can know for sure whether any is true. They’re also quite sure that “faith” means accepting a belief without knowing it’s true. As a result, they see a Berlin Wall between faith and all we can truly be said to know – such as science.

Some Believe that a religious belief blog is about scaring people…

Another thing a great many people are sure of is that religious belief was invented as a scare story to reinforce ethics. The ethic found in the Bible is OK; who would disagree with the Ten Commandments that murder, theft, dishonesty, and so on, are wrong? But on the other hand, who needs the scare story? Why suppose people won’t be ethical unless they’re told that there’s a big Umpire in the sky who’ll penalize them in the next life even if they escape retribution for their wrongdoing in this life? After all, the reasoning goes, we know firsthand that we are ethical without the scare story, so the importance people attach to that story is irrational. What we really need to do is keep on enforcing that Berlin Wall and hope that one day the advance of science will cause religious beliefs – all of them – to fade away and relieve the world of a needless source of tension.

The only trouble with these gems of popular wisdom is that they are all wholly false.

Our discussions on this religious belief blog site will show how clarifying the nature of religious belief can allow us to see that, under the right circumstances, religious belief can have the same kind of justification that is enjoyed by beliefs that have long been considered to be the most certain we have. Thus if justified certainty warrants us in saying we have knowledge, then belief in God can also be knowledge. In that case it is not merely wishful thinking, blind trust, or a scare story invented to promote ethics.

What is more, clarifying what counts as a religious belief makes it plausible that no one can really avoid it, though this fact goes unrecognized for two reasons. The first is that such beliefs can be unconscious assumptions, the second is that many people call their religious belief by another name. In both cases people think they have no religious belief when actually they do.

The clarification of the nature of religious belief also makes it possible to see why it cannot successfully be walled off from the rest of knowledge. The fact is, it’s one of the most influential beliefs people hold, affecting not only their conceptions of human nature and destiny, but also their ideas of society, justice, ethics, and even how they do science.

Looking forward to discussing this with many readers,

Roy Clouser

Prof. Emeritus

The College of New Jersey

Blog Philosopher-in-residence at Christian Leaders Institute

See more about the Philosophy Program CLI