I had a conversation on the C-train the other day, and the person I was talking to said that he considered it stupid to believe absolutely in something that cannot be absolutely proven and defended from every angle with empirical evidence. I hemmed and hawed a bit on the train, but wrote him out a better response the day after, and that is what I am posting today (with a few minor changes, of course, to protect privacy ;-)
Is it stupid to absolutely believe something that can't be completely defended from every angle? I think not. I don't believe you can be absolutely sure even that the physical world exists (oh, Descartes...), and yet I absolutely believe it does, and most people wouldn't consider that stupid.
But I guess the key word here is being "absolutely" sure. I could be wrong in what I believe, I acknowledge that. But it's a mental footnote, and not much more. I can acknowledge in my head the hypothetical possibility that God doesn't exist without giving the idea any role to play in my active life. I have absolute belief because I'm convinced, not because everything has been proven. I suppose some dramatic new proof could possibly convince me I'm wrong, causing my conviction to change, but it would have to be exceedingly dramatic.
That's what faith is – believing in what we do not see. And people use faith tons in everyday life. For all we absolutely know, Shania Twain could be an illegal immigrant making evil plots to eradicate all of Canada's gophers in the most painful possible way – but we're all absolutely convinced that she isn't. And it would be silly to sit on the fence about it. Belief in God is kinda like that. You become firmly convinced one way, while still recognizing you could be wrong. Am I making any sense?
Naturally, there's more debate over God's existence than there is over Shania's evil plots, but the implications of either God existing or God not existing are much more serious and carry far-reaching consequences. As such, it seems much worse to sit on the fence with this issue. If we decide to remain unsure about Shania Twain, then we might not like her show, but that's about it. If we decide to remain unsure about God, then we can't legitimately make claims about almost anything, or act on those claims, because if God exists, everything is very different – extremely different – than if God doesn't exist.
Eso es todo, for now.
“There are two ways to slide easily through life: to believe everything or to doubt everything. Both ways save us from thinking.” Alfred Korzybski