Ok sorry for the click baity title but it is what it is. Just a thought I came across the other day. There are two very different statements I hear from theists. The first is “I believe in god” and the second being “There is a god”. While on the surface they may sound like they are saying the same thing but the are very different indeed. One is a statement of belief, and the other is a claim to knowledge. I know that sounds arbitrary but the distinction is important.
Lets start with the first statement “I believe in god.” The key words here are “I believe.” This doesn’t make a statement of fact. Things one believe doesn’t make them necessarily true. For instance, believing that a four-leaf clover brings you luck, they don’t but you might feel better about things. That’s what believing there is a god does, gives you warm fuzzies. And that’s fine, I’m not here to tell you what to believe. I however have come to look to verifiable, falsifiable evidence (more on that in another post) for me to believe things. One believing in something can be a true statement, it doesn’t require outside evidence to be true. Your personal experience is all that is needed. The thing you are believing in however, would nee evidence in order to convince others of it’s validity.
Now the latter statement: “There is a god.” This isn’t a belief, it’s a claim to truth. This is akin to saying rocks are hard, or there’s a computer on my lap. This is something you need to prove and back up with more than “I feel that…” statements. Another piece of baggage that comes along with this is. Now that you have this claim to a god you’re obliged to do as it says. So when holy books from the bronze age tell you to stone homosexuals you can use this to fuel you’re own biases. It emboldens you to make sure laws are passed to further your gods agenda without regard for anyone else. A claim to truth needs to have evidence to back it up. Something that can be tested, verified, reviewed, and falsified. The last one is a hang up for a lot of people. Why does something need to be falsifiable to be considered evidence? There’s a long answer and a short answer and the short answer is to be able to rule out any other options.
It’s been said that beliefs inform decisions and that’s very important. I myself like to say my goal is to believe as man true things as possible and as few false things as possible (Thanks Matt Dillahunty). But to take that statement further, the closer those beliefs come to being certain truth the more damage they can do if they are wrong. I know I haven’t really delved outside my personal realm of experience before but as I’ve been going down this journey I see more and more the harm that religion can impose upon the world. I plan to do more posts like this where I start to look forward instead of staring at the past.