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Mandeblind's avatar

How do theists know that God isn't man-made?

Asked by Mandeblind (420 points ) April 13th, 2012 from iPhone

Religions were created, before science and all. People questioned their beings, so there came the need for religion. But the question is, how come the believers don’t think “god” is human creation?

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54 Answers

SuperMouse's avatar

Rolls eyes…

They don’t know, they just have faith that God does exist.

JustPlainBarb's avatar

People believe what they want to believe… and as long as it isn’t hurting anyone… not sure what it matters.

It’s a big world, plenty of room for all sorts of beliefs.

Blackberry's avatar

Faith. It’s quite a concept.

Mandeblind's avatar

So faith requires no sort of radical thinking?

ragingloli's avatar

They do not. They just think they do.

wundayatta's avatar

It’s a type II error, I think. There are two types of errors, one much more dangerous than the other, in science. The dangerous type is where you conclude that something is not the case, when it is. You decide something isn’t dangerous, when it is, and so you do not take steps to avoid it, and it kills you.

The second type of error is when you decide something is true, when it isn’t. Since it isn’t true, it can’t hurt you, but you still take precautions as if it is true. God is this type of error. I think that Pascal’s wager is a famous version of this error. Acting as if God exists creates no harm if he doesn’t exist, but is very much a problem if you act like he doesn’t exist when he does.

It seems that evolution has given us the desire to avoid errors, since that provides a survival advantage. Thus it has given us the predilection to identify problems and avoid them, and to err on the side of identifying problems that don’t exist, since avoiding non-existent problems is much less harmful than not avoiding existing problems.

All of our perceptions of problems are man-made, because we make our perceptions. Real problems also exist in the real world. Invented problems only exist in our heads. As far as I can tell, God is a man-made problem because there is no evidence he exists in the real world. He only exists in our perceptions. Correction, he only exists in the perceptions of some of us.

Just to be clear, I am not one of the ones who can perceive God.

SuperMouse's avatar

Mouse refuses to be drawn in by @wundayatta once again asserting that people of faith are in error for believing.

ro_in_motion's avatar

I am fascinated with research is that there is a part of the brain which, depending on its development, that determines to some degree if someone believes in God or not. If this is true, it will be absolutely amazing how that part of the brain is used in other ways.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Where do you get the idea that religion existed before science?

Science (i,e. reality) – water, food, forests, biology, existed long before man invented religion to explain it.

You, the original poster, have it backwards.

wundayatta's avatar

Point proven! @SuperMouse needs not worry about her error because it won’t harm her. Thus she can give into her mind’s predilection for this kind of thinking: finding patterns where none exist.

You didn’t think I would resist your responsive non-response, did you? LOL! But don’t take it personally. It applies equally to many other people on the planet. Billions, in fact. Also, don’t assume I mean it personally. It’s science, as far as I’m concerned, and has nothing to do with me, personally.

Mandeblind's avatar

Really ro? Do youhave a link to it?

marinelife's avatar

Because man could not have created the universe or him(it)self.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Annoying technical point:

“Know” is a success term; no one can know something that is not true. As such, if you do not believe that God exists, then you cannot ask how theists know that God isn’t man-made. The question should be something like, “On what grounds to theists believe that God is not man-made?” Once the question is rewritten, however, the answer obviously reduces to whatever reasons they have for believing in the first place. Their reasons for believing God is not man-made are not usefully separable from their reasons from believing God exists (or from their reasons for believing any of their other religious tenets). It’s all just one big question, making this just the same old argument.

OpryLeigh's avatar

What @SuperMouse said. To know something and to have faith in something are two different things.

tom_g's avatar

@wundayatta: “I think that Pascal’s wager is a famous version of this error. Acting as if God exists creates no harm if he doesn’t exist, but is very much a problem if you act like he doesn’t exist when he does.”

I’m sure we’re on the same page here, but just so there isn’t any misunderstanding here among those that have yet to seriously consider Pascal’s wager – it doesn’t work. I mean, it doesn’t work in the sense that you describe it (although I suspect you’re just describing common thought patterns – not the actual implications). Since we’re dealing with an infinite number of possible gods, choosing one of them to “believe in” doesn’t buy you anything. What if you choose the wrong one? What if there is a god who values honest inquiry and only rewards those who don’t believe? And is belief subject to the will in the first place?

Anyway, don’t mean to sidetrack….

FutureMemory's avatar

If they thought God was a human creation, they would need to stop believing in him. Most believers want to continue believing.

Mandeblind's avatar

Elban, whatI mean by science is scientific discoveries like worlds shape. And the proven impoasibleness of miracles.

Bill1939's avatar

@Mandeblind said, “Religions were created, before science and all.” My dictionary says that science is “The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena.” Though their knowledge base was severely limited, this within the abilities of early man. It seems to me unlikely that they would have had to developed religion before they created a complex social order. An assumption of unknown entities governing phenomena that could not be explained (we would call it magical thinking) was inevitable. As man’s intellectual capacity expanded, these entities became formalized and a multitude of “Gods” were envisioned, each governing different aspects of nature. Once society grew large enough to have hierarchies of leadership, so too did their organization of deities. Eventually, the idea of monotheism evolved.

As science evolved, the need for supernatural explanations decreased. Yet it would seem that the need to identify entities to explain the increasingly subtle aspects of physics continues. While trying to avoid supernatural explanations, physicists find the need for dimensions beyond our familiar three plus time. Magically, matter and energy are accepted as having properties of waves and particles. Though such notions are human creations, they are seen as having an independent existence from their creators. Is this any difference from “believers [who] don’t think “god” is human creation?”

Mandeblind's avatar

There should be some sort of radical explanation. If someone believes in religion ONLY cause of faith, then I would have concerns about he intelligence of the person. I could write a book, and say Ive seen angels etc., would you believe it because you have faith in me or angels?

tom_g's avatar

@Mandeblind: “If someone believes in religion ONLY cause of faith, then I would have concerns about he intelligence of the person.”

It’s not about intelligence. There are plenty of really smart people who are believers. It’s about compartmentalization.

Seek's avatar

It’s interesting to consider that it is much easier to convert a person from one faith to another than it is to convert an atheist to any belief.

Once the belief bubble has been popped, there’s pretty much no going back.

Mandeblind's avatar

Those plenty of people have reasons for their faith.

FutureMemory's avatar

@Mandeblind Believers are not any less intelligent than non-believers. My mother is born-again, yet she has consistently scored above160 on every IQ test she’s taken since grade school.

I admit to thinking to myself “what a fuckin’ moron” when I hear a fundamentalist going on about their belief system, but that’s really not fair of me to do so.

I like @tom_g‘s anwer, that it’s a matter of compartmentalization.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@FutureMemory Only today, I learnt that both Einstein and Stephen Hawkins had/have an IQ of 160. Your mother is one smart cookie!

mazingerz88's avatar

Well, I have an IOU of 160…bucks. ( please note, IOU is bigger than IQ by one letter ) Huh.

ro_in_motion's avatar

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with belief. What makes religion unique is its huge success despite the total lack of objective proof.

I think one reason is that child are inculcated when they are too young for critical thinking. What gets to me is how easy it is to tell a child about Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny and God and have them believe it. When you admit to lying about the first two, it astounds me that most children realise that the third mythical character is also a lie. Of course, the reason why is that the child still hasn’t developed critical thinking.

Critical thinking is rarely taught as a formal course in schools from high school down. I think the reason why is that parents would be very upset at the number of atheists such a course would create.

Blackberry's avatar

“Critical thinking is rarely taught as a formal course in schools from high school down. I think the reason why is that parents would be very upset at the number of atheists such a course would create.”

Indeed, or people that would at least question authority too much.

SuperMouse's avatar

@wundayatta wow! Your posts quite prove very clearly that you are so logical and are obviously some kind of super genius – no wonder you don’t believe in God.

…and I bow out of yet another theist bashing Fluther thread. Does this sh!t get old for anyone else?

tom_g's avatar

@SuperMouse: ”…and I bow out of yet another theist bashing Fluther thread. Does this sh!t get old for anyone else?”

Claims that we’re involved in “theist bashing” do get old, yes. I don’t see a single comment here in this thread that qualifies as “theist bashing”.

Mandeblind's avatar

I believe there would be a super being, or might, but for me it is clear to see that religion is manmade. So the question is how come religious men dont think my way?

ro_in_motion's avatar

@Mandeblind You can certainly say that religion is man-made but that doesn’t mean God was. We will never prove ‘god’ does not exist.

That being said, however, I am a big fan of Carl Sagan’s quote: ‘An extraordinary claim demands extraordinary proof’. To date, no proof.

tom_g's avatar

@ro_in_motion: That Sagan quote is actually, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence

Mandeblind's avatar

ro, god in religion is manmade. What I mean by god is clearly not only a supreme being but the supreme being in religious books.

tom_g's avatar

@Mandeblind – What exactly are you asking right now? I’m getting lost. Your original question was about why believers don’t see that god is a human creation. The thread has received a number of responses. Did that help answer the question, or did it really just cause a shift in the question? Maybe you could rephrase (with detail) what it is that you are asking that has not yet been addressed.

FutureMemory's avatar

@Mandeblind What about the supreme being in religious movies?

ro_in_motion's avatar

@tom_g Thank you! :)

wundayatta's avatar

@SuperMouse I don’t think of myself as bashing theists. I’m sorry if you feel hurt by my words. Please be assured that I respect you and like you, even if we disagree on this point. I have no desire to make you feel bad, but neither do I have a desire to hold back on explaining my thoughts on the subject for fear of hurting your feelings. In any case, I thought you had a sense of humor about this in your first comment. Sorry it got serious for you. I don’t mean to hurt you.

Mandeblind's avatar

The answer I’ve gotten is faith. So I asked, does faith require any rational thinking?

Turning water into wine, birth from virgin.. All these were previously ( to bible ) said and written. Why would god pick the same ” miracles” that were already said before jesus’ birth, and were seen untrue. This is just an example.

So when a believer knows all this, and lives in 21st century, what claims oe defenses would he have for God and religion stories to say its not manmade?

Keep_on_running's avatar

Because believing that god is human, like us, is boring? If you’re gonna believe something created us on purpose may as well make it magical right?

FutureMemory's avatar

So I asked, does faith require any rational thinking?

Faith requires the suspension of rational thinking, actually.

Mandeblind's avatar

^ That is called stupidity. So I might be a terrible singer, and blind, deaf, etc. And lets say my parents have faith that I will be the greatest singer on earth.

FutureMemory's avatar

@Mandeblind Are you a good singer? Were you a fan of Michael Jackson, by the way?

digitalimpression's avatar

With respect to the original question: Because I’ve seen what mankind creates. It is nothing like what I’ve experienced with my belief in God.

It isn’t a de-facto knowledge in the way that I know my right foot has 5 toes.. the very idea of God transcends that sort of “knowledge”.

I can see from this thread (still not sure if its called a thread on fluther) that there are a lot of quasi-elitist claims which seem to suggest that a belief in God rules out rational thinking. To that I can only wonder about the mental maturity of the individual making the claim. Even people who don’t believe in God (intelligent, mature, rational people) can understand that it certainly isn’t irrational thinking which leads to such a belief.

Personally, it is for very real, tangible, and logical reasons that I believe in God. Were they not so real, tangible, and logical… I would not believe.

It is very ignorant to think that believers believe in God in total blindness. Suggesting as such is a remark about the level of education of the poster.

Seek's avatar

There is a fantastic book by Pascal Boyer called “Religion Explained” in which he explores the evolutionary origins of religious thinking.

He states something along the lines of this (clearly paraphrased and influenced by my memory):

Because our brains were not “created” to any specific end, and instead developed through evolutionary means with respect to survival and breeding first and foremost, the way our thought systems are wired almost demands belief in a deity. We see patterns in our lives, because those pattern-making neural pathways saved our ancestors’ hairy hides from early deaths. We are raised by parents who provide for our every need and protect us, and because this happens in our formative years, we develop neural pathways that perceive this pattern of care and protection in the world around us as we age. Of course, care requires a caretaker – thus God.

By no means do I, as an atheist, think that religious people are “stupid”. That would be an insult to myself, as I was thoroughly religious myself until four years ago. At that time, I could have listed and argued a thousand reasons why I “knew” there was a God above us and why the Bible was the gospel truth.

And then I formed the neural pathway that allowed me to go “Waitaminit! Circular Argument for the LOSE!” And then I was an atheist.

ro_in_motion's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr brings up an excellent point. Our brains are constantly looking for patterns. If we couldn’t, we’d be extremely limited. For example, it’s impossible to drive in traffic if, at some level, you’re not seeing the patterns around you.

Our brain rewards us when we find new patterns. Some examples: When you first realise that multiplying any number by two makes it even; when you realise that any fire is hot and not just the one you were burned on; when you realise that Republicans want to take away all female rights … the list goes on.

The trouble is that we look for patterns based on insufficient data. Put someone in an anechoic chamber and turn off the lights. Usually, they almost immediately start hearing and seeing things. Even in the dark and the quiet, the human brain tries to make sense out of this total lack of data.

This brings us to ‘magical thinking’. Simply put this is where we see something and ascribe it as being do to ‘magic’. An example: You don’t get on a plane at the last minute and that plane crashes killing all aboard. A scientist would ascribe this as a random event. A magical thinker would say something like ‘It must have been God that told me to get off the airplane.’ As an aside, one thing that most such thinkers don’t seem to understand is that, by implication, God wanted the others to die in a horrid, fiery crash.

This is a huge problem that isn’t talked about enough. Here’s another example of ‘magical thinking’: Let’s put more people into prison and the crime rate will go down. Because people like magical thinking they ignore that the opposite occurs. In fact, prison is a great place to learn how to be a better criminal. Add to that the horrible conditions in prisons and you get people who now hate ‘the system’. At the extreme, the ‘Three Strikes and You’re Out’ policy on felonies. If someone has been convicted for two felonies, he has no reason to not use lethal force on the third since, whether he kills someone, he’s going to jail for life.

Here’s maybe a better example: Let’s teach only abstinence in schools. We’ll have the children sign Chastity Pledges. We’ll give them special rings to wear to show their commitment. Know what happens? That group is incredibly more likely to partake in sex – as well as unprotected sex – than a group of students that have been taught about sex and protected sex. However, many people ignore this stunning result because they prefer to hold onto their magical thinking.

My last example: Flip a coin. It comes up heads. Flip it ten more times and it’s heads each time. Magical thinkers will assume that the next flip almost certainly has to be tails since it hasn’t come up 11 times in a row. The coin, of course, has no ‘memory’ of how it’s been flipped in the past. Each flip, the odds are always 50/50.

If someone is taught what ‘magical thinking’ is and learns how to spot it, odds are very good that they will realise they are doing the same with the concept of God.

Rock2's avatar

@Blackberry
Great answer.

SavoirFaire's avatar

So I asked, does faith require any rational thinking?

No, it doesn’t require any rational thinking. Do you honestly believe that lack of faith requires any rational thinking either? Acceptance and rejection are both propositional attitudes that may or may not be backed up by reasons. I do not believe in God, but I could give you a long list of books written by prominent philosophers giving rational arguments in defense of various religious beliefs. Do I think their arguments are flawed? Yes, I do. They think the same of my counterarguments. The fact remains, however, that they have expended quite a bit of rational thought on their views. This is not true of all believers, of course, but it is also not true of all non-believers.

And for what it’s worth, this is not the “even science requires faith” argument. Indeed, I find that line of reasoning to be complete and utter nonsense. Still, it would be foolish to suggest there are not rational arguments in favor of the existence of God or other more specific religious beliefs.

gorillapaws's avatar

I think the answer boils down to, people who believe in a God(s) have a lower “epistemic threshold” for belief than those without faith. Given this, it’s easy for them to deny any claim counter to their faith without proof, evidence or logically sound argument. We all have some degree of “faith” in the sense that we are all reasonably certain that we’re not brains in vats despite being unprovable, but each person’s specific point on the epistemic continuum can vary greatly.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@gorillapaws I do not take it to be a matter of faith that we are not brains in vats. We have no evidence for the thesis, and we have quite a bit of evidence against the thesis. Do we have absolute certainty? Of course not. But lack of certainty is not the hallmark of faith.

gorillapaws's avatar

@SavoirFaire I guess my meaning is something along the lines of, people of faith tend to include the existence of God as one of the core first principles upon which they construct the rest of their beliefs around (from a Foundationalist perspective). It is an unshakable core principle, and beliefs that contradict such a principle are discarded as being necessarily false. I still think making the leap that we’re not brains in vats for an atheist is operating at the other end of the same continuum. I think such a position would never hold such a belief with the same degree of certitude as someone of faith would.

I really see it as 2 axes, one is the threshold of belief (how much evidence is required to believe something) and the other axes is the degree of certainty one holds about a belief once the burden for that particular person is met. In this way, a variety of positions could be graphed, you can have someone who requires very little or no evidence to believe something is true, and once that is met, they are absolutely convinced they are correct. You could have someone who also requires little evidence to believe something, but is not confident about their beliefs and can be easily persuaded to change their minds. People who require lots of evidence to meet the threshold, and are very certain once this burden is met, and finally you have people who have a high threshold but low confidence. There are of course people who lie everywhere in-between these points as well.

I would be curious to hear you elaborate on your point: “lack of certainty is not the hallmark of faith.” I haven’t studied epistemology for many years, and I’m sure I never went into the depth that you probably have.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@gorillapaws First, it seems to me that the BIV (brain-in-vat) problem is not just an atheistic analogue of God’s existence. Everyone is faced with BIV, whether theist, atheist, agnostic, ignostic, apatheist, or whatever. Second, foundationalists do not get to merely assume a foundation. That’s ultimately the point of Sellars’ myth of the given, and may be seen as related to Chisholm’s problem of the criterion (both of these being questions about how we even could start an epistemological project). Descartes was a foundationalist and a theist, but he certainly thought he needed to justify his foundations. So while a theist may understandably wish to reject anything inconsistent with the existence of God, attacks on the foundation itself cannot be parried merely by assertion.

As for your two axes, I think they do a good job of mapping the psychology of belief. The philosophy of belief, however, is a different story. An epistemologist might be seen as trying to build a graph of a slightly different sort, where one axis is labeled in terms of how much evidence we have and the other in terms of how much evidence we need. This is similar to your own graph, except that each data point is to be determined objectively rather than subjectively. That is, how much evidence we need is not about at what point we actually believe, but at what point we should believe (or would be justified in believing). We can then trace a straight line, where everything on one side counts as knowledge and everything on the other does not.

As for lack of certainty not being the hallmark of faith, I simply mean this: lack of certainty with regard to something is (a) necessary, but not sufficient for faith, and (b) not the central element of faith. We are not certain about gravity, but it seems an abuse of language to say that we take gravity on faith. We have quite a bit of evidence for it, and our belief is in proportion to the evidence. Faith, it seems, is belief disproportional to the evidence. Is that a criticism of faith? Maybe. Then again, maybe not. It is not immediately obvious that proportioning belief to the evidence is an absolute epistemic value. A Pyrrhonian, for instance, recommends suspending judgment even when we have plenty of evidence. If that view is not immediately ridiculous—and I do not think it is—then I find it difficult to say that the opposite view is immediately ridiculous. It may turn out to be on careful reflection, but we cannot treat it as a truism.

gorillapaws's avatar

@SavoirFaire I wish I could GA you more than once! Thanks for taking the time to post your articulate response. Your observation that the main difference here is in the distinction between the psychology of belief and the epistemic justification of belief from a philosophical standpoint is very apt. I’m pretty certain that most people’s belief system is not rooted in a solid epistemic foundation, but probably arises psychologically through trial/error and social conditioning. Because of this, I’m sure many people hold core beliefs that are not justified philosophically, but are nevertheless quite unshakeable.

With regards to faith, if I am understanding you correctly, you would define as the set of all beliefs that people hold that are not philosophically justifiable. I think that’s a reasonable definition, although I think it’s often used in the context of having a belief despite some degree of uncertainty. In this context, faith would fill the void between what is justifiable and certainty. To apply it to the gravity example, one might be justified in believing in gravity 99.5%, and faith would comprise that 0.5% difference. In this example, the statement “we take gravity on faith” would be improper because such a statement implies that the faith component of the belief is greater than 50% of the justification of belief. In other words, we take gravity on evidence, and supplement that with a grain of faith that gravity is unlikely to be caused by something else.

Perhaps this analysis is totally off, but I do think the ambiguity of the definition of “faith” in an epistemic/psychological context is likely the root of the “even science requires faith” argument.

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