Evidence and belief
What verifiable evidence supports your belief in a god? Unsubstantiated “miracles” don’t count. “I just feel it in my heart” or similar nonsense is not evidence. However, I will accept “I don’t need evidence,” as a valid answer—although it will make me think you are foolish and worry about your grasp on reality.
Greater than Lapsed, presumably is looking for broad and dramatic evidence of the existence of God. Perhaps “I am here” written in fire across the sky.2 Or perhaps mystical visions.3 Or maybe inexplicable physical phenomena.4 Or maybe people speaking in tongues.5 I’m not going to be able to present that kind of evidence. Even if I could, I don’t think accounts of substantiated miracles would satisfy Greater than Lapsed. They certainly wouldn’t satisfy me. I won’t rule out the possibility of miraculous and divine intervention—but I’m much more inclined to believe that God works through the rules of a rational universe.
The enlightenment (and scientific method) stemmed from the belief that God had created a rational universe and that we could determine the rules of that rational universe through experimentation and observation. It would then be quite a trick indeed to then prove that God is a product of the rational universe. It would be as if a watchmaker set a watch in motion and then the watch were then to spawn a new watchmaker.6 Whether or not you believe the universe is rational because God wanted it to be rational or because it just happened to be rational, we should not expect to find the sort of explicit evidence Greater than Lapsed seems to exist. Speaking only for myself, I would treat claims of others who claim to have such evidence with extreme skepticism.
God is not the only thing I believe in that I’m not going to be able to prove physically. I believe that other people experience the world in much the same way I am. I believe in a rational world that is much the way I perceive it. I believe that reason works, more or less. I cannot present evidence that would disprove solipsism, prove that we’re not stuck in some sort of experience machine, or prove that my believe in the world is not the machinations of some great deciever. I cannot prove that effect follows cause.[^6]
But a few things strike me as undeniable. We are creatures of passion. We are creations of passion. Our passions, our actions, and our decisions, have meaning, purpose, and significance beyond what we can readily observe. When we love and when we suffer, we do not do so in vain.
When I say “undeniable” I do not mean that these things I regard as true cannot be denied. People deny them all the time. I simply mean that I am not constitutionally capable of denying them. Without purpose, I know nothing of life. Without God, everything I know of meaning and everything I know of love unravels.
For those of you who read footnotes, Melanyouth and Greater than Lapsed had a thought-provoking exchange on whether this question sets a fair standard. Ruling out both external physical evidence (“miracles”) and subjective internal experience doesn’t leave a lot of room for potential evidence. Because I think the search for “verifiable evidence” is unlikely to prove fruitful, I’m not inclined to dwell on the issue. ↩
Sunsets don’t count. ↩
But not the sort of mystical visions granted to people who claim to have visions. Those people aren’t well. ↩
Excluding all the other inexplicable physical phenomenon that we can’t yet explain. We’re getting to those. ↩
But not Pentacostals. Pentostals are different. ↩
See, e.g., David Hume, arguing that the claim that the future will resemble the past because in the past the future has resembled the past is inherently circular. ↩