Why would God create it so that the only conceivable way for my soul to be saved would be through faith in Him and Christianity, knowing that I am not capable of having such faith? Why would God demand what He knows I cannot give?
Faith is not a choice. I can no more believe in the God of the Christian bible than I can believe that the fly on my window is capable of doing advanced calculus. It may very well be able to do it, but I don’t believe it. And since He can see into my heart, pretending would be a waste of time.
So why would he make a demand like that? It’s kind of like saying to a person who had no legs…I’ll give you a million bucks if you can run a 3 minute mile. It’s a pointless offer, almost a sick joke.
How can you absolutely certain that you are not capable of such faith? Plenty of people (including some SDMB members) have moved from a position of no faith to a position of faith, and many others have moved in the opposite direction. How can you be sure the same will not happen to you?
I’ll agree with Grimpixie. This is the heart of free will – everyone can make a choice to believe or disbelieve and everyone is charged with that responsibility. But as my pastor has frequently stated, if you’re trying to settle a matter of faith with your mind, you will fail. Faith is not an intellectual pursuit, it’s a spiritual pursuit and you’re not going to get to a point of believing by trying to understand something which by its very nature is beyond human comprehension.
Actually, God can easily be rationalized with reasonable ontological models. Regarding faith, a man might not be able to see, but when a doctor offers him the gift of sight, the man’s choice is first whether to trust the doctor. If you did not trust Peano and his axioms, then you wouldn’t believe in arithmetic.
Here’s my “Why I Have a Hard Time Believing in God” allegory:
Say I put myself in God’s place (albeit on a different scale of things), but my “Creation” is an ant farm (see the allegory?). I create the ant farm, I give the ants Life, I gave them free will, and I give them the ability to do good and help each other, or do bad and harm each other. Doesn’t it seem kind of lame to require them to “Believe” in me, tell them to pray to me to help them, and tell them that the only way their little asses are getting to my beautiful Heaven is for them to have Faith in me? Hey, I’m just not like that. I’d rather give the little guys their freedom and see what they do with it. It seems kind of small to me to ask that of your creation.
You’ll probably have to sign me up for the Express ticket to Hell, but there’s no need to grovel at my feet, ants!
That should have had a at the end - it wasn’t intended to be a confrontational “Cite?”.
We all assemble rational reasons before we make our leap of faith - no-one puts thier faith in someone/thing without at least some reason behind the decision. The problem with religious faith is that it is often based on personal or subjective reasons which cannot be transferred from one person to another.
Faith isn’t taught or preached, nor can it be. It is a choice to trust that there is someone - not merely something - but someone, who is always right around the corner willing to help you. The principles of belief can be studied, rational ethical and moral inquiries read, but faith is something one must develop. It doesn’t just happen, and it isn’t some sensation like touch or smell.
I would amend that statement. It is a choice to trust,dispite there being no solid evidence whatsoever, that there is someone-not merely something-but someone that is invisible, all powerful and has always existed who is always right around the corner willing to help you.
Without my additions you could be describing a benevolent friend who is obsessed with helping you 24 hours a day-not probable, but certainly possible. With the additions you not only have blind trust that such a being both exists and cares about you, but you must have blind trust that any and all scientific evidence to the contrary is absolutely wrong. Now, while I am always open to evidence as to the existence of such a supernatural creature, that fact that such an all-powerful and all-influencial being doesn’t leave behind any evidence of his existence is a hurdle I just can’t jump.
Stoid, your entire OP is absurd. It is, in fact, absolutely NOTHING like asking a legless man to run a footrace or asking a fly to do calculus.
You are just as capable of faith in God as anyone else. You are a human being, just like the born-agains. You are not a different species. Your brain is wired up in essentially the same fashion. There is no physical barrier to you becoming a fundamentalist Christian. You could do so if you chose to.
I have other problems with fundamentalists, but this one is just nuts. What, are they completely different animals from you? Has your brain been replaced with an advanced computer that thinks differently?
Peano’s arithmetic at least seems to correlate with our direct experience of the physical world. If I had 4 apples and add another I always have 5 (axiom 2). Likewise the choice to undergo a medical procedure to restore sight does not need to rest on faith alone. The doctor’s other patients can be interviewed and tests given to determine if they can really see. By contrast, the specific doctrines of, say Christianity, are always floating on air. There is nothing which is either testable or correlates well with observed reality. This is why so many of us find faith in specific religions difficult or impossible and leads to questions like the OP.
Perhaps the best answer to this question I’ve heard is that you aren’t responsible for the amount of faith you have, as faith is a spiritual gift, and that what is required of you in order to receive that gift is that you be willing to believe, and ask God to give you the faith.
This is a paraphrasing of what I heard Hank Hanegraaf say on his “Bible Answer Man” program.
By the way, I think a thoughtful reading of the beginning of Romans would indicate that faith in Christianity (or, more correctly, in Christ) is not the “only conceivable way” for your soul to be saved - for those who’ve never heard of Christ, it appears that God has left open the possibility of salvation … but I will not presume to understand exactly how that works.
And, robertliguori, your challenge was amusing but shows a lack of understanding of what “faith” really is. The Bible says even the demons believe in Christ, but they don’t have faith in Him. Faith is more than just what you believe; it’s what you put your trust in. Many (I daresay every) Christian has at one point or another in their life failed to put his/her trust in Christ in some situation or another. And everyone may repent (literally, turn around and go the other way) and be forgiven.
I don’t mean to come across as a raving fundie here (I really am not comfortable with that label, but I guess an atheist or agnostic might consider me one), just trying to honestly answer the question from my understanding. I hope my answer comes across in the spirit of love, gentleness and humility with which it is intended.
A couple comments:
-First, I don’t understand folks who say that belief is a choice: that seems incredibly postmodern to me, suggests that your basic understanding of the universe correlates to nothing external. Near as I can tell, we have less control over what we believe than over almost every other part of our identity. As robertliguori suggests, it’s impossible for me to take something I currently believe and sincerely believe the opposite, by choice. Those of you who think beliefs are chosen, can you do this?
-Second, for those who don’t know, Libertarian and some other folk ascribe to ontological proofs of God. These beliefs are widely held amongst religious philosophers and widely refuted amongst atheist philosophers. We’ve gone back and forth for pages and pages on these arguments without either of us making the least bit of headway convincing the other.
-Third, Rickjay, you say there is no “physical” barrier to a person’s belief in God. I’ll assume for a minute that you’re not including neurochemistry under “physical”; if not, why would you assume that any such barrier must be physical? Surely any such barrier would be a mental barrier, wouldn’t it? (If you’d include neurochemistry under “physical” barriers, then I’d disagree with your assessment).
This whole debate seems to have degraded to an argument over whether or not everyone is capable of faith. I hope that Stoid won’t mind if I hijack this slightly and ask something similar which IMHO retains the spirit of the question but avoids this argument. Why would God create it so that the only conceivable way for anyone’s soul to be saved would be through faith in Him and Christianity, knowing that large numbers of people would never learn of this way or even of the fact that they have a soul that is in danger? Why would God require something from people but fail to make large numbers of them aware of that requirement? What hope was there for a 1st century Australian Aboriginal? And what about the many generations of people who lived and died before the birth of Jesus. Were they absolutely doomed with no way out? Why wait so long, and see so many generations perish before giving them a way out. And why wasn’t that way out publicized worldwide and in a manner that even the most uneducated could easily grasp and understand?
And what about the profoundly retarded who have no hope of understanding and accepting the required beliefs?
That is a specious argument. One can choose to change one’s beliefs; however, it would be intellectually dishonest to deliberately change them for a predetermined period of time.
One may as well ask a husband to stop loving his wife for thirty seconds. A husband can indeed stop loving his wife, but only a fool would ask him to deliberately stop then start again, after some fixed period of time.
Faith, by its very nature, is a process leading to beliefs that are not fully substantiated by reality. Of course it’s a matter of degree; some people choose to be rational, and only believe things that they have reason to believe, based on reality. Other people believe in things that are suggested or hinted at in reality, and they choose to make that leap of faith toward actual belief. And then there are people who don’t even look at reality, and they arbitrarily believe whatever they **feel **like believing.
But when people do make that leap of faith, why do they choose a certain belief system and not others? Once you accept that **any **leap of faith is acceptible, on what basis do you choose your particular belief system? Why does a give person become a Baptist, rather than a Scientologist or a nazi, for example? Why does a person believe in a Judao-Christian God, rather than the tooth fairy or an alien abductor? Any ot these requires a leap of faith to believe certain premises that are not substantiated by reality. From the standpoint of rationality, each of these belief systems is equally irrational, subjective, and arbitrary.
It amazes me that people who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible do not admit that their choice of beliefs is subjective and arbitrary; yet they act as if their belief system is absolute, that there isn’t any choice or free will involved. They could have believed in any number of other belief systems just as easily. They might as well have just flipped a coin.
I don’t see how anyone could think that that belief is a choice, and even if it were, what reason does one have for making that choice unless one already believes?
Defining God as a tautology is neither reasonable nor ontological. Using your “logic”, I can easily prove that little green men from Mars exist:
Step one: Define “little green men from Mars exist” as “statement L”.
Step two: Assume that statement L is true.
Step three: Done!