The most rational way for a believer to view God and the afterlife

This is just something that I’ve been pondering lately. In my mind, I currently have the most rational view of God and the afterlife that a believer in such things can possibly have. Now, I realize that the Dope is ostensibly 99% atheist, a class in which I don’t identify myself, and this topic isn’t meant to be a debate about whether these things actually exist but instead about how they can best be perceived by those who take stock in them. Many Dopers would just as soon say that the only rational way of looking at God and the afterlife is to simply not believe in them, but again, that isn’t my point here.

The fundamental difference between my own beliefs and other hardcore religious perceptions lies in the dichotomy between what I believe and what I know. I’ve talked to a number of religious people over the years who insist beyond a shadow of a doubt that they know that God exists and that an afterlife is awaiting them, leading their lives (presumably in a way that is beneficial for them) with a level of security in the knowledge that there are existential forces out there.

That’s the key. While I believe in God and an afterlife, those people know that such forces exist. Insofar as I know, though, based upon my own life and on the scientific world in which we live, such ideas can’t be proven; I don’t know that God and an afterlife exist, so I live my life knowing that the material universe is all that’s out there. I derive my security from the knowledge that the physical world exists, not an existential one, yet I still strongly believe in those existential forces.

I don’t know (lol). Is there a better way of looking at this?

The usual response would be: How do you (or anyone) distinguish between what you KNOW is true, vs what you BELIEVE is true?

Moved MPSIMS --> GD.

I suppose that the most rational way of looking at it would be to insist on logical and internal consistency*. Like some logically-minded fan extrapolating what the unseen portions of a fictional society or technology is like; just because they know it’s fiction doesn’t mean they can’t extrapolate from the canon to figure out how it might all work. Of course, religious canon tends to be full of contradictions, so which portion of the canon you choose to build your logically consistent edifice on it going to be arbitrary.

*Which pretty much means rejecting the mainstream versions of most/all religions, since they aren’t. To use a common example, it’s often pointed out that the popular tri-omni version of the Christian God is full of logical inconsistencies.

For myself the rational approach is to simplify it, and know that I do not know. I have no way of knowing about God or an afterlife, and this would be the case no matter if I were to reject belief in a God and the afterlife, or to accept and believe in it fully.

I know God, I have met Him, and I have seen His ‘spiritual’ world and have been privileged enough to see the illusion of our physical world He has provided us from His prospective.

As far as ‘believing *in *God’, I dont take that statement as ‘believing that God exists’, as He obviously does, but I do believe that statement (taken from scriptures) refers in His ability and saving power from our physical world, and has nothing to do with believing in His existence, as even the scriptures state that demons believe God exists, so belief in His existence is not what is referred to.

I’m a Christian, and I have to say that I do not think that my Christian beliefs are rational in a scientific sense. My life does not require rationality in all aspects. I know of no person who is completely rational. Science and rationality are very, very useful. But they are hardly everything. My belief in Father, Son and Holy ghost simply is not rational. I believe that Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness is proof of his divinity because it self-evidently is divine. (To me.) That it is scientifically unprovable, that there may be no afterlife, are really rather irrelevant.

I think the OP was looking for rational ways to view God and the afterlife.

I think the answer is that people do not change their behavior or moral beliefs based on their certainty of the afterlife. They’ll say they do, but most ethical standards are remarkably similar between atheists and believers. Neither group thinks it’s right to cheat, steal, murder, or cheat on their spouse. Unless a believer is a sociopath I don’t think that if you showed them a new, authoritative translation of the Bible that says its OK to murder someone they would say “OK, that sounds good”.

Nor do sane believers act in a way that indicates they consider the possibility of an afterlife when they take risks. What is different, is the philosophical framework that one uses to justify one’s beliefs. Atheists see ethical standards as innate or rational, believers think they come directly from God.

A rational god would be completely unmoved by human prayer. To presume that a human could change the will of an omnipotent being with foreknowledge of all ends is height of hubris. If your child is sick, a rational god knows if she will live or die, and there is a reason for the outcome; your prayers are useless. If you face a problem and need strength, you either get it or you don’t, and there is a reason for either; your prayers are useless.

A god who bends his will to the prayers of humans is neither all-knowing nor rational.

As an atheist I find 2ManyTacos take to be refreshing and wish more believers would take this view. I have no problem with believers if they would just concede, as you have, that they are “beliefs” and not “facts” or “knowledge”.
And once they concede that point they might realize that beliefs are personal and the rules/rituals/dos-donots that go with those beliefs are NOT universal but solely personal and therefore only apply to their life and how they live it.

No, you don’t.

No, you haven’t.

No, you haven’t.

I believe that tomorrow will be Monday.

I know that tomorrow will be Monday.

I believe that I have two feet.

I know that I have two feet.

I believe there’s an evil cat that lives under my bed.

I know there’s an evil cat that lives under my bed.

I believe you are telling the truth.

I know you are telling the truth.

What is the difference between believing in something and knowing something? If you say something is a belief, you are acknowledging that it is a construct–an idea–and that it is possible, however slim, that you could be wrong about it. If you say you know something, you are eliminating this possibility. So one is more declarative than the other.

I guess it comes down to why do you believe something to be true? If you believe because you trust the authority who has taught you, then one can argue that you are like a physics student who believes in the Big Bang because he trusts his professors and the scholarly books they read. I believe in the scientific laws of the nature not because I have necessarily observed them with my own eyes (how am I going to observe the Heisenburg Uncertainty Principle?), but because I trust the authorities who have taught me these things and I trust the approach that they take to problem-solving. But I don’t think this is more rational than saying I know something. It is more humble and less crazy-sounding, to be sure. But I don’t think rational is the word that distinguishes the two. I am unable to articulate why, though.

It is rational to believe in whatever you want if you find it comforting, i.e. it offers you some psychological benefit without leading to psychological or physical harm, i.e. don’t be a snake-handler if it involves getting bitten by snakes; don’t believe in something that forces you to forego useful medical treatment, etc.

A lot of religions inflict misery on their followers, i.e. a perpetual sense of guilt or unworthiness; a requirement to forgo harmless pleasures; forcing them to sit in uncomfortable pews while wearing itchy church clothes for a few hours once a week… It is irrational to pursue these.

Well, physics works. Nuclear reactors and nuclear bombs work. If, for example, we were to deny basic atomic theory because no-one has ever actually seen an atom, we’d have to postulate some alternate mechanism by which Hiroshima was destroyed, or postulate that its destruction was a massively well-executed hoax - in either case, an alternate explanation far more complex than the standard one, which is based on the existence of atoms.

Look at a peacock. The blue colour is caused by non-classical diffraction, light passing through tiny slits in the feathers and interfering with its own ghostly presence.

I believe things I don’t know, sure. The trick is remembering that you don’t know them.

Except if we are God’s own children.

We are little ‘gods’ and God is teaching us how to live eternally as gods.

God would listen to His children and act on them but would not be rulled over by them, He would act in accordance to His wisdom and plan for His children including taking into consideration the desires of His children.

So perhaps you would like to propose something instead of criticizing.

Why does it bother you so much that you have to revert to this 2 year old level? Why are you so afraid that people do know God that you blind yourself with this nonsense?