March 31, 2005

The Arrogance of Faith

It seems to me a form of grandiosity to claim to know whether God exists or not. The believer says, in essence, “I say that God exists, therefore he does.” The atheist says the same thing: “I say that God does not exist, therefore he does not.” Both are putting themselves in the place of God as determiners of God’s existence. “Let there be God, and there was God.” Or not.

Primitive peoples believed that whether they performed the rites correctly or not would affect the health of the gods. The belief that our belief or disbelief affects God is a form of idolatry.

Only an omniscient being could know whether God exists or not. It is a piece of information beyond the human intellect.

The believer replies, “We know God not with the mind but with the heart.” (Or, “God himself is the one who reveals himself to us,” which is only another way of saying the same thing, since the human heart is the sense organ.) But the heart is wrong at least as often as the mind. People whose hearts have deceived them time after time in love and hate, in judging their fellow humans, in deciding what job to take or what house to buy or who to marry, suddenly become emotionally infallible on the most difficult question of all.

Who are we, who am I, to determine God’s existence? Uncertainty is more suited to our station—and to the evidence. Jesus did not condemn Thomas to hell for doubting, and Thomas was on the scene, able to see and touch him. We aren’t.