Honest Q & A: The Existence of God (1) – A Basic Belief

While uncertainty regarding the existence of God is very common, anyone who flat out denies God’s existence must realize that he or she is swimming against humanity’s current. We need to be clear that we are not speaking of any particular religion’s view of God, but of belief in God in general. We are still nowhere near biblical Christianity.

Most people do, and have always, believed in something or someone above and beyond themselves. Even Buddhism, which in its purest Theravada form, does not really reference any god or supreme being, does not explicitly deny such a being. In fact, Mahayana Buddhism, the more common type, readily acknowledges the supernatural and is sometimes barely distinguishable from the folk religion of the culture in which it is practiced. Human nature longs to be tied to deity – gods, or God – or something above and beyond itself.

Alvin Plantiga was the first to argue that belief in God is “properly basic.” In other words, it’s just one of those things that people apparently somehow know to be true. We know other people really exist and have minds without ever needing detailed proof for that. We trust our memories, even if they are not always accurate. In fact, to seriously doubt such things without serious proof would make life unlivable. Belief has to be our default setting.  People believe in God in this way.  They are not talked into it as often as they need to be talked out of it.

By the way, Plantiga is the John A. O’Brien Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame and the inaugural holder of the Jellema Chair in Philosophy at Calvin College. While that doesn’t make him right about any given thing, it does mean he’s intelligent. One doesn’t get jobs like that by flunking out. This is a fairly important fact as dogmatic atheists, or atheist fundamentalists, often like to portray themselves as the only ones with brains, which simply isn’t true. We all have to concede that there are savvy people on all sides of the discussion.


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